Pattern Your Own Simple Coif / Unpadded Arming Cap

Period Coifs / Caps
Left: 12th Century
Middle: 13th Century
Right: 14th Century

The plain coif/cap is probably the most versatile piece of garb in the Middle Ages. It was worn for centuries and  changed very little.  It was worn by both sexes. It’s comfortable, practical and easy to make.

Called many different thing, from coif, cap, or hood.  In other languages: koaff, bundhaube, kveiv, kveif, haube, coiffe, huva or kapper. It is essentially a close fitting hat, fastened under the chin using straps.

For events like Gulf Wars, Pennsic or Estrella, having several caps is a must. Keeps the sun off your head during the day and your head warm at night.

If you have kids wear medieval clothing, nothing looks cuter than a child running around wearing a plain linen or cotton coif! And since their hair is often thin or sparse, it keeps their head from burning.


  • Linen: if used under a helm, linen is a must. It wicks the sweat away from the head and gives a cooling effect.
  • Wool: if used to keep your head warm, a lightweight wool is nice. If it’s too itchy, line it with linen.
  • Cotton: a non-period less-costly alternative. Light muslin makes a nice summer coif to keep the head cooler.


  • White-ish

 2 Piece Style:

  • Good from early period all the way through the 14th and possibly the 15th century.
  • Even women wore this style in the later centuries.
    • They used the simple coif under their veils, filets, wimples or gorgets to give something solid that those pieces could be pinned to.
  • This style was used as a padded arming cap as well.

Simple Caps / Coifs in Period

8th Century

12th Century
Fecamp Psalter

12th Century
Hunterian Psalter

13th Century

Padded Arming Cap / Coif
13th Century
Morgan / Crusader / Maciejowski Bible

14th Century
Manesse Codex

14th Century
Roman de la Rose

15th Century

15th Century
Jean Froissart Chronicles

Even women wore simple coifs
13th Century Germany
Shrine of St. Elizabeth


I have a hypothesis: all garb patterns can be reduced to mathematical equations. Perhaps it’s true of all clothing in general, but I’m only working on garb.

click to enlarge

A = length around your crown

B = Measure around the larger part of the back of your head from the front of one ear to the front of the other ear

C = Measure from the desired length of your cap on one side, around the top of your head to the desired length on the other side.

D = Measure around the base of your head from jawbone to jawbone

A  = __________

B = __________

C = __________

D = __________

The Math

  1. Width of the pattern: Divide A by 3 {A/3} than add
    1. 2” for an average head
    2. 3” for a larger head
    3. 1” for a child’s head
    4. _________________
  1. Length of the pattern: Divide C by 2 {C/2}


  1. Draw a rectangle with the above dimensions
  2. Write “Top” and “Front” in the appropriate parts of your pattern
  3. Mark or fold the pattern in half in both directions, just for reference
  4. On the bottom edge:
    1. From the back, mark 1 ½ “ (1” for a child’s head)
    2. Divide D by 2 {D/2}
    3. _______________
    4. From the 1 ½” mark, go towards the front D/2.
    5. This is the bottom edge of your coif.
  5. On the center-line(halfway between top and bottom):
    1. Divide B by 2 {B/2}
    2. Add 1/2”
    3. ______________
    4. From the back side, on this centerline going towards the front, mark the above measurement
  6. On the front top edge
    1. Mark 1 ½” down from the top (1” for children)
    2. We’ll use this mark later

Click to enlarge

Connecting the Dots

  1. Let’s start at the bottom back.
    1. From your 1 ½” mark in (or 1” for a child’s cap)
    2. Curve a line up towards the back center-back
    3. Have the line meet the back edge about an 1 to 1 ½” below the center line
    4. Run the line along the back-edge through the center-back line and above it another 1 to 1 ½”
  2. Curve the line up towards the center top line
    1. Similar to the center-back, have the line meet the edge about ½ to 1” before the centerline and run along it for ½” to 1” after before curving down.
    2. Curve the line towards the 1 ½” mark (1” mark for children) on the front edge
  3. Front edge
    1. Two choices
      1. For a straight front: draw a straight line connecting the mark on the front top  edge to the D/2 mark on the bottom edge
      2. For a curved front: curve the line down towards the D/2 mark, intersecting with the B/2+1/2” mark on the centerline.

ADD YOUR SEAM ALLOWANCE when cutting  – ¼” to ¾” depending on your sewing style

Unless, you are making a 13th century styled cap with separate “hem tape.”


Tight Fitting Cap

The above pattern will produce a fairly snug cap for you

Looser fitting Cap

To get a cap that is a bit looser, add an extra ¼” to 1” when adding the seam allowance.

Padded Arming Cap

This pattern can be used to make a padded cap as seen in the Crusader Bible.

  1. Add an extra ¾” to 1” to the pattern.
  2. Cut 4, rather than 2, pieces
  3. Sew the center and front together, but leave the bottom back open
  4. Make the quilting lines (the dashed lines you see in the picture)
  5. Stuff the hat with fluffed out cotton balls or scraps of linen. Use a wooden dowel or rod to pack the material into the grooves.
  6. Squish it around with your fingers so that the padding is mostly even.
  7. Hem up bottom back.

Making the straps

We’re making simple straps. You can customize them, but we’ll do simple first.

  1. Cut out two long rectangles of fabric
    1. About 1” to 1 ½” wide
    2. 12” to 18” long
  2. Fold them in half length-ways and iron.
  3. Fold each side in half length-ways and iron again.
  4. On one end of each strap, fold the rough end into the lengthwise fold to hem that side.
  5. Sew the edges


  1. Cut 2 of your coif pattern
  2. Sew up the center seam.
  3. Tuck under and iron the seam flat with each side folded over to its own side. Sew along edges to tack the seam down
  4. Hem the front and bottom by folding under the edges, ironing them flat and sewing them.
  5. Attach the straps to the front bottom corner

You are unless you want to add decorative elements if you like. Or leave it plain.

Enjoy your cap!!

On Yer Heade Part III: Women’s Headgear in the14th Century

This is the third post on figuring out which hats go with which outfits, or at least that is how the idea started. I wanted to look more period, and one way to do that is by wearing the appropriate headgear with your garb.

I sorted and categorized, and then I put together my notes into a class handout. What you see here is an expanded edition of my class. It should help you look more period, however you do have to know what century your outfit is from.

Head accessories explode this century, which is why I’m  breaking this century into two posts – one for the women and one for the men.

Women’s 14th Century Headgear

  • Veils
    • The simple veil is still around and not only worn by the lower class, but you rarely see the simple veil worn by the wealthier women.  It can be worn by itself or held down by a circlet.
    • Simple Veil
      From the Smithfield Decretals

    • Veil with decorated edge
      From the Codex Manesse

    • Simple veil held down by flowers or possibly beads or pearls
      From the Codex Manesse

  • Veil with Something Else
    • More frequently than seeing the simple veil, we often see a veil worn with another piece of headgear.
    • I have deeper explanations of these additional elements in my “On Yer Heade Part II”
    • Veils with Gorgets
      • A gorget covers the neck. It was a tube that draped around the neck and sometimes covered the upper chest.
      • Veil with a gorget
        From the Smithfield Decretals

      • Veil with a gorget
        From Queen Mary’s Psalter

      • Veils with gorgets
        From the Romance of Alexander

    • Veil with a Fillet and/or Barbette
      • Wealthier women often wore veils with more decorative elements such a a fillet and barbette.
      • It also gives you something on which you can secure your veil.
      • Again, refer back to “On Yer Head Part II.”
      • Veil with a fillet (cloth crown piece) and barbette (piece that goes under chin and over head)
        From the Codex Manesse

  • Barbette and Fillet Combo
    • You can also see the barbette or barbet (piece that goes under the chin and over the head) and fillet (cloth crown) together
    • Again, for a more full description refer back to “On Yer Head Part II”
    • Barbette and Fillet
      From the Manesse Codex

    • Barbette and Fillet with braided hair
      From the Smithfield Decretals

    • Barbette and Fillet with a Crispenette (hair net) over braided hair
      From the Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux

  • Braids or Templars
    • This is the century of elaborate braids or templars, which were braids worn on the sides of the head (think Princess Leia, but with braided buns).
    • The diversity in the braids is limited by the imagination. Nearly every braid picture I found was at least slightly different from the others.
    • Feeling inadequate because you don’t have hair long enough to braid? Then use hair extensions to make the braids and pin them to your own hair. And yes, it was actually done in period too.
    • Dropping Braids with a braided back
      From the Romance of Alexander

    • Bun-like Braids
      From the Romance of Alexander

    • Braids wrapped around head
      From the Smithfield Cecretals

    • Braids wrapped around head
      From the Visconti Hours

    • Dropping Braids with a Fillet
      Head of a French Noblewoman

    • Braids with coronet and something I can’t identify hanging down the sides
      From statue of Marie de France daughter of Charles IV of Franc

    • Braids
      From the Romance of Alexander

    • Dropping braids with a braided bun
      From the Smithfield Decretals

    • Braids
      From the Smithfield Decretals

  • Birgitta’s Coif or Huva
    • You can still see the coif that is referred to as Birgitta’s coif. The only extant piece we have of this particular headgear was supposed to belong to St. Birgitta.
    • I have a full write-up of the coif and instructions on  making it in another post: St. Birgitta’s Huva
    • The cap I made on the left and the extant piece on the right.

    • From Taccuino Sanitatis

  • Crespinette
    • A crespinette or crispinette is a woven net that is worn over the hair. The hair is often braided under the crespinette. Wealthier women would have had gems or beads woven into it or have had it made with precious metal.
    • Crespinette
      From the Codex Manesse

  • Hoods
    • The Fourteenth Century sees hoods becoming popular with women. You mostly see the open hood variety – a hood that is not closed under the chin.
    • A common misconception is that these hoods are a later period Dutch hood. I’ve seen this hood far more often in the 14th and 15th centuries manuscripts made in western Europe, especially in France.
    • If you want to make one, a good tutorial to start with was posted on
      • They call it a London Hood, but I’ve also seen it called a French Hood, and it doubtless has many other names.
    • Hood with floppy top
      from the Roman de la Rose

    • Open hood with floppy top
      from Codex 2592

    • Open hood with a possible coif underneath
      From the Roman de la Rose

    • Open hood with a contrasting color for the lining
      From Roman de la Rose

    • Back view of hood
      from the Romance of Alexander

    • Open hood. The lady to the right is wearing templars.
      From the Romance of Alexander

    • Open hood
      From the Romance of Alexander

  • Ruffled or Frilled Hoods
    • One last headgear category that emerges this century is the ruffled hood.
    • It’s mostly seen in effigy statues rather than in manuscripts.
    • It’s very similar to the open hoods seen above, but the front edge has elaborate “ruffles,” which look very much like smocking.
    • Here is a more thorough description of the hood:
    • Ruffled hood
      Effigy of Johan von Hozehausen

    • Ruffled hood
      Effigy for Catherine of Warwick

      This is by no means a definitive list of women’s 14th century hats. There were many other types of headgear worn in this century. Especially if you look at manuscripts and statues from specific regions, you will find headgear that was worn in only one or two areas. But this article gives you a place to start.

Analyzing and Recreating Blackwork Fill-In Patterns . . .

. . . are not easy!!!!

I’m working on 3 blackwork projects simultaneously. Or, more correctly, I am starting 3 blackwork projects simultaneously. It sounds like I have another case of “biting off more than I can chew,” but it’s not as insane as it seems and  actually makes a bit of sense.

The projects I’m working on are:

  1. Late 16th century English blackwork coif
  2. Blackwork cuffs, for an English chemise, using a counted stitch pattern, probably similar to Jane Seymour’s cuffs
  3. Late 16th century blackwork sampler, trying to incorporate a good diversity of stitches actually used

Right now, I’m in the research and documentation phase. Since all 3 projects overlap to some degree, I generally keep all three files open and go from one to the other as needed. I am planning to focus on one at a time when I’m in the creation phase of the projects.

Mostly, I had been working on my sampler research. I’ve reached a pause in that project since I need to decide whether or not to focus on the English sampler, of which there is more published research, or focus on the one Italian sampler that I really like but has nearly nothing published on it. The smart choice is the English, but since I’m still resisting it, I’m taking a break.

Switching gears, I’m heading back to my coif project. It’s a project I started back in June, but I haven’t made much headway on. Most of the problem is that I can’t decide what decorative pattern to use. Finally, I chose a pattern that took my fancy and I’m just going forward with it, no take-backs.

This is the coif design I’m basing my coif off of:

Late 16th Century English Coif

A basic hourglass shaped coif with bobbin lace edges, free-hand flowers, insects and leaves and scrolling vines. The vines and lace I’m keeping, but I’m using designs for the flowers, leaves and insects that come from other blackwork pieces from that time. I am, however, sticking with the idea of filling the flowers, leaves and insects with different counted stitch patterns. These will come from this coif and other blackwork pieces contemporary to the coif.

My first attempt at analyzing a fill-in pattern

I collected a few hi-res pics of fill-in patterns.

From a 16thC English pillow cover

After several attempts of freehand drawing the pattern (on graph paper, of course), I decided that a systematic approach was better.  This pattern has 3 main figures:

  1. The four-leaf flower
  2. “Snowflake” pattern
  3. Small geometric shapes that connect the flowers

One at a time, I isolated and analyzed each type of figure. There are quite a few dots left where stitches used to be. These dots help me figure out the grid of the pattern. First horizontally:

Flower from upper right corner

Then vertically:

Same upper right flower

The once seemingly curved, indistinguishable form now starts to look like a pattern of connected straight lines:

Same flower

I compared this plotted flower to the other ones on this piece (4 pictures above this one) to see if there are any discrepancies that would make my design flawed. I couldn’t find any, but if anyone sees them, please let me know. I repeated this process with the snowflake and the small geometric shape. My final pattern came out to be this:

My interpretation of the above pattern

I think, I think, I think that this is correct, but never having done this before, I feel like I’m missing something. Even if I am, I’m pretty happy with this fill-in pattern. It’s very pretty. Now on to the next fill-in designs, and then to start picking the actual flowers and plotting the coif! Exciting stuff!!!

On Yer Heade: Part II

Period Head Coverings

Or alternately, What Hat Goes with My Outfit?

13th Century

This post comes from a class I taught. It evolved from me standing in front of the mirror, event after event, trying to figure out what to wear on my head that would match the era of the outfit I was wearing. After doing a little research on what in general was worn each century, I was able to decide more quickly which hats went with which outfits. Maybe other folks have the same problem, I thought. Trying to use period sources rather than general costume books, I came up with this. I hope it helps you in your quest to appear more historically dressed.

13th Century

For Women

Headgear becomes much more complex for women this century. The up side is that there is far more variety to what we can wear. I’ll save most of the period pictures after the explanations of what everything is.

  • Braids
    • The simple braids are still around. Generally you’ll see them with one hanging on each side of the head.
  • Veil
    • We have the simple veil, although it is mainly seen worn by the lower classes.
    • There are loads of sites that show you how to make and wear a veil. Essentially, cut a circle, oval, rectangle or square. If you can, hand sew the edges with a rolled hem. Then you’re done. When I made my first veils, I couldn’t get the size right. Finally, I took some cotton muslin I bought on sale and made 3 or 4 mock-up veils. I thought the circle and the oval looked best on me. I made a few of different sizes – smaller for day use and larger for court garb.
    • Here’s one site, but it adds a band around the head, which is practical, but not necessary.
    • Maciejowski Bible

  • Barbette and Filet
    • Many of the complex headgear from this century uses the barbette and fillet.
    • Barbette: a band of cloth that goes around the head and under the chin. It could be thin (~1”) or a wide band.
    • Fillet (aka coffee filter hat) was like a fabric crown. It could be tall or short.
    • The barbette and fillet are often seen together, but they can be worn in some styles separately.
    • Caitlin, from Caitlin’s Clothing, has a simple method of making a barbette and fillet.,%20FILLET%20AND%20CRESPINE
    • The picture to the below has the lady wearing a coif under her barbette and fillet.
    • Barbette and Fillet worn over a simple coif

  • Crespinette
    • A net usually worn with a fillet and barbette.
    • Wealthier women had jewels or beads woven throughout. They also could have their crespinette woven with precious metal threads.
  • Barbette worn with a Crown or Coronet
    • You can sometimes see a plain or decorative barbette worn with a crown. It helps if the crown needs to be secured.
  • Barbette or Filet with a Veil
    • A veil can be held more securely on the head with a barbette or filet by themselves – you don’t always have to wear both.
    • Personally, I don’t care for the barbette. It covers my ears and makes it even harder for my half-deaf self to hear. I do, however, like the filet with a veil. It holds the veil on nicely and is much more comfortable. Either way is perfectly fine.
    • In this drawing the lady is wearing a barbette with a veil and a crown.
  • Veil and Wimple
    • This century sees a rise in the popularity of the wimple – the drape-like thing that goes under the chin.
    • The wimple is simply a rectangle of cloth. It’s pinned to the filet. Then the veil is set on top of the filet/wimple combo.
    • The veil can be pinned to the filet as well or simply held down with a coronet or crown.
    • Here is a simple set of veil and wimple instructions
    • Although you can’t see it in this drawing, she is wearing a filet (and probably a barbette) under the veil and wimple.
  • Cap
    • Possibly the most comfortable 13th and 14th century headgear is the cap, which is also called St. Birgitta’s Huva (I have another blog post solely on how to make one).
    • It’s a loose coif with one long continuous strap attached at the front bottom edges. The strap is then looped twice around the head to hold it in place.
    • A link to my explanation (I have many other links to other explanations too):

Period pictures of these styles

  • St. Mary’s Church, Gelnhausen, Germany
    c. 1230-1235
    Long braids.

  • Church of Our Lady, Halberstadt, Germany

  • Schnutgen-Museum, Cologne, Germany
    c. 1220-1230
    Fillet with barbette

  • Weschselburg, Germany
    c. 1235
    Fillet and barbette under coronet

  • Naumburg Cathedral Germany – 1250
    Barbette and tall filet with crown.

  • Meissen Cathedral, Meissen, Germany
    c. 1260

    • Fillet and barbette with a veil.


  • Elisabeth Church, Marburg, Germany
    c. 1235
    Fillet and barbette over a crespinette.

  • Braunschweig, Germany
    c. 1240-1250
    Veil and wimple. There is probably a filet and/or barbette under there.

  • Elisabeth Church, Marburg, Germany
    c. 1235
    Veil tucked around head and under wimple. Both under a large fillet.
  • Strasbourg Cathedral, Strasbourg, France
    c. 1280-1300
    Oval veil

  • Cathedral of Saints Catherine and Maurice, Magdeburg, Germany
    c. 1250
    Possibly layered veils. I like this one because it shows a decorated veil rather than a plain one.

  • Strasbourg Cathedral, Strasbourg, France
    c. 1280-1300

    • Veil is tucked around the head in a near headrail like manner.


  • A picture of the actual St. Birgitta’s cap
    by C. Dahl

  • Woman on left wearing a cap.
    Woman on right wearing a veil and wimple over a fillet.

  • Decorative fillet with a barbette. Both over a coif.

For Men

  • Coif
    • The coif is still around. One difference is that it is no longer a rectangle folded, sewn up the back and then shaped.
    • You can see a center seam indicating that it is now two separate pieces sewn together.
    • It can still be worn by itself or under a hood or hat.
    • Here’s a simple arming cap pattern you can use for a simple coif. Just don’t stuff it.
    • Simple coif. Shaped with a center seam.

  • Hoods
    • The hood is starting to evolve in what will later be know as the liripipe.
    • But for now, it only has a small tail or tippet.
    • Simple hood tutorial (remember to keep the tail small):
    • It can still be a loose hood that slips on over the head.
    • Or it can made more form fitting by using buttons down the front, such as the one below
  • Straw Hats
    • Non-fabric hats are starting to be seen
    • Mostly by the lower classes of people such as farmers and peasants.
    • Men with straw hats and a woman with a crespinette.

    • Straw hat

Coming soon: 14th century . . . to be continued on another post.

On Yer Heade Part I

Period Head Coverings OR, alternately, What Hat Goes with My Outfit?

Part I: Early Period to 12th Century

I’m not a “Cover your head!” Nazi, but I do think that it adds to the Medieval-esque feel of an event when more people wear the correct hat.

For most of the SCA period, head coverings (head-ware) was not considered optional by either sex. It’s called interchangeably head-ware, headgear, head covering or hats.  Unlike today where we wear hats for special occasions or to keep the sun off of our head, head coverings were a part of everyday life, especially for women.  You would not step out of your front door without wearing proper headgear.

There was a small time (mid-12th century) when it was acceptable for women not to cover their heads, but for the most part through the ages all older or married women covered their heads.

What was the purpose?

Modesty: There are even a few cultures today which require their people to cover their heads outside of their home.

Lack of hygiene: Their hair was as hard to tame as ours can be. Imagine trying to fix your hair if it is really long and hasn’t been washed for weeks or months. Sticking it all in a hat seems sensible.

Identification: Headwear gave clues to class and occupation. Different classes of people wore different kinds of head coverings. In later period, sumptuary laws were made forbidding lower classes to wear the same head covering that the aristocracy wore.

When in doubt

  • For male, wear a coif. If early period, women can too.
  • For female, wear a veil

Early Period

For both Sexes:

  • Coif
    • A rectangle of cloth, folded in half. Point in back can be curved or left pointy.
    • Ties partly up front sided.
    • Not terribly sure, but it is guessed that the color was white or unbleached linen.

For Women

  • Headrail
    • A headrail is pretty much a long rectangle of cloth wrapped around your head.
    • From looking at period sources, it can be a variety of colors ranging from bleached linen to red to blue.
    • It’s very similar to the modern hijab. In fact, the best directions I could find on wearing one is for a hijab:
    • The Encomium Emmae Reginae, 1041-2.
    • Cotton Claudius B IV, folio 10, from the Old English Illustrated Hexateuch in the British Library, 11th century.

For Men

  • Birka Cap
    • Based on a woolen cap found at the Birka site

12th Century

 For Women

There was a short time period where women had the option of not wearing a head covering.  Starting around 1125, some women began to appear in public with their head uncovered. Their hair, however was not loose, but parted down middle and plaited (braided) in various ways. By the late 12th century, women were back to covering their heads.

For Men

  • Coifs
    • The coif is still around, but it is now more form fitting. It’s also higher in the back than it is at the ear area. Straps can still be thin or wider.
    • Unknown Miniaturist, French around 1180. Fécamp
      Harvesting and_Pressing of the Grapes

  • Closed Hoods
    • Simple hoods began showing up at this time. Closed fron at the chest (no buttons), so it needed to be loose enough to slip over the head. The hood, at this time, covered the shoulders and had no tail.
    • The colors could be about anything, although red was common. You also see decorations the hoods – this one has a contrasting front and bottom edge.
    • Unknown Miniaturist, French (active c. 1180 at Fécamp)
      Feeeding the Pigs with Acorns

  • Combination of hood and coif
    • The coif and the hood could be worn together. It’s not definite if a coif was always worn under the hood, but combining them is not uncommon.
    • Phrygian Cap
        Yes, the Smurf hat is still around

Tomb plaque of Geoffrey Plantagenet (1113-51) from the Cathedral of St. Julien, Le Mans, c.1151-55.

  • Basic Birka-like Cap
    • The basic cap is also still here. It’s a bit shorter and has a more defined band around the edge.
    • Hunterian Psalter
      England: c. 1170

To Be Continued

The pencil drawings were found at:

I apologize for using pictures without giving credit. These come from a class handout that I taught on period hear-ware, and I did not document my pictures at the time. If you recognize any, please let me know and I’ll give credit to the artist.

Other sources: