Friday, October 2, 2009

Wooly Warm Winter Caps

I actually made these caps a few days ago but only now am getting around to posting about them. For one thing, I am very much out-of-the-mood for sewing anything from the 1860's right now. And for another, it has been quite chilly here lately which has put me in the mood for baking and making soupish things and certainly not in the mood for sewing or taking pictures or posting about anything sewing related.

But what must be, must be. I can't have my little boys having red ear tips and chilly little heads! Having a family has impressed upon me the fact that sewing is no longer always an enjoyable hobby and past time. . .it is a necessary thing. And necessary things aren't always necessarily fun. But they are worthwhile. As the esteemed General Robert Lee said:

"Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less."

Our final event of the year is at the end of the month and is always, always cold. We camp atop a windy, tall hill and last time we went were constantly fighting the stiff breeze and the chill. If it is too cold I will not even try to take the boys; if it is medium-ly cold and damp David said we shall just go for the day and if it is nice, so be it! But we must be prepared!

I have found it hard to find anything that gives me information about what little boys wore to keep warm in the 1860's. I only came across one hat that appears to be styled for warmth: and one picture that shows two little boys wearing what appear to be similar styles of hat. At times I have wished the boys could go back in dresses and the accessories that go with them for this event. Warm quilted hoods are just so much warmer than a skimpy cap.

At any rate, I went with what I could find and made up this little cap. I made two, of course, each exactly like the other. Judah is the only child who currently submits to being photographed without weeping and knashing of teeth so he kindly let me put his hat on him so I can show you! Little David's cap differs in the trim - Judah's has no trim and little Davids has a row of baby blue rick rack around the top of the bias band and around the edge of the earflaps. I don't know if I like it and I might take it off but at least for now we can tell whos is whos.
The top portion is an oval cut to fit the head. The band is cut at the top to fit the circumference of the oval and is flared a little at the bottom to sit well on the head. The bias brim is just a strip of bias, doubled and sewn. The earflaps were attached to the bias band. Tape ties were sewn to the end of those. I used leftover Hainsworth wool broadcloth for the main portion of the caps. The insides are lined with plain dark green cotton and the earflaps are lined with matching blue velveteen. The plaid wool was cut from an old wool skirt I got from a thrift store last year. Hopefully these will keep their little ears warm enough! On a similar note of keeping warm, but a totally different topic, I am currently agonizing over what to do for my cold-weather wardrobe. I have almost nothing to wear for the fall/winter season (3 pregnancies in quick succession does take a toll on the condition of your wardrobe!) and am not sure what I should do about it. David gave me a sum of money and told me to get what I need and that he doesn't want to hear me complaining about my clothes until spring. Now, what should I do?

I could go to Goodwill and get a good amount of things relatively cheaply. But I've done that before and they just don't last and it's incredibly hard to find things I really like, that fit and that flatter my figure. I went and got a bunch of things back in May/June and already they are falling apart. On the other hand, clothes I make myself from decent quality material last. I still have skirts and a few dresses I made before I had any children at all that still wear very well and look almost as good as new. I wouldn't be able to make as many outfits as I could buy at Goodwill but wouldn't it be better to have something that will last and look well than to have an assortment of things that will fall apart after a few months?

Then the agonizing choice of what to make! I cut out a pattern today for a modern simplicity blouse. A peasant style, something I think I like. But after thinking about it more I realize I don't like most of the things about the pattern. The neckline is too low, the sleeves are barely existent, the opening is unattractice and would need to be altered. It would be a very impractical choice if I want to dress to keep myself warm. So I put the pattern away. I don't know if I will ever use it.
Why couldn't I dress like I truly want to? What I'd love is to make a few flannel petticoats, flannel drawers and some plain gusseted chemises with a drawstring neckline. Then a corded stay with straps and a few nice, well-made and nicely fitted 1820's style gowns in good fabrics with a few dark figured aprons to wear over them for housework and home life. A pelisse in brown wool with a pink lining for a coat and a quilted bonnet.
But would I dare? I could. But because of all the fabric I'd have to get. . .would I be content and happy with three or four dresses until next spring? It would be so easy to go and get some denim skirts and long sleeved tees and sweaters from the thrift shop but I know in the end I would not be happy with them.
What are your favorites and must-haves for keeping warm in cold weather?
And is it possible to find a pretty pair of house slippers? Our wood floors get so cold!


  1. Hello! Oh the hats turned out so wonderfully! Your boys are so adorable - such blue eyes!

    I can relate with you. I finally came to a point of dressing how I want to. I *am* born in the wrong era - and I love all things old fashioned. So, I decided to not care what others think and my husband finds me lovely in the clothes, and that's all that matters! Yes, I've gotten some wonderful looks from people (extended family included!) but I feel happy and more beautiful in the clothes. I think petticoats are so warm under dresses and now that the colder weather has come here I am wearing more layers! I say go for making more of your own clothes. They will last longer, and you'll feel much happier in the long run!

    As for slippers - I buy soft fuzzy socks to wear around the house and they keep my feet warm.

    Happy baking and hope you are enjoying a lovely Fallish day!

  2. P.S. and by "wonderful" looks I mean not so wonderful... lol

  3. Now that I work from home and don't need the "professional" wardrobe I used to wear, I've contemplated going simple this winter. Like my fore-mothers. My grandmother wore nicely fitted house-dresses her whole life and had only a few nice dresses for church and outings.

    So, I'm considering a HUGE departure from my shorts/pants-and-tshirt wardrobe by making a couple of 1930-40s-style dresses for around the house (because I can layer on sweaters and slips for warmth), a couple of skirts of wool or heavier cotton made on either a 1905 or 1915 pattern (which can be pretty simple and go with anything, if you think about it), a couple of blouses, and appropriate under-things.

    As for dressing 1820s...all I can say is "Tasha Tudor did it". And yes, people raised eyebrows at her for looking so "old-fashioned". But what I love most about her is that she didn't care. She loved dressing and living in that era and it became her trademark. Neighbors even began coming to her house to enjoy tea 1820s style.

    Find what really suits you, and work it slowly into your wardrobe. Eventually it'll just become part of your look, and you'll be happier in the long run. I knew a girl once in college who wore 1905 gored wool skirts (all the way to the ankle!) with cute t-shirts, and braided her hair into a simple Victorian "do" every day. It was different -- but it worked for that girl -- and I really admired her for it.

    As for pretty house slippers...I'm afraid I'm at a loss. :)

  4. I'm having a similar dilemma. I'd really rather do nothing other than throw away everything I have and start over with ankle length skirts and flannel underthings. But then I start worrying about what the people at the grocery store might think of me and I chicken out... and keep wearing things that make me feel miserable. Be brave! Go for the skirts -- at least for an every-day in the house wardrobe. Then maybe hit up Goodwill to fill out your wardrobe a little bit.

    Half quality, hand-sewn, expensive pieces, half one-season wonders.

    As for house slippers? I wear purple fuzzy socks, so I don't have much to offer there ;-)

  5. Thank you all soooo much for your encouragement and support!

    I think I'll go with at least a few homemade, historical dresses and if I need some, a few sweaters and such from the thrift shop. I think part of my problem is being afraid to jump right in to the whole 1820's thing and then wish I had done, say, 1840's instead (which I also really like). And my mood changes too. . .somedays I'll be in a regency mood, somedays an Edwardian mood, somedays a vintage/retro mood. I don't want to be "stuck" in a particular era. Sigh. . .
    I love the idea of ankle length wool skirts. I am thinking about the Beatrix skirt pattern from S&S although online there are some original diagrams on how to draft your own gored skirts which look really cool too.

    I LOVE the 1820's dress I currently have, it's what I feel most natural in and what I feel looks best on me out of all the things I currently have. I also wear regency gowns sometimes but after being pregnant most of the past three years I'd rather have something that doesn't make people wonder "hmmm. . .is she pregnant?" :)

    I just read this post today which was so timely!!! Here is the link:

    Meanwhile, I've got dinner to start!

  6. P.S. Jenny, I have purple fuzzy socks too. :) My Grandma gave them to me for Christmas and I'm wearing them right now with my 1820's dress! heehee They DO keep my feet toasty warm!

  7. I love the hat, it's darling and the bonnet in the previous post.

    I hear you on clothes, it's just so frustrating. I have the hardest time finding things that fit comfortably and look good. I have yet to find a pair of jeans that really feel nice. I don't know what to tell you there, except I understand :-)

  8. Boy can I relate! My wardrobe is ridiculously skimpy, but I'm working at it. The children have much nicer clothes than I do and I feel like a complete hypocrite when I wear modern skirts and shirts whilst they look so old fashioned. I don't *want* to care what "they" (society) think of me, after all, look how they dress! Could anything possibly be more tasteless? So I'm determined to only care about the opinions of people whom I know and respect, such as you ladies! :-)


  9. Sarah,

    What a lovely cap for the boys! And how sweet of Judah to be such a good and cooperative model! Are you planning on eventually posting the pattern on your pattern blog? No rush on it! But I'd love to have it someday! :)

    About the clothes! I too know what its like to have stuff not fitting etc! Don't have much advice other than I always go for quality rather than quantity. If you can get quality items at a frugal cost its awesome! I know a lot of people find great deals on clothes on eBay.

    As for house slippers, I have a pair of L.L. Bean fleece scuffs. They are expensive, but they last a long time. They are very comfy and warm!

  10. What are flannel petticoats like? My legs freeze in skirts, but I get annoyed with sticky leggins, and I hate one-more-thing tied around my very short waist (that never will return to pre-baby size :)
    I'm open to any suggestions...

  11. Sarah, here is a link to the slippers that I want to make for myself...I would be happy to copy the pattern for you!
    Are you on Ravelry? They have SO MANY patterns you can search through so easily. You (as a knitter) really must try it!
    I must say my wardrobe is in the same place. After Jenny I was pregnant with Anthony at this point, so my winter clothes are lacking for sure. I assume that you (like me and most other mamas with young children) are home most of the time? I say that when you are home you can wear what you please! If you feel you might feel awkward grocery shopping or going to church/library/bank in your historical clothing, then maybe buy or make a few simple "modern" outfits? Another option is to just go "historically" inspired for your entire wardrobe...maybe things that wouldn't each require their own plethora of under garments, but would still feed your desire for historical clothing? I really can't wait to see what you do! Oh, did you see the recent thread over at Shanon's blog Thoughts and Thimbles? About all of the different basic patterns one should have? Perhaps inspiration can be found there. :)

  12. Cute cap, and even more cute little blue-eyed smileing boy!

  13. I made these fun tie-on slippers can make them pretty with fun fabric:

    There is a nice pattern for "traveling slippers" here:

    I can't seem to find the pattern I used before for ballet slipper-like shoes, but this one looks similar to the one I used:

    Here is a pattern for polar fleece socks (I'm sure you could use wool felt or felt a wool sweater for warmth and durability)

    Maybe you can find something among these to keep your toes warm! :-)

  14. I love to wear fleece gym pants and oversized fuzzy sweaters. : )

  15. You did a really good job with the caps! I like them.

    I totally understand your wardrobe dilemma. I would like to go all historical, but I have no idea what era I'd choose. I like too many different ones. I think if I changed my whole wardrobe I'd do sort of 'historically inspired' things that gave me the look I wanted but could be worn with regualar underthings. Right now, I fit in all my old winter clothes from before I got married, so I just wear those. Some are wearing out and there are few that I like, but I am determined not to waste them.

    For warmth, I wear flannel petticoats and drawers. With narrower skirts where that is impractical, I wear modern cotton/spandex leggings, like those that are currently popular. On my feet, I took advantage of another fashion trend and I wear some of those flimsy slipper style shoes as house slippers. I got a simple black pair at Target, and they have served me well for the past two winters.

  16. Emily, I really like your ideas. I think we must have very similar tastes in wardrobes. :) I hadn't thought of using the slipper type shoes for house slippers. That is a great idea! There are some out right now that look very early 19th century. .oohhh, thanks for the idea!

    As of now, I'm going with the 1820's thing. David really likes me in clothes like that and he really does not like (to put it very mildly) pants/shorts/modern clothes/unfeminine attire, etc. on women so I am looking to him for advice, after all, he is the one who sees me the most. :) He says "go for it!"

    So today I'm starting on a corded stay and if it turns out I want to make two more. I'm terrified of making a mistake but feel excited and so relieved that I'm not "bound" by modern fashion.

    You all are superly the best!!! Thank you for encouraging me to do this!

  17. Sarah,
    I love the hat idea. I need a warm weather idea for Parker and I'd love to make him one of these hats. I wanted to make him a mechanic's hat, but this looks even simpler and warmer for fall/winter. How did you measure the top part to fit his head? What does the band piece look like? Does it fit smoothly into the top piece? I am really bad at making patterns from a photo...any tips you can give me would be much appreciated.
    Jess Craig

  18. Sproutingflowers. . .thank you so much for the pattern links! I really love some of the them, especially the traveling slippers, they are oh, so darling!

    Jess, I have scanned the pattern pieces for the cap, and just need to post them and the instructions on my pattern blog, but if you want to make your own, here's what I did:

    I cut an oval the size of the top of the boys head. I did this by folding a piece of paper into quarters and using the eyeball method. I had to cut the oval down a little smaller a few times, and I just held it on top of their head to see if it would work.

    Then I measured all around the oval to find the circumference. I cut the band from paper first, making a rectangle as long as the circumference, plus 1" for seam allowances, about 3" wide or so. . .Then I folded that piece in half and placed the folded edge against the edge of a fresh piece of paper. I cut a few slits in the rectangle all along the length and spread them a little (just 1/4" or a bit less) so it made the rectangle slightly curved. This gave me a slightly larger measurement at the bottom of the band, while the top edge would smoothly fit the oval crown. I marked the edge of paper, against which I put the folded edge of the original rectangle as "fold" so the final piece was cut on the fold.

    Then, I cut a strip of bias fabric for the bottom band, the length of the bottom edge of the curved band.

    I made up an outer cap and a lining from the oval crown and curved band and put them wrong sides together, and finished them with the band of bias. I sewed the earflaps to the bottom of the bias band, positioning them so they covered the boys ears, and then finished the whole thing by sewing on ties.

    That's all there is to it! Hope this helps! I love the look of mechanics caps but I like this style for winter better since it covers the ears so well!

    Speaking of which I need to make a few man-sized mechanics caps today. . .David wants one to wear to work and a gentleman we reenact with desires one as well!


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!