Every once in a while I will sew for commission. At this point I put my focus on hats, hoods, and caps. I only focus on these items because they have a simple, non-fitted construction that can be decorated on a variety of levels. I don’t take commissions very often though due to my heavy workload. I want my sewing to be relaxing and fun so I pick what I’d like to do. This allows me to provide a quality product that I am proud of, instead of one that feels rushed. That brings me to my latest finished product!
I was reading through the SCA garb for sale page on facebook when I saw someone was looking for a Viking cap. “I can do that!” I told myself. Then I found out she wanted a Jorvik style cap which I had never done before. After looking at a picture of what she was looking for though I knew I could do it. I like a challenge and any opportunity to learn after all!
As a slight disclaimer I made this cap backwards. Usually I do research on what I’m going to make before I make it. At this point I rely on the Internet for my sources, which are usually secondary or tertiary, but some sources are better than none. This time however I went based off the picture I was shown, as well as other pinterest pictures. After the cap was done and I was thinking of making a post about the process, I really wanted to find research to back up what I did in case I wanted to make another one in the future. I had hoped that it would’ve been a simple thing but it turns out I was searching with the wrong terms. Every time I tried to look up “Jorvik cap” I saw caps with rounded edges, not pointed like the one I had made. “Oh no” I thought to myself. “I need to curve that edge to make the cap similar to the ones found at the Jorvik find” and then I saw a picture of an extant cap that had the same shape as the one I made. That cap was found at the Dublin find. While the caps are very similar between the two finds there are some distinct differences. In Jorvik the caps were usually made out of silk. The caps had a curved edge which means it was more fitted to the head. The ones found at the Dublin find however were made out of wool or linen it seems. They also had the point in the back. It is these two differences between the two that make me feel that the cap I made is more of a Dublin style cap than a Jorvik one.
In order to make the cap I cut a rectangle of fabric 9.5” wide by 26.25” long. I then folded the rectangle in half and sewed up one side using my machine. After finishing all the edges I had the basic form.
I then asked her if she would like it embellished at all, and when she replied with a yes I was so excited! I got to try a new technique that I had never done, but had heard of it being done (I can’t seem to find the documentation on it, but I do know it’s out there, it just needs to be found again!). On the seam in the back I laid a piece of pearl cotton embroidery thread along the entire length, then went over it with green thread in a form of couching.
This embellishments also strengthens the seam, which isn’t as big a deal on a hat that won’t have much stress at the seams but could come in handy in the future if I were making, say, an apron dress. I chose blue and green because I was shown a picture of the outfit this cap would be worn with and saw a bunch of beautiful blues, and just a hint of green. Plus the colors look so nice against the brown wool I used to make the cap.
On the bottom edge I used a herringbone stitch in the same blue pearl cotton. The herringbone stitch can be traced to the Birka find, so it is definitely within the realm of they could’ve had it.
I tried doing a double herringbone stitch in the green as well, but decided against it because to my eye it was starting to look busy, and this was more of a casual cap. The only part that made me pause was when it came to the front edge. Do I continue with the herringbone stitch or do a simpler split stitch. Would all the different stitches make this cap look like an embroidery experiment, or would all herringbone look too busy and bulky? Finally I decided on doing a split stitch along the front edge because I felt the herringbone along the front and bottom edge would look too heavy and distract from everything else.
Plus with the split stitch I could hide (or accentuate, depending how you look at it) the seam with decoration! Unfortunately I could not find any documentation for the split stitch in the Viking finds, but that is after only a quick look and not in depth searching, so it could very well be out there, waiting for me to re-discover it.
Once all the embroidery was done I had to make the cord that would act as the chin tie. In these caps, from what I found, the tie wasn’t attached to the corner of the cap, which hangs at just above the shoulders, but rather at chin level. After trying both ways on my test cap, I have to say that having the ties at the corners left the top part too loose and made it hang funky. With the ties at just below the chin there was a much more fitted look. I measured about 1.25” up from the corner and attached the ties there. Why 1.25? Because it looked right when I was placing the strap at various points. Plus when I tried it on my head mannequin it seemed to work so I wasn’t going to argue with any of that logic. I made the cord by braiding three strands of the pearl cotton together. It made for a very sturdy tie, and as a bonus it matched the rest of the cap perfectly!
This brings us to the final product. A cap that looks great and can be worn casually or as a little bit of a dress up, depending on the mood of the wearer!
What would I do differently?
I would cut the rectangle a little bit wider so that it hid the face a little bit, but that is my personal preference of deep hoods and not one that everyone else would enjoy. I would do a test of the stitches I decided to use to see how the thread behaves. With this thread I had to use a tapestry needle, which has a rounded blunt edge. However I really needed a sharper needle to pierce through the thread itself, as I was having slight difficulty with actually splitting the thread, so it looks more like a stem stitch in some areas.
I really enjoyed making this, and think that this is the cap I will make for my own viking kit. It covers short hair well, covers the ears as well as most of the neck, so will do well for both keeping cool in the hot weather as well as keeping warm in the cold weather, depending on what it is made out of. Finally thank you to the new owner of this wonderful hat for letting me share these photos and also opening my eyes to new options of headwear.
(I will be back later to edit in some research footnotes. I just have to hunt down the ones that I used)