Tudor bonnets [soft hats] [1556 Kentwell]

I wrote this post originally in April 2012 after we had been accepted as participants for Kentwell in their summer recreation. I only bought the wool after this point and had completed the linens previously. Buying wool for the novice is a bit of a minefield. Kentwell have elves you can send snippets to. I bought mine and SB’s wool from 2 different elves, BB and DH from a friend. colours, textures and weaves are all important. Bernie the bolt is a reliable seller of suitable wool. we were advised that the colour had to be on the farrow and ball chart, but browns, ochres, hint of sludgy greens should be more evident than they are. I had planned to be sludgy green or brown/russet. it didn’t happen that way! Wool is expensive, I was happy to do linens without knowing if accepted but wanted to be accepted before buying wool.

NB Anyone thinking of making clothes for re-enactment, please check with your group the ‘rules’ on materials, colours and look. different tudor years have different styles – particularly for men. following these notes does not guarentee acceptance of clothing by Kentwell or any other group, but may help a total novice such as myself. I had never made any clothes before these – a hint of my novicitude

For making the first hat, i relied on following this webpage , for the next hat I used what I had learnt and simplified a bit, and for the final 2 hats I did something completely different :)


DH hat was the first one made, as the one that definitely had to be done. We had dyed an old blanket with a mixture of terracotta/brown [i think] to use for jerkin and hat. For BB’s I used some much lighter denim blue wool that i had left over from making my wool apron – lighter wool is far far easier to use with the original pattern! And for mine and sb’s in a different design I used ‘loomstate [ie undyed] blanket of pure wool. SB had hers dyed a fetching sage green by the dyers at kentwell.

DH hat
so using the above hat guide, I marked out the crown hole and the edge of the brim with tailors chalk. I cut out two of these in the wool i was using [which i felt sufficiently thick not to do all the layers of the instructions! and I cut one out of buckram.
dh tudor hat

you can see when I pin the 3 bits together that the buckram had negligible seam allowance. here it is wool/wool/buckram, so that I can sew all round with backstitch encompassing all 3 layers. i then snip triangles in the seam allowance and turn over the outer wool layer

so if you are wondering why a seam has appeared, it is because when i placed the hat on dh head, it fell down to neck, so i made the hole smaller by cutting out a segment! however, it did end up a bit tight, so they were prob right… anyway, here is the crown portion [needing an iron]

I cut out 2 circles – one in the wool and one in linen lining and then roughly sewed with running stitch all around the outside of these and pulled tighter to pleat so same size as head hole. the first time when i roughly placed this in there was far far far to much pleated material, and massive puffiness to the hat, so i reduced the diameter of the circle by 2 inches and resewed.

I also went back to the crown and turned over the wool on one side, tacking it to the buckram to hold it down.

I made linear cuts in the seam allowance on the other side of the wool crown and then pinned the crown to this and made sure i was happy with the result before sewing together. i then trimmed off seam excess and went over with bias binding. this is thick wool and pleated, so it was tricky!

I ladder stitched the brim on the otherside to the crown to make secure. hat still a bit puffball, but did look well. I am debating adding a braid to the hat.

BB hat

i made a narrower brim and less excess for the crown – learning from above. this was much much thinner wool, and consequently a far easier and simpler hat to make. i followed the same steps and had done within the hour. where i tacked on the bucram this time i did a backstitch visible on the outside, planning to cover with braid – as yet not done!

SB hat

In making this, I was being very sparing and using the end of the blanket that i had made my jacket from to make sb and mine hats. there was therefore not big pieces to be cutting out lots of large rounds, so I cut out the shape of the brim in paper [having measured SB head and got the diameter from that] and then used this to make one circle for the crown for each of us of the same diameter as to the outside edge of the brim.

emergency woolen hat for DD1

nice crown

for this hat, instead of making 2 brim pieces, you need 3, so that you sew 2 brim pieces together [with or without buckram stiffening in the middle] and the third brim piece to the crown, and then finally sew the crown brim piece to the brim. However, I did not have enough material to cut 6 brim pieces [3 each] in a nice big circle, so I divided all the brim pieces into quarters, and cut out 12 each – remembering seam allowance. This fitted on my material.

this is going to be fiddly :)

i sewed 4 quarters using back stitch to make a complete circle, and did this for each of the 3 layers.

sewing the brim quarters

i pinned two brim pieces together, right side to right side and then sewed all around the outside edge at the seam allowance. If i was using thinner material, this is where I would have sewn in the buckram ring also [like the hats above] but i felt that this was a soft cap, and the material was thick enough. When I had sewn all around, I trimmed the triangles in the brim and then turned right side out and ironed so it lay well.

pinning the 2 brim main pieces

and turning rightside out

i then took the third piece shaped identically to the brim, and pinned it right side to right side to the crown and sewed around the seam allowance at the outside edge, cut triangles into seam allowance and turned right way around. Iron it – i didn’t and wished i had, so did iron the next one!

i then joined the crown portions to the brim portions. This was done by sewing with back stitch the free inner edge of the crown to the LOWER inner edge of the brim, leaving the upper inner edge of the brim free currently. in these pictures I have pinned it on. you can see when I turn the hat over, so the top [crown] is on the bottom, that I am sewing the crown to what is now the uppermost bit of the brim [which will be the lower bit when the hat is perched on a head]

And we are done :) though would be better ironed! I think the look with quarters was fine, and in fact would be fine to quarter the crown also if needed to fit a final bit of material.

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2 Responses to Tudor bonnets [soft hats] [1556 Kentwell]

  1. Beck Laxton says:

    Thank you so much for a brilliant blog! I am a Kentwell newbie this year but had been reading your blog beforehand…. Too nervous to attempt a smock yet so I’m going to make a hat, and follow your last pattern here. Wish me luck – all I’ve ever done till now is sew on buttons, and bodge up moth holes….

  2. Helen says:

    The last pattern is nice n easy and the sime smocks are fine ( just measure 2ce cut once!) have fun and say hello on other posts as you progress and at next open day :)

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