January 6, 2020

Don’t keep it under your hat – unless it’s linen!

The Tudor Tailor team are throwing their hats into the ring with collaborative work on the history of headwear. Here's a New Year reminder that The Typical Tudor features instructions for knitted and fulled caps. Research on them started in 2008 when Jane visited the Museum of London and the Victoria & Albert Museum to take stock of the number of knitted caps thought to be from the 16th century. Rachel Frost came with her on several of these visits and so began a journey into the mysteries of fulling.

But Rachel’s real passion is felted hats and she has recently been on a mission to learn as much as possible about historical fur felting techniques. The Tudor Tailor are proud supporters of her latest plan for adventure. She intends to travel to Central America to study with Mexico's last traditional felt hat maker. Many followers of The Tudor Tailor made final Christmas gifts by contributing to Rachel’s research trip before midnight on Twelfth Night – and the project is now fully funded. Rachel will be off to Miahuatlan to meet Lucino Martinez (aged 78), who comes from an area once famous for traditional felt hat making. Rachel will study how he uses local sheep's wool, natural dyes and traditional techniques that have remained unchanged for more than 500 years.

Other types of headwear from the 16th century will feature in The Typical Tudor including exciting ideas for creating women’s headwear from linen – especially those items which most frequently appear in women’s wills and inventories, including yard squares, quarters, cross cloths and rails. There is also guidance for using pastes and wires to build styles typically seen in the earlier Tudor period. These will be suitable for wearing on their own or under knitted caps and felted hats.

The Tudor Tailor has been working with students from Nottingham Trent University and the University of Huddersfield to understand how the various elements of headwear might be worn. Most recently, the team has included Mervi Pasanen and Noora Tarkiainen in Finland, who have been helping to develop a typical woman’s head linen “kit”. Noora is known for her meticulous handstitching and Mervi for her reconstructions of historical dress. It has been interesting to discuss the challenges of working with imperial measurements when metric is your usual comfort zone and the interpretation of English terms for headcloths worn in all parts of Europe. There will be videos showing the results of some of our joint experiments coming soon on You Tube – watch this space!

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