by Jessica Norris a.k.a. Eleonora Rose
This is a pretty long article! I originally wrote this as documentation when I entered the hood into an Arts and Sciences competition in 2019. Since then I’ve spruced up the references and added some more detail about the construction.
Grab a cup of tea, and possibly a small meal, because this could take a while to read. Enjoy!
- Recreating a London Hood
- Extant Material
- Fabrics and Fibres
- Prior Work / Inspiration
- Creating a Pattern
- Inserting the Gussets
- Centre back seam
- Sewing the Liripipe
- Main hem — “singling”
- Main hem — tablet weaving
- Lining the hood
- Making Buttons
- Creating Buttonholes
- Garment review and lessons learned
- Learning / skill development
Recreating a London Hood
This hood is a 14th Century woman’s hood, with a short buttoned cape, and a liripipe, like those depicted in various illuminations from the period.
Figs. 1, 2 and 3 shows various examples of women with buttoned hoods, all unlined, from Le Roman de la Rose (images courtesy of The Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University).
There are also women shown with lined hoods, such as the leftmost figure in pink from Fig. 4 (from Tres Belles Heures de la Notre Dame).
The other women depicted in Fig. 4 have unlined (or self-lined) hoods with buttons.
It seems much more common for buttoned hoods to be depicted without an obvious lining.
In most of the depictions of women wearing lined hoods, the lining is white. I could find just one example where the lining might have been a contrasting colour (green), from the Detail of a miniature of Almathea, the Sybil of Cumae (Fig. 5).
There are, however, several examples of men wearing hoods with contrasting linings—like the one in Fig. 6 (from Le Parfait du Paon).
There were several hoods excavated in London that were dated to the 14th Century, and described by Crowfoot, Pritchard & Staniland [Crowfoot et al]. These hoods, numbered 174, 246 and 247 shared a common cut, with gussets inserted over the shoulder (see Fig. 7).
Marc Carlson, in his compilation of various extant hoods, wrote of London Hood no. 246:
My hood is a recreation of this hood, as this most closely resembled the look I was trying to recreate—a hood that buttoned at the front, with a liripipe attached.
In addition to the London finds, we also have several examples of hoods with a similar cut from Herjolfsnes in Greenland. These hoods are the Nørlund Type II hoods analysed in detail by Else Østergård [Woven Into the Earth (WITE), from p. 207]. They have shoulder gussets but no neck openings—these hoods slipped over the head and would have been more loosely cut.
Fabrics and Fibres
Ideally I’d make a London hood from a tabby woven wool fabric, based on the information from Crowfoot et al, if I could find such a fabric (or weave one myself!) — however in Australia it can be very hard to find suitable wool fabric (you have a choice of black, or maybe tweed, or … nothing).
It appears that lined hoods were more commonly red, with a white lining. I chose to use the rust-orange 100% wool 2/1 twill (melton) fabric that I used for my coat, since I had that on hand, and it’s a reasonable alternative to red, and achievable with medieval dyes.
2/1 twill is a weave that has been known in the London finds, in other items from the same period (although not the extant hoods).
To line the hood, I ought to use white linen, or possibly a white soft wool. I chose to use blue linen instead of white, to avoid yellowing and dirty edges. If I had my time again, I’d line with a soft white wool fabric, or not line at all.
Garments in the 14th Century were typically sewn with linen or wool thread. I can’t really hope to replicate the Greenland sewing thread, which was maybe sheep or goat hair, spun and then two-plied into a very narrow thread.
Instead I used natural linen waxed with beeswax, as this was available in the 14th Century. Unfortunately I don’t have suitable wool for sewing, and pulling threads from the hood cloth is not practical with the remnants of fabric I had left over.
For tablet woven edges, I believe the best choice would be to use wool in the same fibre as the hood cloth, but again — this would be hard to find / match for colour, and I’m not experienced (yet) at tablet weaving with wool.
I chose to use a dark brown Cottolin thread (40% linen, 60% cotton) — mainly because coloured 100% linen is expensive and difficult to find, and I love the look of the contrasting coloured edge!
For sewing buttonholes, silk would be the best choice, in a colour that matches the hood fabric. I didn’t have a suitable colour of silk in my stash, so I chose to use the brown cottolin thread for the button holes (a mistake — next time I’ll use work harder to find silk!).
Prior Work / Inspiration
There are many people recreating liripipe hoods, as well as other garments from this period. I drew particular inspiration from three very detailed articles, but there are more online materials listed in the References section.
- Cathrin Åhlén from Katafalk has written up an amazing tutorial for making a buttoned liripipe hood, with a wealth of detail about the construction. I highly recommend this site if you are searching for how to make a historical item!
- I also drew inspiration from Recreating History, by Andrea Håkansson, with her article on the open hood — another excellent resource.
- The third article I used was an excellent piece of documentation for a piece made by Master Bran Mac Fynin for Her Highness of Oertha. This provided many excellent references and detail about construction.
Creating a Pattern
With a butcher’s paper mockup I trialled the shape of the hood starting from rectangles based on my measurements.
It was hard to test the fit without cutting a slit. I made a best guess about the position, but there was a lot of fiddling about.
I recommend having a large amount of sticky tape on hand, plus some mirrors placed opposite each other. Photographing with a single mirror is a reasonable substitute here, and allows you to see how the paper “fits” without turning your head!
In the end I needed to move the slit forward from the original position, and angled slightly off grain. In the new position the paper mock-up sat nicely over my head and separated over my shoulders — the point being quite high up (above my collarbone, underneath my ear).
Once I had the position of the top of the slit in the right place, it was easier to length and shorten the paper with insertions / cutting sections away.
- I cut away some length in the cape but added it back in with an insertion into the top section of the hood, to give more space over the top of my head, shoulder-to-shoulder.
- I cut away sections from the front neck until it felt too tight (when pinched), then added some paper back in with a slight curve. The chin corner actually sits below my Adam’s apple. It’s probably a little loose in front, but better loose than too tight!
- I added length to the slit (making the gusset larger than the cut-away “chin” section) — this meant I couldn’t cut the gussets from that section of cloth (which might have been the case for the London Hood no. 246).
- I found it helpful to measure from the back of my head (high-ponytail position, where the liripipe tail begins) to underneath my chin (like a chin-strap), in a circumference measure, and draw this onto the pattern where I saw the crinkles develop (you can see this in Fig. 9 as a crease from where I’m pinching at the neck that points towards the liripipe).
- I shaped the back neck area by coming in, then adding a gore and fiddling until the whole thing sat somewhat flat when worn. There is no back gore in my final pattern — it just helped me shape that area.
The following sections describe how I put the hood together, with details for each of the seams and edge finishes.
I’ve mostly chosen stitches that were found on extant pieces of clothing from the period.
I’ve kept all seam allowances small (6-7mm) which is in keeping with the hoods from Greenland (Østergård).
Inserting the Gussets
I chose to use a method described by Østergård (WITE p. 98) to insert the gussets:
I worked the gusset seams from the front (the “good side”) with the slit opened up (quite like Fig. 12, but flipped over).
First I pressed the slit open (Fig. 11) and then flipped it over so the “good side” was facing up.
Then I placed the slit over the gusset so that the tip of the gusset was behind the top of the slit, and the edges lined up with the edges of the gusset.
I basted the gusset into position with long running stitches (now removed), and then hem stitched with narrowly spaced stitches. This hem stitching is essentially the same structure as running stitch—invisible from the front, going in and out of both fabrics, but visible from the back (see Fig. 12).
Since I planned to line my hood, it wasn’t strictly necessary to finish the edges of the gussets (the edges will be protected from wear). I decided to finish the edges with stab-stitching, however, as a decorative treatment, and to experiment with this technique (Fig. 13).
Østergård (WITE p. 99) describes stab stitching as being frequently used on Norse garments, as a decoration, and as reinforcement where heavy wear might be expected:
However, I don’t believe the London hoods had stab stitching. I chose to deviate here because I wanted to:
- Try a new technique
- Have a lovely decorative touch on the gussets of the hood
- Avoid aggravating my RSI, which I often experience working overcast stitches
It turned out to be very slow to work, and probably more aggravating for RSI!
Centre back seam
I basted the centre back seam together to check the initial fit, before sewing the final seam. I used a short running stitch (Fig. 14), and felled the seam allowances to either side, using an overcast stitch (Fig. 15).
By opening the seam allowances to each side, I hoped to encourage the seam to lay flat, causing the liripipe to open itself into a tube shape (rather than flop flat to one side or the other).
I decided to use overcast stitching (rather than stab stitching), to work this section faster, and because this seemed more authentic for a London Hood.
Sewing the Liripipe
The liripipe was attached to the centre back of the hood, first with a running stitch (just like the centre back seam in Fig. 14), and then the seam allowance (about 7mm) was folded back towards the main hood and secured with a decorative stab stitch (Fig. 16).
This time I chose to use stab stitching to reinforce the join for the liripipe, to help with wear and tear (I can imagine the dangly bit being caught and pulled, for example).
The long seam of the liripipe was worked in running stitch, with the right sides together, as an extension of the centre back seam.
I knew I wouldn’t line the liripipe, since this is essentially a long, narrow tube. I decided to overcast the raw edges together (Fig. 17), in order to finish them (Jones, “Archaeological Sewing”).
It took a little effort to turn the liripipe right-side-out, but I managed it with the help of a pencil. The finished width is about 3.5 cm throughout, tapering to a stumpy point.
Main hem — “singling”
This technique involves weaving a narrow tablet woven ribbon (only two tablets) to the raw edge of the fabric, using a needle threaded with the weft.
I’ve used this technique in the past for necklines, but I was concerned that the gussets (being on bias, and a circular hem) would pull the raw edges of the wool apart as I attached the tablet weaving.
I decided to try a technique called “singling”, described by Østergård (WITE p. 99):
This is exactly what I wanted, so I added singling to the hem edge of each gusset, plus the “chin” area of the hood (where the button holes and buttons would eventually lie).
Østergård also provided several diagrams of singling (p. 99 Fig, 69, amongst others), which shows that “the stitches are pulled ‘flat’ into the textile and are invisible from the right side”. The stitches follow a snaking path, picking up a single thread from the weave. On p. 103 she describes the singling:
I interpreted “every second weft thread” to be the distance from the edge of the cloth, so the singling is worked very close to the edge. I managed to produce a snaking path with loops about 1 cm long, which seemed to match the suggested 8-10 mm from the extant examples.
I used waxed unbleached linen thread to work the “singling”, which took a number of hours. In the end I think this was definitely worth the time, and I would do it again! I felt confident to weave against this reinforced edge.
Main hem — Tablet weaving
Once the singling was complete, I measured the total hem length in order to prepare a warp for tablet weaving. This included the face opening, the two “chin” areas, plus the cape hem — just shy of 2 metres.
I used two tablets, threaded in all four holes—one ’S’ and one ‘Z’. I started the weaving with some waste weft in a contrasting colour (dyed brown cottolin), then began attaching the weaving to the hood at the centre back seam.
I passed the needle through the weave, then up through the hood fabric from the wrong side, coming up on the right side of the hood (Fig. 21).
The tablet woven edge is aligned to the cut edge of the wool (like the cuffs described by Crowfoot et al) not along the face of the wool (like Herjolfnes garments) because I’m emulating the London Hood.
I prefer to weave with each card individually weighted (using 8 oz fishing sinkers) which takes care of the excess twist. I was mostly able to avoid reversing the turning direction thanks to this.
Fig. 22 shows my set up before my new fishing sinkers arrived (the warp was weighted with a small mason jar instead).
- I’m sitting in an armchair, and the woven section is attached to my belt.
- The warp stretches away from me, through the tablets, over the chair and then is pulled tight by the weights.
- Every time I pass the weft, I turn the tablets forward.
- Every second time, I thread the needle through the fabric.
I frequently have to join new weft threads because I’m working with a needle instead of a shuttle loaded with lots of weft!
Since the hem is a complete circle, I tried joining the warp ends together invisibly by weaving in the ends. I tried to find more information on how to do this, but really, I just had to make it up as I went!
The tablet weaving stiffened the face opening enough to maintain the general shape, which was a hope realised (Fig. 23). 🙂
Lining the hood
I chose to line the hood, despite the extant hoods being unlined, or commonly depicted without a lining because:
- I thought an unlined woollen hood would be scratchy against my head
- I figured the lining would stiffen the face opening to prevent it flopping in my eyes (or possibly it might make this worse with the extra weight!)
- I really like the look of a lined garment
I went with a blue lining instead of white because I’ve experienced dirty white linen linings before (and this garment will be used whilst camping in the dust and wet!) and I really wanted to avoid white.
In hindsight, I’d probably not line the hood, and instead use a white Birgitta’s cap or a white veil to avoid the hood being scratchy. I wrote separately about the experience of wearing the hood, here.
I attached the lining in three steps:
- Sewing the centre back seam (again with a running stitch), and then basting the main lining to the inside of the hood at the centre back.
- Basting each gusset in place (Fig. 24).
- Hemstitching everything together around the folded edges (Fig. 25).
The liripipe is not lined, so I overcast the edge of the lining around the opening of the liripipe. This was really awkward as the liripipe opening was very narrow at this point!
I decided to attach the gores directly to the seam allowance of the main fabric gore, so that the alignment of the pieces would match. I used a long running stitch for this.
Then I laid the folded seam allowance for the lining over the edge of each gusset and used an overcast stitch to secure the edge.
Finally I folded up the hem of the lining, finger-pressing the linen into position. I used a hem-stitch to attach the lining invisibly, by running the thread inside the tablet woven edge. This produced a very tidy finished hem!
These were created with 4.5cm diameter circles, cut from the remnants of the main wool fabric. The finished diameter is approximately 1.5cm.
Many tutorials were used to work out construction, because self-fabric buttons were new-to-me. My technique ended up a blend of these:
- The Dreamstress, Making medieval cloth buttons.
- The Medieval Tailor, Buttons
- Katafalk, Buttoned and lined liripipe.
- Som När Det Begav Sig, Att Göra Knappar i Tyg, (not in English, I used the pictures to muddle through).
A single row of running stitch was used 0.5cm in from the edge (Fig. 26), which was pulled tight (Fig. 27). The button was turned in on itself and the thread pulled tight (Fig. 28) to shape the wool into a small ball.
I laid the buttons along the edge of the hood to determine how many to make. I ended up with six along the neck edge, and 4 along the face edge, for a total of ten buttons.
The London hood no. 246 had 9 button holes along the edge, whereas I have 10. Not a big difference in the end!
These were worked in the same brown cottolin thread as was used for the tablet woven edge, since I didn’t have a matching colour silk thread.
In retrospect, I should have used silk in a colour similar to the main fabric, because the Cottolin suffered abrasion from working each buttonhole, and frequently snapped.
Buttonhole examples described by Crowfoot et al are worked in silk (p. 168).
To construct each buttonhole, I snipped the fabric quite close to the finished edge — about 3 mm approximately. I cut perpendicular to the edge, since that meant I was cutting along the grain / cross-grain of the fabric (Fig. 28 shows the placement of the button holes).
Because I chose to line the hood, I didn’t need to use a facing for the button holes. The lining needed to be secured to the hood fabric, however, to stop it slipping as I worked.
Crowfoot et al (p. 170) suggest that there was:
Nonetheless I needed to do this for practical reasons. I made a short running stitch very close to the edge of each button hole (1-2 mm) which was completely covered by the buttonhole thread.
Lining the hood meant that I covered up all evidence of the “singling” where the button holes were worked. I had to guess (by feeling through the lining) where the snaking “singling” thread had passed, and I attempted to avoid cutting through the singling.
In retrospect, I’d mark the buttonholes before doing the singling, so that I could avoid snipping thought the reinforcing stitching. This would also match up better with Østergård’s description (p. 169), which appeared to have been done after cutting the slit for the button hole.
I worked the buttonhole stitch over the long edges of each slit only. I left the corners alone (no modern bar tack, and no buttonhole stitch rounding the corner).
I wish I’d researched some tutorials first — but I’ve made buttonholes before, so the description of the extant buttonholes was enough for me. Here are the ones I found afterwards that I would have taken into consideration:
- The Medieval Tailor, Buttonholes (my technique was the most similar to this)
- Jennifer Carlson, Buttonhole page
- La Cotte Simple, buttonhole tutorial with more detail on how to sew them
Garment review and lessons learned
Overall I’m really happy with this item. It has a very polished appearance and I love how it turned out.
The face of the hood works very well now that it is lined — when worn the hood keeps it’s natural curved shape, likely due to the combination of medium weight fabric choice, the tablet weaving and the lining.
The depth of the face section works very well to shield from winter sun in the eyes, and has worked nicely in drizzling rain to keep my face dry.
I find that visibility to the sides is a little restricted (I am conscious of this when crossing the road, and it’s hard to know if someone is trying to pass me on the footpath from behind). It’s not a big concern that I feel like I need to fold back the face opening.
I can fold the face opening back, but I’ve not been wearing it like this typically. If this were an open hood (worn typically peeled back) I’d make the face section slightly deeper, maybe by about 1-2 cm.
The stab stitching is so very pretty. However, it was super slow to stitch, comparing to running stitch and overcast stitch!
The length of the liripipe is good. I can’t wrap it round my neck for warmth, but the buttons keep me pretty snug, regardless. I’m not afraid of catching it in my other garments. 🙂
The length of the cape section is maybe a little bit too short (maybe?) for my taste. The length is great for using with over-the-shoulder bags, however, since it’s easy to pull the cape over the top of the straps.
I didn’t consider which side to place the buttons upon, and instead used the side that made the most sense with the tablet woven edge. This felt initially weird to button up, but I’m used to it now after only 4-5 wears. The buttonholes are now easy to push the buttons through, and don’t appear to be tearing open.
I have worn this hood now probably a hundred times, and it is still functioning perfectly well, and is holding up nicely. The centre back seam is now opening up slightly in the lining, but this isn’t a problem right now, and is an easy repair.
Learning / skill development
I’ve never made fabric buttons before (oh regret, I should have done this years ago). These were easy in the end (for me) and had a very satisfying result.
I’ve never tried “singling” before. This was highly useful — the strengthening on the gusset (bias) edge was much appreciated, allowing me to stay quite close to the edge (within 2 mm) whenever I attached the tablet weaving. Next time I might try marking my buttonholes before I do the singling, so that I can ensure the singling thread goes between the edge and the start of the slit?
Buttonholes are quicker for me to work than I expected. I would also have preferred a stronger thread than cottolin! Next time I’ll use silk for both the buttonholes, and making the button / button shank.
The tablet weaving was by far the slowest part. This wasn’t helped by me running short in the warp by about 50 cm. (I must have measured the warp incorrectly, because I added enough length to account for take-up and weaving waste — or at least, so I thought!)
The main thing here that was new to me (apart from the “singling” and button-making), was how to seamlessly join the ends of the tablet weaving. I couldn’t find a lot of information on this, so I just made it up as I went! But I did a reasonable job of it, and got to practice twice due to adding more warp towards the end! >.<
I practiced my skills of pattern drafting / flat paper pattern making on this project. It took days of fiddling (and anxiety about cutting my fabric) before I was confident I would have the slits in the right spot. I’m not sure that cutting up expensive fabric ever gets easy!
Åhlén, Cathrin. “Buttoned and Lined Liripipe”. Katafalk, 11 June 2013, katafalk.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/buttoned-and-lined-liripipe/. Accessed 16 June 2019.
Attiliani, Anna. “Herjolfsnes challenge: the hood Nørlund 78 – D10606”. Tacuinum Medievale, 9 December 2015, https://tacuinummedievale.blogspot.com/2015/12/herjolfsnes-challenge-il-cappuccio.html. Accessed 16 June 2019.
Carlson, I. Marc. Some Clothing of the Middle Ages. Historical Clothing from Archaeological Finds. 4 Dec 2006. 1996-. Text html and digital images. Marc Carlson. Available from [personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/cloth/bockhome.html]. Accessed 26 May 2019.
Carlson, Jennifer L. Sewing Stitches Used in Medieval Clothing. 25 February 2002, personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/cloth/stitches.htm. Accessed 26 May 2019.
Crowfoot, E. Pritchard, F. & Staniland, K. Medieval finds from excavations in London: 4. Textiles and Clothing 1150 – 1450. (Boydell Press, 2001).
Gilbert, Rosalie. “Medieval Women’s Hoods”. Rosalie’s Medieval Woman, https://rosaliegilbert.com/hoods.html. Accessed 16 June 2019.
Giovanni Boccaccio. Des cleres et nobles femmes, De claris mulieribus in an anonymous French translation. Parchment Codex. France, 1st quarter of the 15th century. MS 20 C V, British Library, Royal Collection, http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/record.asp?MSID=8355&CollID=16&NStart=200305. Accessed 16 June 2019. (Detail of a miniature of Almathea, the Sybil of Cumae, reading — f. 38v)
Håkansson, Andrea. “Fruhättan – The open hood”. Recreating History, 19 November 2014, recreatinghistoryblog.com/2014/11/19/fruhattan-the-open-hood/. Accessed 16 June 2019.
Jean de le Mote. Le Parfait du Paon. Illumination. France, mid-14th Century. BNF Fr. 12565. http://mandragore.bnf.fr/jsp/afficherListePart.jsp?id=4966 (f. 257)
Jones, Heather Rose. “Archaeological Sewing”. Heather Rose Jones’ Website, 29 February 2004, http://heatherrosejones.com/archaeologicalsewing/index.html. Accessed 16 June 2019.
Kelly, Tasha. “How to sew a medieval buttonhole”. La cotte simple, 5 Oct 2020, http://cottesimple.com/tutorials/how-to-sew-medieval-buttonhole/. Accessed 7th October 2020.
Le Roman de la Rose. Illumination. France, c. 1365. MS 1380, University of Chicago Library MS 1380, Special Collection Research Center, University of Chicago Library, http://roseandchess.lib.uchicago.edu/rose.html. Accessed 16 June 2019.
Mac Fynin, Master Bran. “14th Century Women’s Hood: Documentation”. Matsukaze Workshops, 1 December 2014, matsukazesewing.blogspot.com/2014/12/14th-century-womens-hood-documentation.html. Accessed 16 June 2019.
Marksdottir, Amanda. “14th Century London Liripipe Hood”. Flickr, 8 January 2009, https://www.flickr.com/photos/ragnvaeig/3179399145/. Accessed 16 June 2019.
Oakes, Leimomi. “Making Medieval cloth buttons”. The Dreamstress, http://thedreamstress.com/2015/06/making-medieval-cloth-buttons/. Accessed 25 May 2019.
Østergård, Else. Woven into the Earth, 2nd Edition. (Aarhus University Press, 2009, E-book production Narayana Press).
Tres Belles Heures de la Notre Dame. Illumination. France, c. 1375-1400. Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des Manuscrits, NAL 3093, https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b84496839. Accessed 16 June 2019.
Virtue, Cynthia. “How to be a HOOD-lum: Medieval hoods”. Virtue Ventures, 2005, https://www.virtue.to/articles/hoodlum.html. Accessed 16 June 2019.
W, Sarah. “London Hood, Part 2 – Finished”. A Most Peculiar Seamstress, 11 January 2010, https://peculiarseamstress.blog/2010/01/11/london-hood-part-2-finished/. Accessed 16 June 2019.
W, Sarah. “Att Göra Knappar i Tyg”. Som När Det Begav Sig, http://somnardetbegavsig.blogspot.com/2013/05/att-gora-knappar-i-tyg.html. Accessed 25 May 2019.