The time of Alfonso el Sabio (the Wise) 1221-1284, was one of culture and learning in his court. He sponsored translations, wrote poetry, and was involved in music, astronomy, law, games, and the creation of chronicles. Because of his extensive promotion and patronage of the written word, we have extant manuscripts that give us many images from the 13th century. We also have a variety of extant items. (Pinterest board)

Burgos cathedral lady
Photo by Philip Lund – Burgos Cathedral

Along with extant statuary, those manuscripts show us the WIDE variety of hats that were worn during this time. There were many options. Burgos Cathedral, Book of Games 32r,  and 60r.

Book of Games, Folio 32 recto
Book of Games, folio 60 recto. Notice the stripes for ermine on the surcoat.
Photo by Kate Sachs

And so, because this is also the time period when families were being ennobled, whose descendants in the 16th century would seek Carta Ejecutoria de Hidalguia to prove that noble status, this is the time period I chose for my SCA Laurel Elevation outfit.  A dear friend made my clothing, but I made the hat. I brought all the materials to Lilies war, but didn’t actually start sewing until I had word that the outfit had been shipped, and was ready for pickup at the event site office. (No point in sewing the hat if the the garments were not going to to arrive in time.)

The inner portion of the hat is made from plastic needlepoint canvas. NOT a historic choice, but many of the historic methods for stiffening canvas, like using starch or beeswax, had a pretty high risk of drooping from the heat or sweat that was sure to happen in the summer heat in the Midwest. The lining is recycled linen, from a modern garment, while the outer fabric is silk. This white silk was part of my bounty from a fellow Golden Seamstress team member.

Now there is significant evidence from excavations at Las Huelgas at Burgos that at least one of the similar hat styles was achieved by having a long, narrow, specially woven fabric, the weaving of which created extra fabric and waviness on the edges. The strip was folded in half, and wrapped around the hat form, from top to bottom, and the wavy edges gave the look of this hat. HOWEVER, I neither had the ability nor the time to attempt that weaving technique. As well, there may be multiple ways in which the various hat styles were created. So I made it up on the fly.

I cut my silk in strips, then folded and pressed them in half lengthwise. I started on the tallest part of the hat, and hand pleated the fabric as I stitched it down, while sitting around our camp, swatting mosquitos. Once I was able, I just spiraled around the entire hat from the top toward the base, pleating as I went. I then added a silk cover over the top, to help keep the hat in shape (and allow me to catch tossed coin.) On the inside, I used more recycled linen to make a tube, which I stuffed, to created a cushioned hat band.

After further consideration, I noticed that many of the manuscripts show a trim with black stripes along the edges of the outer layer, the pellote, which perhaps represented ermine fur. I decided to extend that to my chinstrap, and used a fabric marker to create the illusion. (No way was I putting fur around my chin.) I lined the hat band with more linen, so I wouldn’t sweat and stain the chinstrap.

This hat is pretty silly looking, from our viewpoint in the 21st century. I call it the “wedding cake” and it is fun to wear occasionally. Somewhere along the line it got a small stain on the silk, which I have tried to remove, following the instructions here. A little detergent directly on the spot, then cold water wash for the whole thing. This worked out fairly well, and the stain disappeared.

imageI’ve properly finished nearly all the raw edges, except for a tiny bit that is at the very peak of the cap and can not be reached. As it is not in an area where there should be any abrasion or wear, I feel fairly safe leaving that untouched.

One of my judges – Dame Fionna