Posted by: Lucrece | February 1, 2012

Late 15th Century White Hood or Coif – Transition Period / War of the Roses

I’ve been pondering this hood for the past couple of years and even made several different patterns for it. Frustratingly, none of them ever looked quite like those depicted in illustrations.

The explanation often given for this problem is, “it’s the artist’s conception, it didn’t/couldn’t really look like that”.

I’ve never been comfortable with that reasoning.

Artwork in the 15th century was certainly stylized, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the clothing didn’t look essentially as it is depicted.  I never like to assume that because I can’t get it to look right, that it just wasn’t so!  Extant examples of clothing are rare; art is often the only clue we have.  Dismissing it removes one of the few means we have to determine the success of a project.

It arguably gives more insight into “what was” if an object is made using period-plausible methods and patterns AND the result looks reasonably like those depicted by its contemporary artists.  It’s also pretty exciting when it happens!

This brings me back to the mystery of this particular hood.  Someone recently told me they thought it must be simple;  just a piece of cloth tied around the head.  That’s the same theory I’d been working with all this time.  Her comment also made me recall a lady at Pennsic telling me the she believed medieval people would have done “whatever was easiest” to achieve a result, and this got me thinking.

Many extant objects tell a much different story.  In our busy modern age we tend to be convenience-driven, much more so than our medieval counterparts.  Consider as just one set of examples, the extant clothing finds from Greenland.  Far from being “simple”, or made the “easiest way possible”, many show complicated cutting layouts, extensive seam finishing, and even unnecessary false seams added, presumably, for the sake of symmetry.  The makers appear to be more interested in esthetics than ease or simplicity.

With this in mind I chose to approach the hood from the opposite perspective. I gave up simple.

My two new objectives were:

-I wanted a pattern that could be made with little-to-no wasted fabric.
-I wanted the finished result to look like the artwork examples.

The characteristics of the hood as shown in artwork examples are:

The crown is rounded and fits smoothly over the back of the head

The front edge is chin length or just slightly longer; it can be wider with a turn-back or not.

The “ties” are only long enough to tie on top of the head or overlap slightly, they don’t wrap back around the head.

The ties are wider in the back and gather or taper down to being narrower by the time they meet.

Lastly, the look I want most to achieve, the ties follow a gathered “swoop” from the back to the front without sticking out or being too bulky.


After two years, three completely different designs,  four minor variations, many cups of tea,  and at least a dozen more grey hairs,  I finally hit on a design I think really works.

It fits well, is comfortable, doesn’t slip off my head, makes excellent use of fabric with zero waste, and ……….looks like the art!  Yay! 😀

It IS more complicated than just a piece of fabric tied around your head, but in the end it’s still fairly simple and works up very quickly – I can make one in just a few hours:  Here is the pattern!

Final pictures and a photo diary to follow.

I have to take some better photos of this but here’s one – the crown has come untucked so it doesn’t look the best.

Update!  I’ve added a few more photos which are hopefully a little better:




Here is an alternate pattern/layout: Alternate Coif layout



  1. Eagerly awaiting photos!

  2. […] Late 15th Century White Hood or Coif – Transition Period / War of the Roses I don’t understand how her pattern works. I think I need to just make one out of fabric and […]

  3. It IS kind of a weird pattern – I took pictures as I was making it which may help – I’ll try to get around to posting them up after the weekend.

  4. I’m finding a LOT of the time when we don’t know something people jump to the “it’s just the artist’s convention, they didn’t really look like that or do that or have that etc”. I think also when we think of ‘easier’ we forget that the consttruction of the garment was the small work when you compare it to the construction of the cloth and thread.
    I think your hood looks great!

  5. Please post the pics! I’ll be making this one soon. Thanks for the analysis!

  6. Thanks for the pattern. I’ve made a coif to this pattern and worn it on several occasions, though I had to add 1/2″ of tape at the back of the neck to compensate for my fat head. I am not happy with the bias in the front section of the coif – if I do it again I will make that section straight grain.

    • Awesome! I wear mine often as it’s so comfortable. I know what you mean about the bias – it’s partly why I put in a stiffener-layer (which is always straight grain). If you don’t the front edge goes wavy and I don’t like it. I use the stiffener even when I make the front section straight-grain (yes, I do both ways too). The all-bias idea came from trying to get two caps from one square with no waste at all. If your head is bigger – try starting with a square that’s a little bigger, I have a pretty tiny head. One thing I also do now is to pin, sew or tack the edge of back triangle piece down the back edge of the front piece for an inch or two. It then forms a bit more of a cap and doesn’t come untucked like it is in my photo and it makes the swoop better. I have some more photos of this I should really get around to posting. Do you have any of yours?

  7. I spent a recent car trip trying to puzzle out how they would have cut this cap, settling on a clothes-peg style pattern (yet to be cut and tested). This seems like a promising pattern, and I may try both for the difference.

    I know there’s evidence for stiffened brims (pastes) in use at court. Have you tried starching the brim?

    • I think a really stiffened brim (a paste) would be too stiff. I have lightly starched them before, it looks nice, but starch doesn’t last when it’s hot and humid -so mostly I don’t bother.

      I use the interlining because 1) it’s straight of grain, and the brim is bias. Bias brims go wobbly without it which doesn’t look nice 2)using a stiffer linen just for the interlining of brim means I can use a softer lighter linen for the rest. A coif made all out of stiff thick linen usually isn’t as nice and doesn’t do the “swoopy” part very well.

      You can make the brim straight of grain too (even then, I still like to interline, I’m picky and it just looks better). You start with a rectangle, cut two rectangles for the brims, and then a square which is further cut in half on the diagonal to make the triangles. This gets you you two caps. I posted the alternate layout above.

      I’d love to see your pattern idea.

      • Almost a year later, I finally found a photo of the black linen version that I made from your pattern:

        I made the all bias version. It sits wonderfully and has been much admired around Lochac.

      • That’s awesome! Did you actually find a black examples in art ?!??!

      • I did, but not entirely sure where and how I’ve stored the information on the image. Will pop the reference here when I find it.

  8. Thank you so much for this pattern! I have been trying to recreate this cap for ages, and the pattern in the ‘medieval tailor’s assistant’ just never looked right at all. I made up one of these yesterday and was so pleased with it. I wore it around all day and found it very comfy and easy to wear. I think I might try your tip of tacking down the sides of the triangle a bit to keep the crown looking neat without readjustment.
    Thank you again! This pattern is a god-send for me!

    • I’m glad you liked it and that it worked for you! I would love to see a picture. I do find that tacking down about 1″ to 1 1/2″ of the sides of the triangle improves it. Sometimes I just pin it, from laziness really, sewing it would be better. Which version did you do – the original all bias or the newer one I just posted a while ago where the brim is straight grained and the triangle bias? The only thing that bothers me that I haven’t solved all that well is the back is a bit see-through if I use a very fine linen – and I have dark hair so it’s noticeable. I will have to try doubling the triangle, but then it might be a bit bulky.

      Thanks for the feedback,
      Best Regards,

      • I tried the original. It was a bit stretchy until I got the stiffener in place. I will admit to trying to machine sew first (I was considering it a mock-up…), but gave up as it was pulling it all out of shape. There are times when hand-sewing is really the only way! I will try to get my daughter to get a picture of it! I used a medium-thin, well-washed linen, and it seems to be not see-through and still swoopy. Maybe I will wait to send in a pic of the all-hand-sewn, currently-being-made, second half of the triangle. 😉

  9. I see the pattern but how does it go together?

    • Are you maybe looking at the alternate layout instead of the original pattern (there’s a link to it in the body of the post)?

  10. […] on Larsdatter devoted to images of this cap). My version is built on this pattern developed by SevenStarWheel and I love it. It stays on my head except in high winds, it’s light and so doesn’t add […]

  11. Would it be ok for me to teach how to make this hood at an upcoming SCA war? It’s such a nice hat to have and so easy to make! It would be a good item to use to teach hand sewing techniques, and the students would have something to take back with them. I would gladly credit you and your work.

    • Sorry I’m pretty much the worst blogger ever – started a new job this year so haven’t been very focused on writing anything. For the record as long as credit is given – I’m absolutely fine with it being shared. It’s on the internet so frankly, not exactly un-rip-off-able anyway 🙂

  12. I made this last weekend and it came together nicely, but I can’t keep it on my head! I can’t even tie on my own because it slides back; I have to have someone hold the sides down while I tie it. I wonder what I’m doing wrong.

    • Sorry, can’t really help you without being able to see it at all. I’d guess you maybe didn’t adjust the pattern for the size of your head.

  13. Hi
    Could you tell me what the square’s inches are? You mention that the rectangles are 2″ but what are the other dimensions?

    • Hi! did you look at the original pattern earlier on in the post – there’s a link to it. It gives some dimensions. Ultimately though, you have to figure out what size will work on your head. My head is a bit on the small size, so my dimensions don’t work for everyone. Let me know if looking at the original pattern doesn’t help.

  14. I’ve just finished making one for myself after your pattern, and I’m so excited to wear it! But I can’t figure out how to tie it that makes it look like yours. When I do it, I get these little ‘wings’ out to the sides of my head — not from the brim, but from the back triangular part — and they’re open to the sky like little funnels. Plus the back looks entirely smooth, rather than as if it’s somehow twisted around the head, with the folds up near the crown of the head like yours. What am I doing wrong? I know it might be difficult or impossible, but if you can manage it, I’d love to see a “how to tie this thing” tutorial video.

    • I can try…in the meantime can you send me a picture of what you’re doing? Maybe I can figure it out…

  15. […] Seven Star Wheel – This version looks very accurate and is very conservative with fabric. Because she is very conservative with fabric, the brim contains several seams. […]

  16. […] Pattern: is from here: Seven Star Wheen’s 15th century white hood or coif […]

  17. […] Pattern: is from here: Seven Star Wheen’s 15th century white hood or coif […]

  18. Hi,
    i love the hat! I would like to make one, too. But i am not so good at sewing. So is there any detailed instruction? Thanks

    • Hi, there are detailed instructions to the best of my ability – click the link in the post which says “Here is the pattern”.
      Good Luck:)

  19. […] The coif is made from the pattern here. […]

  20. This pattern has got me really confused. What exactly is point 4) (the red dashed line) for?

    • You’re finishing the edge (a single turned hem, turned where the red dotted line is). If you didn’t do this you’d leave raw fraying edges. You will eventually attach the other part of the hood here. Read the instructions through to the end – it may help to see what happens with this section later

      • Ah yes now it makes sense. I’m not a native speaker and just wanted to make sure I got everything right. Thank you

      • Right, I get the hemming part I’m just unsure about the “turning it inside out”-part because it looks to me as if with the seam allowance the edges are stitched down to the fabric forming the rectangle. Or is it literally just seam allowance?

      • Hmmm, it’s so hard to do this with just words – I’m a visual person, but here goes: In step 3 you folded the ends of the strip like it shows in the picture. In step 5 you should have sewed where the yellow dashed line at the top and bottom, using a half inch seam allowance. In step 6 you turn it inside out so that those seam allowances are now on the inside between the two sides of the folded fabric…

      • Wow sometimes I can be quite slow, i am so sorry. I got it now. The pattern is really great and easy to follow once I was actually doing it. Already got two amazing coifs done, which look really professional thanks to the pattern. I can’t thank you enough for putting up with my thickheadedness. Hope you have a great New Year’s Eve ❤️

  21. […] great.  I won’t go into too many details here, as it’s quite lengthy, but it’s located at:…  And I’ll demonstrate how it works broadly in class or at any given opportunity, so just […]

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