January 10, 2009

My version of a Smoking Cap

Filed under: Millinery projects,Smoking cap — Cristina de Prada @ 1:01 pm

My brother Jose works from home and is always surrounded by his books. It seemed to me that he could make good use of a smoking (or lounging) cap. He doesn’t smoke, but I thought he would look wonderful with the smoking cap on, and he would keep his head warm in the process.

I went fabric hunting and decided for a chenille open mesh with wonderful earthy colours. It was love at first sight, so I went ahead and bought it. I kept on searching because I needed another fabric to put underneath and on the top. Finally I decided on a dark brown cotton velvet.

For the lining I used something I had at home, and for the tassel I bought the cord at Mokuba (unfortunately they measured it, and dumped it in a bag… it took me 3 hours to undo the knots…).

On the picture you can see that the chenille fabric  is very thin and needs backing.

The first smoking cap I made (and gave to my brother for Christmas) turned out to be too tight, so I took it apart and did it again only saving the top part with the tassel (I will make another one with the remaining bits).

This time I decided to do it properly (the original one didn’t have a sweat band), and Peter said jokingly that I would end up with exactly the same size… I hope that’s not been the case, but I will not know for sure until my brother tries it on!

There was no time for pictures when I made the tassel, but there are many tutorials on the Internet.  I always find it difficult to make the top look neat… I think I should buy myself a good book on the subject.

I covered the button myself with a Prym cover button kit. I was worried because the velvet is very thick, but it worked wonderfully as you can see. I decided to use a counter-button to avoid the fabric getting ripped if the tassel was accidentally tugged. At the same time I sew the tassel in place through the twisted cord I had made using two strands of the tassel cord -resulting in a 4 strand cord-.

The chenille and velvet tended to shift, so I machine basted the two pieces together. I cut it to be 3 centimeters too big, (plus allowance) because with all the thicknesses that then fold inwards the headsize gets reduced substantially.  The final height has to be something between 8.5 and 10 cm, depending on the person that is going to wear it.

When the lining was finished I inserted it in the cap, pinned it in place, measured the desired height and I sewed all the layers together a little bit below that measurement. If you have too much left now it’s the time to trim, but remember that it still has to have the sweat band sewn in place and the whole thing folded over.

I machine sewed the grosgrain (pressed into a curve) in place.  Be careful not to reduce the headsize by accident.

Stuff I have learned doing this project (in the process of ripping away stitches and re-sewing a few times):

1. Basting might seem like a waste of time but it’s not. The fabric was shifting and just using pins was not enough.

2. With a checkered fabric you want the stitches to run straight. otherwise it looks very sloppy.  Because the velvet was underneath covering the back of the chenille I had no way of knowing if I was sewing straight or not. Next time I will run a machine baste in a contrasting colour so I have less trouble in sewing the thing straight.

3. After folding inwards all the layers slightly above the grosgrain, I have stitched the folded fabric layers that are under the grosgrain onto the lining, this way it stays folded in place without pulling on the outside fabric.

On D*Hub’s website you can see a few old smoking caps. They tend to be embroidered (often hand embroidered by the wearers sweetheart) and look amazing.

I’m not the only one who has given this ago, follow this link you can see Magot’s smoking cap.

Also check Victoriana online magazine for some history on the smoking cap.

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