Elizabethan Coif (a la Tudor Tailor)

Today I spent the day prepping for the upcoming Dress U. Conference and taking stock of my costumes that need packing, repair or making. I have one garment bag packed with my 1840 gown ensemble and I also took a closer look at my never-quite-finished Tudor kirtle, too.

The kirtle is made of olive-drab wool and the pattern was taken from the fabulous book, The Tudor Tailor. It was made to wear to King Richards Faire several years ago but I never got around to any accessories. Enter the coif project….

Once again relying on the book mentioned earlier, I turned to the instructions for making an Elizabethan coif and forehead cloth. The patterns are beautifully drafted and I as happened to have some 1″ grid interfacing, I enlarged the pattern pieces directly to that.


More horrible phone pics but you get sense that this pattern isn't too tough to enlarge...

I always seem to have odd size chunks of white linen in my stash, so I pulled out a light-weight piece and began cutting away. The only change I made was to use 1/4″ seam allowances since I was originally planning to hand-sew the coif and that’s what I tend to default to when stitching by hand.

The instructions are quite straightforward and written for using a machine so I ended up going the quicker route. One of the few alterations I made was to sew both headband pieces on at the same time – one to the right side and one to the wrong side of the gathered coif bag.


The lighting is terrible but if you look closely you'll see the two headbands seamed on either side of the circular coif hag

A fair amount of pins were needed to hold everything in place and keep the linen from stretching too far out of shape. The shaped brim was more interesting to construct – at least when it came to wiring the front edge! I found a short length of milinery wire and divided it between the coif and forehead cloth and then shaped the wire to mimic the curves of the flat traced pattern. Once I had the rough shape bent into the wire, I slipped it between the sewn edges of the brim pieces and started stab stitching next to the wire to hold it in place.


Not sure why I always handsew projects balanced on my knee... But at least that explains the denim background!

It didn’t take too long and the major benefits are that the coif not only fits very close to my head, it also has a much nicer hand-finished edge so the machine stitched seams are not so noticeable. All told, I think the coif & cloth took about 2.5 hours – start to finish.

I still need a new shift and possibly an over-gown but at the very least my head will be properly attired next weekend!


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