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1840's winter bonnet
from an old quilt


I bought an old cotton bedspread in poor condition. It is cotton, hand-quilted and has cotton batting (the quilting that goes between the top and bottom layers of fabric - the meat in the sandwich). It had a single-layer frill round the edge, rather sun-lightened. I used most of it to make a quilted petticoat. This bonnet uses the left-over scraps.

The top layer is sunny yellow and the under-side cream. (All the different lighting conditions have caused the differences in colour shown below.)

This is how I made my bonnet. If you have any queries or suggestions do let me know.


18th century quilted cap


old quilted fabric:

quilting pattern

original quilting stitches close-up

quilted star motif

cotton batting

1. brim

right side
The brim shape is copied from a fashion print. I used a protractor to get the correct angle at the corners that frame the chin.

I cut out the shape first in paper and tried it on for size before cutting out in spare fabric.

front / back 8"
back neck edge 17"
brim face edge 22"

The fabric brim was amended to fit correctly and then cut out in the quilted fabric.

centre back marked

chin corner

The brim edges were wired underneath
with stiff plastic tube, using double stitch.

I decided not to use millinary wire which might rust in the damp English weather.

The more layers that are added to the brim edge the stiffer it becomes, eventually taking on its own curved shape.

after wiring with plastic tube
trim edge with contrasting braids

These days edging tape is sewn on using a machine so that the stitches show: in the past the tape was sewn on by hand with invisible hemming stitches.

Each stitch goes through the quilting
front to back and visa versa.

I prefer the look of hand-sewing.

underneath - bound brim edge

Brim edge wire covered by cotton tape: bias binding was not used at the time.

The brim was decorated before putting it together with the other pieces; working on each part separately is much easier.

Fancy silk braid was sewn on underneath, then chenille edging, suitable for winter wear, on the top.

brim underneath

trimmings must be able to bend around corners

first row of chenille braid on top

second row of chenille braid added

2. quilted back piece

I drew a circle of 9"diameter on the back in pencil (using an embroidery hoop as a template). This will be the guide for the quilting stiches.

This circle was transferred through to the front with tacking stitches in a contrasting colour.

star motif from quilt left-over piece

underneath - before re-quilting

The original running stitch star quilted design was re-sewn with a close back stitch to give more definition

right side - after re-quilting star

To further emphasise the star design I quilted the spaces between the points using vermicelli pattern.

vermicelli quilting underside

3. join back piece to brim

check brim and back:

Another fitting check is made as modifications can easily be made at this stage. The brim and back were pinned together, matching centre-back markings. The back piece hem is pinned up.

4. quilt the curtain

The curtain is a frill that covers the back of the neck so it does not sun-burned (or gazed at). This one is 4.5 inches deep.
Two pieces of fabric were pinned together as the beadspread frill fabric is too thin and losley woven to embroider. The lining is green cotton twill, left over from a previous project.

The 2 layers were tacked together in a random manner until the fabric was stabilised all over.


The centre of the fabric was marked as the staring point for transferring the design

I chose a feather pattern, a common-place Victorian quilting design.

When two patterns are placed together the design has a gentle wave.


The design was photocopied onto thin card to be used as a template a number of times along the length of the fabric.

The edges of the pattern were cut out.

Starting at the centre mark I drew the outline along the length of the fabric using a specialist felt tip pen that washes out. The template was moved on, matching up marks at the edges.

The pattern was progressively cut away from both sides of the template, then drawn around

until all pattern lines were transferred.

before embroidery

The central spine was embroidered first then each 'petal' sewn individually so that the curves are smooth.

[I have my fingers crossed that the effect will not be so subtle that it cannot be seen.]

The embroidery took so long that the felt tip pen began to fade. I used lead pencil to trace over the pattern again.


curtain finished  

curtain attached to back piece and slanted into brim sides

I had a disaster: the green lining colour ran into the yellow. I used a colour run remover and it lightened the yellow curtain. This is why the curtain is so light in comparison to the rest.



5. add other elements

I added a purple velvet flower and two purple velvet ties, (each 29 inches long, 4 inches wide), to match the outfit I planned to wear one winter's day.

The flower and ties are removable so that the bonnet can be used with differently coloured outfits.



Create the Mood 's costume craft workshops and practical demonstrations with have-a-go for adults and older children can be organised in the UK. You provide the people and the topic and Create the Mood organises everything else. Contact us to discuss your ideas.


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last updated 29 December, 2012