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Quilted cap, Asian style




— by Christian de Holacombe, Guild Chronicler

Simple quilted caps like the one at right are among the few complete garments that have survived from the Mamluk era (14thc.) in the southern Mediterranean. This cap is perhaps a kalautah, a type of cap worn by itself indoors, or with a turban wound around it for outdoors. Simple caps like this, often decorated with embroidery, are still worn daily by many men in Asian and Western Asian or Mediterranean cultures.

This particular original, now in the Cleveland Museum, is made from a green, brown and dark blue silk with an Arabic inscription proclaiming “Glory to our master, the Sultan!” The lining is linen, and it appears to be quilted in a pattern of overlapping hexagons. It is made with a straight band that goes around the head, and a pieced top made from six slightly curved triangular sections. The whole cap is about five inches tall.

quilted cap from Mamluk era

As mentioned earlier, garments like this in our period seem mostly to have been quilted in simple, utilitarian patterns. But I’ve let the quilt from Noin Ula inspire me to design a slightly different cap, decoratively quilted in spirals, which you’ll find a pattern for below.

pattern for capIt’s easiest to do the quilting before cutting the fabric and assembling the cap. To make a cap sized to fit you, wind a measuring tape horizontally around your head just above your eyebrows. Note this measurement, add two inches for ease, and you have your working head measurement. The ups and downs of quilting “take in” the fabric a little, so the pieces will shrink a little after you’ve quilted them — that’s what the extra two inches are for. Mark a rectangle three inches wide and as long as this measurement on your fabric, and add half an inch on all four sides for seams. This is your headband, but don’t cut it out yet!

Now divide your working measurement by 4, which will be the width of your pattern. Trace or copy the pattern below, and adjust its size so that the width of the pattern repeat (between red lines) is the same as this width you just calculated. Transfer the bottom quilting design onto the headband you’ve marked on the cloth, lining it up so there are exactly four repeats.

Then draw and mark four triangles like the pattern (adding half an inch on all sides for seams) — if you’re using scraps, which this is a good project for, the triangles can be cut from any scrap that’s big enough as long as they are on the straight grain. Copy the three-cornered spiral pattern onto them.

Sandwich a thin batting between your marked fabric and a plain backing. For the most medieval “look,” use cotton batting, and quilt closely. Some cotton battings have been “stabilized” and look rather like thick felt; these are easier to work with. When the quilting is done, cut out the pieces. Remember to include seam allowances!

hand position for quilting

Here’s a good position for your hands while quilting, either with running stitches or back stitches.
You can simply sew the pieces of the cap together through all fabric thicknesses, beginning with the four sides of the top, leaving the seam allowances inside to be covered later by strips of fabric or by a lining.

 

seam right sides together A neater looking, but somewhat finicky, method is to put two pieces with their right sides together, fold back the batting, and seam just the top fabrics.
Flatten the seam, turn it over so the lining side is up, trim any batting that overlaps the seamline.... turn to wrong side & flatten
turn 1 edge under & stitch down ....then turn under one edge of a lining piece and stitch it down just through the lining on the other piece.

line drawing - finished cap

The finished product!

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This particular web page last updated on November 12 2005.