HSM #4 – Warriors and peasants

For the War & Peace challenge of the Historical Sew Monthly (link leads to The Dreamstress’ introduction), I chose to go quite simple, and make a coif out of leftover fabric. I’ve heard somewhere that the medieval man’s coif originated from a warrior fashion – the hat to keep the hair out of the chainmail hood – and then got to be everyman’s hat because the knights were cool. I haven’t been able to find a source for that though, so I can’t claim it as a fact. If anyone can say yay or nay to that theory, please let me know in the comments! Medieval manuscripts are however quite full of pictures of men wearing coifs, both warriors and peasants, as well as almost all other classes, quite often under other headwear. So that means that I could perhaps claim that both themes of War and Peace fits into this rather modest headwear – which to our modern eyes probably looks mostly like a baby cap.

To find medieval images, I usually go to the Larsdatter links page, and here is a full page with links to men’s coifs. Images in the Maciejowski Bible depicts both knights and warriors and farmers wearing coifs. I recommend zooming these pictures, you’ll discover amongst other things soldiers dressing for battle in a hurry.

Now, onto the sewing. I cheated a bit with the pattern and used another coif from ”Say it with a coif” (Säg det med en coif), which I got last year when I donated some linen to them. The coif speaks in medieval runes. Can you guess what it says? (Suggestions can be left in the comments – and I will reply to them! 🙂 )

The coif pattern (traced from another coif)

The coif pattern (traced from another coif)

So, the coif is basically sewn from two pieces – as easy as it gets, really. I found some white linen thread too, so the stitches are quite hard to see on pictures, but here’s the inside:

Trying to show the stitches

Trying to show the stitches

The two sides are sewn together and then the seam allowance is felled to the side. Then I hemmed it all with a narrow hem. Done! (I didn’t take any work shots. Sorry about that. I’ve not been very good at documenting things these past months…)

Finished coif on ironing board

Finished coif on ironing board

The Challenge: War & Peace

How does it fit the challenge? It is an item that was worn both by warriors and more peaceful people, but I find the theory that the fashion originated from the need to have something under a chainmail hood rather plausible. People without coifs tend to get their hair stuck when they try on chainmail hoods. At least in our days. (I saw it happen only yesterday…)

Fabric: Hemp/nettle blend

Pattern: Taken from another coif

Year: Medieval – from at least the 12th century onwards to the 16th, according to the images on Larsdatter’s page.

Notions: Linen thread, bees wax

How historically accurate is it? On me: Not at all. On a guy: Fairly, say around 70 %

Hours to complete: About 3 or 4. Handsewing is not something I can do fast…

First worn: Not yet.

Total cost: Leftover pieces from other projects, so not much, but difficult to say.

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Filed under Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge

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