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The Simple Caul


The Simple Caul, like the “biggins”, is a hat comprised of a Band and a Gathered Crown. The following instructions assume that you have already made your Basic Brim Patterns. If you have not, you’ll want to follow the link and do so.

This hat is appropriate for ladies with any class, especially those with any pretensions towards fashion. For the upper classes, the back of the caul can be embroidered or otherwise decorated before it is attached to tbe band, or made of very fine cloth.

Note: These directions do not teach a modern Milliery approach to hat-making. I’ve completely eliminated the use of standard hat sizes and head-size ovals, because I’m assuming that most of the people reading this are *not* trying to set up a hat-making shop. The method I’ve worked out below works, but doesn not produce standardized patterns sizes unless you are one of the lucky few who actually possesses a standard size head.

Making Up the Band


To make the Band, you will need your target head, fabric,
a ruler, and a pen, as well as a sewing machine, thread, and scissors.
In spite of this picture, we’ll be using muslin for this caul. Trust me.


The caul sits back farther on the head than the biggins, and will be daintier in size.


By a bizaire coincidence of cranial geometry, the inside
of your master brim pattern is almost exactly the right pattern to sit
on the back of the head where a caul does. I can’t explain that, but it
*is* awfully convenient.


Whether you choose to to measure the head with a flexible
ruler, or measure against the inside of your master brim pattern, you
do have to measure. You want to cut a strip that measurement plus 1″
(that’s a 1/2″ seam allowance on each end) in length by 2″ in
width. (Here, I’m being a smartie pants and measuring/cutting on the fold.)


Sew the band edges together with a 1/2″ seam allowance
to make a full circle.

Making Up the Bag


The outside edge of your master brim pattern is the right
size for making a small caul, and requires no extra work. I like that.


It’s not very exciting, but there you go….


Run a line of long gathering stitches about 1/4″
away from the edge of the bag.


Pull the gathering threads to gather the Bag down. You’ll probably need it a little more gathered than this.

Attaching the Bag to the Band


Distribute the gathers as evenly as possible, then mark the quarter points of the Bag. (Note: I am told that clever people mark the quarter points of the bag *before* they start to gather it. I never remember. It will work out basically ok no matter how you do it.)


Fold the band in half (so it is 1″ wide). Mark the
quarter points of the band.


Pin the quarter points of the bag together with the quarter
points of the band. The raw edges of the folded band should be pinned
to the raw edge of the bag. (Note: In this picture, the band is *not*
folded so that it is easier to see the pinning process.)


Pull the gathering on the bag out until the bag and the
band are the same size. (Note: In this picture, the band is *not* folded
so that it is easier to see the pinning process.)

The Narrow French Seam


We will be joining the parts with a narrow french seam.
Start by sewing the parts together, following the line of the gathering


We will be joining the parts with a narrow french seam.
Start by sewing the parts together, following the line of the gathering


If your stitching isn’t straight and your gathering stitches
will show, you can remove the gathering stitches by pulling gently on
the threads


Carefully trim the seam allowance to 1/8″. Be very
careful and very neat here.


Fold the band over the raw seam allowance, so that the
raw edge is encased and the seam line is visible at the edge of the fold.
You’ll be able to feel the bulk of the seam allowance inside the fold.
Remember how you trimmed the seam allowances to 1/8″? You’re now
going to sew just a thread past 1/8″ from the seam line, so that
the edges are totally sealed. This is the narrow french seam.


This is the hand position you’ll use to guide the fabric,
seen from the seamstress’ view.


The finished seam.


Now, here’s the reason for using such a fussy little seam
— it’s totally finished inside. It’s also a more sturdy seam, since it’s
sewn twice.


Yay! The finished caul is also the perfect compliment
to a lady’s hat you might happen to make.


  1. EM
    EM March 24, 2010

    The first link to “basic brim pattern” gives me an error. I am sure I can find it another way, but you should have a look at the link.

  2. missa
    missa March 24, 2010

    Good catch, EM – I fixed it. Thanks!

  3. pren
    pren May 18, 2010

    i have loved your blog for a few years now, love the new look, just as an aside. i got quite a bit of fantastically great advise from you when i was just starting out on my costuming journey and you are always an inspiration to me. ok enough with the mush huh? :0) the real reason im commenting is because i am making one of these for my faire garb this year to hide the fact that i have cut my hair really short. i was wondering how you keep this on your head? im just going to wear it alone with the obligatory flower wreath headband that my mum and i always get. do you just use bobby pins? thanks!

  4. […] Cauls are easy to make — they are nothing more than circles or ovals gathered into a headband. I’ve made half a dozen so far, with increasing success at how they look on MY head (I prefer to create them less gathered on the top of the caul and more gathered at the nap of the neck). The smallest diameter for the circle is about 12″ — I also go a little larger for a baggier, fuller look. The headband should be the circumference of your head measured from the top of the skull to the nape of your neck, because a caul sits on the back of your head rather than on the crown. Click here for a step-by-step guide to making a simple caul. […]

  5. […] first costume project I tackled was a caul, using the Simple Caul pattern from The Sempstress.  It actually turned out pretty well, particularly considering that I had absolutely no idea what […]

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