The “Bess” Bonnet


The Farming Daughter: The "Bess" Bonnet ( https://thefarmingdaughter.com/2016/01/13/the-bess-bonnet/)

And still of a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,

When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,   

When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,   

A highwayman comes riding—

         Riding—riding—

A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard.

He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred.   

He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there   

But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,

         Bess, the landlord’s daughter,

Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

-“The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes

The nasty weather we’re having right now has at least one benefit I suppose…inspiring me to finally blog about my new quilted winter hood!

I began this project the beginning of October. I’d actually owned the pattern unused since last year, but I pulled it out hoping to whip up a hood before the Cedar Creek reenactment. Of course that didn’t happen, but c’est le vie. (Actually it’s more my procrastinating self’s fault, when will I learn?)

I used Anna Worden Bauersmith’s Quilted Winter Hood pattern. The pattern offers a regular size and one with a deeper brim. I went with the regular size. I’ve made various winter hoods before, but I love that this particular pattern is less utilitarian in shape and is instead modeled more like the fashion bonnets of the era. The pattern was clear and easy to understand, though I would have liked a few marks or notches to help match the pieces when sewing the bavolet to the crown.

The lining is a cream colored cotton sateen and the batting is wool. For the main fabric I chose a simple and versatile black silk taffeta. I made the bow and ties also from silk taffeta I had on hand. They are just tacked on to the bonnet, so if I get tired of them they can be easily switched out for a fresh color. I discovered the poem The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes while working on this project and didn’t realize until later that I unconsciously made the bonnet from two colors specifically mentioned in the poem!

“Bess, the landlord’s daughter,

Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.”

For that reason I’ve decided to name it my “Bess” bonnet. 🙂

Using some suggestions offered in the pattern and inspiration from Sarah Jane’s version, I came up with a quilting design that pleased me. I quilted it all by hand. At first I didn’t plan on the final row of shell pattern closest to the brim, but I’m glad I added it because I think it balances out the design nicely.

The Farming Daughter: The "Bess" Bonnet ( https://thefarmingdaughter.com/2016/01/13/the-bess-bonnet/) 2
Quilted crown design
The Farming Daughter: The "Bess" Bonnet ( https://thefarmingdaughter.com/2016/01/13/the-bess-bonnet/) 3
Koda “helping” me quilt
The Farming Daughter: The "Bess" Bonnet ( https://thefarmingdaughter.com/2016/01/13/the-bess-bonnet/) 4
Hand quilting

The crown is stiffened with wire to help it hold its shape. The pattern recommends “20 gauge millinery wire”. I honestly have no idea how big that is, so I just used some jewelry wire we had laying around and it seems to work fine.

The Farming Daughter: The "Bess" Bonnet ( https://thefarmingdaughter.com/2016/01/13/the-bess-bonnet/) 5
A look inside the hood: all of the raw seams joining the pieces together are finished with a whip stitch
The Farming Daughter: The "Bess" Bonnet ( https://thefarmingdaughter.com/2016/01/13/the-bess-bonnet/) 7
Back view

I would definitely recommend this pattern to someone looking for a more refined, fashionable winter hood. The research and clear instructions are wonderful. I was a little leery of the price…$20. I thought that was a little much for a pattern that is basically only three pieces…but then again, the price didn’t dissuade me from purchasing the pattern when I did! I think the printing costs contributed to the higher price and I see that Anna now offers the same pattern as a digital download for the very reasonable price of $7 (you can buy it here). These hoods use so little material now that I have the investment of the pattern already I can see myself making quite a few in different colors!

The Farming Daughter: The "Bess" Bonnet ( https://thefarmingdaughter.com/2016/01/13/the-bess-bonnet/) 6
The three main pieces: crown, tip, and bavolet

Overall, I’m very pleased with my finished Bess bonnet. I think proper accessories can really help to complete the believable “look” of the period…and they’re great conversation starters with the public! I also love how this piece can easily be incorporated in a wide range of personas. Of course the shape and materials are fine enough for a more well to do impression, but it requires so little fabric that an enterprising farm wife could have easily afforded the small bit of silk required to make herself a nice winter Sunday piece of headwear.

I’ll be excited for the next cold weather event so I can try out my new winter hood! Have you ever sewn a winter hood? Do you have a favorite piece of historic clothing or gear that transcends several social classes?

-Michaela “The Farming Daughter”

Just the basics:

Fabric: black silk taffeta from Originals by Kay, cream cotton sateen from Joann’s, red silk taffeta from Fabrics Universe on Etsy, wool batting

Notions: black cotton quilting thread, 2′ wire

Pattern: “Quilted Winter Hood” by Anna Worden Bauersmith (the pattern is for sale here in her shop)

Year: 1860s

How historically accurate is it?: Fairly good I’d say. The pattern is modeled after designs of original bonnets and all of the construction methods are period correct. The lining should possibly be a printed cotton or a polished cotton instead of cotton sateen. I’m quite pleased with the finished results though!

Hours to complete: 10 maybe?

First worn: Just to try on when finished

Cost: $5 (black silk taffeta), $3 (cotton sateen), $1.5 (red silk taffeta), $2( wool batting) $1 (notions-thread & wire), $20 (pattern)

Total cost (with pattern): $32.50

Total cost (without pattern): $12.50

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5 thoughts on “The “Bess” Bonnet

  1. Thank you for such a nice write up.
    I love the quilting you chose. It is beautiful and incredibly well worked.

  2. Just wonderful Michaela, I do some quilting and your stitches are lovely, However, I in California, unfortunately do not need a winter hood here, but if I come to see you in the winter, I may have to borrow this. It’s great!

    “Aunt Carole and Uncle Pooge”

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