Friday, 25 February 2011

Anatomy of a Quaker Bonnet

This is a Quaker bonnet coming from a family who were old Ackworthians. It could even be Mary Wigham's bonnet. We don't know the name of the owner, but we can be grateful the bonnet has been looked after so well and for so long. Apart from the frill around the face which is of light muslin, the bonnet itself is very fine linen. There is a large bag for the hair, which is large enough to accommodate much more than crown of the head and hair - it would take a good sized bun  or coiled plait to fill it. Between the bag and the frill you can, I hope, see three seams running parallel to the frill and three seams parallel to the neck. These are in fact channels.

If we now turn the bonnet inside out and focus on what is happening in the area of those channels we can see that each has a thin cord, like string, running through them. They are there to gather and adjust the size of the bonnet so that it will fit the wearer's head - and most exactly too. So one set of gathers occurs at the top of the head, the other at the middle of the neck back.
Here you can see a little more of the workings and the finely hand-stitched channels.
The stitching is minute and virtually invisible to to the human eye - it takes a close focus to see anything at all. You can just see the tip of my thumbnail as I hold the bonnet in shot and that perhaps will help you see something of the scale. If you click on any of the pictures you should get a bigger image. If you wish to show the images to members of your Guild or stitching group, please do.


  1. Oh what an awesome bonnet. It makes me think of all those wonderful period movies I just can't get enough of.
    My CW re-enacting experience of making period clothing would suggest to me that the strings allowed the wearer to more easily launder the item. String would be let out to launder and then starched, then the strings would be redrawn and the bonnet refitted to the head.
    Thank you for giving us all the pictures and the ability to see them in such close-up detail.

  2. Wow, so beautiful..... Thanks for sharing it :-)

  3. That is an excellent point about laundry, Rebecca, thank you very much for that.