The Katherine of Aragon Project

A Dressing-Up Box kit for a little lass!


This project was started because of a bit of idle chatter during my quilt group meeting in October 2007!  We were having a tea break, and as a few of the ladies knew I sewed professionally, they were asking what I liked to make when I wasn't quilting.  So the historic costume stuff came up, and later Dee asked me to make a Katherine of Aragon outfit for her granddaughter.  They'd visited Hever Castle back in the summer, and the young lady had been so struck by the outfits they played with that she wanted her own!  Well, why not!  So here we go: easy access, cheats all round, but it'll look good for a play frock!

I did a bit of research and came up with some fun pix to guide me, and this great site to help me through the Gable hood construction.  Dee thought this was an awful lot of trouble to go to, but, as I said, the project is a great learning opportunity for me, her granddaughter gets a fab outfit at a knock-down price, and I'm not out of pocket for a practice/experimental project, so we ALL win!

Dee's granddaughter is a Little Pink Fairy type lass, so I chose my fabrics to suit this as closely as possible.  The main pink fabric for the lapets and gown are a deep old rose pink poly/cotton damask curtain fabric, the lining is a pink poly/cotton sheet (picked up for five quid from a charity shop, and unused!), and the black is a remnant that has lurked in my stash for several years.


  This is the classic Holbein sketch showing the back of the 'hat' and the oddly bifurcated veil, almost like a pair of trousers hanging from her head!
I've always rather liked this picture of Katherine.  It must be one of the first I was aware of as a child, as this is the image that springs to mind whenever I think of her.  Maybe it was in my school history text book at primary school...
   A closer look reveals that the trim round the gable end appears to be fixed to the inner surface of the gable...  I shall have to think carefully about how to construct this bit.
No-one seems to be very sure about whether or not this inner trim was fixed to the gable or part of a coif worn under it...

Some reconstructions show this as a sausage of fabric with some sort of stuffing in a tube, but I'm not convinced that is correct.  Both in this picture and the one below it looks flat, holding its shape as if stiffened.

Awaiting permission from The Royal Collection.  Meanwhile click HERE to see the portrait. This picture from The Royal Collection shows these details even more clearly, and throws up some interesting points.
ZOOM in to sitters top right (i.e. the left side of the portrait as you look at it) On this corner of the gable we can see that the inner trim wraps round the head from this point onwards.  It still isn't clear from this whether or not it is actually attached to the gable or not.
ZOOM in to Gable Point The gable point gives further room for speculation.  There seems to be a fair depth to the visible gable end: looking at the ridge line and the angle at which it joins the front, is this depth a 'barge board' style addition to the end of the gable, or is it just not drafted quite correctly, and the whole gable thicker than I thought it would be?  I'm inclined to the former as to make the whole thing this thick would make it rather heavy, and the two extant frames in the Museum of London would indicate as light a construction as possible, which makes more sense.
ZOOM in to sitter's left lapet (i.e. the right hand side of the portrait as you look at it). This side detail shows more things that add to the mystery of the gable hood.  It would seem that the pearls have been added on to the fabric, and that round the edge of the white under-lapets there is either a needle lace piciot effect or tiny pearls sewn on.  Pearls I can manage with some pearl trim designed for edging bridal veils.  The picot edge is probably beyond my embroidery/lace-making skills at present.

This hood was obviously made to go with this gown, as the jewelled trim round the gable end exactly matches that round the neckline of the gown.  I shall have to hunt through my stash and my contacts to see if I can find something that will reproduce this effect.

After reading through Hope's method very carefully, and looking at the way she constructed the frame for her gable hood, I thought it looked like a very good and very likely method, but as my first example is for a child to play with, I rather thought I'd try a more robust and durable frame, based on Timtex.  I'm aiming to make mine LOOK as historically accurate as possible, but to offer and alternative method of making the hidden inner structure that is both quicker to make and more robust for faire cast and playtron use, as well as for dressing-up box and school play costume use.

I started with a couple of cereal packets, a pencil, ruler, rotary cutter, and a roll of Selotape.  Cardboard Engineering at it's best!  I scaled Hope's dimensions down a bit as I have a small head, and the hat is for a child...  I got one dimension totally wrong on the first pass, but working things out in card shows up these little problems well before you start on the expensive Timtex and fabric!

Oddly, this is not the first time I've made a cardboard toile that latter turned into the pattern!

The Selotaped pieces begin to take shape...  It was at this point, when comparing my version to Hope's pictures, that I realized that the deeper sides of my box were nothing like deep enough!  oops!
Other than that little detail, things were going well...
I added a bit more to the deeper sides, making full use of the cereal box and tape... 


Ah!  That's more like!

And the gable end!

Making this long enough was a matter of guesswork.  My best advice is to cut the card much longer than you need and then trim it off to suit.

Once paper-clipped together, it starts to look a lot more convincing.
And the back...  Hm!  I need to get a model head if I'm going to make many more hats!  The kitchen roll isn't quite head shaped!
cardpattern.JPG (60856 bytes)  curlytimtex2.JPG (46407 bytes) I slit the box toile down the corners to give me the pattern for the inner hat section, and dres round it to make the Timtex hat.  The Timtex has been rolled up for a while, and acquired a curl...  This will easily flatten out when I fuse the lining to it.
  scored1.JPG (53848 bytes) The Timtex hat was scored along the lines between the inner corners and folded up to make the correct shape.
Once reassembled, the hat looks quite good, if a little pallid!

The corners will get stitched together once the base has been covered.  I have some white cotton to use on the inside and to cover the lapets, and a black cotton fabric for the outside and the veil sections.

The curl on the lapets go the wrong way at present, but they will be set as required when I press them.
lapets1.JPG (72725 bytes)  lapets2.JPG (85657 bytes) I used the lapet box pattern to cut the pink lapets for the outside of the hood from the spare fabric left after cutting the dress.
To cover the Timtex I first cut a rough square of the white cotton to fuse to the inside of the hat.  This will give me both something to stitch the black cover to and a lining that will protect the Timtex from too much dirt.  As this is going to a child, the whole thing will be washable.  Once fused it was trimmed down and turned over the edges and sewn in place.  The machine stitching will not show once the hat is complete.
blackpinned.JPG (76345 bytes)

slipstitching.JPG (62731 bytes)

The black was then cut for the outside, pressed into shape, and slip-stitched to the white cotton.  

Here the seams are pinned, ready for sewing.  The hand stitching will close up the seams, hiding all the white lining.
Then the seams were closed, again using a hand worked slip stitch.  While this does make a seam along the gable ridge of the hat, a large portion of this seam will be covered by the lapets, and is is pretty discrete!
veilspinned.JPG (65072 bytes)  DSCF0040.JPG (98170 bytes) The veil sections are cut and pinned, then sewn.  Thjese were cut 11" by 20" and folded in half lengthways to make two finished sections 5 1/2" wide and 19\" long to fit this small hat.
Then the veil sections were each pinned to the hat base.
They were stitched in place with a small stitch like a whipstitch, through all the layers.
The hat with the veils from the back.

One thing I am having difficulty with is a detail from the Holbein sketch.  Across the back of the square there are two lines: are these just decorative scords that cross the hat, or do they denote a sort of shallow point, rather like a biretta?   I can't find any discussion of this point, nor any cleared pictures of the hat from the sides or back that would clarify this detail.  For now I shall go with the cord, but if there is any definitive documentation leading to a point, this will be incorporated in a second attempt at a later date.

veilside.JPG (74349 bytes)  biretta.jpg (10267 bytes) And from the side.  Flat as a billiard table!

And a biretta, for comparison.  These hats were developed in the 17th C from academic hats worn at the time.

Several folk who have attempted to reconstruct this type of headdress have made a fat roll of fabric to go round the forehead.  In the two main pictures I have used, it looks far more like a flat ribbon band to me.  I would have loved to find a horizontally striped Petersham ribbon to do this, but could not.  This crimped satin ribbon comes closest to the look I wanted.  It still isn't quite right, but it will do for the present.
whitegablepinned.JPG (127201 bytes)  whitecornerpinned.JPG (96628 bytes)   The white stiffened lapets were covered in the same way as the hat base.  It looks quite simple, but it took a while as it all had to be stretched neatly and evenly, pinned, then slip stitched in place.
pink1.JPG (63367 bytes)  pink2.JPG (41969 bytes) The pink lapet sections were cut from a single piece of the pink gown fabric.  It's a nice polycotton damask curtain fabric, in a sort of pink brick colour.  They were stitched, turned through and pressed.
I then tried assembling the headdress so far.  We are on the home straight here!  It's all coming together quite nicely.  The white lapets need to have the pearl bead trim sewn on before they get nailed to the hat.
I have the lapets and the trim to stitch in place, and will then need to find some method of securing it to the child's head!  The crimped ribbon will go round the back like a hat band, but I'm thinking a tape or ribbon under the chin might help too...

   ...And keeping the cat out of the sewing is sometimes not easy!  Luckily he was asleep at this point.  It's usually his sister I find nesting in the customer fabric, but he likes to sit on the thing I'm trying to cut out!

It is very hard to tell from either of my source picture what exactly has been used to edge the white lapets.  It has a picot or pearl effect, so...  Given that there arte pearls all over the rest of the headdress, I chose to use a pearl edhing.  It wasn't the easiest thing to sew  on!
It does look rather good now that it's done, mind!

I used a pearl string really designed for edging bridal veils and the like.  I thought this would be nice and discrete, and I had this length on hand after experimenting with putting it on the edge of chiffon with the serger.

Once the edge was on it was a simple matter to sew the front edge to the front edge of the hat section.  The soft pink lapets were then sewn on top of that.

crimpstitch.JPG (59815 bytes)  The crimped ribbon is stitched down, through the front edges of both lapets and the hat to keep in vertical.  It is left hanging free from the corners of the gable.  From here the ends will be taken round the back of the head for fastening.  This will help to hold the headdress in place.
The final trim was first mitred at the corner to help hold everything in shape and then stitched on carefully, trying to keep the stitches as discrete as possible!
   The right hand side of the headdress, showing the lapet hanging down.
And the left side with it pinned up.  I have little doubt that originally they would have been pinned up, but I shall stitch these into place so that we don't have the added fun of a seven year old running about with pins in her head!

The bottom edge of the white lapet has been bent outwards as is seen in many portraits of the day.

extra.JPG (95194 bytes)  trim.JPG (84713 bytes) Here you can see where I didn't quite cut the bodice large enough at the waist, and had to add a bit in...  A classic bit of 'letting out', neatly hidden by some of the left over trim from the skirt front.  Luckily I cut the lininf after discovering the error!
bodiceside.JPG (57179 bytes)  bodice fronbt.JPG (51261 bytes) And how the bodice looks from the outside, from the front, and showing the side trim.  I like having some of this trim on the bodice as it makes the whole thing come together a bit more.  I'll find a way of putting some of the narrow trim on the skirt tomorrow!  And of finishing the bottom edge of the bodice!
As my fingers are still recovering from the assult by hand stitching the headdress, I thought I'd get on with the gown.  The bodice is almost complete, but needs the bottom edge finishing and the sleeves...

The skirt came together nicely.  The underskirt/lining and forepart sections went together nicely, and I attached them to the outer skirt at the waist.

I couldn't quite pin the back edge to edge as the fingers failed to cooperate with the pins and the dolly, but you get the idea.  It'll be fart from period in fastening as I'm going to put a zip in it so it's easy for a 7 year old to play in.  So far I'm quite pleased with it.
The edges of the forepart are finished with the same metallic braid as I put on the headdress and the bodice.  I thought that would help to tie it all together.  The white of the forepart is a curtain 'waterfall' sample from Auntie Mo Next Door's shop.  The pink underskirt is a polycotton sheet from a charity shop.  It all needs pressing, but not tonight...
The trim is sewn down and the waist pinned together: I need to make sure that the pleats are even at the back!  Looks fine from here...  One sleeve is pinned up at this point.
OK, so a zip is NOT period, but it does help when a seven year old wants to play in her swanky frock!  Zip apart, it does look quite good from the back.
The gown from the side.  I'm quite pleased with the way these sleeves turned out.  The under sleeve is the same pink sheet that the underskirt is made from, with elastic at the cuff and some pointy lace round the hem.
A little flash of gold at the side as she moves!
And finally!  The whole frock from the front.  The hem is not done as I don't know exactly how long the skirt needs to be.
The back of the completed headdress.  In the end I couldn't find a sesnsible way of fixing anything across the back of the hat section, so rather than spoil it, I left it alone.
The side with the lapet tacked up as in the portraits.
And the completed headdress from the front.
Fixing the front ribbon to give the angled look in the portraits was subject to some thought and experiment.  In the end what seemed to work best was to sew the ends of the ribbons back to the hat section beside the veils at the back.

The chin strap is soft cotton covered elastic: NOT authentic, but easier and safer then ties for a child.

At the finish, I am quite pleased with the whole project.  Though there were plenty of compromises, I think I managed to get a reasonable authentic look for both the gable hood and the gown.

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