How to make a Coif: 1 and 3 piece patterns

How to make a Coif
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How to make a Coif: 1 and 3 piece patterns
by Cynthia Virtue aka Cynthia du Pré Argent
Coifs are great for keeping you warm at night
(either while partying or sleeping -- my mother
the biology teacher tells me that 80% of one's
heat loss is from the head) keeping the sun off of
your head during the day (especially if you
dislike hats), and for absorbing sweat under
You can make them out of linen or wool, or for a
period look with either less cost, less itch, or less
money, out of heathery grey Polartec to imitate
wool, cotton, or whatever else you have lying
around. They are suitable for everyone, and
throughout most of our time period.
Note: this pattern is for the pre-1500 style that is
one or two pieces. After 1500 (or so) the 3-piece
coif (see below) became more popular, possibly as a technological/tailoring advance; this design eliminates the
wrinkles at the top of the head by having a strip that runs from the forehead to the nape of the neck. Check out
Mistress Drea's article for the fancy women's coif of later years. (For truly out of SCA period, this link will take you to
a US space suit, with 3-piece coif, from 1975.)
I think that women and children probably wore these also, but evidence is slim. They're really useful anyway, though!
A: Over the top of your head from mid-ear to mid-ear.
B: Around the back of your head from temple to temple.
Halve each of these dimensions and graph them on a piece of paper.
If you remember your algebra, think of this like graphing coordinates. Measure A is on the Yaxis: The height of your head. Measure B is on the X-axis, the width of your head.
Add about 1.5" to B (for an adult; adjust for children), and use as a radius to make a curve for
the back of your head.
Some people like to cut a slight angle in the bottom so that the area over the ears is "lower" than at the back of the
head; this is optional.
How to make a Coif
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You now have a pattern.
If you want to add a deep seam, you'll have to add more seam
allowance, but for a * inch seam, you won't need to worry.
Fold your fabric.
The top of the coif should be at the fold. The face opening should be at the selvedge (woven edge of the fabric.) Using
a pen or chalk, outline where you will cut. Then take the pattern away and cut it out.
Sew up the back seam. Finish any edges; add ties at the front (ear) corners.
Can be made out of ribbon (which is also useful
for finishing the raw edge,) or of tubes of fabric
turned inside out. You can also fold over fabric
so that the raw edges aren't showing, and sew it
down on the outside.
Some folks find it convenient to tie the ties on
top of the head, like this medieval fellow.
NOTE: There will be wrinkles at the back of the head. There is no way to avoid this with the
one-seam pattern demonstrated here.
You're done! This will take less than half an hour.
3-piece pattern
Fairly self-explanatory!
How to make a Coif
All material (c) 1999 Cynthia Virtue
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