Thursday, May 22, 2014

One Hairy Weekend

Recently, I was fortunate enough to find myself at the B&T cap and hair workshop and what fun! Sarah and Abby of the Margaret Hunter Shop led us through the finer details of not only 18th century cap construction and hair, but of reading and interpreting caps in prints and paintings. We were learning not just how to make a specific style/pattern of cap, but how the various pieces and treatments of a cap work together to create the final product. This would hopefully help us feel more confident in our abilities to see a cap in an image and then recreate for our heads.

I always appreciate the approach the presenters take at these workshops, teaching us skills that we can take with us and apply rather than teaching us simply how to read directions and follow a pattern. Not only did we learn about cap styles, but we learned about what has to happen underneath those caps to make them so fabulous.
So, before we could get to making our caps, we had to take care of the hair underneath. We made rollers for our hair to give it some of that height so typical to the later 18th century.

Alix and I with our rollers in and ready to measure for our caps!

Once we had our rollers done and roughly placed (for measurement's sake rather than beauty!) we could continue on to some bigger decisions: cap styles. The ladies from the shop had brought along a few styles of caps that we could try on to get an idea of how certain bands, wings, and cowls would look on ourselves. It was like playing dressup in a most grown up fashion.

Huge wings!
This cap was almost universally
After some contemplating and discussion of which features we wanted for our own caps, we set to work diligently rolling hems and whipping gathers. Saturday's homework was to get as far as we could assembling our caps and contemplate trimmings.

By Sunday morning, we had made significant progress on our caps and were able to discuss a variety of trimmings for caps, as well as get a pomatum/powder demo to illustrate potential uses of what was dubbed "the doughnut"- a gigantic doughnut like roll we'd all been curiously eyeing during the weekend. It must have also been my lucky day, because Abby decided to pomade and powder my hair for the demo.
I have to say, I really enjoyed both the process and the result! 1- It felt like I was getting a head massage as she worked the pomade through my hair. 2- My hair was hugely voluminous when she was finished. I had the most well behaved sloppy buns for a week after this. Anyhow- after prepping my hair, we got to see what the doughnut was all about.

Pulling the hair up over
 the doughnut

The back 

Finished front
It was a-maz-ing. I feel like I can never really have an excuse not to dress my hair ever again. It took about ten minutes and it's the best historical hair I've ever had! I am soooo making one of these for myself. (Maybe a few in different sizes?) Once Abby was done we took the opportunity to try on Sarah's cap from "The Morning Ramble". I felt like a fashion plate come to life.

Eventually, though, it was time to go home. The doughnut had to be returned (although I would have loved to take that hair-do through airport security!) I gave my hair a quick brushing and threw it into a bun. When I got home, instead of washing it right away, I just let it do it's thing. I brushed it in the morning and before bed and that was about it. And you know what? It was fine. My scalp felt nice, my hair wasn't greasy, and nobody really even noticed except to say that I looked a little blonde.
My hair a few days after pomade/powder treatment.

In fact, I'm really intrigued by 18th century hair care, and I think this summer I want to do a little experiment. I'd like to go 8 weeks using only 18th century hair care methods and products. I want to see what happens. What does it feel like after prolonged use? What happens to my scalp/hair? How does it do in the heat? I already don't use normal shampoo (I'm a baking soda and vinegar rinse girl) so that aspect doesn't bother me. I just need to gather some resources to pin down a typical 18th century hair care regimen, assemble the materials, and apply to my head.

I'll definitely share my findings as I go and results when I'm finished. What fun! B&T workshops always leave me inspired!


  1. Hiya! Love your blog--I'm a children's librarian in Ohio and I usually reenact the 1860s-90s and the 1930s. I am VERY intrigued with the baking soda and vinegar routine. I hadn't heard of it and I think it may be something that would be good for me--I have similar hair to yours. Do you have your routine outlined somewhere?

    1. You could start here: for some basics ratios.

      There's also I haven't tried the rye flour but wouldn't be opposed to giving it a go.

      I wash my hair about once every 7-10 days (with regular water rinses and vinegar rinses in between as needed). If I get sweaty at the gym, I rinse my hair our the next day with water or my water/vinegar solution. I don't use baking soda every time I rinse.

      I wasn't able to do this right away... I started by washing my hair every other day and then stretched to every three and so forth. This allowed my hair time to adjust oil production.

      Full disclosure... the two day thing wasn't bad, but when I started to go three days that third day felt kind of greasy for about two or three weeks. All I can say is push through it because it was definitely worth it.

      I also get trims probably twice a year just to keep my ends tidy.

      I hope that helps!


I would sincerely love to hear your thoughts on all this, so please feel welcome to comment here :-)