Wednesday, December 9, 2015

14th Century Kolpak

Today I'll be going over my process and some documentation for my kolpak.  Sadly, this project was a couple of years ago, and I didn't take full notes on my documentation.  Shame on me, I know.

When I made my 14th century Russian garb (lovely period, btw.  Quite comfortable, and warm) I needed, of course some kind of headwear.  Preferably one which wasn't commonly seen...this mostly left a tall kolpak.  I really don't feel like writing an article--when Sofya la Rus has already done so, and better than I can.  So go read HERE...I'll wait.

Well, they seem to have "typically" been made of a stiffened felt--not an option for me, sadly; I don't have the materials to do so.  So I went with a logical variation--using birch bark as a stiffener.  I figured "birch is common in Russia, and was used for some things, so why not" (I seem to recall a collar stiffened with thin leather or bark).

The first order of business was to pattern, figuring out the circumference (head, plus some ease for the fur), and the height.  I then drafted a slightly asymmetrical shape that I found pleasing to the eye.  Note that the curve to the bottom is necessary.

Next was the worse stage of all...harvesting the bark.  I tromped through the woods, searching for a clear (no knots, and straight) length of a fallen birch tree, of the right size.  Eventually I found and skinned it.  I was quite literally eaten alive and driven mad by mosquitoes in the process--it was a horrifying experience.

After running home, the bark got soaked in warm water for a few hours, then unrolled and pressed between towels until it dried.  That way it would be mostly flat.

After it was dry, I could trace out the shape, using the linen template (minus seam allowances!) as a guide.  If you haven't work with birch bark before, it has a grain (obviously).  There is a certain way it will bend the easiest--the way it was on the tree...go figure--so the inside of the bark would have to be facing my head.

I began stitching the linen tightly over the bark, using an uneven running stitch (short stitches showing on the inside of the hat).  A glover's needle was used, as it pierces the bark easier than a regular needle.

Well...just sewing it didn't work that well.  I ended up taping the seam allowance in place with freezer tape, and sewing through it.  Worked like a charm, and I was able to remove it after stitching was complete.

One side almost done, then I can do the other one.  I should note that there is a partial layer of batting towards the bottom of the hat--I figured some padding between my head and the bark would be nice.

Here, you can see that both sides of the lining are complete, and I have begun stitching up the seam, using a fine overcast stitch.  I started at the back.

At this point--with the lining half sewn together, I had to sew in the headband lining--the brim.  This was essentially a straight strip, with a slight flare up to widen it at the front.  It is, of course, made of the linen, and has a layer of batting or two for warmth and body.  Again, it was attached with an overcast stitch.

At this point, it was time to make the shell--the same pattern was used as for the lining, albeit with some extra ease.  I decided--just to make things difficult--to use a "corded" overcast stitch.  On the whole, the needle works just like a regular overcast stitch--but you as you are working it, you twist 2-3 strands thread, plying it and locking it to the overcast stitch.  It was a pain, but worth it--in addition to it being decorative in this case, it helps support a bias cut seam, since the thread will not stretch.

I finished sewing up the lining, and slipped it inside the shell.  The bottom hem and front opening were turned under and hemmed with a stab stitch.

Yes, the lower half of the turn is open, as you will see below.

At that point, I had to sew the sheepskin trim on.  The strip of skin was composed of multiple pieces, edges butted together and sewn.
A glovers needle, and locking buttonhole stitch was used for that step.

In sewing the top of it down--1/2 inch from the edge of the brim, so a hint of green lining would show through--I used an overcast stitch.

I ended up redoing the fur--I did a terrible job the first time, since it was too short and I finagled it.  I prefer how the grey looks, anyways.

It is worn with the front turned up more than the back.  In cold weather, I can turn it down enough to cover my ears.

The bangle you see is was given to me as a Princess' Riband by Tama, who has a Russian persona, and I was serving as the Captain of her guard when I made the outfit.  I recall seeing a reference (search in Sofya la Rus' pages...) to men wearing jewelry attached to their hats, so decided that would be a good use for it.

The hat has ended up being nicknamed the shark fin hat--I had nothing to do with that...

The hat is actually not hard to pack.  Yes, it is somewhat delicate, but with the cuff down, it is flat, and can be packed as such.  I hope the article helps for those curious how I made it.

© John Frey, 2015. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.  Photographs of my work may not be duplicated.

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