A late 15th century fringed cap (kappe)

Below you will find instructions for a unisex late 15th century Southern German (Swabian, Bavarian) fringed cap (kappe), often referred to within reenactment groups as a “squid hat”.

This is a style of soft cap that was worn by both men and women at the end of the 15th century in Germany. The look can be changed based upon how long the “tail” and the fringes are, whether the fringes are gathered at the top or left loose, whether the cap is lined or unlined, and made of one colour of fabric or alternating panels of two colour. So far, I’ve found the style works best if the outer is made of a fulled/felted wool (to prevent the fringed section from fraying). If a lining is attached, then linen or silk are nice options for this, but as seen from the below pics, they are not essential. I just like to include them for an extra layer of warmth and colour. The hat can also be decorated with a brooch worn either at the front or to the side, and a small band around the top of the fringes if you do choose to gather them in.

 Below: examples of these types of caps being worn by both men and women. (from left) Self portrait at 26, Albrecht Dürer, 1498; Master WB, young woman with a jewel on her cap, c1485; Master of the Housebook, Lady with owl and AN in her escutcheon, c.1485.

durer squid hat  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  fringey German goodness

So, firstly, what are we looking at here? Well, in relation to the kappe that dear old Dürer is wearing, this is how I interpreted it when looking at the image:

Anatomy of fringed cap

So, if I were to sketch the hat from this portrait, it would look something like this:

Anatomy of fringed cap2

At least, this is what I am working towards with the instructions below. As I mentioned before, you don’t necessarily have to gather the fringes in, it is just one variation of the style.

So far, I have made two variations of this kappe. The first one I made for myself, was a black wool  kappe lined in copper silk taffeta, with next to no tail on it (only a couple of centimetres). This meant that the fringes sit more closely to the crown of the head, as you can see below:

Silly Swabian 2    Silly Swabian 1 P1040946    P1040945

I noticed that the wool and silk softened considerably after washing the hat (pics three and four on the tiny headed mannequin) and gave the fringes a slight twist, which I rather like. This is not a bad thing, but I’d strongly suggest washing your fabrics prior to construction, because some can shrink more than others (I think I was just lucky this time).

The second version was one that I made for a friend, so he’d have nice, cozy headwear for an upcoming camping event. I took my inspiration from the Dürer pic above, but decided to line it in silk for extra colour and warmth (he’s rather fond of the colour green, so I was looking for a way to incorporate it into the hat somehow). On this one, I made the tail much longer, so the fringes would sit lower down, and also made the fringes longer than on my black and copper kappe (again seen on the tiny-headed mannequin below).

squid hat1  squid hat2  squid hat3

Anway, without further ado…


  • Half a metre or so of felted/fulled wool fabric, in one or two colours
  • Thread to match outer fabric and lining (if using a lining)
  • Optional: 10cm of trim, no wider than 1cm
  • Optional: half a metre of fabric (linen, silk etc) as lining.


Version 1: plain outer in one colour

1. Firstly, you’ll need to obtain some measurements. Measure the circumference around your forehead, and the length from the crown of your head down to your forehead (where you would like the kappe to finish) and record them. If you would like the kappe to have a slight tail, measure how long you would like that to be, and also how long you would like the fringes (I know this is a bit vague, but these measurements aren’t set in stone, and are just based on the style you’d like to make). Use the following diagram to figure out the measurements for your kappe pieces:pattern diagram for squid hatAs you can see, the cap is essentially a big rectangle.

Width of the rectangle is determined by the circumference of your head (plus a little ease and seam allowance)

Height of the rectangle is determined by: seam allowance at bottom (if you’re going to line it) + fold over to show lining(if any) + forehead to crown + tail+ fringe length.

Does that sort of make sense? Essentially, you’ll end up with a piece out of the wool fabric that looks like the one below on the left. If you choose to use lining, you’ll end up with a piece like the one on the right as well (please note how the lining matches up with the outer – you want the lining to be the same length as the seam allowance, any turnover, the crown, and any tail that you’ve done on the outer fabric). In terms of the fringes, I tend to mark them each out as about 1cm wide, but they can be wider or narrower depending on your personal taste.

pattern pieces diagram for squid hat 2. Mark these out (including fringes and seam allowances) on the wrong side of the fabric(s) you are using.

3. Cut out the rectangular pieces, but do not cut the fringes just yet. Stitch the edges (the vertical ones in the above diagram) of the outer together, from the bottom of the hat ONLY UP TO WHERE YOU WANT THE FRINGING TO START. Press the seam allowance down on either side. this should result in a wide tube of fabric, open at the top and bottom, with fringe lines marked at the top.

From here, if you are not putting in a lining, just skip straight to step 7.

4. If you are putting in a lining, take the lining piece, and essentially do exactly the same thing – vertical edges together, pin stitch and press. If you like to finish raw edges in a particular way (eg, zig zag, or stitch down) now is the time to do it for this seam. This should result in another tube, open at the top and bottom, that is shorter than the woolen outer piece.

5. Still on the lining piece, finish the raw edges on the top and bottom of the tube. Fold and press the seam allowance down along the top. This will make it easier when it comes to tacking it down inside the kappe.

5. Take the two pieces, and place right sides together, matching the bottom edges and (if you want to be fancy) the vertical seams.  Pin and stitch these together.

6. Fold the cap inside out, so the lining is on the outside. Smooth it down, press, and pin the loose upper edge down onto the wool. The seam allowance you folded and pressed earlier should now be hidden, folded under the lining. Stitch this down by hand, so the lining is attached to the outer fabric without the stitching showing on the outer. While you’re at it, it doesn’t hurt to stab stitch the lower opening either for a sharper looking edge.

7. Using a sharp pair of scissors, cut the fringe along the guidelines you marked earlier on the top part of the outer. Hopefully if the wool is felted/fulled enough, it shouldn’t fray. Make sure you don’t cut all the way up to the lining – leave a gap of 1cm or so between the lining and start of the fringes.

8. Now, you can leave it like this, turn it the right way out and wear it open or positioned with a brooch (if you have incorporated a longish “tail”), or you can gather the fringes in at the top (like Dürer‘s kappe). To do this, handstitch a running stitch all the way around, just between the upper edge of the lining and where the fringing starts. It is easier if you do this just above where the lining comes (ie, only through the wool), because when it gathers in, there is less fabric to actually gather, so there is less bulk.

Use a thick thread that matches the colour of the outer fabric.

Once stitched, pull the thread tightly from both ends,  so the top edge of the hat gathers in, and secure with several knots. Work the loose ends into the inside of the hat.

9. Turn the hat the right way out, and turn the brim up slightly (optional). It can be worn this way, or if you like, you can make a small band of a narrow trim to hide the section where the thread gathers in near the fringe. On the black and white striped one below, I used 1cm wide velvet ribbon. On the black and copper one, I didn’t really bother! If you like, decorate the hat with a badge, brooch or pin.

Version 2: cap in alternating vertical stripes

This version is a little more complicated, but not by too much.  You essentially just stitch together rectangular segments of the wool into the rectangular outer, then follow the previous instructions, working the striped outer as one piece.

1. Obtain your measurements (as above) and add a couple of centimetres worth of ease, especially if you are planning on using a thick wool and lining (all the seams from the panels can add up to be a bit tight). Figure out how many panels you would like in the hat. For the striped one, I used 12, but there’s not reason not to have more or less – whatever you prefer!

2. Divide the head measurement by the number of panels you would like, and then add seam allowance measurements to each side, For example, if I have a head measurement of 60cm, I’d divide that by 12 (the number of panels), which means each panel comes out at 5cm wide. However, I still need to add seam allowance. So, assuming 1.5cm seam allowance on each side of each panel, that is 5cm+1.5cm+1.5cm = 8cm total width. So I need to cut 12 panels (6 of each colour if you’re alternating two colours) of 8cm wide, and at long as you had intended the kappe to be, including any lower seam allowance, foldover, crown, tail and fringe.

3. Alternate the panels, pin, stitch and press, then follow the same instructions as for the kappe above, working with the striped panel as one piece for the outer. Just ensure that when you are stitching the panels together, you do not stitch the sections intended to become fringes, otherwise you’ll have a lot of unpicking to do.



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