The White Cofia

First, the failures.

The front edge of my pattern, the straight line, is 24″ long. My hairline measurement (from the front of my hair at the top of my forehead, down to the bottom at the nape of my neck, in circumference around my skull) is 23″, and I gave myself the standard¬†allotment of 1/2″ seam allowance all around, totaling 1″. This was not a mistake.

First I measured out 30″ from a strip of linen that I’d saved as a scrap from some previous project, folded each edge to the center, then folded both ‘new’ edges together and sewn them up. That way, whenever I got finished with the main body of the piece, I would be able to immediately thread the tie through and fasten the thing to my head. This was also not a mistake.

The¬†distance from front to back is 22″, because that was the width of my poster-board. I can’t even tell. As I mentioned in my previous cofia-related post, this little garment needs to cover a lot of ‘fro, so I wanted it to be generously sized. This may or may not have been a mistake. I can’t quite tell yet.

We’ll get to the design in a moment.

Once I’d cut the pattern out in my fabric, I applied Fray-Check to every single edge. Every curve, line, corner, or notch. Next, I carefully marked 1/2″ in from each edge, then folded each edge up to that mark and pinned it, then whipstitched it all into place and removed the pins. At the front edge, I then drew a line 1.5″ from the edge, and another line 1.5″ in from that. I folded the edge to the first line and sewed it down, then folded the ‘new’ front edge to the second line and sewed it down; this created a casing large enough for my 1″-wide tie to fit inside. None of this was a mistake. In fact, I was quite proud of it. My stitches look very neat, to my eyes.

Now, the mistakes. And a visual aid. This is what St. Birgitta’s coifs look like.

This is what St. Birgitta’s style coif patterns look like.

And this is what a modern hood looks like, when you unzip it down the middle and let the sides rest over your shoulders like a cape.

This is not meant to be an advertisement. It’s just to illustrate the shape of the hood when unzipped.

Notice how all of the pattern pictures above, including even the modern ones, have something in common: they are split from front to back down the middle, joined along a curved line.

And this is what my own first pattern looks like. Notice how it’s not split down the middle and joined along the curved line.


Sorry about the weird angle. Tilt your head to the left, and you’ll be looking at it as I did, laid out on my dining table with the front edge at the top of my field of vision.

The front edge casing is actually fine, and so is the ribbon I made for threading through the front edge casing. So, what’s wrong with it, and how could I fix it so that this becomes a wearable cap?

  1. The entire rest of this should have been a casing for a drawstring or an elastic band, which would have made the entire back of the cap into a full, puffy cap. This would definitely hold all of my nappy hair.
  2. Alternatively, and probably better in the long run, I could have cut this up the middle and sewn the curved edges together, just like everyone else’s St. Birgitta style caps. Either a ribbon of linen or a strip of edge-joining embroidery stitches would look equally nice here. The very back/bottom of the coif is what would then need to be pleated or gathered.

Now, I cut out two of these, so I have a chance to try both solutions and see which one I like best.

Trying to unpick the edges caused some damage to the delicate linen, leaving holes or ugly stretches wherever a needle and thread pierced the fabric. I tossed those pieces into my bin of natural fiber scraps (nothing happens to that stuff except that it’s shredded to make paper, or it becomes char-cloth for starting fires), and I’ve already shredded it before I remembered to take pictures, or I’d show you. Just trust me, it was a sad sight. Therefore, for my first re-try, I’ve simply cut off all the sewn edges. I also cut right up the middle. Now my plan for that piece is to hem around every edge, attach the two curved edges just like all those other hood patterns you see above, and simply sew on a bit of linen ribbon around the front edge. For joining the two curved edges, I’ll either put a ribbon down the middle, or I’ll learn to embroider some type of insertion stitch.

My second re-attempt will be done the way I wanted initially, except that instead of using just the back curve as a casing, I’ll be either pleating the entire back of it, or making the entire thing into a drawstring casing. I really want to see if I can make a go of the initial pattern, so that I’ll have at least two different options.

Update (6 July 2016): I finished the cofia, yet forgot to take any pictures of the process. Next time I make one, I hope to remember to come and edit this post so that you can see everything. Meanwhile, go look at the various caps (look for “St. Birgitta cap” or similar phrases on Google) made by Neulakko, Katafalk, and Edyth Miller, just to name a few.