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HomeIndex of ArticlesHistorical periods18th centuryConstructing a Late 18th c Calash

Constructing a Late 18th c Calash


The calash bonnet is one of the most intriguing 18th century accessories. Serena makes a historically accurate example.

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Constructing a Late 18th c Calash   Is it possible to have the measurements of the various pieces--rectangle, bavolet,back panel?

How do you know how much to gather the gathering lines? Which is the gathering line and which is the channel line?

Are the ends of the cane secured by stitching through the cane? If not, how do they stay in place?

Is that circular cane? Could we have the size and source?

Are you using very light weight linen? Most I have seen are very thin silk not lined and therefore not heavy.

I want to give this a try but so far seems pretty daunting.

Charlene Robets
Constructing a Late 18th c Calash   Thanks for the links there where some extant examples I had never seen. And in close up you can see that there where a lot of different ways to make one. Some of the fabric was cut on bias. Some of them had double channels, I don't even want to think of that. Some of them seemed to have cane on the gathered lines. Some seemed to be lined after the fact with no channels in the lining at all, I think this might be the easiest way to go. Do would not have to worry about having the pocket in the lining to small for the cane. Lynn  
Constructing a Late 18th c Calash   Charlene: There is a great pattern in Sharon Ann Burnston's book (listed in the Bibliography) that contains a pattern that you might find helpful. The rectangular brim of my calash was about 34" across (same directions as hoops) and 32" from front to back. The bavolet was about 28" by 6". The back shape was 5" across at the bottom and 9" high. All these measurements can be scaled up and down to make a larger or smaller calash. The gathering and channels are alternate, apart from at the back where there are 4 rows without gathers and the back where there are two rows without gathers. The canes aren't secured. The shape of the calash holds them in shape. The cane is circular and 5mm, but I'm my source is http://www.canestore.co.uk/. The linen is quite lightweight, but gives it a sturdiness which I think it needs. Hope that helps, and good luck!

Lynn: You're right, there was an incredible profusion of different construction and cutting techniques. I chose the method I did because I felt that fully lining the calash gave it more rigidity, helping it keep its shape and preventing collapse. I was also lucky enough to conserve and mount an original calash, which is currently in the exhibition I worked on at Fairfax House in York, which was made in this way.
Constructing a Late 18th c Calash   Serena: I do envy you; I love getting close to extent examples and when I can’t I feel very lucky when I can get an e-mail reply from a museum conservator.

Charlene: For cane if you are in the US I haven't found round cane but I use the type of cane that is used for Rattan Furniture or baskets.
It is flat on one side and slightly rounded on the other. Or I use a small size #7 or 8 of Reed Spline which is almost round.
Constructing a Late 18th c Calash   Serena,

>The gathering and channels are alternate,

I think I am understanding that the canes are held in place because of the gathering rows.

Somehow I thought(and had read somewhere) that the canes had to be sewed/secured at their ends as they were what kept the whole business together. Is this typically how it was done on all calashes?

Charlene Roberts

I have some round cane but it breaks easily with little force. Not sure if it would be a good idea to use it. And once those tiny channels are sewed it would be a pain to have to switch to another cane. In fact, one may as well start over.

Constructing a Late 18th c Calash   I am about to make a calash for a performance of the play "Cranford".
May I ask how many rows of cane did you use, please?
I have noted that some rows were without gathers between, but I cannot work out how many rows in all.
My calash does not have to be historically totall accurate so I shall be machine sewing quite a lot of it.
Thank you so much for all the details.
  Would it be possible to get a tools and materials list with the appropriate measurements, as given for the other bonnet?

Thank you
  Hi yjones. I'm afraid I haven't kept a record of the exact measurements - calahes did come in a variety of sizes and shapes through, so I would suggest experimenting with some cane hoops and taking measurements from that. As far as amounts of the materials for purchasing go, I would suggest the following:

1m outer fabric (usually silk)
1m linen for lining
Approx 10-15m cane (I would buy a little more just in case)

There are no special tools, other than perhaps a curved needle. One of these would make some the stitching easier, but is by no means essential.

I do hope that helps, sorry I couldn't be more specific with measurements!

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