Thursday, June 18, 2015

Elizabethan Coif Refurbishment Project

I have several Elizabethan coifs which are now too big for me, so I am gradually working on cutting them down to size and making a few changes to them.

One of the coifs that needs refurbishing

The only difficult thing about Elizabethan coifs is getting the pattern right for the wearer's head. I have found it to be purely a matter of trial and error. Playing around with paper and calico mock-ups before cutting your "good"fabric or starting your complex embroidery is definitely worth the time and effort.

In that spirit, I have been playing with patterns, and decided to make a simple coif which I hope will suit my face more than the old styles I have used before.

After working out my pattern, I cut the 'test coif'out in two layers of pre-washed white cotton voile.
I zigzgged the edges to reduce fraying, and sewed the two pieces together ("bag" fashion), leaving a small section along the bottom edge unsewn.

I turned the fabric right side out and whip stitched the bottom edge shut. Then I ironed the coif. I turned about a centimetre of the bottom edge up and did a small stab stitch to hold it in place to make a channel to thread a gathering cord through.

The next step was to put the two cheek pieces together by folding the coif down the middle vertically. 
I sewed the top edge together about two thirds of the way along with a whip stitch.

The last unsewn section of the top seam was then gathered with a tacking stitch. This is to allow a bit of space for braids or a bun at the back of the coif.

I confess, at this point, I completely forgot how to proceed. I have made several of these over the years and remembered that the gathered section is sewn up and then strengthened with buttonhole bars radiating out from where the gathers start and end (where my finger is in the picture above.) I needed a bit of a refresher on where to place the bars, but I couldn't find the book I needed. In the end I did three buttonhole bars radiating out from the centre to secure the gathering.

I will have to do this step in a bright colour next time to demonstrate the technique, because you really can't see the detail in this photo.

Once the gathers at the rear were done, I added some commercial bobbin lace with small stab stitches.

After that, I went through and did a little stitch on the edge to make sure the lace was sitting nicely.

I threaded a lucet cord (made by my friend Heather) into the casing, and the project was finished. I am quite happy with the fit, although I  may make the next pattern a centimetre longer at the bottom to cover my hairline. At least now I know which direction to head in with the coif refurbishment project!


  1. I'm intrigued by how a coif gets to be suddenly too big? Haircut?

  2. I have an immune disorder and I lost about two thirds of my hair several years ago. When it grew back in, the hair was much thinner. I think that, and the fact that the coif was a little on the large side to begin with, combined to make it too big now :-)