Purfylle: The Call to Caul

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The Call to Caul



So what is a caul anyway?
If you googled 'caul' you might have found something about babies being born with a membrane on their head, which is considered to be good luck, however historically a caul is a head covering worn by women usually in the form of a hair net and that is what I will be discussing here.

Eleanora di Toledo is depicted wearing this kind of head covering in many of her portraits. I think they are beautiful and elegant.

When Eleanora's tomb was opened in 1857 a hair net was reported but the jewels had been stolen by grave robbers and the net itself seems to have been lost since. A tragedy since it is the cauls she wore that I am specifically interested in. If anyone knows more about her grave caul please share!

But how to go about making one? Well the easiest way is to just crochet one à la 1940's style 'snood', but of course this is not how they were made in the 16thC.


So how was a caul made in the 16thC? Some examples have survived but they are few and range over many centuries using a range of methods including 'fish net' the technique used for making fishing net, mezza mandolina/fillet lace (there is a distinction between the two but the technique is the same), bobbin lace net, and even ribbon stitched down at intersections. In any case there are many techniques to make netting and it seems most of them were employed for making cauls, but crochet was not one them. Sometimes the net would be embellished with embroidery or baubles.

Another day I might go into more detail on the various techniques used and the examples which have survived. But which technique to use for an Eleanora style caul?  It is my opinion that the technique we see used in most of Eleanora's hair nets is a basic form of bobbin lace and in pursuit of this I am endeavouring to learn how to make bobbin lace.

I am also learning how to crochet a 1940's snood. 'Why' you may ask, when we have just discussed how this was not a technique that was used? Well, because it's fast. I can make up a variety of size and styles until I have a good idea of how many meshes to use, which fibers work best, how they behave on the hair and such construction details that will make it easier when I come to actually making a labour intensive bobbin lace caul.

So over the next few posts I'll share all my adventures in the pursuit of making an Eleanora Caul.



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