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A 14th Century Netted Hairnet
Examples of 13th and 14th Century hairnets were found in London excavations and published by the Museum of London (see below for complete reference). Most Medievalists use crocheted snoods for 13th and 14th century costume, but we know they are not accurate for the period. I decided to make a copy of one of the extant hairnets to see how they would compare to crocheted snoods.
The hairnet was constructed from brown 3-ply filament silk using a netting shuttle and a #3 knitting needle for a gauge. The originals were made with 2-ply undyed or brown silk.
I started the project by knotting approximately 150 loops onto a loop of thread. For the second row I started knotting on the loops created in the first pass. I spiraled around until the net seemed large enough to fit me, or about 10 inches long when stretched. I then fingerloop-braided a flat lace of 5 loops from the Directions for making many sorts of Laces from MS 2320 using a doubled thread for each loop. I sewed the braid to the bottom edge of the netting using the same silk thread. At the top edge I pulled out the starter loop and re-inserted 2 groups of threads that could act like pouch drawstrings to close the opening for the back of the head. The fingerloop lace ties to fasten the hairnet around the head, and the central strings pull shut to keep the hair inside once arranged.
My starting method did not produce the long loops shown at the crown of the hairnets, so for my next one I'll have to find a different method of starting. Perhaps the initial knots at the center are overhand knots instead of netting knots.
Medieval Hairnet vs. Crocheted Snood
Crowfoot, Elisabeth; Pritchard, Frances; and Staniland, Kay. Textiles and Clothing c. 1150-1450. Medieval Finds from Excavations in London 4. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London: 1992.
Stanley, E.G. Chaucer and Middle English Studies. Directions for Making Many Sorts of Laces. Queen Mary College, University of London.
Making Medieval and Renaissance Hairnets
Based on information hairnets from: Museum of London Textiles and Clothing Book, Flury-Lemberg's Textile Conservation, St. Truiden hairnets, other German hairnets described to me.
Silk - reeled (not spun), usually 2-ply. May match hair color (if net is meant to be an invisible hair-controlling device) or may be bright colors (red, green, gold, blue) if net is meant to be a fashion statement. Modern silks to try: Buttonhole twist, silk beading thread, silk organzine, hand-reeled thread
Gold-wrapped filament - for macrame knotting or for embroidered embellishment.
Netting with netting needle. The most likely starting method is to make slip knots and slide them onto a dowel. Take a long length of thread and make a slip knot in the MIDDLE of the thread. Slide it over a dowel and pull tight. Now take one free end, make a slip knot, and slide it over the dowel. Thread a colored starter cord through the loop made between the two slip knots. Next take the other free end of the thread, make a slip knot and slip it over the dowel. Thread the colored starter cord through the new loop. Continue making slip knots with alternate ends of the cord and threading the starter cord through the loops. If you catch the loops correctly on the first round of netting, this will make a tubular net.
Macrame-style knots - need multiple ends which then get knotted together. No special tools needed.
Size of Mesh
As small as 64 squares per square cm. That's an 8x8 grid in one square centimeter!
As large as one square per square cm or even larger for macrame-knotted meshes
Completely tubular or optionally increases after 10-20 rows. Increases are usually done by alternating knotting in the current row and knotting in the previous row. Starting rows may also be done on smaller gauge.
Cord for Edge
Fingerloop tape, tabletwoven tape, or ribbon sewn on most of the way around, threaded through last few meshes at back for adjustability.
Some tabletwoven tapes have a woven pattern.
One hairnet had a sturdy cord for adjustment and a more delicate ribbon sewn on top. The ribbon was embellished with seed beads, pearls, and small metal plaques.
The nets themselves may have pearls or beads sewn at intersections, judging from pictorial documentation.
Some nets were embroidered in darned patterns. Motifs include crosses, small shields, sun symbols (swastikas), and diamonds. See Filet lace patterns for other ideas.
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This page created August 4, 2001
Last updated August 05, 2005