Exhibit to Showcase 18th Century Caps – OHIO University Libraries

Exhibit to Showcase 18th Century Caps

Sherri Saines, instructional librarian and subject librarian for Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, among other areas, has spent more than a decade researching 18th century women’s caps. Her handmade reproductions, such as this cap made of silk organza, will be on display in Alden Library in January. (John Michael Simpson/Ohio University Libraries)
Sherri Saines, instructional librarian and subject librarian for Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, among other areas, has spent more than a decade researching 18th century women’s caps. Her handmade reproductions, such as this cap made of silk organza, will be on display in Alden Library in January. (John Michael Simpson/Ohio University Libraries)

Sherri Saines’ interest in reenacting led her to research 18th century women’s caps. While she was able to find some books and journals about the caps, she realized there was no single book or article that completely covered their history.

Like many researchers, she decided that she was going to fix that problem by writing one.

Luckily for Saines, instructional librarian and subject librarian for the social sciences, she was able to use resources found in Alden Library to conduct the research that helped her create handmade reproductions of 18th century caps, which will be on display for the month of January.

The exhibit is appropriately titled, “How to Piece Together the Details.” Saines has spent more than 10 years researching various sources to learn more about the caps women wore in the 18th century.

“Alden Library owns almost every book I needed to do this research, plus every journal. There is so little in print that I had to use a few pages from this book and a few pages from that book to get started,” she said. “These gave me hints where to find artifacts and portraits to document my theories as they evolved. It’s been a treasure hunt.”

Before she could begin to sew her own caps, she wanted to learn more about how they were made. She visited 11 museums to see the caps in person and researched several aspects of the fashion industry in the 18th century.

“I followed research leads to delve into the history of cloth, clothing manufacturers, the Atlantic trade, the work of tailors and milliners, the making of pins, the social and cultural place of women and sewing,” she said. “All that adds to my understanding of this one little piece of clothing.”

To actually sew her own caps, she had to master the new skill of hand sewing because sewing machines cannot replicate the stitches used in the 18th century. She said one new stitch, the rolled gather, took her more than a year to master, and she also had to research cloth, thread, and needles and pins.

“Each cap comes with its own set of questions: Why did they use these materials; cut the cloth this way? How did they sew that turn so perfectly? I investigate by doing,” Saines said.

Saines’ work is evidence of the practical applications of research, and she was able to find most of her research materials right at home in Alden Library. Her goal, she said, is for her work to serve current and future members of the OHIO community.

“In my best of all possible outcomes, someday Alden Library will own the book or article I publish to fill this gap in knowledge,” she said.