Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fancywork Headdress

I've spent a fair bit of time studying mid-19th century beadwork and I was thrilled to recently acquire this very interesting example.

Fashion trends come and go and this headdress is  great example of the transition occurring during the 1860's - from beads being used primarily in "crafts" and jewelry to beads being increasingly used directly on garments.

The headdress is crocheted of red wool, with distinctly different looks to the front and back. The front is loopy, resembling shag carpeting with the addition of large white satin glass cylinder beads. The beads would have been strung on the wool prior to beginning the crochet work.

The back is far smoother, to rest against the hair. There is a decorative bow at the back and ribbon ties.

I'm always trying to find surviving artifacts that can be definitively matched to published patterns from the period - if you've encountered period instructions or images of a similar headdress, please share!!!


  1. You mentioned the front and back look different - are they crocheted in the round or sewn together? And do you believe those are chains of loops with the beads, or are the beads just knotted in?

    Really interesting piece. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I don't crochet, so cannot say exactly how the loops were achieved, but it is not two separate layers joined together.

    The beads were definitely included in the crochet, not knotted in later.

  3. I have one exactly like this except mine is black. I think the crochet pattern would be easy to duplicate. Do you think Fire Mountain would have the beads?


    1. Hi Jody,

      I have not been able to find these types of beads from modern makers, but the vintage beads ARE still out there, it just takes a bit of searching.

      If you look at the last photo, you can see that the beads have very large holes for their size - this is important for two reasons: 1.) It makes them more light weight and 2.) Makes them far easier to string prior to crocheting with them.

      Here's some that are close - https://www.etsy.com/listing/159274350/vintage-satin-glass-copper-lined-beads?ref=col_view but even those have thicker walls than those on my piece.

      I'd love to see pictures of headdress too!

  4. Can I attach pictures here? If not send me your email and I will send you a few pics of mine. jodyluce(at)gmail com

    I have tried to figure out what to call the beads. Cut tubes? that is what they look like to me.