Museum of London hairnets

In the Museum of London book Textiles and Clothing 1150-1450 are described four pieces of netting from the collection, with pictures of three mostly intact hairnets and information on all four. These are the first hairnets I remember ever seeing. When I bought the book in early 2000 I was more interested in tablet weaving and other narrow ware. 

When I got into netting, I googled and luckily found Silkewerk’s very thorough instructions based on these same London hairnets. The dowel method described there is still a mystery to me, but otherwise her ideas are ingrained in me. It’s easy to follow when someone has done most of the basic work for you. 

I thought it would be fun to make a table of comparison of the four pieces, maybe that’s just the ethnologist in me. This table contains information from three different sources: the book Textiles and clothing 1150-1450, Silkewerk’s hairnet page and some measurements I’ve made. 

Amalgamation hairnet

You could definitely make one based on number 145 or 399, there’s enough information. But my project is a lovely amalgamation of the three earlier ones. It begins with the shape of the crown in number 153, where the crown is just threaded through into a loop without the alternating. Then it borrows the beginning and increases from 399 before ending with the larger loops in 145. 

My favourite mid-brown silk yarn Maharaja is about a quarter thicker than the average yarn used in the extant hairnets, so to keep the scale (if not the correct numbers), I made a 5:4 scaled version of this amalgamated net:

  • Start with 68 2 cm long loops.
  • 11 rounds 4 mm loops. Use 2,25-2,5 mm knitting needle
  • Double the amount of loops to 136 by increasing between every loop to the previous row.
  • 48 or more rounds 4 mm loops. (My nets are typically 19-21 cm long from top to bottom.)
  • 68 4 mm loops, using the same yarn doubled, make 34 2 cm loops (using a 1 cm gauge or going around the small gauge twice) on every other loop.
  • Thread the top loops into a round with the tail from the beginning. Or take separate two coloured twisted cord and use that.
  • Gather half of the net (the 4 mm loops) with a 7 loop fingerloop braid. Twist a cord for tightening the net and weave it through the bigger loops.

I used this net as a base for an embroidered net, so I don’t have pictures of it “naked”. Check out my version of the Marburg net to see how embroidery works.

I made a white version with a thinner two ply silk yarn (100g=1000m) called Resham. To tell the truth, this might be the finest yarn I personally can work with as I keep breaking thinner yarns and lose patience quickly. This finer Resham silk yarn came out wonderful and makes a very balanced net.

Not all work needs to be so gosh darn tiny!

For a later era or a beginner’s hairnet you could use the dimensions and thicker yarn from hairnet number 153. The yarn used here is just slightly thicker, a bit uneven and dyed with pomegranate. This hairnet using bigger loops seems to be done without increases or decreases, beginning with all the loops you need:

  • Start with 56 2 cm long loops. Wrap yarn twice around your 9 mm (⅜”) gauge to achieve this size.
  • Work 22 or more rounds. Pulled straight the height is 24 cm, opened out 19 cm. 
  • Thread the top loops into a round with a separate two coloured twisted cord.
  • Gather half of the loops with a 7 loop fingerloop braid. (No need for the special last row.) 
  • Weave a twisted silk cord through the open loops to adjust the hairnet in place. I made a monochrome cord as on the top.

An average hairnet

Let’s take all these measurements, throw them at the calculator and see what sort of an average we can come up. This is in no way a scientific method, but I so enjoy playing with numbers. It’s also a good reminder of the fact that even when we have several extant pieces to reproduce, there’s always room for your own interpretations. 

Lately I’ve been in awe of Netzerin Lydia’s sophisticated stripes, so my version is also joyous and colourful but above all, average.

I decided to match up my stripes by ending each row with an overhand knot with the yarn tail at the beginning of the row. New colour is attached with the netting knot with a long tail. Tails left from the overhand knot are woven in just to make sure they don’t unravel.

  • The net is made with Maharaja silk yarn (in greenish yellow, anillin red and dark blue) and with 5 mm wide bone gauge.
  • Start with 55-60 double loops.
  • Work 8-10 rows 5 mm loops.
  • Double the amount of loops to 110-120 by increasing between every loop to the previous row.
  • 30-35 rounds 5 mm loops.
  • (55-60 5 mm loops, 26-30 double loops on every other loop.) This is optional.
  • Thread the top loops into a round with the tail from the beginning. Or take separate two coloured twisted cord and use that.
  • Gather half of the net with a 7 loop fingerloop braid. Twist a cord for tightening the net and weave it through the bigger loops.

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