Apprentisheship: Illumination by Liudmila


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Below directions are for Vladimir kokoshnik, a hair-covering headdress for married women. The hat's design is based on a post-period example of a regional hat (central Russia Vladimir region), with knowledge that kokoshniks were generally built on similar principles. I don't know of any surviving examples earlier than late 18th century (neither do the major authors in the area of Russian applied art). Note that in period leather was usually used instead of buckram I use, so if you can work with leather, please do. I am also not clear on the fit and finish of the back part of a kokoshnik, so what I did is just one interpretation of it.


1/2 yard of your chosen facing fabric (velvet, silk, or brocade)

1/2 yard of lining fabric (linen or silk)



cloth covered wire (bridal or millinery)

manila folders or poster paper

                                                 graph paper

                                                 pearls, gold thread, trim -- whatever you need for decoration

First, decide on the shape of your future headdress. Make a paper cutout for your shape (I use manila file folders, as shown here). I originally determined the inner crescent by using one of my headbands, and now I simply re-trace old patterns. However, experimentation works too -- those folders are cheap.

In this picture, front and back patterns are shown together. In reality, I didn't know what the back was going to be like until I finished the front and experimented some more. This shape was modified in the process.


Try your paper headdress on and make necessary adjustments -- it may be too high, too low, too wide...or just perfect. Trace it onto some graph paper (I use quad-ruled pads, with pages pieced together) and create your design.


The same applies to the back -- and this shape is closer to what I ended up with.



I trace my patterns onto fusible interfacing with a permanent marker. You may find some better way of transfer -- I would love to hear of it! Fusible interfacing certainly is not period, but in period special artists created the designs for embroideries and drew them right on the face of the fabric in chalk or ink. I am not brave enough (or artistic enough) to do that.



Now, of course, iron on your iron-on interfacing. Make sure to leave ample seam allowances around the pattern, but don't cut it out yet.

Now it is time for the embroidery work -- the front of this piece is done in pearls over white cord and gold cord, in period technique. I do have pictures of the process, but this is a separate topic and is discussed elsewhere on this site.

Even though it looks white in this picture, the back was done in gold cord with some single pearls, to be less fancy than the front (and in accord with what is known of kokoshniks).


 Now for the foundation: lay out your buckram flat and trace the pattern again (usually once, but I doubled the buckram for this piece because embroidery was rather heavy). If the buckram won't cooperate, passing it over steam will help change its mind about the shape it wants to be. Cut the shape out, preferably with something other than your best scissors.

Repeat on the flannel, twice. When cutting the flannel, remember to leave ample seam allowances.


 Sew the millinery wire around the edge of buckram cutout. My wire comes from bridal sections of fabric stores, but Mistress Soraya uses what I believe to be better fabric-covered wire from a millinery shop.

Sew the flannel to the buckram, covering the wire. You will have to clip it on the curves.


Here, I turned the edges of the second piece of the flannel in without bringing them to the other side of the foundation. This is neater than just basting them from the other side, but that works too (see the maiden headwear instructions).

 Then, sew the facing to the flannel, clipping around the curves. I like to use Fray Check liquid when working with velvets.


Using your pattern and adding seam allowances, cut out the lining. Pin it to the work, hiding the edges.


 Sew the lining to the facing, making sure the stitches don't show on the front.


 This is the finished front part of the kokoshnik -- if you were a maiden, this would be about as far as you need to get.


 Pin the lining to the back piece, front sides tothether. Hand or machine stitch along the outline of the back.


 Turn the back right side out, hand-press the edges.


 This is probably your last chance to adjust the fit and make corrections (back only, I suggest not messing with the front anymore). I suppose it is hard to see here, but the headdress is just pinned together now, not yet sewn.


 A view of the backside with a better view of the pins.


 When trying the kokoshnik on, I realized that it needed a "podniza" -- the pearl netting. I made the podniza in a vertical weave which allows for more stretch than horizontal varieties. It is tapered towards the edges, but does not lie flat on the head -- which seems to be unnecessary in period or after.


 Sew the podniza to the front, centering it carefully and making sure your stitches are on the inside. They don't have to be super-permanent, since podniza might be moved to a different headdress if needed.



Sew front and back together (I use a stitch similar to those used in hand applique) and finish the bottom of the back, and you are done! I considered placing gold cord around the seam, but didn't get there yet. Likewise, attaching "riasy" -- hanging pearl threads with or without metal pieces -- to the sides is an option.