So way back in 2015, before I left London I bought the geekiest thing ever (to a self taught cap maker), on ebay. A very LARGE box of flat cap patterns in various sizes and styles, supposedly from a hat factory that closed down. Best £89 I ever spent.
Ever since then I have been slowly working my way through them, using the info I do have on them and my existing knowledge of flat cap patterns and cap sizes to sort them and test them.
Photo: Some of the pieces spread across my old flat floor in 2015, right after it arrived.
Now I don't know 100% for sure, a lot of details about the patterns. I can assume or guess certain things; and that is just what I am doing; but for example, I don't know what flat cap style each one makes when sewn out of fabric. I don't know their seam allowances (and that effects their final sizes), so many are incomplete or aren't labelled fully and it's a lot of work to catalogue and sort them, let alone trial them and learn from them. But for someone obsessed with cap patterns and the shapes they make and who loves cataloguing stuff (you not figured that out yet from "the capalog"?!?) it is bizarrely SO FUN. It is like it was made for me. Again best £89 I ever spent.
I would love to say it's been a continuous process, and I've been doing it every fucking weekend. I have not. A lot of life has also happened in that five years and like everyone, life priorities and making a living always shoves things to the back burner. Wait, it's 7 years now. Damnit. But I have still been able to figure out and use quite a lot of info from them so far. I totally wouldn't be able to use them at all if I didn't already know one or two things about cap patterns either.
I'm prob one of the few weirdos that would get excited about it too! (Shout out to anyone in the group weird secondhand finds that need to be shared!) I wish 2015 me had used a banana for scale next to them all spread across my hackney wick flat floor, so I could demonstrate how immense the collection in that one box was. (But apparently I did use a vistaprint business card box, according to the above photo!)
As for info on them, there's names scrawled on most of the shapes, not all of them though, and I am pretty confident the names are the cap style names for a few of them. There is a company name on one or two and from internet sleuthing, they don't sell caps anymore and specialise in selling fabric now, but are generations old. So didn't close down after all, just specialised in a different part of the industry, probably as a result of different ownership.
All the numbers on the patterns are cap sizes I instantly recognise and fortunately I have size conversion charts to refer to too. Most of the cap sizes are traditional sizes, so 6 5/8 for example. Here's a great time to realise I've made a typo on my own size conversion chart & that 7 3/4 is definitely bigger than 7 3/8 and why didn't I spot that it should say 7 1/4 but anyway oopsssss. Professional.
Date wise, some of the patterns are labelled with date changes, probably when they made updates to the shape. Most of the dates seem to be in the 80s and 90s, but the oldest date seems to be 1966, and as a kid of both the 80s and 90s, I am not ever going to call that vintage! Even if I technically can, because that is also pretty recent to me.
As for sorting them, I'm being a total colour geek and have used coloured metal rings, to hang the sizes together. So a specific coloured ring for each size, to create a system and keep them in some sort of order and so I can use them on a regular basis. And cos yeah colour coded systems for the win! Most of the patterns already had a hole at the top of each piece, so that is probably how they were originally stored too.
Photo: Segment flat cap patterns, hung underneath the cutting table.
While cap shapes have definitely changed over time, and can totally reflect an era or time period, the core shapes don't change that much. They still follow the same basic shapes, so these flat cap patterns def have value to learn from and I have been itching to include flat caps in the capalog for ages, but it has also been a little bit of a nemesis that I didn't 100% understand. So these patterns are invaluable to me, to really really understand and learn more info from them.
So far I've adapted 3 or 4 cap shapes which will be released for sale super super soon, as a result of these patterns. I am ridiculously stupidly excited to keep experimenting with them and fine tune the flat cap styles, that I would like to include in The Capalog. I am also super aware of making them my own and not just directly copying someone else. You may have already spotted some pics on instagram of works in progress but more on that in the next blog post on The Box of Flat Caps, part two!