Making A Clerk's Cap
Home Article Index


Art. III. Reproduction Clothing - A Clerk's Cap, by J. Gottfred.

A useful piece of headgear for the gentlemen of the fur trade.

Clerks of the fur trade companies were provided with soft, billed caps for day-to-day use. Such caps were in regular use from the turn of the century until the 1850's. Classic examples of the 'clerk' look, circa 1823, can be seen in Alvin Josephy's biograpy of Peter Rindisbacher, The Artist Was A Young Man. The sketches & paintings Colonists on the Red River in North America (p. 32), Winter Voyaging in a Light Sledge (35), Two of the Companies Officers Travelling in a Canoe (40,41), and Two Young Men Hunting (51) all show men wearing this style of cap.

Even voyageurs wore this sort of hat (see John Halkett's 1822 painting Canot de Maitre in Newman, Illustrated, 112), although these caps appear to be less common amongst the voyageurs than the classic 'top hat' style.

Clerk's Cap — This is an exmaple of a clerk's cap made from the pattern described in this article.

Making the Pattern.

The clerk's cap consists of four parts : the crown, the sides, the headband, and the bill.

The Crown

The crown is simply a circle of material. For all adult caps, the diameter of the circle should be 10 1/2". This includes a 3/8" seam allowance. Once you have drawn the circle, draw a line through the center with a straight edge. This will allow you to mark the front and back of the circle on the material.

The Headband

To create the pattern for the headband, simply draw a rectangle measuring 2" wide by the length value shown for your hat size in table 1. This includes a 3/8" seam allowance on all sides. Mark the center of the headband.






Hat Size

6 7/8

to 7

7 1/8

to 7 1/4

7 3/8

to 7 1/2

7 5/8

to 7 3/4

Head (in.)

21 1/2

to 22


to 22 3/4

22 3/4

to 23 1/2

23 1/2

to 24 1/4


23 5/8"

24 3/8"

25 1/8"

25 7/8"


8 3/4"

9 5/8"

10 13/16"

12 1/4"






Table 1 — Length, R and X values for various adult hat sizes.

The Bill

Use the bill pattern printed on page 40 for all adult sized hats. The interior shape is the pattern for the bill stiffener.

The Sides

This is the tricky part. The idea is to create a piece of an inverted cone which has a top the same circumference as the crown piece, and a bottom the same circumference as the headband piece. (Picture an ice cream cone with the bottom broken off). Even trickier, we don’t want to cut this as a single piece of fabric, or any patterned fabric (like corduroy) will end up with the pattern going in weird directions. What we want is four pieces, each one forming part of the cone.

To make these pieces, we will construct a figure like the one below.

You will use a compass and protractor to draw an arc of radius R for an angle X. These values are listed in table 1. You will then draw another, smaller arc, to define the edges of the side piece pattern

Start by drawing about a quarter of a circle of radius R. Next, subtract 2 1/4" from R, and draw a second, smaller arc using the new radius. Use a straight edge to draw a line from the center of the circle out past both arcs. Place a protractor over the center of the circle and align the zero mark with the line you just drew. Mark off the degrees (X), and draw another line from the center of the circle through the degree mark, and out past the two arcs. Your drawing should look like figure 1.

Add a 3/8" seam allowance to all four edges of the side piece and cut out the resulting pattern piece.

Parts and Materials

Using the pattern pieces you have created, cut out the following parts:

1 crown, 1 crown interfacing, 1 crown lining

4 sides, 4 side interfacings, 4 side linings

2 headbands, 1 headband interfacing

2 bills, 2 bill interfacings

1 bill stiffener

For your first effort, I would recommend that you use corduroy with about nine cords to the inch cord, and woven cotton fusible interfacing to act as both lining and interfacing. Fuse the interfacing to the cap material and cut out 1 crown, 4 sides, 2 headbands and 2 bills. Aside from speeding up the process, the fusible interfacing provides an invaluable service in keeping the bias from stretching when you get to the tricky-fitting bits. If this approach rankles, then cut out all the other parts and baste 'em together. (This version of the cap has visible interior seams. The no-visible-seam lined version is left as an exercise for the alert reader!)

For a bill stiffener, you can use leather (expensive), or cardboard (dissolves when wet), or buckram (goes all limp when wet and then holds that new shape when it dries.) Frankly, leather is the way to go, but since no-one can see inside the peak anyway (and if you use corduroy, no-one can feel inside either) then it has been suggested that you use plastic needlepoint canvas. In secret experiments conducted far from the other Beaver Club members, and purely in the interests of science, I have determined that this method is perfectly viable and yields excellent undetectable results (only your seamstress will know for sure!)



Right sides together, stitch the four side pieces end to end to make the cone. Finish the seams and press. Turn it right side out and stick it on your head for a good laugh.

Right sides together, pin the top sides to the crown. (It should work out perfectly). Stitch and finish the edges. Turn it right side out.

Right sides together, stitch the outside edge of the bill. Finish the edges, clip, and turn right side out. Insert the stiffener.

Right sides together, pin the center of the bill to the center of the headband's bottom edge and baste.

Right sides together, and aligning center with center, pin the headband together and stitch the bottom edge.

Match the edges of the headband, and right sides together, stitch it to form a circle. Finish the edges, turn it right side out and press. Test the fit of the headband and adjust before proceeding.

Right sides together, match the center front of the headband with the center of the bottom edge of the front cap side piece. Pin right all the way around matching the center back as well. Stitch and finish the seam edges.

Turn everything right side out, fold the headband lining in and stitch it (on the inside of the cap) to the headband and cap sides seam.

You will find that the resulting cap has rather a fine shape, (quite different from a Scotch bonnet) and that the hat can be bagged in various ways to make the cap look like everything from a Greek fisherman's hat to a British flat cap. The bill is an excellent eye shade, which is particularly useful when the sun is low in the sky.


Thanks to Bruce and Louise Lambert for their kind assistance in researching this article.


Josephy, Alvin M. (Jr.). The Artist Was a Young Man : The Life Story of Peter Rindisbacher. Amon Carter Museum : Fort Worth, Texas, 1970.

Newman, Peter C. An Illustrated History of the Hudson's Bay Company (formerly Empire of the Bay). Viking Studio/Madison Press : Toronto, 1995. ISBN 0-670-86534-6.


Copyright 1994-2002 Northwest Journal May I copy this article for my class?

Article Index