No period costume is complete without a hat. The proper hat can make a costume really stand out, and the absence of one can break it (and sunburn your head.). Up until the 1960s, and especially before the turn of the 20th c., hats were worn every time one left the house, and to be seen without one would be most improper. Not only useful as sun protection and head-warmers, hats were a fantastic fashion statement and accessory to one’s dress, so why, oh why, would you ever want to go bare-up-there?
There are, of course, myriad varieties of hat. We’ve talked about a few here on American Duchess, and where to find them, but we only scratched the surface. Primarily this blog has been dealing with straw hats, with the onset of Summer, but what about hats for winter, or hats made from other materials, like velvet or silk? What about hats that require…ENGINEERING!?
If you’re like me, though, you’re fairly convinced that you can figure this business out by yourself. After all, how hard can it be? Well, if this is indeed the case, then here is some information that you don’t have to order or pay for, that might be helpful to you in your millinery adventures….
For this exercise, I am making an Elizabethan “tall hat.” I know, it’s not 18th c., but the principles remain the same!
– stiff felt – two large sheets (11×17)
– heavy upholstry-weight thread
– your outer fabric, whatever that may be.
– medium-gauge wire – strong enough to hold the hat brim in place, soft enough to bend with the help of a gorilla.
All of these materials were available at Michael’s Craft Store with the exception of the outer fabric, which I hope you already have, and the bias tape. Michael’s also has lovely trims, feathers, and brooches for later decoration.
Brims can be huge, or quite small. Start by laying your crown-tube, bottom side down, on a large piece of paper and tracing around the outside. Extend your brim from the drawn circle as far as you want, using a ruler to mark the measurement every few inches, around the entire circle. Then just connect-the-dots. Add an allowance to the interior circle.
Step 4: Cutting
Cut out all your materials.
For your crown and top, cut one layer of the needlepoint canvas, one layer of the stiff felt, and one layer of the soft felt (you may need to stitch two pieces of soft felt together to get enough length). Be sure to cut the seam allowances OFF the stiff and soft felts. Cut one layer of your outer fabric, leaving the seam allowances.
Step 5: Stitching Up
Next, join the soft felt and the outer fabric. The soft felt does not have seam allowance, while the outer fabric does – center the felt and stitch around the outside edge narrowly.
Now join the stiff layers with the soft by laying them together and basting around the outside edges. For the brim, you have the stiff layer sandwiched between two layers of outer fabric. All edges are still raw.
Step 6: Putting It All Together
First let’s put the crown and top together. Fold over the edge of the outer fabric on the height portion of the crown and either stitch it or glue it down, to create a clean edge at the top. To do this, make cuts in the seam allowance, and pull and fold the fabric over the edge towards the inside. Glue.
Now make small cuts into the seam allowance all the way around the circular top and fold the tabs downward. Fit the top into the crown, adjusting the cuts of the tabs as needed, until the top sits properly in the crown, with the edges meeting. It might help to do this upside-down, with the top flat, and fitting the crown-tube down over the tabs. Joining the top to the crown can be achieved by whipstitching around the outer top seam, stitching the tabs on the inside, or calling on the power of the Glue of the Gods (hot glue!) to adhere the tabs to the interior of the crown. I recommend a combination of techniques.
Now for the brim. This is done in the same manner as the top – cut tabs on the inside circle of the brim, and fold them up. Turn under the outer fabric on the bottom edge of the crown and secure it, making a clean edge. Fit the crown over the brim tabs, and join in your preferred method. I recommend both Glue of the Gods and a stitch, which will be hidden under the hatband.
Step 7: Finishing the Brim
Now your hat is finished! Trim it however you like – add a hatband, some ridiculously large plumage, a brooch, some decorative braid. Bend the edges of the brim to the shape and curve you want. Stick that thing on your head, and off you go.
Jane CarlstromAugust 3, 2009 at 9:21 AM
This is wonderful! Thanks so much for an enjoyable read, for sharing your technique, plus loving the finished hat. YOu Rock!
Robin's Egg BleuAugust 4, 2009 at 1:23 AM
Thank you so much for this valuable information! It's much appreciated. And your chapeau is gorgeous!
LaurenAugust 4, 2009 at 6:04 PM
Hats are such fun! I love it 😀
Lauren RAugust 6, 2009 at 9:43 PM
You are quite welcome! I hope it was clear enough…I will have to do another one.
Also, apologies for not responding to comments earlier – I recently changed my comment settings.
Jessi K. CarrollSeptember 17, 2009 at 6:00 PM
Just wanted to say thanks for this tutorial. I used it to make 3 hats for three pseudo-18th century costumes for Dragon Con here in Atlanta a few weeks ago. The directions were clear, the supplies easy to find and it all came together nicely. Also, I found that with darker, more textured fabrics hot glue goes really far and helps bring things together really quickly – especially for large hats. For light fine fabrics, I had to be good and hand sew. Thanks again!
SaraOctober 2, 2009 at 4:00 PM
I can't wait to try this. Thank you so much for the wonderful instructions and detailed photos. I've been looking all over for a good pattern that uses the heavy needlepoint canvas as that feels like what the core of one of my bought hats is like.
Lauren RDecember 23, 2009 at 7:22 PM
You're quite welcome, ladies, and please send me links to photos of your hats!
AnonymousOctober 1, 2012 at 9:10 PM
Thank you, thank you and thank you some more 🙂 – Julie
CathyMarch 20, 2015 at 2:27 PM
Great tutorial…very EASY to understand. Thank-you!
SandraDecember 31, 2017 at 12:53 PM
This comment has been removed by the author.