August 3, 2016

Making a Brimmed Hat: Materials, Cutting, and Making the Crown

One of the first decisions you must make when constructing a new simple brimmed hat is how big you want the crown, stand, and brim to be. These proportions will of course decide much about the style of hat you end up with. I often make shallow crowned hat, with a stand of only 1-2", but higher crowned styles like top hats can be fun as well. For this next project I have decided on a 10" diameter brim with a tiny 4.5" crown and a 1 1/4 inch stand. This will result in a rather bergère inspired shape, only in a miniature "toy" hat scale.

How did I decide upon these measurements? By playing around with my hat patterns of course!

If you want to start making hats, do yourself a favor and make a set of perfectly circle patterns in different size diameters. I have circles ranging from 4" diameter to 12" which makes playing around with them to decide what size I'd like to cut out my hat pieces a breeze.

By holding the desired crown pattern over the desired brim size, you can get a vague idea of the size of your hat. You can also hold the patterns up to your head to see what size is right for the style and look you are going for. I should mention at this point that I don't usually make headsize hats (made to fit down around the head) but rather tilted hats that perch on top of the head, usually at a jaunty angle (smaller than headsize hats) :) I am not an #realmilliner by any means, so take all of my hatting advice with a grain of salt. These are not the official millinery ways to make hats, they are just the ways that have worked for me.

At this point you can even play around with your proposed trimmings (like my super wide striped ribbon here) to get a feel for the finished hat.

As for the materials you will need for a hat like mine:

-Buckram or stiff millinery canvas (a sized stiff cotton/papery plain weave material used for millinery, available at specialty fabric shops, hat making shops, and online)
-Hat wire (usually you can find this at the same place that sells buckram or other hat supplies, I believe the stuff I usually use is 19 gauge but I could have that wrong)
-Strong thread
-Various needles (millinery needles are actually available at Joanns)
-Pins (and strong pins if blocking the crown of the hat instead of sewing it)
-Fabric to cover your hat
-Lightweight fusable interfacing
-Petersham ribbon for inside the crown of the hat
-Trimmings :)
-Access to an iron

Once you have decided on the different measurements for your hat, its time to get started by cutting the shapes out of buckram or stiff millinery canvas. I have already detailed two methods of making a hat crown (or a pillbox if you aren't adding a brim) before here on the blog, and I have linked both below. The first method doesn't require a hat block, and so is useful for those who do not have any! The second involves actually blocking the crown of the hat wet on a hat block to achieve the desired shape. Remember that for a blocked crown you don't need to cut a circle the shape of your crown, instead cut a square larger than your hat block to use.

Making a Pillbox (or hat crown and stand) with the cut and sew method.

Making a Pillbox (or hat crown and stand) with the traditional blocking method.

For this project I will be using the first cut and sew method to construct my crown as I don't have a smaller hat block in the size I want to use. I am also less concerned about having a perfectly smooth hat tip (I believe the edge where the crown and the stand of a hat meet is called the tip? yes?) as I will have such a crazy huge distracting ribbon atop this hat that will cover most of the hat/base in general!

Next week I'll go over how to wire and attach the brim onto the crown! :)


  1. Firstly, lol to #realmilliner :P

    The terminology I learned was a bit different to yours, but it does seem there is a wide variety of terms used all over the place, don't you find? So I first learned that the flat top of the hat as the tip, what you call the stand as the sideband, and the two together (or a one-piece crown) as the crown. Which is not helpful, because I don't know a term for where they join!

    Anyway I just love your advice about having a set of circle patterns to play with and select from. Such a simple method but it would be so helpful. And you could do the same with ovals. I think I'll have to do this!! Thank you :)

    1. I agree terms seem to change from milliner to milliner and country to country, I noticed buckram and millinery canvas were considered different things in London (where I took millinery classes) but then again that could have just been my teacher! Who knows ;) The circle patterns are an easy and great resource so I'm glad you like that idea!

  2. Love it! Can't wait to see how you finish!

  3. Immensely interesting post, dear Bianca. Thank you for sharing these millinery techniques with us. For someone who has never even remotely dabbled in the making side of the art, this is a rare and wonderful peek into a secret fashion world.

    xoxo ♥ Jessica

    1. Thanks Jessica! Millinery is different from sewing and a unique craft all its own for sure, I'd love to take more classes one day!

  4. Your stripey ribbon us lovely! It will be a fine hat. The differen size circles is such a good idea, I can really see how that helps.

    1. Thank you Kate! It really does help for visualizing things :)


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