Hat Making Tools & Materials
Hat making made easy…
Most people who want to start making their own hats feel somewhat intimidated by the process and expect it to be a hard craft to master. The simple answer is there are many levels and kinds of millinery and It really depends what you want to achieve and if you want to use traditional / historical methods from the base up or you just want a quality finished hat that looks the part and holds up to wear and use.
I am not a historical hat maker I was a theatrical and film costumer; we make garments and props to look good and of varying quality depending on the requirements. Personally, I like an item to be well finished inside and out, and the methods given here will certainly produce hats good enough to sell or wear at any posh event, but as with all things costuming there is always someone who will say you are doing it wrong, or not historically accurate. Many of my patterns are from historical Parisien originals, but my methods are not.
I used to be a little snobby over the use of glue guns in any costuming, and then I found an old French millinery book from 1876 and there was more boiled hoof glue and rough as you like Contruction going on under those hats I decided to overcome the snobbery and try a glue gun for myself. The truth is they are simply brilliant for making hats. Give me a time machine (and a magic power supply) and I would take the crafters of the 19th century the gifts of both a serger/ overlocking machine and a glue gun! Way to make life easier.
Some of my hats can be made with zero sewing, and some do need either hand sewing and machine sewing. They will all be easier with a glue gun, preferably a decent make with a fine nozzle such as the Bosch. Shown in pictures below. I have both mains and battery glue guns and have used now for years. The long fine nozzle is perfect for the crown seams using my hat making former. and the battery is more delicate for adding embellishments and decorations to finished hats. t
My Exclusive Hat maker
Years ago, I developed a hat making former to speed up my hat making and make perfect seams every time. I used to have one for each type of hat, then when I developed the ‘machine’ to sell I improved it and made it a multipurpose machine with separate plate inserts for different hat models and styles. All my patterns can be made without using my custom hat making former, but if you want to make hats to sell or Just make perfect hats for a hobby it is well worth the investment. This is available on my website. You will see me using it in many of the video tutorials.
Contact adhesive is a solvent based glue, you apply to both sides of a material, allow to rest until the solvent has evaporated and press the two pieces together. It forms an incredibly strong bond. It’s perfect on textiles and hat making, the downsides are it must be used in a well-ventilated workspace and is NOT suitable for young children.
It is available in liquid form and gel. The gel means you can spread it without drips onto your hats and I prefer this for hat making, it’s just less messy and slightly less stinky.
A suitable alternative is liquid latex. It takes much longer to become tacky and you need to leave long periods with clamps to set, but will bond fabrics and it safe for children and non-toxic.
Millinery buckram comes in many weights, including lightweight or baby buckram (often used for children’s and dolls’ hats), single-ply buckram, and double buckram (also known as theatrical buckram or crown buckram).
You should find buckram online, and there are many good Facebook Millinery groups around the world that help with local suppliers
I use crown buckram to make all my hats, but as long as it has one side adhesive then a lighter buckram can be used. For some of the miniature hats you can even use the buckram that comes on a roll in upholstery suppliers for tiebacks and pelmets. If you really can’t find any buckram at all then stiffen a denim or canvas with a pva wood glue and allow to dry fully (cheaper watered-down craft pva may not hold enough stiffness when dry).
Almost any dress fabric or outer fabrics can theoretically be used for the outside of a hat. If you are using my method the material MUST be capable of withstanding a hot iron. I prefer natural fibres and they press well, absorb adhesive and are very hardwearing. Always heat test your fabric on scrap with a hot iron before cutting out your hat if using my construction methods. If you plan to make your hat buckram base first and then cover it afterwards more delicate synthetics fabrics can be used.
Linings for hats can be a variety of fabrics. The main thing to remember is keep them lightweight and fine. If you are wanting to pleat or ruffle the lining the lighter the better, chiffon scarves can be used to great effect. Otherwise most dress linings are suitable from satin to cotton.
Brim Edge Bindings
The binding for the brim edges must be bias binding, meaning it is cut diagonally across the grain to allow for smooth shaping around the curves. I use 20mm to 22mm satin bias for most hats, but I also make my own if I want to match a fabric using a simple bias binding maker. These come in different widths and are useful for assorts of sewing and craft projects.
Iron or Table press & other small tools
A standard home iron to press the buckram to the fabric. If you have a table style press even better. If you plant to make a lot of hats, or to sell hats then I really recommend investing in a table press, as large as you can afford. They often come up used or second hand at very reasonable prices.
Other tools are scissors. pencil, straight edge/ ruler and clamps or fabric grips pegs.