Susan Hat Tutorial

How to make this 1880s Victorian ladies hat.

An easy modern method to produce fabric-covered buckram hats easily to give a quality professional finish.

Detailed picture step by step of covering and assembly of the  pattern

The hat pattern pieces are always cut without a seam allowance. It is helpful to glue the paper patterns to a stiff card before cutting them out so you have a sturdy template to accurately mark the buckram and hat pieces.

Cut the buckram to the exact pattern size. 

Arrange the pattern pieces onto your fabric so that the fabric pattern will display nicely when the pieces are assembled.

Small prints can be arranged to save fabric, and larger prints need to be arranged to show the best parts of the pattern on your finished hat. 

Grain direction is not so important as the fabric is bonded to the buckram. Leave a good seam allowance of 15mm / 5/8 inch around the crown and sides and slightly less for the brim.

Using a hot iron, or a laundry press, bond the fabric to each buckram piece.

Use a contact adhesive to glue the fabric seam allowance over to the wrong side (the inside facing if you were looking at the completed hat).

It’s a very strong adhesive, but is solvent-based and must be used in a well-ventilated space. Try to buy the gel form rather than liquid so no drips. 

Use a spatula to apply to the fabric seam allowance and the same width on the buckram edge. Wait at least 5 mins then fold over the edges, making sure there are no pleats or wrinkles at the edge.

Trim one centre-back seam to the edge of the buckram and fold the other edge over as in the photo.

The best practice is to be patient and weigh the pieces down with a board or heavy books until completely cold and well bonded. 

The pieces should be neat and flat when turned to the right side (outside facing).

Next overlap the back seam by exactly the seam width shown on the pattern. The folded edge overlaps the trimmed edge so your finished hat has a neat seam.

Take note of which sides need the glue and apply to both edges, leave 5 mins then press the back seam together firmly and clip to hold as shown in the picture.

Leave to dry. 

Repeat this with the crown piece.

Glue, fold over edges, and weigh down until bonded and dry. 

The next stage can be done in different ways. If you are planning on making hats to sell I strongly recommend purchasing the hatmaking helper below as it makes for perfect results every time and turns the trickiest part into a very easy process. 

However, if you are only making one or a couple hats then the crown can be pinned to the sides, aligning the centre front and back and the sides. Then stitch so that the stitches are barely visible on the outside edge.

You can also hold the crown to the hat sides and dot some hot glue on the inside seam as long as you keep hold of the hat until each blob of hot glue is completely cold or the hat might come apart showing unsightly glue in the seam.

This is the ever-useful timesaving hatmaker.

They hold the hat sides and hat crown in the perfect position so you can apply a solid hot glue seam to the inside.

It makes for a very solid and neat hat, very fast with perfect results every time.

Showing the hot glue bead applied to the seam joining the crown to the sides. You can also add a hat wire if you want extra reinforcement when making full-sized hats. 

Cut your hat wire and place it in the joint before applying the hot glue to seal it in place.

This hat brim can be made with either a flat lining or the ruffled lining with a combined faux ruffled binding as shown in the finished pictures. 

The top main fabric layer is bonded to the buckram, in the same way as before, using a hot iron or heat press.

Cut the fabric larger than the buckram and always weigh down and leave to cool completely to ensure a good bond.

Trim the fabric to the outer edge of the buckram. 

Do not cut darts.

Fold over one side of the centre back seam as shown and trim the other neatly to the buckram edge.

Cut out the centre fabric from the brim. You can also cut the tabs at this point if you wish. It makes it easier to see the placement of tabs to cut through again if needed after attaching the lining. This will make more sense when you are in the process.

If your buckram is adhesive on one side only, you will need to cut a piece of a fusing web and add it now so you can bond a lining to the underside. In Europe, the main trade name is Bondaweb and Usa Wondaweb or Wunderweb sheets.

PLEASE NOTE this is not the same as hem tape.

This time do not overlap at the center back but trim lining to the edge Snip a line at the center of darts, and glue/ fold the fabric under to the wrong side. 

Apply heat and peel off the backing and trim edges.

A flat brim lining is similar to doing the brim top.

If your lining fabric is very thin you will not need to cut the darts.

Arrange your lining.

Start by ironing the fabric to the dart section so it’s correctly positioned, then heat press/iron the whole brim until the lining is bonded the same as for the top. Trim edges to buckram edge. 

If the lining fabric is thick you may want to sew the dart and snip excess fabric, cut along the centre of the dart, fold under the edges of the dart, and glue. This will avoid extra bulk when you fold the dart into position. 

This may sound vague but will make sense when the hat is in your hands and you feel the fabrics and how they lay and will fold. 

Showing the folding, glueing, and clamping of the brim darts on the underside of the brim that will have a ruffled lining.

The buckram is glued to the main fabric on the underside side using contact adhesive very carefully applied. The main fabric is glued on the top right side in the same way just inside the dart, apply the glue very carefully.

Always allow it 5 mins before pressing the sides together to stop the glues oozing!

Clamp the darts in place, press the dart together along its length and leave them to bond.

Glue and fold over the centre back seam and clamp the same and leave to dry. 

To finish a brim edge that has a flat-lining…

Once you have the top and undersides of the brim covered, sew your bias binding to the brim edge.

If you are using pre-bought folded bias binding then unfold one edge and measure how it will fold over the edge to sew the correct distance from the edge on the top side of the brim starting at the centre back seam. 

Turn binding to the underside, arrange the overlap seam at the centre back neatly tucking in with a pin on the edges, and then top stitch from the top side. 

Sew slowly checking you are catching the other edge of the bias on the underside of the brim. Then, if required, sew a second row to keep the bias binding neat and flat. 

If you have chosen the flat-lining option you are ready to attach the brim to the hat sides. 

Apply contact glue to the tabs and to the lower inside edge of the sides. Wait a minimum of 5 minutes, you may find if the fabric has soaked all the glue up it’s a good idea to apply a second layer of contact glue to both tabs and inside the lower edge of the sides. This is important because you want this join to be strong and firm.

After you have applied the second glue layer you need to wait for around 5 mins. The glue should not be gooey but almost feel dry, with a slight tackiness. 

Note contact adhesive is not adjustable, so mark your hat centre front points and centre back, on the brim and the sides with tailor’s chalk or a visible textile pen, or use a pin. Using these marks align the centre front tab first.

Press to the inside of the hat so the brim is firmly pushed up to meet the hat sides. Repeat for the centre back tab. Then repeat at the side quarter mark, then the tabs in between.

The pattern is made to fit exactly, if yours does not fit then it has not been cut exactly to size or your covering fabric is too thick.

To finish your brim when adding the ruffled lining…

Apply glue to the dart area. You need to apply a small amount to both edges that will press together. use a piece of card to make sure you do not glue outside the area needed. Wait for 5 minutes then fold the dart towards the back and clamp until dry.

Fold the centre tabs upwards as shown in the photograph.

To attach a ruffled lining you can either use strips of fabric on either straight or bias grain OR cut circles included in the pdf pattern and join them as shown.

Straight strips of fabric will add more bulk to the centre of the hat so only use strips of chiffon or very lightweight fabrics. This picture shows straight strips sewn to just half of the hat for photo clarity and the photo below shows a circle-type lining. 

Sew the strips to the brim with right sides together approx 12 to 15mm from the brim edge. 

The circle lining is sewn right sides together to the top of the brim then pulled over the edges and arranged neatly pleated underneath.

It is then gathered by hand sewing a single row of running stitches at the edge of the sides.

This is shown in the photo above

This is a view of the circle cut lining from underneath. You can see there is much less bulk at the centre than if you use long rectangle strips to gather and line it. 

Again here there are different ways to proceed, it’s partly down to the fabric choices and also how neat and professional you want the finished hat to look. 

The right side of the picture shows the raw edge of the brim lining after it has been gathered by hand – the underside of this edge has a very thin layer of gel contact adhesive on it as do the tabs inside the hat sides. Simply press the lining firmly inside the hat so it sticks glued edges together.

This is quite easy but you apply the contact glue to the edges before you gather by hand sewing  The centre can be gathered with a single row of thread to the same sizes as the opening by hand if you want the pleats or gathers to be perfectly spaced, or you can simply press the lining over the edge.

The left side of the picture shows after the raw edge has been gathered by hand sewing, then excess trimmed down to approx 6mm or 1/4 inch, gel contact glue applied, and then turned under and very very carefully glued to the edge. This takes practice to give a perfect finish and is not a novice job. The first method is much easier

Please note all the materials we use are natural fibres, linen, cotton, wool and silk. Natural fabrics are very easy to work with and manipulate or shape when making hats.

Be aware that synthetics can be harder to get to behave and you can not generally heat as hot under iron/ heat press or starch them very well. 

This crown and sidelining are starched a lot to make the photos and tutorial clearer! You don’t need to have your lining standing like this! However, a light starching may help when glueing or fitting.

Join sides centre back, press seam open and sew lining sides to lining crown,  this one has only a tiny 1/8 seam but if you have a wider seam just clip/notch it the allowance so the curves can ease. Turn the top over and sew or glue it down.  (The lining in the photo is starched and about to be glued along the top).

Fold in half some lengths of 6mm or 1/4 inch wide elastic and either sew or hot glue so you have a loop at the top and stem to stick to the hat.

Apply as many loops as you want around the sides so you can attach them to hair grips, ribbons, Alice bands or whatever you will use to secure your hat.

Make the stem at least 2.5cm (1 inch) long and hot glue it into place. Always use something heat resistant to firmly press and hold each loop into position until the glue is set, ie a wooden spatula. 

Insert the lining as shown and either hand sew the edge of the brim lining to the edge of the side lining or again apply contact glue or hot glue the linings together. 

Using hot glue to do this is a bit of an art, the main trick is not to have a cheap $5 glue gun that drips. We can recommend the cordless battery Bosch small glue gun it never drips and you can be really precise without oozing glue everywhere. It is perfect for this job and also for adding small details when decorating hats. 

This lining has been glued using contact adhesive. The trick is, it’s a very fine cotton fabric (cut on the bias) that has been starched using a vodka spray and a gel contact glue is used. This stops any drips or seeping through which you would get with liquid glue.

The lining fits exactly and always check before you glue anything! Because we use a gel contact adhesive (and wait 5 minutes) the edges are not wet.  Therefore when they are pressed together they grip firmly and no glue oozes.

This finish did not happen on my first hat! It took practice and patience. the old adage really is true:

Practice makes perfect.

You may find it’s easier to sew the hat lining edges by hand. 

Showing the finished hat ready for decorating with ribbons and trims.