The first hat I made was for cold winters in upstate New York where I grew up. Using some fake sheepskin fabric, I made a hat with ear flaps. I think I was inspired by some Russian hats I’d seen. I didn’t have a pattern. I just cut and sewed. I’m not sure what happened to that hat, which I made it when I was in high school (oh so long ago).
The second hat I ever made was after I graduated from college. I was inspired by a picture in a magazine. You can read about that experience in this post, “The Red Velvet Hat.”
I took a long hiatus from making hats – until I began sewing again and I wanted to tackle making a hat from a pattern. I flipped through many pattern books at Joann Fabric and Craft before deciding on V8440, which has some great hats by Patricia Underwood.
To make the Patricia Underwood hat, I used an upholstery sample I found for a couple of dollars at the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse. I wanted to use a fabric that I liked and that would be good practice for making the hat with more expensive fabric. (See my post “Fabric at the East Bay Depot.”)
The sample wasn’t very big, less than the yardage of the pattern. But I thought I could make it work by cutting it on the bias, which would make this rather heavy fabric a little less stiff.
Sewing the Hat
The pattern is simple – four pie-shaped pieces of fabric with four darts. You use the same pattern pieces for the main fabric and the lining. The trickiest part for me was the topstitching because there’s a lot of it and you have to go slow if you want your stitches to be equidistant and even. This pattern has topstitching along both sides of the seams of each “pie” piece and five parallel lines of topstitching along the brim (see photos below for details). I had to be really patient when I did that part.
After I finished the top stitching, I tried on the hat and realized much to my dismay that the hat was too big! I was aghast. I had just done all that beautiful topstitching! How could this be?
Well, I didn’t take into account that I was using a heavy fabric and when you make a hat, every 1/8 of an inch really counts. When I cut the fabric, I likely made each pattern piece slightly larger than it should have been. Plus the fabric had a tendency to fray so when I sewed it, I should have compensated for the fray and stitched a slightly wider seam and trimmed the seam after I was done.
After setting it aside for a day, I decided I couldn’t let all that sewing go to waste so I decided I to add two additional darts in the back, taking in about a half-inch each. I held my breath, took my scissors and sliced through the finished edge (five rows of topstitching!). Then I sewed two 3/8-inch darts and put the hat on again. It worked! Now the hat could fit on my head instead of falling over my eyebrows. (Click on the images below for larger views.)