How to make a removable ribbon hat band – tutorial, Part 1

Hi, I wrote a three millinery tutorials as a guest blogger for Britex Fabrics over the summer. I’m going to repost them here over the next few days or so. I wrote two posts on how to make a removable ribbon hat band and a post on a lace hat. Here’s the first one, along with some additional information about Petersham ribbon and made a few minor changes.


I’ve had this hat for years and then the hat band began to show some unfortunate discoloration. It turns out the manufacturer used a double-sided adhesive to attach the hat band to the hat. The adhesive became greasy and leaked through the ribbon. A high quality hat would not use adhesive of any kind. I got it because I liked the shape and the small brim. It goes with a lot of my wardrobe. My solution was to remove the old hat band and the adhesive and make a removable replacement hat band. I decided to make two. This is the first one.

How to make a removable ribbon hat band - tutorial, millinery, Petersham ribbon

My first step was to choose my Petersham ribbon. Petersham is a type of ribbon that has little notches or scallops on the edges that enable it to go around a curve (see photo below). You can manipulate Petersham so it goes around a curve and lays flat against the crown of the hat (the part that covers the head) as you’ll see in this tutorial. You could also be use Petersham along the edge of a hat brim to add a contrasting color.

Grosgrain ribbon looks similar to Petersham but the edges are straight and it isn’t as flexible as Petersham. However, if you find a 100 percent cotton grosgrain, you could get it to curve if you press it with a hot iron. But most grosgrain ribbon is polyester. It’s really best suited to straight edges.

A milliner I know refers to Petersham as grosgrain. Among hat makers, Petersham is sometimes called grosgrain but it’s millinery grosgrain.

Britex has a huge selection of Petersham in solid colors and even striped Petersham, which isn’t as common as the solids. Most of the Petersham they carry is 100 percent rayon.

I just saw on the website of Judith M Millinery Supply House that the U.S. factory that makes 50 percent cotton / 50 percent rayon has closed. So Judith M will gradually be running out. Bummer. You can see their current stock here. The company is letting people buy up to one 50-yard roll per customer but some ribbons are only available by the yard.

Judith M has found a European company that makes a 56 percent cotton / 44 percent rayon Petersham but says there “will be a significant price increase.” 🙁 I have to admit when I read that, I thought, I must buy some Petersham now! But I don’t make that many hats so it doesn’t really make sense to stockpile 50 yards of Petersham.) But I digress – back to the tutorial…

Here’s the ribbon I selected for the first hat band: A solid gray, 1.5 inch width of Petersham. (Note the scalloped edge.)

How to make a removable ribbon hat band - tutorial, millinery, Petersham ribbon

First I measured the crown of the hat at the widest part – about 23 inches there. Make sure your tape measure is at the same level around the widest part of the crown, where the ribbon will go. I moved it slightly up so you could see the measurement. Cut a length of ribbon the circumference of the crown plus two inches. You won’t need more than an inch or so extra but you can always trim the excess. I like to have a little extra for safety.

How to make a removable ribbon hat band - measuring the crown - tutorial, millinery, Petersham ribbon

When you put the ribbon around the crown, it won’t lay flat because the crown is wider at the bottom. You will have a slight gap at the top of the ribbon, like this photo.

How to make a removable ribbon hat band - tutorial, millinery, Petersham ribbon

To make your ribbon lie flat, you gently stretch the bottom edge of the ribbon as you press it with your steam iron. Start at the center and pull it to one side and then repeat on the other side in the opposite direction. You just want it to be slightly wider at the bottom, about 1/8 inch on each side of the ribbon. Don’t forget to use a press cloth to protect the ribbon. If you don’t it could get shiny. I used a scrap of organza as my press cloth.

How to make a removable ribbon hat band - pressing the Petersham ribbon - tutorial, millinery

Now the ribbon will lay flat against the crown because of the slight stretch you gave it. Look, no gap!

How to make a removable ribbon hat band - tutorial, millinery, Petersham ribbon

I had two yards of the ribbon. The extra yard was for the embellishment that would cover where the hat band pieces join.

I usually hand stitch the hat band in place where the ribbon ends join and tack it to the hat. The next time you see a ribbon on a hat, check out how it’s attached. It’s usually tacked in place with a few stitches – or in the case of a cheap hat, some adhesive is used. To make a removable ribbon hat band, I decided to use elastic to join the ribbon ends. My initial idea was to attach a small piece of wide elastic to one end of the ribbon and use a hook and eye to attach the ends. To hide the hook and eye, I’d create an embellishment from the rest of the ribbon.

How to make a removable ribbon hat band - tutorial, millinery, Petersham ribbon

I knew the ribbon ends needed to be sturdy to handle the stress of the hook and eye and elastic. With this in mind, I folded over each ribbon end twice so, about 5/8″ with each fold, sewing the folds in place. I attached the elastic to one side and hand sewed the hook to the elastic. In the photo above, I marked the ribbon for where the eye would go. But I discovered that the ribbon didn’t lie flat where the hook and eye attached. So I scrapped that idea and decided to just sew the ribbon ends to the wide elastic (a little over an inch wide) – like a headband.

I removed the hook and eye. Then I put the ribbon around the crown and used a marking pencil to mark where the other side of the ribbon ended on the elastic, and sewed it down. You can see the pencil mark below. I used dark thread so I could show the stitch lines in this tutorial. Normally I would use thread that matches the ribbon.

Tutorial- how to make a removable ribbon hat band - Petersham, millinery

The gap between the two ribbon ends is a little wider than I would like but that’s because I started out with the hook and eye idea. Note: The exposed elastic is slightly wider at the bottom to accommodate the curve.

Next up: The embellishment to hide the elastic and the stitch lines. It’s fun to play around with ribbon pleating to come up with a design. I didn’t want to do a traditional bow.

How to make a removable ribbon hat band - tutorial, millinery, Petersham ribbon

I made some folds, held it in place with pins, and put it against the hat to see how it would look. You want something that is in proportion to the hat. I think this is a little too big and busy given the size of the hat. If the hat had a wider brim, this might work but it’s too much for this hat.

How to make a removable ribbon hat band - tutorial, millinery, Petersham ribbon

So I removed one pleat on the left and made the pleats smaller so it looked like this. The center of the ribbon is about six inches of the ribbon tightly rolled. I used my finger to push up the ribbon so it sticks out at the top, which makes it stand out a little more.

How to make a removable ribbon hat band - tutorial, millinery, Petersham ribbon

I hand stitched that center roll in place, sewing through all the pleats. Then I sewed the embellishment to the ribbon band, just in front of the elastic.

Tutorial: How to make a removable ribbon hat band - Petersham ribbon, millinery

And here’s the completed removable ribbon hat band on the hat.

How to make a removable ribbon hat band - tutorial, millinery, Petersham ribbon

And here I am wearing the hat.

How to make a removable ribbon hat band - tutorial, millinery, Petersham ribbon

I really like this ribbon and I get compliments whenever I wear it. I love that I can switch ribbons on this hat. The other ribbon is a black-and-white striped one, which is a completely different look from this one. I’ll post that tutorial soon.

How to make a removable ribbon hat band - tutorial, Petersham ribbon, millinery, hats

How to Keep Your Hat on Your Head with Hat Elastics

hat elastic inserted - csews.com

If you like hats, even if you only  wear one a few times a year, you don’t want it to blow off your head on a windy day. Nothing’s worse than chasing your hat down the sidewalk or watching it drift into traffic (yes, that’s happened to me). To keep your hat on your head, you can attach a thin elastic cord made specifically for hats – like I did on this velvet and linen vintage hat (pictured above), which I got at All Things Vintage in Oakland. (The lovely ladies there sell beautiful vintage hats and they actually gave me a hat elastic so I didn’t have to buy one.)

Here’s what one looks like.

Hat elastic - csews.com

These elastics are 11 or 12 inches (28 to 30.5 cm) long and have small metal barbs at the ends, which lets you secure it to the inside of the hat. You can buy them at Lacis in black, white or beige for 45 cents each at their retail store in Berkeley or online on this page (scroll down until you see “Hat Cord” 12″) on their website. (You can also buy 11-inch ones ( 12 for $6.50) online at Judith M Millinery Supply House on this page: 11-inch hat elastics.) Choose the color that will blend in best with your hair color.

You can also make your own hat elastic by buying elastic cord in pre-cut packages or by the yard at a fabric store or online. I got a couple of yards of this black elastic for 30 cents a yard at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics. It’s about 2 mm thick.

Elastic cord - csews.com

Cut it to the length you need, insert it into the hat and knot it at the ends where the metal barbs would be on the pre-made hat elastics. But you need a big knot to make sure it stays in place. You can also knot the ends around a small bit of wire, which will do a better job of keeping the elastic from slipping off. (I wrote a post about this in 2012. Back then I didn’t know where you could buy hat elastics so I made my own.)

Black elastic cord - csews.com

The pre-made hat elastics are primarily for “fitting” hats – hats with a crown that comes down near your ears. If you have a “sitting” hat, such as a pillbox, which sits on the top of your head, the pre-made elastic won’t be long enough so you may either want to make your own or explore using a hat pin or clip to keep it on your head. I’m not sure how a long elastic would look; I think that depends on how much your hair hides the elastic.

To insert the elastic, you need to make two small holes in the ribbon (usually Petersham – or millinery grosgrain) inside the hat. Most hats will have this ribbon, which operates as a sweatband, preventing perspiration and oil from staining the hat.

The elastic goes underneath your hair, not under your chin, so the holes should be made in the ribbon at the midpoint of each side of the hat near your ears. The elastic will go behind your ears so you want to place the holes slightly closer to the back of the hat.

I’ve used a large needle to make my initial hole and then taken the point of my small pair of embroidery scissors to make the hole large enough to slide the elastic through. As you can see this hat came with combs inside but I don’t like using them. You can see my hat elastic.

vintage black hat with combs - csews.com

And here’s a close up shot.

Hat elastic inserted - csews.com

And here’s a shot of the hat, which I love.

Black linen and velvet vintage hat - csews.com

UPDATE: I posted a photo from this post on my Instagram account (@csews) and @_sarawaters commented that she read this post but couldn’t picture how te elastic helps keep it on your head. So this update is for you Sara!

Where does the hat elastic go? It goes under your hair in the back. When my hair was longer, I just put the hat on my head with the elastic hanging down in the back and pulled my pony tail through. Or you can grab your hair, put the elastic under it and put the hat on your head.

I’m wore the black vintage hat in this photo. You can’t see the elastic here but it’s going from the crown of the hat and under my pony tail. (I’m wearing my red Anna Dress in this photo. You can read about that dress in this post: Finished: My Red Anna Dress.)

Red Anna Dress - back - By Hand London - csews.com

You can sort of see it in this photo – the elastic is that thin black line going from the velvet loop at the brim and goes down at a slight angle.

Black hat with hat elastic - csews.com

I also wore this hat with the first Anna Dress I made. It was windy that day as you can see from the photo but the elastic did the job. My hat did not fly away! If you have very short hair, shorter than chin length, I’m not sure if the hat elastic will stay down because you may not have enough hair to keep it in place; it might ride up the back of your head and then the hat will fall off. Hat elastics are probably best suited for hair that’s no shorter than chin length which is my current length. I purposely didn’t go any shorter because then I wouldn’t be able to wear a lot of my vintage hats. 😉

Vintage black hat with Anna Dress - csews.com

This vintage chapeau is not quite a sitting hat but has enough of a crown so I could use a pre-made elastic. (You can read more about the dress here: The Anna Dress: Celebrating Sewing Indie Month.)

I hope you found this information useful. One of these days I’ll write a post (or maybe make a video) about using hat pins.

Do you like to wear hats? I wear them every day, vintage and contemporary. What hats do you like to wear?

How to keep your hat on your head with hat elastics - DIY, hats, millinery - CSews.com