Sewing Pattern for a Wool Newsboy Cap and Beret

Wool tweed cap with brim - photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas

Waaaay back in June I started working on a six-section cap for my husband Kofi. For months he’d been asking me, when are you going to make something for me? So I told him I’d make him a cap. I thought it would be a good learning experience. I’ve either made hats without a pattern (like this red velvet hat) or from patterns I’ve bought (like this one I made from a Patricia Underwood Vogue pattern). Last spring I bought a couple of books on hats (see Books on Making Hats) so I began drafting a pattern for a six-section cap based on instructions from Fashion Hats by British milliner Karen Henriksen. My goal was to create a sewing pattern for a wool newsboy cap. The beret is just the cap without the brim.

I bought a protractor (remember those things from grade-school geometry?) to make sure I’d get the correct angle. A cap is a circle (360 degrees!), which means that one piece of a six-section cap would comprise 60 degrees (6 x 60 = 360).

My first pattern piece looked like this, which created an oversize hat that was more suited for a woman with a lot of hair. Though I suppose if you were aiming for a 1970s look – the Apple Cap, which has been described as a floppy newsboy cap, would be fine. Here’s my mannequin head (we call her Natasha) wearing that hat, which as you can see has a bit of a high crown. Kofi thought it was rather pouffy on him but fine on me. So first cap to me!

First draft - 6-section cap pattern Woman's 6-section wool cap with brim on manny head

So I began making adjustments to the pattern and drafted four more before I got one that he liked. The frustrating part was that each time Kofi tried one on, he said stuff like, “I don’t get it, why can’t you make it look right?” and Why is this taking so long?”

Then I’d try to explain – “Because I’m experimenting and these are DRAFT patterns. I don’t know what it will look like until I’ve sewn it together and that takes TIME.”

On Draft No. 2 I adjusted the curve, thinking this would help take down the pouf but the angle was too steep so it didn’t curve right when I sewed that one up.

6-section pattern piece - curve too sharp

I’m not sure where this piece fits in the chronology but I forgot to add the seam allowance to this piece. Look at how it fits on Natasha! Oops. No way that hat fits on my head.

Beret pattern piece - too narrowWool beret - too small

However, I did discover that if I folded up the hem, I had a cute beret! Natasha’s head is small so that’s not how it looks on my head. On me, it’s more of a “sitting hat” as opposed to one that goes completely around my head. (Uh, another hat for me.)

Small wool beret - hem turned downCute wool beret on mannequin head

A couple drafts later I finally had a cap Kofi liked. I made the pattern piece shorter (below right) so it would fit more closely to the head. That’s the cap Kofi’s wearing in the photo at the top of this post. I was finally done. Whew!

Draft pattern pieces for 6-section cap

Construction issues

The ongoing problem I had with these wool muslins was that this fabric had a rather loose weave so by cutting my pattern pieces on the bias, the finished versions were all wider than the circumference I was aiming for. Darn it.

There is indeed a lot of stretch along the bias so the hats were anywhere from one to two inches too big. This meant a rather loose fit on my husband’s head and making adjustments to the subsequent pattern pieces. The thing you need to remember when you make adjustments to the piece is that your change will be multiplied 6 times. To explain, I’ll use metric measurements – if you make your pattern piece 1 cm smaller (say, 0.5 cm on each curving side), you will be making your cap 6 cm smaller (6 pattern pieces, 0.5 cm per side) in circumference.

Material notes

Wool tweed fabric ($2/yard)
Interfacing – I used what I had on hand – a lightweight as well as a medium weight cotton woven fusible

Brim – I tried a few different things with the brim. I used the same fusible interfacing on the pie pieces of the cap but it needed additional stiffness so I also inserted a couple different things:

Heavyweight craft interfacing

Heavyweight craft interfacing for brim

Heavyweight craft interfacing and quilting mylar (no melt) $4.85 for a 12 x 18 inch (30 cm x 45 cm) sheet.

The mylar gave it a bit more stiffness but using just the craft interfacing was fine too. And I’m sure if I added several rows of top stitching on the brim, that would also have given it more stiffness.

I’m still not sure how to accommodate the bias in a pattern piece for this cap. I made another version last week for my husband in a different wool fabric but it was also a loose weave and I ended up added two darts to take in the excess fabric. If you have any suggestions please comment below. I’d like to create a pattern piece that gives me the size I want!

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