To Make A Simple Tall Hat

In "Patterns of Fashion", Janet Arnold details two extant tall hats. Most of the following discourse is based upon her work.

Historically, shaped hats were based upon either a felt or paper base. Depending on the style of hat, felt hats might be worn with just a hat band or decorated and covered with cloth. Paper hats where made out of a paper and glue mixture similar to modern paper mache and appear to have always been covered with cloth.

Both existing examples of the tall hat are based upon felt. The hats are both approximately 6 inches tall and covered in cloth finely pleated around the sides. This style of hat was worn by both male and female.

Presented here is an alternative for making a hat form for the tall hat because felting and paper mache both require considerable mess and shaping to create the desired form. Materials needed include pattern paper (a brown paper bag will work), yard heavy cloth (such as canvas or denim), 2 yards of ridgeline (plastic boning) or a stiff horse hair braid, yard lining material, and 1 yard of outer fabric to cover the hat with (wool, linen, damask, or velvet). All stitching assumes a inch seam. Some stitching may be more easily done by hand, but this is left to the sewer's discretion.

  1. The basic form of the hat is a tapered cylinder with a brim and a top. To pattern the cylinder section, cut a strip of paper 10 inches wide by the width of your head plus 3 inches. Roll the strip into a cylinder and adjust it until the cylinder has a slight slope or conical shape. Check the fit of the shape on your head while maintaining the slope. Tape the overlap when the desired fit and shape have been achieved. Press the shape flat and trim the top and bottom to form a smooth circle around your head and so that 7 inches of height remain. Cut off any excessive overlap leaving at least 1 inch.
  2. To pattern the brim, measure the bottom of the flattened cone. Cut a doughnut with the measurement you just made minus 1 inch for seam as the internal diameter. Cut the outer circle of the doughnut 2 inches outside the first.
  3. To pattern the top, measure the top of the flattened cone. Cut a circle with this measurement plus 1 inch as the diameter.
  4. Cut one of each of the pattern pieces out of the heavy cloth.
  5. Stitch the cylinder piece into a cylinder. Stitch the top piece to the top of the cylinder. Turn the form right side out and carefully snip the seam so that it will lie flat.
  6. Stitch a strip of the ridgeline or horse hair braid around the top and of an inch up from the base of the cone to maintain the shape.
  7. Stitch the brim around the bottom of the cone. Carefully snip the seam so that it will lie flat against the inside of the bottom of the cone.
  8. Cut four strips of ridgeline 7 inches long. Stitch them down the side of the cone and onto the brim at the front, back, and both sides. Crease the ridgeline at the seam with the brim so that the brim stands out perpendicularly from the cone. The hat form is complete.
  9. For the decorative outer layer, cut a circle 20 inches in diameter from the outer fabric. Cut two brims adding inch additional with to the outside of the doughnut. Cut one top and one cylinder piece from the lining fabric to line the hat with.
  10. Run two rows of evenly spaced gathering stitches around the large circle at 3 and 6 inches in from the edge. This will create the outer pleats.
  11. Pull the gathering and lay the circle on the hat form. Position until all the pleats lay flat. There should be some overlap onto the brim. Run a holding or tacking stitch around the base of the brim to hold the pleats in place. Cut of any excess that extends past the edge of the form brim.
  12. Stitch the two outer brims together on the outside edge, with right sides facing. Carefully snip the seam so it will lie flat when turned right sides out. Also, snip the inside of the brims so that inch can be turned under.
  13. With the right sides of the brims still together, slide them over the top of the hat to rest on the brim of the form. The outer brims should snugly fit around the base of the cone with the snipped inch upright around the cone.
  14. Tuck the snipped inch of the lower outer brim (the one which touches the form brim) underneath so the snips now rest on the form brim and not the cone. Stitch around the base of the brim on top of the snips to secure the outer brims to the form.
  15. Carefully mangle the hat to turn the outer brims right side out. The brim that is currently on top will flip over the form brim to be on the bottom.
  16. Stitch the lining cylinder piece into a cylinder and attach the lining top piece to it. Insert the lining into the hat so that no raw seams show.
  17. Tuck the lining down inch at the base of the brim. Ensure that the snips of the bottom brim are tucked down and concealed by the lining. By hand, stitch down the lining to the bottom brim.

No hat is truely complete without some decoration. Add a hat band, a badge, a silk sash or a flourish of feathers.


This page created and maintained by Cathy Snell .
9/17/03