The Biggins Hat is a hat comprised of a Band and a Gathered Crown. Renfaire lore says the name comes from the idea that it was the first hat you wore at the “biggins” of your life. I’ve no idea if that’s true or if someone just made it up because they got tired of being asked about the name….
The following instructions assume that you have already made your
Basic Brim Patterns. If you have not, you’ll want to follow the link and
This hat is appropriate to lower class characters and non-prosperous shop keeps. To some degree, it’s the elizabethan equivelent of a hair net. This hat is more appropriate to men, as ladies should generally be wearing some form of coif.
Note: These directions do not teach a modern Milliery approach
to hat-making. I’ve completely eliminated the use of standard hat sizes and
head-size ovals, because I’m assuming that most of the people reading this are
*not* trying to set up a hat-making shop. The method I’ve worked out below works,
but doesn not produce standardized patterns sizes unless you are one of the
lucky few who actually possesses a standard size head.
Making Up the Band
To make the Band, you will need your target head, fabric,
a ruler, and a pen, as well as some double fold bias tape, a sewing machine,
thread, and scissors.
Cut a piece of fabric, 3" wide by a good 30".
(30" is larger than most heads, and that’s what we want here.)
Wrap the fabric band securely around the head, starting
at the hairline in front.
Continue wrapping until the base of the skull in back.
Pin the band at the base of the neck. Once pinned, the
band should sit squarely, without moving around the head. If it moves,
Remove the band from the head. Mark a line 1/2" (or
your standard seam allowance) from the pin.
Cut through all layers of the band at the line you just
Fold the band in half, then in quarters. Use the pin as
the end of the folded band, so that you don’t include your seam allowance
in this. Mark the quarters (within the seam allowance) with a pen.
Unfold the fabric, and sew the edges, right sides together,
at your standard seam allowance (1/2" unless you’ve changed the directions).
The band is now a circle.
Fold the band in half, wrong sides together, and sew around
at your standard seam allowance.
We’re going to bind the edge of the band with double fold
bias tape. It’s important to notice that, when you look at the tape, one
edge sticks out slightly past the other. You want that edge down when
you sew. Trust me, this makes things go much better.
Trim the seam allowances of the band to 1/8" from
the seam line. Insert the cut edge into the fold of the bias tape. Sew
down the bias tape, being careful to catch both sides. This finishes the
The Large Crown Pattern
These crowns start with your Basic
Brim Pattern without Seam Allowances. You will also need a piece of
fabric (the size depends on, or may determine, the size of the crown you
make), a ruler, a marking device (chalk is preferable to the sharpie I
use in this demo!), sewing machine, scissors, thread, and three hand needles
and strong buttonhole thread (these last two are for the cartridge pleated
Place the brim pattern on the fabric. We’re going to enlarge
it by marking out from it with a ruler. I generally enlarge by no more
than twice the width of my brim. In this case, my brim is 2", so
I am adding 4.5" (2×2" + 1/2" seam allowance).
When you finish marking, you’ll have a great big oval.
Using your ruler, transfer the Side and Front/Back marks to the outside
edge of the oval you just marked. Cut this oval out.
Making Up the Gathered Crown
Machine around the outside edge of the oval, using a stitch
length of 4 (or your machine’s maximum length) and a 1/4" seam allowance.
Do not backtack at the start or stop of these stitches, as they
will be used for gathering. (Note: I usually run two lines of stitch for
gathering — one at a 1/4" from the edge, and one at 3/8" from
the edge. This makes the gathered edge more manageable.)
Here’s a totally random trick I picked up in a sewing
class: if you keep your index finger at the back of the presser foot and
press firmly on your fabric to keep it from feeding out the back, the
material will gather itself into a light ease. (You’ll have to let up
when you’ve sewn several inches — just let the bulk of fabric pass and
then repeat.) This is very useful if you’re working with something that
doesn’t want to gather. LIke, say, leather.
I’ve done half the crown with a normal gathering stitch,
and half with the technique above. You can see the difference it makes!
To gather the brim down fully, you’ll need to find your
top thread(s) from your gathering stitches and pull them gently, but firmly.
Periodically, you should ease the clump of gathered fabric away from the
threads you’re pulling and in towards the ungathered area of the crown.
Use your Basic Brim Pattern without Seam Allowance to
check that the crown has been gathered to the correct size.
We’re going to bias bind the edge of the crown. Since
the crown is gathered and could stretch while we’re sewing it, we’re going
to use a piece of double fold bias tape cut to size and sewn into a circle
to make sure we end up with the right size crown. You’ll need to cut the
bias tape to the size of the inside oval from your Basic Brim without
Seam Allowance, plus 1" for sewing. Open out the main fold of the
bias tape at each end and sew the flat sides (ie, the sides witout the
little folded in flaps) together with a 1/2" seam allowance.
Finger press the seam open by pinching it firmly. (It
was about 127 million degrees Farenheit in my room the day I did the photo
work for this, so my fingers were only slightly cooler than an iron would
have been. Even when it’s not that warm, though, finger pressing is really
all you need here. An iron will remove too much of the main fold of the
Divide the circle of tape into quarters and mark with
pins. The seam will correspond to the Center Back mark of the crown, and
the pins will be the Side and Center Front match points.
Trim the crown seam allowances back to just next to the
Begin pinning on the bias tape at the Front/Back and Side
marks. You want to pin it so that the main fold sits right over the edge
of the crown, and the tape encases the edge. I say "want to"
rather than "will" because this will invariably fail, and the
tape won’t be caught on the back side or you’ll think you had it down,
and when you move on it will slide up the shaft of the pin because you
didn’t actually catch either side. This is a total booger. Don’t
feel too badly about it.
When you get your match points marked up, you will probably
need to adjust your gathering again to get the right amount of crown for
the amount of bais tape you have to deal with. I do this one quarter at
a time, because it’s easier that way.
You should have pins every 1.5-2" around the crown.
Now, to be totally honest, the odds of sewing around the
bias tape and catching both sides of it and the actual crown
are amazingly slim here because of the bulk from all the gathers, so here’s
an easy cheat: Set your machine for a wide zig zag stitch, then sew around
the bias tape like you normally would.
That’s about what your finished crown should look like.
If you use thread that matches your bias tape, and that bias tape in turn
matches your fabric, the whole thing looks less a mess. ;)
Matching Up the Crown and the Band
You might be wondering why we used a hat brim pattern
to decide how much to gather the crown. Due to a really odd coincidence
of the human head, the back of the head (covered by the biggins) is amazingly close in size and shape to the top of the head. This picture shows the
Band piece I used in this demonstration sitting inside my crown pattern.
You notice that it sits nicely, and overlaps itself by exactly an inch
(two half inc seam allowances). That’s useful to know.
Unfortunately, nothing in life is perfect, and odds are
that your crown stretched a little during sewing. You want to match your
Center Front Crown mark to your Center Front Band mark. Pin around both
sides, smoothing any extra to the center back of the hat.
At the center back, you’re simply going to pin it and
forget it. ;)
Attaching Crown to Brim by Machine
Line up the Crown and the Brim, outside of Crown to top
of Brim, matching the Side and Front/Back marks. Pin if needed. Since
these pieces no longer have seam allowances, sew close (1/8" is sufficient) to the edge around the crown/brim join. Be sure to catch both crown and brim. Easy, eh?
The finished join.