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The Flat Cap

Hats - 145

Hats - 146


This is a smart little cap for characters in the middle class and beyond. It can be work alone, over a simple coif, or for women, over a caul.  Again, ladies (especially of higher rank) will want to make this cap a little smaller so that it sits on the hair rather than the head. It looks much more dainty that way.

The following instructions assume that you have already made your Basic Brim Pattern. If you have not, you’ll want to follow the link and do so.


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.

The Two-Piece Crown

The Two-Piece Crown will actually be the easiest pattern to make, because you already have the pattern.

You will need your Basic Brim with Seam Allowances, and a piece of fabric large enough to lie it out twice. For these directions, you will also need some double fold bias tape (1/2″), a sewing machine, thread, scissors, pins, and all that junque.

Lay out the pattern on a double thickness of fabric. You’ll want the right sides together.

Transfer the pattern to your fabric, marking Sides and Front/Back. Pin the layers together inside the brim.

Cut the brim out, but leave the middle intact. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Sew around the edge of the brim, about 1/4″ in from the edge of the oval. Sew slowly and gently, without tugging on the brim. You don’t want to stretch or distort it.

Sew again, at the normal seam allowance. Trim the seam allowance back so that it’s quite close to the outermost line of stitches, without cutting them. This gives you a reasonably good finish inside the hat.

Now, holding the side of your fabric with the center oval marked on it, pinch the center of the oval and pull away the other layer of fabric. From the side, you get something that looks a little like a UFO. Make a small clip in the center of the oval, being careful to cut only though the one layer of fabric. You want to leave the other side intact.

Remove the central oval from the marked side along the pattern line.

Remove the pins and turn the hat. Smooth the seam allowances so you get a neat oval. If you’re inclined to use irons and/or using an iron-able fabric, now’s the time to do that.

Now, you have to make a choice. If you want your hat lined, repeat the same steps with your lining fabric but do not turn in. Instead, place the lining inside the hat, making sure to line up Side and Front/Back marks. Treat the hat and lining as if they were a single piece in the following steps.

We will be using 1/2″ wide double fold bias tape to finish the inside edge of the crown, where it meets the brim around the head. Position the crown right side up under the foot at your standard seam allowance (1/2″, unless you have modified the pattern). Lie the bias tape over the crown, facing away from the seam allowance and with folded edges facing up. Using your finger, press open the edge of the bias tape that touches the seam allowance line. Sew carefully in the fold of the bias tape, making sure you stay on your seam allowance line, all around the crown opening. (Yes, it sounds like you need an extra
hand an possibly a few more eyes for this. It’s possible, and you get used to doing it after a while.) You can use pins for this if you like. I don’t, but I do this a lot.

Note: You’ll probably want to use a bias tape that matches your fabric. I’m using a contrast so you can see it better in the pictures.

Use your fingers to press the bias tape towards the seam allowance. You should end up with something that looks like the picture. If that’s what you have, go ahead and trim the seam allowance back to about 1/8″. Do not cut the bias tape, just the seam allowance.

Now, fold your bias tape over to the inside of the crown, and sew it around the edge. This seals the bottom of the crown and makes
it look nice.

Note: You can do this with the bias tape up where you can see it. When I was doing this, I had thread that matched my fabric in the needle, and red in the bobbin, so I sewed from the top to get the
right color thread onto the right colored side of the seam. You don’t have to do that; it was just my hyphen showing again.

The finished two piece crown, seen from the bottom.

This is also a perfectly acceptable way to make a smart little beret, btw. That might be useful to someone somehow….

Making Up a Stiffened Brim

A Stiffened Brim has an interlining layer in some stiff material, usually with Millinery wire along the edge. This gives the brim a very smooth look and a degree of shapeability. (Note: Millinery wire isn’t really exactly period for most of history. Um, at all. Sorry. You can buy it online through

Traditional Millinery uses buckram for this interlining,
which is great so long as you never, ever get it wet. A lot of hats made for ren faire purposes use plastic canvas as an interlining (an idea that nearly caused my Millinery teacher to faint) — great, but kinda heavy, and hard to go through with a sewing machine, and it can show through the outside of the hat if you’re not careful or the hat gets wet. Trust me, because I’ve don this many a time. A double layer of craft felt sized with regular Elmer’s White Glue will work in a pinch. I’m going to use a Pellon product called PelTex, which is a super heavy duty sew in interfacing. It’s expensive, unfortunately — 8$/yd, last I checked, but you can get a lot of brims out of a yard.

As well as your interfacing, you will need about a yard of Millinery Wire, a cutting pliers, your Basic Brim Patterns (both with and without seam allowance), enough fabric to lay the brim with seam allowances out twice, thread, sewing machine, hand sewing needles (preferably a small curved one), scissors, pins, and some patience.

First, we will prepare the stiffened interlining. Lay your Basic Brim Without Seam Allowance pattern on your interfacing (again, I’m using PelTex).

Trace off the pattern, makings sure to transfer the Side and Front/Back markings. Cut the piece around the outside, then carefully remove the inside oval as well. Do not cut through the brim.

The next step involves securing the Millinery Wire to the edge of the brim interlining. You will need the wire and the cutting pliers. If you are using plastic canvas, you are probably best off attaching your wire by hand, using an overcast stitch. (It will be slow and annoying, because the little pokey bits on the canvas will catch the thread all the gosh darned time.

Incidentally, I’m saying Millinery Wire specifically because it does not form permanant kinks when bent the way a normal wire does. It’s, um, like, tempered and junk. (That’s also why I say it’s totally not period for most periods….)

If you’re using a brim interlining that can go through a sewing machine safely, you can put the wire on by machine. You’ll want to set your machine for the widest zig-zag stitch it has, at a stitch length of 2-3. Line the edge of the brim and the Millinery wire up with the center of the foot. Start stitching at the center back of the brim, and go slowly. You want to make very, very sure that you don’t hit the wire with the needle, as it will break the needle. Now, I’ve had a piece of broken needle hit my face literally 3/4″ from my eye, so I’d really recommend safety goggles when sewing over wire (or around metal bonings). Go slowly, allow the machine to feed naturally, and keep everything lined up and you should be fine. If you’re nervous at all, go ahead and do it by hand with a hand overcast stitch.

I like to cut the piece of wire off from the main roll after the brim is mostly wired. (This prevents annoying measuring errors.) About 2″ before you complete the brim, cut your wire so that you will have about an inch of overlap. Where the wires overlap, you’ll simply continue to zig-zag with them right next to eachother, again being very careful not to hit wire with needle. I don’t backtack this, because the inch overlap is more than sufficient to keep things from pulling out. Besides, this will be totally encased in the brim and protected from wear and tear.

Here’s a closeup of the center back join in the wire, in case the description didn’t work.

The finished brim interlining, sitting on the head. At this point, it holds it’s shape completely and can be gently shaped. (Resist the urge to bend it, though, as it’s much easier to put the brim fabric on when the interlining is flat.)

To cut the fabric to cover the brim, you’ll want to use your Basic Brim Pattern With Seam Allowances on a double thickness of fabric. It is helpful to have the right sides together.

Trace out the pattern, being sure to transfer Side and Front/Back marks. Pin the layers together inside the brim.

Cut the piece around the outside edge only. We will be working the center oval seam before we cut out the middle bit.

With right sides together, sew around the inside oval once, about 1/4″ inside the oval line. (This puts your stitch line half way inside of your seam allowance.) These stitches stabilize the actual seam, so no stretching occurs, and help to control the seam allowance fabric so it’s easier to turn the brim around the interlining. You really don’t want to skip this step.

Cut the center oval out along the line marked from the pattern, then sew around at the normal seam allowance.

Snip the seam allowance straight in, and almost to, the innermost line of stitches. Do not snip through these stitches!

Lay the finished brim interlining on the brim fabric, lining up the Side and Front/Back marks. You want to pin the topmost layer of the brim to the interlining, leaving the bottom layer free. You want to match the inner line of stitches on the brim fabric with the inside edge of the brim interlining. This might take some gentle persuasion, but they are made from the same basic pattern so they should go together if they’re lined up correctly.

Sew the brim interlining to the wrong (top) side of the top layer of the brim by machine. (Unless you are using plastic canvas — you guys do this by hand.) You want to sew less than 1/8″ inside the brim from your wire with a straight stitch. It’s very important that this stitch stay very close to the wire, or you will be unable to hide it when you finish the brim.

At this point, if you turn the whole assembly over, this is what you should have: One free floating layer that is only attached at the center, one oval that is attached at the center and sewn around the outside edge to the brim interlining, and one brim interlining (likewise sewn around the outer edge). If this looks like what you’ve got, you’re clear to go ahead.

Trim the seam allowance of the brim layer that is sewn to the interlining. Trim ONLY that one seam allowance.

Once that seam allowance is trimmed, you can turn the brim around the interlining. You’re literally going to turn the free floating piece of labric through the central oval of the brim. That should leave you with a flat brim. The center oval’s seam allowance will be covered by the fabric that you just turned through. The seam allowance of the fabric that was turned through will be visible past the edge of the layer that’s sewn to the interlining.

And now for the “fun” part. You will need a heavy supply of both patience and pins here, because we’re going to roll that seam allowance over the edge of the brim and cover the seam that attaches the interlining with it. And we’re going to do it by hand. Starting at one side, pinch the seam allowance of the free piece of brim inward so that it butts square up against the edge of the hat.

(Why *are* we doing this by hand? Can’t it be done on machine? Don’t I see this done on machine all the time, with the little ribbon bit around the edge? We’re doing it by hand because it looks better, it’s far more period, and it’s The Right Way(tm). Sure, you *can* do it on a machine with petersham ribbon. And you can cook your hamburgers in the microwave instead of fussing with a grill, too. But do you really wanna be that guy?)

Roll the pinched seam allowance down over the edge of the brim and secure with a pin. I find it easiest to do this twice, about an inch apart, and then work the little teepee that forms between the pins into a smooth roll with my thumbnail. Do anything that works for you, but take care to get a nice, smoothly rolled seam allowance that covers the stitch line. You should be pinning about every half inch. Really, it’s a beastly annoying task and my least favorite part of the hat. But it looks so nice when you’ve got it all finished…..

Here are the only tools you need to finish the brim: a small curved needle and thread. If you don’t have a curved needle, this can be done with a straight one, but it’s more difficult because you want to hide the stitches as much as possible and it’s very hard to get into that curved seam with a straight needle.

If you’ve not used a curved needle before, you basically hold it perpendicular to your work. Use the tip to pick up a small amount (a few threads on a woven) of the flat brim fabric, the push the curve through to pick up a small amount of the rolled edge of the seam allowance. You should end up with a small straight stitch that’s barely visible. You’ll want to make your stitches small and quite close together, but not right on top of eachother. 1/8″ to just shy of 1/4″ apart will do. I usually have 3-4 stitches per half inch. I also put in a knot every 2″ or so, just a small one, because I’d hate to have the thread snap and have to start all over. I’m paranoid like that.

Once the stitches are finished, this brim is done and ready to become part of a hat! (Show with crown, because I don’t seem to have a good shot of it alone. Oops!)

Attaching Crown to Brim by Hand

When you’re joining up a Brim and a Crown by hand, you’re doing it because the seam is quite bulky or will not pass flat through the machine. That in mind, I find that it’s often helpful to pin the brim to the crown (top of Brim to outside of Crown) at the Side and Front/Back marks.

To sew the Crown and Brim together, you want to take small stitches that pass through the very bottom of the Crown and the very edge of the Brim. The easiest way to accomplish this is to press the Brim down against the side of the crown while you pass the needle through both. Keep your stitches small and tight, and knot every 1-2″. Remember, the join between the Crown and Brim is the part of the hat that takes the most strain.

When you’ve finished sewing, hide the tail of the thread
by pulling it through the seam allowance inside the crown.

Hats - 145
Yay! How cool does that look?


  1. Sionaid nic Rose
    Sionaid nic Rose June 5, 2017

    Thank you so much! I’ve always wanted a flat cap of my own. Now, I have one – and a new skill. Took me a couple of days, and 6 hours of hand work; but, now I have a cap to match my summer gown.

    • missa
      missa June 23, 2017

      Well done, Sionaid! :)

  2. Alexsandr
    Alexsandr January 27, 2022

    Such a useful and clear tutorial! I had a lot of fun making one with burgundy/plum boiled wool, and I’m so happy with it. I have yet to add some fun little details, then it’ll fit very well with my late 16th-17th century outfit! Thanks so much :) I would definitely wear a hat like that everyday this winter!

    • missa
      missa October 20, 2022

      So glad! Do you have pics anywhere that you would be willing to share?

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