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The Floppy Flat Cap

Hats - 143
Hats - 144

The simple, soft flat cap is a smart look for middle and lower class characters. It can be work alone, over a simple coif, or for women, over a caul. 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 Soft Brim

A Soft Brim is simply two layers of fabric, sewn together and finished as a complete oval. This is the simpler of the two brims we will go through here.

To make the soft brim, you will need your Basic Brim Pattern With Seam Allowances, enough fabric for you to cut two basic brims with seam allowances, a yard of thin single fold bias tape, and of course thread, sewing machine, scissors, and pins.

Lay the pattern on a double thickness of your fabric (so you can cut both pieces at once.)

Trace around both sides of the pattern (ideally on the back side of the fabric and with chalk, rather than the ink pen I’m using here). Be sure to tranfer the Side and Front/Back markings, as these will help you line up the brim and the crown later. It is very helpful, at this stage, to be working with the right sides of the fabric together so that you will not need to manipulate them later.

Pin the layers together inside the brim and cut around the outside of the piece only. (We cut the center oval out later. We want to hold off as long as possible to minimize the chances stretching, as most of an oval is technically on the bias.)

With right sides together, machine stitch the two layers of the brim around the outside edge of the oval at half your normal seam allowance. Use a slightly larger stitch than normal to reduce stretching, and do not pull when you sew. Let the machine do the work for you.

Sew a second line of stitch at the normal seam allowance
(if you used my drafting directions without modifications, that’s 1/2″), with normal stitch length. (Note: I use a 2 – 2.5 setting for stitch length.) It’s still important not to tug on the brim while you sew it, but you can be a little rougher on it this time.

Trim the seam allowance back to just next to the first
line of stitch (1/2 the seam allownce).

Clip small triangles out of the seam allowance, being careful not to snip the inner line of stitches. This is to reduce bulk when you turn the brim right side out.

Turn the brim right side out, and smooth the outside edge into a nice oval. If you’re prone to ironing and/or using a fabric that can be ironed, now would be an excellent time to iron the brim.

Sew around the inside brim at your normal seam allowance.

Check point: At this point, you should have an oval with a fully finished outer seam, and one seam around the inside edge. If this is what you’ve got in front of you, you’re ready for the finishing steps.

Trim the inside seam allowance down as far as your farbic will allow. I’m using felt, which doesn’t ravel, so I’ve trimmed it to 1/16″ or less. If you’re using an unstable brocade, then a) you’re totally insane, and b) a little fraycheck will be a huge help for you. You need to get the seam allowance to under 1/4″.

We’re going to seal the edge by applying thin single fold bias tape. The most important thing to know about applying this stuff is that the fold is slightly offset — one edge actually sticks out past the other. You want to put the long side down, so that you are looking at the shorter side while you sew. This radically increases the odds that you will succeed in sewing down both sides of the tape at once, instead of sewing the side on top and having the bottom side sewn intermittantly or not at all.

Note: I’m using a contrasting color bias tape for this demo so that it’s easier to see. I’d really recommend not doing that in your own hat, because it’s too easy to see.

Sew the bias tape along the edge, short side on top/long side on bottom/fold at the edge of your trimmed seam allowance. Sew slowly, few stitches at a time, about 1/8″ away from the inside edge of the bias tape. (You’ll notice there are no pins in this picture. I find that it’s actually harder to get thin single fold on when it’s pinned — it get’s pulled slightly out of line when you pull the pins out before sewing over them (you do pull your pins out before sewing over them, right? Of course you do). If you’re really, really worried about your ability to line this stuff up while you’re sewing, you can baste it, or dab a little glue stick on the fold and press it firmly over the edge of the brim to hold it temporarily.

If you’re like me, you’ll probably find that you missed a titch of the bias tape here or there on the back side of the brim. You can hand tack those. (Or if it’s late and you’re in a huge hurry, you can stick a little drop of fabric glue in and call it a day, but it’s probably best to make sure no one finds out you did that…..)

This is what your finished, fully bound brim should look like.

On the head form, you can see the brim sitting about where it’s meant to. It’s not too floppy, because I’m using a double layer of felt. If this were made of a thinner fabric, you’d see a more exaggerated floppy effect.

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.

Hats - 144

All Done!


Hats - 160
Hats - 161

There is one more thing I’d like to point out. This is a hat that is a little tempermental about how you wear it. If you pull it down below where it’s meant to sit, it looks all a mess. Be aware.


  1. Naomi
    Naomi April 16, 2011

    Thanks ever so much for this. May I ask what thickness of felt were you using?

  2. missa
    missa April 17, 2011

    Hmmm…. I believe I was using the cheapest, most crap acrylic felt on the market – perhaps a hair less that 1/8″ thick? It’s the stuff you can get as by-the-yard felt cheaply. You’d get a similar effect with a medium iron-on interfacing on medium cotton, or one of those upholstery fabrics with the weirdo-plasticy backing, I hope that helps….

  3. Sue
    Sue August 23, 2015

    What a shame that you used dark material to make the hat in the pictures. It makes them quite hard to see well. Your steps look very do-able though. I could very well be using this in the next couple of years for stage costumes.

    • missa
      missa August 24, 2015

      It was what I had on hand. I’m glad the demo proved useful in spite of the beige color!

  4. Nancy E Sparlin
    Nancy E Sparlin August 13, 2018

    I made a flat cap, interfaced but no wire, and the head hole turned out too tight after the seam allowances and binding. Can I just stitch a new line outside the original circle and cut away a little more? Do I have to start all over?

    • missa
      missa August 13, 2018

      Not necessarily. You can stitch outside the original stitch like, but your cap have less crown. Flat caps normally don’t have a lot of crown, so what you will see is that the edge of the crown won’t meet the edge of the brim. Did you snip the seam allowances before binding? If you didn’t, unpick the binding and snip the seam allowance in to the almost the seam. Alternately, you can snip down to a 1/8th inch seam allowance and bind with bias on the same seam line as the original join. Hope that helps!

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