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The Floppy Pleated Cap

Hats - 139
Hats - 140

The Floppy Pleated Hat, which I’ve heard called a ‘Muffin Cap’ is a hat comprised of a Soft Brim and a Pleated Crown. When made from a softer fabric, this hat has a very unstructured look apprpriate to lower class characters. From stiffer fabric, as above, it’s a rather charming style formiddle class characters trying to make their fortunes. 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.

For the Pleated Crown

Pleat the crown.

(Sorry, I’ve been working on this article for two days. I’ll try not to be a smarty-pants about it.)

Measure one quarter (ie, Side to Front) of the inside oval of your Basic Brim pattern. Measure the same quarter along the outside of your crown. I had a brim measurement of 5.25", and a crown measurement of 15.5", which tells me that, in order to fit my crown onto my brim, I have to pleat it down to roughly 1/3rd of it’s current measurement. Well, since your standard pleat takes three times the fabric as you get in pleat length, I’m pretty much golden. I pinned in 1" pleats all around.

Please not that I’ve not finished off the edge.. That’s because I don’t want to put any more bulk into my pleats at this stage than necessary.

Place your Basic Brim without Seam Allowances over the
pleated crown to check to see if the pleated size is right. You can adjust it at this point if you need to. Mines about right.

Now sew down the pleats at your standard seam allowance. Yes, we still have a raw edge, but we’ll fix that in the next step..

Note: I’ve made the classic mistake of making pleats that face into my sewing machine, so the foot wants to catch them and flip back the beginning when I sew. If you make the pleats face away from the machine, this doesn’t happen and you probably won’t be cursing like I was. (Make them open out clockwise, not counter clockwise.)

Now turn under the seam allowance and sew it down about 1/4-1/8" from the folded edge.. This gives the crown a nice edge and encourages it to stand when it’s on the hat.. If you’re worried about the raw edge being seen, put a piece of ribbon over it (around the crown, one edge at the edge of the crown and the other to the inside) while you sew this seam. That ribbon will cover the seam in the finished crown.

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 - 139

All Done!


  1. Michelle
    Michelle March 10, 2010

    I can not thank you enough for these patterns I have been looking all over for a family trip to sutters fort in CA. You have saved the day !!!

    Much Thanks,

  2. Anna-Carin
    Anna-Carin November 21, 2010

    Great instructions, that really helped me out! Years ago, I saw a pattern for a floppy pleated cap in a sewing magazine and made myself a winter hat that became my favorite. Later I wanted to make another one, but couldn’t locate the pattern. Eventually I saw your instructions, made a custom brim pattern and was able to sew my new hat. I wanted the brim to be soft but have a more defined edge, so I substituted the wired brim, but skipped the wire (using velvet, heavy pressing wasn’t an option).

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