The Making Of – Leather Witch Hats Part 1

finished witch hats

Making a Leather Hat

Jaime and I have big plans to attend many conventions and events. So many, in fact, that we just don’t have time to make full-scale costumes for each one. Still, as costume enthusiasts the idea of NOT wearing a costume seems ludicrous. The solution? A Stitch Witch uniform, featuring simple t-shirts and not-so-simple leather hats.

The techniques used for making a rustic, earthy leather hat don’t require you to be a master leather worker – little inconsistencies are fun! Otherwise you’d use vinyl. (But please don’t.)

If this is still a little over your head – don’t worry! We will be posting a short leather working tutorial soon to give you a head start on your leather costuming.

We’ll be walking you through the process step-by-step but if you aren’t interested in making a witch hat you cant make adjustments to the shape of the crown and brim to make your own style. – a top hat, for instance?

This tutorial is a part of a series!

The Leather

Milled Leather
We used Tandy Leather’s Milled Double Shoulder leather, which is soft and molds easily
Milled Leather Texture
Milled leather has a prominent grain that looks rustic and provides a finished feel.

There’s lots of different kinds of leather on the market, but if you aren’t using vegetable-tanned leather for your project, you’re limiting yourself. Any leather with a preexisting finish (colored, dyed, patent, etc) isn’t going to have the molding and tooling properties this more raw form does.

We used a milled double shoulder from Tandy Leather. This leather has been beaten into submission and has a lovely soft hand and beautiful texture.

Measuring your skull

Measure Skull Length
Borrow a friend to help you measure the length of your skull
Measure Width
Follow up with a quick measurement of your skull’s width
Measure Head Circumference
Final Measurement? Circumference. Jaime’s was 22.

We measured Jaime’s head from temple to the back of her head by holding a tape measure straight over her crown. Don’t lay the tape down along the curve of your head – you want it taught so that you have to eyeball the numbers a little. We did the same for the width and then got a circumference measurement as well.

Creating the brim pattern

Mark Length
Mark your head length on a sheet of paper
Marking Width and Circumference
Next mark the width of your head and used a curved ruler to make sure the circumference is accurate.
Mark Brim Width
Decide on a brim width and mark it all the way around . Jaime started with 5 inches and cut it down from there.

First mark the length measurement as a straight line in the center of your paper. Add the width measurement perpendicular to the length measurement to get the general ‘oval-ness’ of your head right. Then take a curved ruler or measuring tape to make sure the circumference of the oval is as accurate as possible. Ideally this should be close simply by drawing an oval around the cross you made earlier. Still it is most important that the circumference is accurate.

Cutting the brim
Cut out your brim pattern!
Try on the brim pattern
Go ahead and give your pattern a try. Check the fit and brim length

It’s a good idea to actually try on your brim to make sure the measurements are accurate. It should sit just above your ears comfortably without falling or tearing. Don’t forget to take silly pictures with your paper visor!

Creating the crown pattern

Mark Crown Length
This is based purely on preference. Jaime’s length was 19, mine was 22
Mark Crown Width
Draw a slightly curved line half the circumference of your head, plus a half inch
Finish Crown Pattern
Connect the top of the crown to the bottom with a smooth ‘fat’ curve, cut out

While the height of the crown is completely optional – the width isn’t. Make sure that your smoothly curved line is as close to 1/2 head circumference + 1/2 in as possible.

Cutting the leather

Mark Brim Allowance
Mark 1/4 inch from the inside of the brim for seam allowance.

Mark the leather 1/4 in from the inside of the brim pattern, then cut along the line. The edge of the brim does not need seam allowance. Make sure to use a sharp X-ACTO blade whenever you start cutting a new leather project!

Cut Second Brim
Cut out the first brim, flip it, and use it as a pattern to cut a second copy.
Cut Crown Leather
Cut out two pieces from your crown pattern

Use the first brim as a pattern for the second by flipping it over and using the first as a pattern. Make sure you’re holding the blade straight up and down.

Finish Cutting
After you cut your lining fabric out of the cone pattern, you should have these pieces

Cut the lining about 1/2″ in bigger than the crown pieces for a little extra give. When you’re finished you should have two leather crown pieces, two lining crown pieces, and two brims.

Preparing the Leather

Prepare Edges
Prepare the edges with edge bevelers and slickers
Get Some Help
Find a partner to help you tackle longer tasks, like edge beveling
Make Same Face
This of course works even better if you and your partner make the same concentration faces

First use an edge beveler to take the corners off the edges of the leather. Start at the top and use long, smooth strokes. Then flip the leather and repeat on the backside. Follow up with an edge slicker, used slowly and carefully, to burnish the edges. The most important edges to burnish are the inside of each brim and the left and right of one crown piece. Take special care with these.

That’s all the information we’re going to cram into part 1 – Why not jump over to part 2 – Preparing to stitch and constructing the hat!