Introduction: Checkpoint Charlie Hat

Picture of Checkpoint Charlie Hat

This is a copy of a hat my friend Doc Pop brought back from (East) Germany. He got it near Checkpoint Charlie so that's what he calls it; to me it looks more like the hat Governor Tarkin is wearing when he gets insulted by Princess Leia. But either way it's cool.

I made this from a thrift store blazer, rather than buying fabric new. It cost about $9 (in expensive San Francisco) and I'll get another 2 hats from it, easily. If you have fallen in love with yardage, you'll need about a third of a yard -- but take the pattern to the store and lay it out there to be sure.

For the brim, I use a piece of flexible clear plastic of the kind blister packages are made from. Many packages have large flat areas from which the plastic can be reclaimed, although a lot are just too closely molded to the product. I have a stash of flat plastic for brims. Yay reuse!

The only other material needed is a yard or so of quilt binding or wide bias tape for the inner hat band. Tools required are sewing machine (although you could do this by hand as well), pins, and scissors.

Update: pix of one made from paper!

Step 1: Pattern

Download the attached ZIP file for the pattern. It contains five files:


I have not worked out a good way to get a paper pattern into a computer. If anyone has a good idea I'd love to hear it. Anyway I traced these in Photoshop... I didn't take the estimated 4 hours I thought it would take to add the seam allowance, so each of these shows only the stitching line. When you print them out, you'll want to cut a quarter inch out from the line; it may be easiest to draw the cutting line on first.

Also: the sizing is probably not correct. I marked a red line with a number of inches on each file, so you may need to make some xerox adjustments to get that marking to the right length.

Thanks for your patience everyone! Please post pictures of yours!

Step 2: Cut Out Pieces

Picture of Cut Out Pieces

If you're using a jacket, first deconstruct it, at least enough to lay out the pattern pieces. For this pattern, cut as follows:

1 x crown
1 x side
2 x flap
1 x strap
2 x brim, with seam allowance

1 x crown
1 x side

1 x brim, without seam allowance

Make notches as marked so you'll know where to match the pieces up.

Step 3: Construct Crown

Picture of Construct Crown

I like to sew the lining first, it gives me a sense of how difficult the stitching is. This one has a couple tricky points, where the outside curve of the side piece attaches to the inside curve of the crown. Pin carefully at the notch points. Another advantage of doing the lining first is that it's harder to sew the thin, hard rayon (or poly, or acrylic) than the thick, soft wool. Wool really wants to behave for you.

When you have both pieces together, press and/or topstitch the wool piece (I never bother with this for the lining). Then put the lining inside, wrong sides together, and baste around the bottom close to the fabric edge.

Step 4: Construct & Attach Flap

Picture of Construct & Attach Flap

Stitch the two flap pieces together along the curved edge, leaving the straight edge open. Turn and press; topstitch if desired (I think it looks better but it isn't essential).

Pin the flap to the edge of the crown, making sure the ends are symmetrical to the center front. Baste.

Step 5: Construct & Attach Brim

Picture of Construct & Attach Brim

Sew the two brim pieces together along the long edge. Turn and press (don't topstitch this one!)

Starting from one end, insert the plastic brim stiffener inside. Pin lengthwise, tight to the inside edge of the plastic brim piece, so that the pins are pointed to the left with the heads to the right. It doesn't matter if the seam allowances inside go on one side of the plastic or one on each side, but try to keep it consistent the whole way or you may get an Unsightly Bulge. Pull tightly so the fabric is a little bit stretched, rather than potentially saggy.

Pin the brim to the front of the hat, matching notches, over top of the flap. Sew it down along the pin line, removing the pins as you come to them.

Step 6: Inside Band

Picture of Inside Band

Try the hat on. Cut a piece of wide bias tape or quilt binding a little longer than the inside of the hat, to be the band. If the hat is a little big, you can cut the band to the right size and ease around the back, or stuff it with newspaper like they did in the Forties!

Pin the band to the inside of the hat edge, folding the first end in to make a nice edge when it's done. Stitch all the way around, keeping on the fold of the bias tape for a tidy edge. Tack the ends together on the side not sewn to the hat so they don't flop around.

Fold the band to the inside and topstitch all the way round the hat, making sure not to catch in the flaps (or brim, but that would be difficult).

Step 7: Add Strap Across Front

Picture of Add Strap Across Front

This is really optional but for me the strap makes the hat.

Press the long edges of the strap piece to the center, and topstitch if desired. The original actually did not topstitch this piece, it was simply pressed hard enough to stay in place. You could also use stitch witchery or a flexible glue to keep this down.

Pin to the hat front as in the pictures. You could tack through all layers but the original was stitched only on the inside, a nice touch that I wanted to retain.

Working carefully, adjust the pins until the inside fold of the strap is pinned to the crown, but not the outside. The pictures show this better. Stitch down, a millimeter or so to the outside of the pin, to get a nice taut strap.

And that is it! Hat complete. You may now put it on and order Imperial Senators to be terminated.


jmeowmeow (author)2009-06-19

Finally done with my denim realization. Piecing was a little tricky. My next will be in corduroy (with interfacing).

rachel (author)jmeowmeow2009-10-01

Hey, this looks fantastic! I must have missed when you first posted it. Great work!

jmeowmeow (author)rachel2009-10-01

Thanks! I get complements on the street. Despite (or because of?) its lopsidedness. From a look at the streets of Seattle, hats (or at least cute little caps) seem to be coming back in fashion. Now that I've made one, I look more closely at others. (spell check: not in dictionary: "denim", "Seattle" !?) I can't wait to see DocPop's denim rendition, if he ever slows down and gets a chance to do a little tailoring.

jmeowmeow (author)jmeowmeow2009-11-15

Hat #3.  Gray denim, no front strap, no brim stiffener, extra topstitching.

jmeowmeow (author)jmeowmeow2010-06-03

As modified for Halloween, with a Star Wars Rebel Alliance insignia, stitched red felt on white felt.

frenzy (author)jmeowmeow2010-06-03

This Instructable has won the "I Made It" Challenge, Thanks for being a part of the instructables community!

astrobug (author)2012-05-07

Excellent Instructable, and it turned out to be much easier than it looked! (Though, admittedly, I probably cheated by using fleece)

Paymeister (author)2011-11-09

Just made one of these: too small, alas! But as a first try I'm quite pleased. Thanks for the instructable!

fishydrew3 (author)2011-10-28

Thanks so much for making this instructable!!!! Made one out of what I had lying around the house. That one I made too small for my hubby. The second time around got a thift store old wool mens coat & made it prefectly. I did use iron-on stiffing for the bill instead of plastic. My husband loves it, because he can cover his ears when it's cold. Thank you again:)

rachel (author)fishydrew32011-10-30

That looks great! Thanks for posting the pic :)

Jamtaktics (author)2011-06-09

So far, because of my printer, Ive done this all by just looking and measuring...and scissors....however, its coming nicely. Im making mine out of old jeans

mamapeanut (author)2010-09-07

What a great, sassy pattern! Thank you so much for providing it!

I made mine out of a fleece boucle onto which I applied a light interfacing on the back of all pieces. Instead of using anything (other than the interfacing) inside the brim as a stiffener, I topstitched five lines. The end result is not stiff, but stiff enough to do the job. I realized that the hat was going to be too big the intended recipient according to the given dimensions, so I cut out all pieces on the pattern lines (i.e., not cutting them larger for a seam allowance), then sewed with a 1/4" seam allowance - meaning that each piece was 1/4" smaller on all sides when finished. This worked well for all parts except for the ear flaps, which I wish I'd made longer.

Thanks again for a great pattern. Much appreciated.

rachel (author)mamapeanut2010-09-08

That looks great! And you made it your user icon, aw!

Thav (author)2010-01-29

This step is so hard. One side keeps trying to sneak away and then I get these krinkles that make it fit badly. :[

rachel (author)Thav2010-01-29

Yeah, sewing opposite curves takes some practice.  if it's really beating you up, try basting it by hand first.  Just sew with a needle and thread (a contrasting color is helpful when you go to take it out) along the problem areas, to hold them in place for the machine.  Since you're doing one stitch at a time by hand, you have a lot more control over where the fabric pieces meet.  Good luck!

Thav (author)rachel2010-01-29

Thanks! I'll give it a shot. It at least has taught me to use a seam ripper better.

rachel (author)Thav2010-01-29

Ha!  I've been sewing since i was 8 and I can probably count on one hand the number of things I've made where I didn't need to rip out something!

Post a pic of your hat when you're done, I'd love to see how it comes out.

neumaics (author)2009-12-14

First, thanks for the pattern!

With very little previous sewing experience, I managed to make a couple of hats a while ago.  For the first version, I used unmodified pattern pieces, which turned out to be much (much) too big, so I adjusted the pattern to fit my head better. It serves me well as my work hat, now.

Thanks again. 

Thav (author)neumaics2009-12-15

How did you reduce the pattern? I printed them out all at like 90%. I measured the first hat I tried and compared the inner circumference to the circumference of my head and ended up with that ratio. Just wanted to see how you scaled and if it worked out well for you before I try.

neumaics (author)Thav2009-12-15

  How did you manage to scale them?  I attempted scaling but ran into problems, then decided to modify the pattern pieces instead.

On the side and flap pieces, I removed an inch from the length by taking  it from the center.  I cut a triangle shaped wedge from the top piece, so the circumference removed equaled what I took out of the sides.  I'll make diagrams if I didn't explain well enough.

The bill and band didn't need modification.

I imagine scaling would work better than what I did, especially for smaller iterations where my method would break down, but this was sufficient for me.

rachel (author)neumaics2009-12-15

If you can print the pieces at a reduced (or increased) ratio, that's going to be the easiest way to modify the size, because it preserves the proportions.  neumaics, your way is fine since it worked, and I usually will do something like that myself. But a bit of care is needed to make sure that the seams that go together don't change so they are different lengths, or at least not by very much!

rachel (author)neumaics2009-12-15


Thav (author)2009-11-16

Made it to step four. The pattern was too big for my head. My head is 22". I tried sewing some elastic in between the cap and the flap. I was concentrating so hard on that I put the flap on all sorts of crooked; not centered at all. Going to try again if I can figure out how to reduce the pattern some.

I had a little trouble following step 4. In the third picture, is that the unfinished edge of the flap facing down?

Attached is a picture of where I ended up. I used some flannel, probably about 1/4 yard x 60 inches (no liners).

rachel (author)Thav2009-12-15

Ha! This is an awesome picture.  Did you finish it?

Thav (author)rachel2009-12-15

No! Never did. I made the flap waaaay too crooked and I had so many stitches through that, some elastic and the sides that I couldn't cleanly undo it. I'm going to try again sometime.

jmeowmeow (author)2009-11-14

I used a plastic piece cut from a 2-liter bottle for my second hat, and it seems to have picked up a permanent crease.  My first hat used cloth-backed upholstery foam for the brim stiffener, which seems to have endured wear better.  Maybe I'll try topstitching the 3rd hat to stiffen the brim.

NetReaper (author)2009-11-05

great hat! It suits you well

nostahl (author)2009-11-02

could we get a pdf version of the pattern pieces so it prints out accurate in size.

alnator (author)2009-09-30

I was considering making this cap at some point and was curious as to what kind of fabric I should use, I was thinking twill or possibly a cordoroy. Would anyone be willing to make a reccomendation?

rachel (author)alnator2009-10-01

Any medium weight woven fabric that's not too stiff should work. Twill and corduroy both fit this description. The wool I used is actually a kind of twill. You may be referring to a cotton twill, which should make up nicely.

kronkoburg (author)2009-05-21


jmeowmeow (author)2009-05-10

At the end of this step, is the flap actually sewn or merely basted? The next step (the brim) uses the word "sewn" to describe how the flap is attached first before the brim is sewn over it. I imagine either way would work, since the step of attaching the inner band goes through the flap and crown. Can you believe "sewn" is not in the spelling dictionary for Instructables?

rachel (author)jmeowmeow2009-05-11

Basting is a subset of sewing. In this case it doesn't matter much; I used the term baste here mostly to indicate that further stitching will be done later. What's needed is for the flap to stay in place while you sew the brim and later the band on. You can sew the flap down as firmly as you wish here.

Thav (author)2009-05-07

I took the gifs you posted and traced them in Inkscape and saved as an SVG format. I set up the spacing so that the dimensions in Inkscape equal the dimensions you wrote on. I also wasn't sure if any of the other patterns needed the seam allowance drawn in, so I only included it on the brim. These should be viewable in Firefox if nothing else.

rachel (author)Thav2009-05-07

Fantastic! Thank you for doing this. I should learn more about Inkscape... All the patterns need seam allowance, except the stiffening which goes inside the brim. To put it another way, all the fabric pieces need seam allowance so they can be stitched together. But it is easy enough to add this when you're cutting the pieces out.

Thav (author)rachel2009-05-09

Okay, so I've added seam allowances to the other images as well. I chose either 1/2" or 1/4", whichever seemed like it would work. I look at sewing instructables more than I actually sew so I don't know what's appropriate. If you want to change them and you have Inkscape, if you select the seam allowance path and hit either Ctrl+( or Ctrl+) you can change how far away the allowance is from the pattern itself. I also noticed the font I used on Windows is not available on Linux. Woops.

scott8692 (author)2009-05-07

thank you very much

Robotrix (author)2009-05-07

What! First of all, using an old blazer for hat material is GENIUS. Secondly, you are a GENIUS! Star Wars reference in a hat making 'ible? i don't think life gets better than this.

muffin1 (author)2009-04-27

Also, dose anyone know what "kind" of hat this is?

Robotrix (author)muffin12009-05-07

you can find a similar hat called the Cadet Cap

Doctor Popular (author)muffin12009-05-01

I have been searching on line for the name of this type of hat, but have had no luck. They are Russian infantry hats from the Soviet era. I believe they were popularly used in Afghanistan.

muffin1 (author)Doctor Popular2009-05-01


scott8692 (author)2009-05-06

can i use over head projector plastic sheets for the brim?????

rachel (author)scott86922009-05-06

From a construction standpoint, sure. It might be a little floppy but you could use 2 layers.

ymer (author)2009-05-01

What is the circumference of the hat? :) I need to know if should make adjustments or if it will work as is. I have a big head xD

rachel (author)ymer2009-05-01

That's a good point! It's a 24" pattern so the inside band is going to be slightly smaller than that. If you need to adjust it, I'd suggest increasing the length of the side by half the additional amount, and widening the crown along its center length the by other half. This will allow all the pieces to still fit together correctly.

ymer (author)rachel2009-05-02

Okay, that helps a lot, thanks!

barry_allen7 (author)2009-05-02

Great job! I loved this hat and the instructable. Thanks for posting this. I don't know if this was a hard project for you or not, but either way I really look up to you. Keep it up!

muffin1 (author)2009-04-26

I really like the idea but could you please post the patterns so others (like me) could make one?

fsudaft (author)muffin12009-04-26

This is a good Instructable. Is there any chance of posting the pattern so I could have a shot of putting my own together?

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