Introduction: Fierce Fleece Dragon Hat(s)
Runner Up in the
Sew Warm Challenge
Making fleece hats is a great way to get started in sewing. It's a forgiving material which sews easily.
These dragon hats are based on a modified commercial pattern which was enhanced to add scales and teeth. It's a simple 4 panel base which was duplicated to create an outside design and inside liner. This creates a warm, double layer hat.
I've used this pattern in the past and enhanced it before to make a variety of animals including a shark (fin, gums and teeth), squirrel and tiger (teeth, ears), skunk (Mohawk and ears) and an eel (teeth, fin).
- Fleece for inside and outside (1/2 yard each max),
- Fleece scraps for teeth (white) and scales.
- Interfacing to stiffen the fins / scales
- Sewing supplies such as pins, needles, thread
- Sewing Machine (though this project could be hand stitched, a machine will speed the process considerably).
- Measuring tape
- Marking pen
- Scissors / rotary cutter
Note: In the pictures, I was making the two different hats pictured, so you'll see a couple different materials as I move through the steps.
Step 1: Base Hat
As I've mentioned in the intro, the base of this hat is based on a commercial pattern which was designed for a space helmet. You can easily create this hat from scratch using the base pieces of the face mask and the back of the head (cone shapes).
Leave the pieces which will become the front of the face mask long (horizontally), as you can always shorten them before you finally sew up the front, but you can't lengthen them if you've made them too short. Same with the height of the head (down the front and back of the neck). Leave that long to accommodate the seam and ensure it comes down the back of the neck far enough. You can always shorten later if you need to.
Outside shell, fold your fleece for the with good sides in. Cut out the front and back pieces. Repeat for the material which will be the inside of your hat.
Both: With good sides facing in, pin left front panel to the left back panel and sew together. Repeat for right hand side.
- Inside: With good sides facing in, pin and sew left and right halves together down the center line of the head.
- Outside: DO NOT SEW TOGETHER (yet) - we have to install the fins/ scales first.
Step 2: Make the Teeth
Making fleece teeth is fun and easy to do. This process can be modified to make larger or smaller teeth as needed.
You will be mapping out your teeth and sewing in a large zig zag pattern. In the images, I used a 2 x 2 (2 inches high and two inches wide), but in future would do 3 high by 2 wide to allow for better flexibility in the length of the teeth.
Cut two strips of material and lay with good sides facing in and pin together. The height of your material will be the height of your teeth +1/2 inch for seam allowance (1/4 on each side). For each hat, you'll want 8-10 teeth depending on the size of the hat and size of the teeth
From one end, mark off the width of your teeth on one edge using your marking pen. If using two inch spacing, then mark at 2, 4, 6, etc. On the other edge (starting from the same end), mark off your odd numbers 1, 3, 5.
Now you will connect your dots (with your sewing machine) going from bottom to top and end up with a zig-zag pattern. (I drew a couple of the lines in the pictures just for illustration purposes, this isn't necessary unless you need the visual to follow.)
Pick an edge and cut out the fleece between each tooth being careful not to nick the seam. Clip off the pointed ends of the teeth. This will allow them to get a better point on the next step. Once done, you end up with a flat string of peaks.
Turn each peak inside out and use a chop stick or paint brush to get the point on each tooth. When you're done, the string will appear to twist and ball up (see picture), but don't worry. They can be flattened out to sew or will flatten out if cut to separate.
At this point, I leave the teeth in a string until I know what kind of spacing I'm going to want. In this project, I did end up separating them, but not always.
Step 3: Make the Fin / Scales
Next we'll construct the fins or scales for our dragon. These are made of two parts, the outer fleece covering and a stiff inner material to keep them upright on our dragon.
Determine the size and shape of your fins based on individual preference and the size of your hat. We made ours about 3 inches tall and relatively thumb shaped (though much wider). As these are all done individually, you can angle them in the hat to achieve a more curved appearance, just be sure to make them tall enough to allow for this.
Cut two strips of fleece the same size and pin together with good side facing in. Like the teeth, these will be turned inside out when done. The height of these will be the height of your fins plus 1/4 inch, seam allowance.
Sew each fin individually, starting a new stitch on each fin. You'll need 7-10 fins for each hat depending on the size.
Once sewn, cut out and turn inside out using a chopstick or paint brush to push the point out if necessary.
Cut your interfacing (stiffening) fabric out to slightly smaller than your fins. Slide the interfacing inside each fin, cutting to get a good fit as possible. A little loose is okay, but you don't want it too big otherwise it'll distort your fin. The bottom of the stiffening material should reach the bottom of the fin as you want both the fleece and the interfacing to be sewn into the hat.
Step 4: Install the Fins
Take the left and right sides of the outside of your hat. Lay one side flat, good side facing up. Lay your fins on this, pointing out as you expect to see them in the end, to get your layout and angles.
Flip the fins over onto the good side (pictured) being sure to keep your angle. You'll notice they appear to be angled up when laid on the good side but when flipped out they'll be angled down. The bottom edge of the fins should come at least to the edge of the fabric for the outside of the hat. They can extend over (any excess will be trimmed after it's sewn).
Lay the other half of your hat on top with the good side facing in.
Pin both sides together, ensuring that you have at least one pin through each fin to keep it in place and maintain its angle. Once pinned, you can gently turn it right side out to get a sense of how it will look and make any necessary adjustments.
Sew along your center seam (down the center of the head). Remove pins and trim excess fin and fabric on the inside.
Turn right side out. This is what the outside of your hat will look like. Congratulations.
Step 5: Put It Together
We'll now put the outside and inside together and install the teeth.
Take 1/2 of your hat and put it on your fist, right side out. Take the other half of your hat and place it over that first part with the right side in (right sides are now facing each other).
Line up all of your edges and pin to hold the two pieces together.
Install the teeth
Take your teeth and determine if you're going to keep them in a strip or separate. Place teeth between the inside and outside parts of your hat with the points facing in (between the good sides).
Be aware of where your eyes are going to be and try to avoid having a tooth directly above the eye. Otherwise, go crazy.
The bottom of the teeth should be at least even with the edge of the two materials. They can extend below, any excess will be cut off later.
Pin around the inside edge of the face mask, being sure to secure each tooth as you go.
You're going to sew all around the edge of the hat leaving a small space unsewn so that you can turn it right side out.
- 4-ish inch gap will be located at the back of the head
- Put a pin running opposite the others to signal the start and end of that gap.
Once sewn, you can turn right side out through the gap you left and voila! You have a dragon!
Step 6: Finishing Up
You're almost there.
While you have the hat still open (hole in the back) and able to work on the inside, you'll want to do a few things
- Check all of your seams to ensure that they're all secure. You don't want to end up with any unintended holes.
- Check the fit. If your hat is too big, you can take in the side seams to make the hat a little smaller. Just be sure you do both the outside and the liner. (If you take in the center seam, your fins will get shorter).
- Check your front flaps for length. Fold them over the front of the face and check that you have good overlap without too much extra. Turn inside out and shorten if need be.
To close the front flaps, I use two small snaps (size 3). This allows the front to be closed or left open. As you can see in the pictures, I installed 4 snaps on one of these hats because after a few days wearing it, my son decided he wanted it to be a little tighter fit. Now he has two options.
Close it up.
Once you've checked your seams and are happy with the fit, you need to close up the back seam. Fold the cut edges inside and pin. Surface stitch this to close up the back of the hat.
You're done. Get outside and enjoy your hat.
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