Introduction: How to Make a Leather Bushcraft Hat

Picture of How to Make a Leather Bushcraft Hat

I had made a fantastic video tutorial on creating a bushcraft hat, but after being online for the last 6 years YouTube decided to remove it without telling me. So now, unfortunately I don't have another copy of the vid but I did have some images I used in making the vid. This presented a fantastic opportunity to do something I've wanted for a long time and create a more comprehensive and detailed instructable.

My foray into hat making came about because initially, when I started into leather, there were no resources online that offered plans on how to make these hats, and any I found at my local leather shop where overly expensive and didn't fit the style I wanted. So I grabbed my favorite Tilly hat, took some measurements and designed this hat based partly on it, and partly on what I wanted in a bush hat. It's my hope that this design, like all of the instructables I create, gets passed around as much as possible. It was pretty frustrating, when I first started out, to find there were so few resources for beginners, in any medium, and that plans and templates were so unattainable. This design, like many of my plans, can be modified simply by adjusting a few measurements to become anything from a fedora, to a top hat, to a cowboy hat. It was made to be fluid, so that there is no set number of holes to be punched, or stitches to be sewn, thereby keeping the fundamental design in tact, but allowing room for creative alteration.

Step 1: Tools and Equipment

Picture of Tools and Equipment


  1. Sharp leather knife, x-acto knife, etc
  2. Wheel cutter
  3. Rake hole punch
  4. Sewing Awl
  5. Skiver
  6. Leather edger or 220Grit Sandpaper
  7. Rubber Gloves
  8. Wool for leather dye
  9. Spray bottle with water


  1. 2-3oz leather 26x15" minimum
  2. Patch of tanned deer hide 8x8" minimum
  3. Fiebings leather dye
  4. Large sheet of paper
  5. Leather polish (see my other instructable on how to make your own)
  6. Leather Glue

Step 2: Creating Your Template and Cutting Out Your Leather

Picture of Creating Your Template and Cutting Out Your Leather

This pattern can be used to make a hat that's anywhere from 7 1/8US (medium) to 7 5/8US (XL) depending on how you set it up, which I'll go into later.

Making your template is pretty easy. There are only four parts to your hat; the brim, two side bands and the crown. The crown can be made from the cut out center of the brim, thereby saving you leather. As youcan see by the template, the tapered section of the crown is actually slightly rounded. This sets the overall look of the hat by tapering it at the front. If you wanted to make a pilgrim style hat, or top hat, you'd simply leave the crown round. Likewise, on a cowboy hat, you would taper it even more across the front and the back. You'll notice the brim is slightly longer than it is wide. That's because the human head is longer than it is wide so making it perfectly round would make for a pretty uncomfortable hat. In the bushcraft hat style, the hat tapers up to the crown. Again, you can change this feature as you see fit for a straighter, taller hat, or for one that has a more pronounced angle. It's really up to you.

Once you've created your template, transfer it to your leather and cut out your pieces. You don't need to be to tidy since we're going to work a bit more on the edges next.

Step 3: Prepping Your Edges

Picture of Prepping Your Edges

Now's the time to fix those little slips with the x-acto knife. If you have a leather edging tool, then this process is pretty easy, however if you don't you can simply use a bit of 220 grit sandpaper. Using such a low grit sandpaper will take longer to smooth the edges, but it'll go a long way in keeping down inevitable burrs that can happen on the suede side of the leather. If your suede side does burr, you can clean them up with your knife.

Skiving the Edge;

If you ended up using higher weight leather, like I did with my first hat, you're going to need to skive the edges where the leather joins together, tho you can leave the brim as is since it won't take any of the forming. It's not a bad idea to thin your 2-3oz leather as well, as it'll help a lot in the forming process. Just be sure to skive the suede side of the leather only.

Step 4: Punching Your Holes

Picture of Punching Your Holes

The biggest piece of advice I give, always count your holes. I can't stress this enough since one hole difference, between the brim and side bands can make your hat look crooked and ruin its symmetry. The holes on the inside of the brim should equal the holes along the bottom of both side bands, the holes along the top of the side bands should equal the number of holes around the crown etc.


You can punch a series of holes around the outer edge of the brim for a reinforcement band. It's not necessary, since we're working with solid veg tan leather, and, honestly I find it looks nicer with just a smooth stitch around the outside edge of the brim. For the reinforcement band, you just need to cut an extra piece of deer hide, which I'll get more into later.

Also Optional;

Another good addition are breather holes in the side bands of the hat. I'd recommend two holes per side, evenly spaced and filled with lacing grommets for decoration. Again, it's not essential, but it can go a long way to keeping your head from overheating when wearing your hat.

Step 5: Sewing Your Side Bands to Your Crown

Picture of Sewing Your Side Bands to Your Crown

For starters, we're going to stitch the brim together inside out, with the suede on the outside. When you stitch the ends of your side band together, you should have the edge of one side overlap the other, with the inverse on the other side. You'll notice that the bottom of the new side band is somewhat concave. This will help form the overall shape of the hat since the seams will be on the front and back of the hat, rather than the sides.

Next sew on the crown of your hat, again with the suede side out. Only stitch one half at a time, starting from the front and ending at the back. This will prevent it from torquing due to over snug stitches and help it keep its symmetry better.

Step 6: Attaching the Top to the Brim

Picture of Attaching the Top to the Brim

First you're going to need to turn the top right side out. For that, you're going to need to soak it. Now we won't be wet forming it just yet, but the entire top has to be soaked really well, almost to the point of dripping wet. The reason we wet the top is to prevent wrinkling along the sides where the leather will be flexing. If you don't soak well, the grain will stretch and create creases in the leather that can't be smoothed out, even with burnishing (rubbing with a wooden doorknob shaped tool).

Once you have the top with the grain side out, you can attach it to the brim. There are a couple of ways you can do this, and they are entirely up to you;

  1. Brim overlaps side bands. - makes for a larger hat, however creates a place for water to get between when it rains. Can be fixed with wax waterproofing or by gluing before stitching which also reinforces the seam.
  2. Side bands over Brim - Makes for a smaller hat, however prevents water from getting between the top and the brim. This is the most practical way of doing it.

Again, like you did when attaching the crown, when you attach the top to the brim, do one half at a time, starting at the front and ending at the back.

Step 7: Shaping Your Hat

Picture of Shaping Your Hat

This is where the wet forming comes in to play. First, we need to soak the hat to make it pliant. A really good resource would be to have a pre-form in the shape of a head, that you could set it on, but it isn't necessary. When leather becomes wet, it becomes more pliant, and as it dries, it begins to take the shape molded into it. Keep working on the shape, either using your hands or a burnisher, (any smooth round object will do), using your own head as a template, until you get the shape you want.

Step 8: Dying Your Hat

Picture of Dying Your Hat

There's a lot of techniques when it comes to dying evenly, but mostly it amounts to;

  • how clean your leather is
  • how oil free your leather is
  • how 'humid' your leather is
  • and what you use to apply it with.

For me, I like to prep my leather by cleaning it with a preparation of distilled water and 10% alcohol, which seems to work very well. Next, I like to give a nice, light spray of distilled water with a spray bottle, because as the person who taught me used to say, "dry leather is thirsty leather". Then I like to apply with balls of raw wool, or the smaller wool on a stick that comes with the Fiebings bottles for smaller jobs.

**Important**: Don't dye the inside of the hat. It will leach to your skin and make you look very foolish in the process.

Here's an interesting technique;

If you want to give your hat a worn look around the band, just let it dry completely, then give it a light spray all over. Then, along the bottom half where the sides meet the brim, give it a heavier spray wetting it. The spots that are wet will take less of the dye and look faded compared to the rest of the hat, making it look worn. Next take a slightly damp, soft cloth and start rubbing down the entire brim. This will lighten it overall, and make the shade difference between the two areas more noticeable.

Step 9: Cutting Your Deer Hide Pieces

Picture of Cutting Your Deer Hide Pieces

The Hat Band;

Take your wheel cutter, and make your patch of leather round. Next, start cutting around it, roughly 1/2" wide and keep cutting until you reach the center and can't cut any more. You should end up with a long leather lace. Next, cut it into three pieces. Start one end by punching a hole through all three strips then running a small lace of leather through it and tie it off. Attach the finished end to a table or chair, then start braiding your three strips, continually measuring its length against the diameter of your hat. It's important you keep the strands flat as you braid as any wrinkles in the leather will show in the finished band. Once you get it to length, you can punch a hole in all three strands and again, run a small lace through them to keep them together. Next, put the band around your hat, and tie the small laces together, fitting it snuggly. You should end up with a nice finished end.

Sweat Band;

Cut another piece of deer hide, roughly 1 1/4" wide that's the inside diameter of your hat. I neglected to mention that you can stitch this sweat band in when you attach to top to the brim of your hat, however it's not necessary. Some good quality leather glue should bond it in place nicely.

Step 10: Polish and Waterproof

Picture of Polish and Waterproof

The point of a hat is to keep the sun off of your heat and the rain out of your face and an unprotected hat won't do either very well. I highly recommend using a beeswax based polish that will fill any of the stitch holes and help waterproof your seams. Here's an instructable I made on making your own polish.

A little trick with leather polish;

If you apply your polish while your leather is still wet, your finished product will be softer and more flexible, however if you apply your polish to dry leather, it'll stay firmer and less flexible. I really couldn't tell you the science behind it, but suffice it to say it's a matter of choice. A flexible hat can become floppy over time but is more comfortable to wear, while a firmer hat will keep it's shape longer, but require more break-in time. It's your choice in the end.

Step 11: Finished

Picture of Finished

That's it. Creating a hat can seem like a big job, but it's really one of the easiest leather projects you can undertake. The best part is the flexibility and creativity that goes into designing them, and as far as I'm concerned, there's no such thing as a bad hat.

Like always, thanks for following my instructable and I hope you enjoyed it.


WacksavageG made it! (author)2017-05-25

A few minor changes but basically your pattern... thanks

antagonizer (author)WacksavageG2017-07-16

That tooling is as cool as heck. Beautiful.

Wysinski made it! (author)2017-07-07

It's my hat.

antagonizer (author)Wysinski2017-07-16

True 'outback style'. Awesome!

DarkH12 made it! (author)2017-07-12

Perfect instructable! I only started trying to make hats a week ago, this is my second hat so far! It's still a bit shiny here because the finish is still drying, I just finished making it, haha.

antagonizer (author)DarkH122017-07-16

Wow, great form! I call that 'American style' with the dip in the crown. Same way I make mine.

JonathanR75 made it! (author)2017-04-05

Great Project!. I modified the pattern a bit, but it fit like a glove at first try. Thanks for the idea!

colinmartian (author)2016-12-30

Great tutorial!

Two quick questions- For sewing wire into brim, would you fold over the edge, or wrap entire edge in lighter gauge leather?

B) For the side pieces, wont there be a disparity in amount of leather when attaching a larger circle to a (slightly triangular) smaller circle. Are you making sides conical or doing all shaping post construction via wet molding? Thanks!!

TheGunNut44 (author)colinmartian2017-03-20

Hi, I know this reply is late but hopefully it will help someone. Sewing wire into the brim can be done both the ways you mentioned, but if you are using really thick leather for the brim I would suggest wrapping the entire edge in lighter "gauge leather like you said. As to your second question maybe this link will help you out.


TheGunNut44 (author)TheGunNut442017-03-20

Sorry link did not work here is the whole thing.

bmetok (author)2016-07-31

I just finished making this and found that the brim keeps coming out wavy instead of having just the normal dips in front and back. Any tips on how to resolve this?

RyanJ11 made it! (author)2016-03-02

Here's my first one, the only thing wrong is that I doubled up the brim, but should have sandwiched the crown between the two layers. Goes awesomely with the scary black duster, keeps snowflakes and raindrops out of the eyeballs!

antagonizer (author)RyanJ112016-03-04

It looks fantastic. I like the larger brim.

元緯賴 made it! (author)2016-01-17

I've done my one, it's good looking & I so love with it.
I've also check another article about hat-making:

It's kind different, so I refer this article and change a little bit on this hat.

Anyway, really thanks for your instruct, it's help a lot.

antagonizer (author)元緯賴2016-01-21

Love the hat band. Especially the frill at the ends. Looking good.

spiritwalker6153 (author)2015-10-25

This a very cool looking hat that would go well with my duster. Well done.

EpicElrod (author)2015-10-05

Great tut! Where do you buy your leather? I have looked at Tandy and it is freaking expensive!

antagonizer (author)EpicElrod2015-10-05

Trade secret; try the Amish communities as they generally do their own tanning. I have one less than an hour away and they usually charge me half of what Tandy asks.

EpicElrod (author)antagonizer2015-10-06

Nice mate! I have not too far away that I go to when I go to the Amish auctions.

Serf_ (author)2015-09-10

This looks fantastic! I can't wait to try a few. Question...maybe I missed it but I have seen a few different options in the photos here but what suggestions are there for the "thread" or stitching material? I notice yours is much different than the last user-submitted hat. I'm obviously a newbie to leather working.


antagonizer (author)Serf_2015-09-11

I use a waxed poly thread for the speedy stitcher, that's made to look like linen. You can use waxed cotton, but it's nowhere near as durable. If you check the sewing awl section of your leather store, they should have a selection of thicknesses and colors. The thickness is up to you since there's no real stress on the stitching. Thicker will give you more prominent stitching while fine will hide it a bit better.

JerryS12 made it! (author)2015-09-07

my first one. it turned out alright the size is a little off and the height of crown is a little tall but pretty good instructions thanks. could not have done it without you.

antagonizer (author)JerryS122015-09-07

Looks really good. Try a bit of wet forming on the top to get the shape a bit more to lower the overall height. Push the entire crown down to create a crater shape, then you can put it on your head and shape it to raise the center so that it's round. That'll lower its height between 1/2" to 3/4" depending on how deep you make it. For the brim, you can wet form it as well, and weight it so that it forms flat, then you can reshape it from there. Awesome construction my friend. Looks solid.

moefire (author)2015-07-02

I'm new at this stuff will any grade of leather work or is one better than another for making hats

antagonizer (author)moefire2015-07-02

This uses veg. tanned, but you can use chromium tanned leather just as well. Doesn't take to shaping as well tho and is generally softer, so you'll need a heavier so it doesn't get floppy on you. The advantage is that it's more pliant and bounces back from being crushed better than veg. tanned will.

DanelF (author)antagonizer2015-08-18

Awesome! I still may try the pre-finished, maybe using a 4-5 oz weight instead. I'll definitely post the results here either way! Thanks again!

antagonizer (author)DanelF2015-08-18

Just watch your overall weight with thicker leather. A heavy hat can become a real pain in the neck when worn for a long time.

DanelF (author)2015-08-18

Hi, I'm new to leather working so please forgive this question. What would be the difference between using the tanned leather as described compared to pre-finished leather such as Tandy's Utility and Oily Hides?

antagonizer (author)DanelF2015-08-18

You'd have a problem making a hat that wasn't floppy with a brim that didn't droop down. Don't get me wrong, some chromium tanned leather could work, but you'd have to test their ability to hold up their own weight. Then there's the issue of wet forming which doesn't work so well with non veg tan leathers.

HollyHarken (author)2014-05-27

This is a GREAT instructable!! I never did figure out how to use a sewing awl. Now I'm wondering if I could sew it on my sewing machine with a leather needle. Maybe an ible showing how to use a sewing awl would be a good idea.

Very well made instructable. Thank you for posting it.

antagonizer (author)HollyHarken2014-05-27

I never thought about folks not knowing how to use them since I've worked with mine for so long. I'm making another instructable so I'll add an extra step where I demonstrate it with a short vid.

ElChick (author)antagonizer2015-03-02

This is a FANTASTIC 'Ible, and I am SO making one of these! You've definitely inspired me!!

As a side note, I have a fairly acidic skin Ph level and had to stop wearing leather watch bands due to them reeking of vinegary sweat that would just never go away. Have you ever noticed that kind of an issue with leather hats? Perhaps doing a fabric sweatband as opposed to leather may help? Suggestions?

I agree with Holly - I've never used a sewing awl, and would very much appreciate an 'Ible on how to use one.

NewY1 (author)ElChick2015-04-27

This is a great project. As for the low Ph levels, a good friend once told me; get Ph strips, unjust your diet to include more greens and less acid foods like dairies, meats coffee and all junk foods. (all medications cause the Ph levels to drop severely too) Carnivores tend to have lower Ph levels in the acidic range. Once in while add a little baking soda to water or drink bottled water with a Ph of 7 - 9.3 (but don't make it a habit) you need to be in a 7.4 range to be balanced so you can enjoy various jewelry, leather etc. Good luck with that.

antagonizer (author)ElChick2015-03-02

Make your sweat band removable and replaceable. It's easier to design it that way than modify an existing hat. Possibly using velcro, I'm not sure but I'd love to see what you come up with.

ElChick (author)antagonizer2015-03-02

I'll have to give it some thought. I'll let you know what I come up with.

james.stumpf.96 (author)2015-03-09

Great project, used some scrap left over from bags I was making for my daughters. Added a wire at the brim to stiffen it up, I used oil tanned leather instead of the veg tan because I had it on hand.

Awesome job. I love the finished look. Don't forget to waterproof, especially the seams.

beverly56 (author)2015-01-04

This is awesome. I've been looking for something like this for a long time. Thanks so much. I'm going to give it a try!

Rachael K (author)2014-12-01

That is one super cool hat! Well done.

jasonparr (author)2014-07-29

Very nicely done. I have never tried something like this, but I think I will try this. Great work.

sl03560 (author)2014-06-30

Great Tutorial! When trying to recreate the hat I had some issues. How much overlap to you give to the sides? In your tutorial you have one row of stitching to join the sides, but in the finished product pictures you have double stitching. I like the the double stitching, so after sewing only a single row I removed and altered for a double row stitch. Next i started on the crown, but when I came to my last 4-5 inches of stitches, i noticed i had an excess of leather on the crown (not holes but leather) which made it bunch way more then normal. I figured it was the difference in the sides i reduced to fit the double stitch. Do you make the sides slightly longer for double stitch, how much over lap do you give the sides and crown. Lastly what size Rake hole punch do you use? Thanks again for the great tutorial.

antagonizer (author)sl035602014-06-30

I use single and double row, almost interchangeably, depending on the look but still use the same 1/4" overlap. If you narrow the sides, as you say you'll end up with extra leather on the brim. If you look at the dark brown hat, you can see the first row is almost on the edge of the leather. To add the extra row of stitching, I always punch my holes and stitch when the leather is damp so that, I don't end up with split holes and I can get as close to the edge as I need.

paleotool (author)2014-06-27

Great job and great tutorial! I think I'll have to make one as they look so good.

doodlecraft (author)2014-06-24

These are wonderful! Excellent work and instructions! :)

Vodika (author)2014-06-18

I am sorry but I am having problems getting the correct size, could you please go into a little more detail on how to measure (adding or subtracting ) to get the size desired. I really like this and want to make one for myself, my son and brother so I need to come up with 3 sizes LOL

MaryGail (author)Vodika2014-06-20

use measure tape and wrap around your head to get size you need and measure the wide of the leather to fit around your head that should do the work , try one size first and see if that works if it is tight than make it alittle bigger than size of your head

MaryGail (author)2014-06-20

thanks for sharing I'm gotta try to make me one someday

VentureScout (author)2014-06-13

good job

jaxboy (author)2014-06-10

Very nice 'ible! You made it so easy to follow, that I think even I could do a reasonable job of one! I do have a question, however. When you were talking about the patterns, you said the hat could be sized to any head from 71/8 to 7 5/8,and that you would discuss this later. Maybe I missed it, but I didn't see that in the 'ible. If I missed it, please tell me where it is. If it isn't in the 'ible, could you please tell me how to size the hat? This isn't a criticism, but just a question. I definitely will use your 'ible to make my hat.

antagonizer (author)jaxboy2014-06-10

No it's a perfectly valid question. The variation from 7 1/8 to 7 5/8 is very small and can be adjusted two ways. The first I cover in section 6 where I talk about brim over side bands or side bands over brim. Sidebands over brim will make the opening larger while the other way will narrow it some. Second is by using a sweat band. The thicker material you use, the smaller you make your hat, especially if you use a padded band. Hope this helps.

About This Instructable




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