Introduction: How to Make a Leather Hat
Hello! Have you ever wanted a good adventure hat, need a unique hat for a costume or just wanted a new fashion statement? Well then this instructable is for you! I am going to show you how to make your own leather hat! It takes some doing but it sure pays off in the end, so let's get started!
If you are just getting into leather work, I wouldn't recommend trying to make a whole hat right off the bat. But by all means go ahead and try. If you are new, I would recommend looking at these instructables to learn all of the basic skills needed for this project, actually I would strongly recommend looking at these because they are very good, and I will not be teaching you any of those skills in this instructable. This is for hats, not basic leather working skills, so read up!
(Not in order of importance, I just can't re-arrange them so this is how they are.)
Step 1: Tools and Materials
After going through those tutorials, it is time to begin!
You will need most of the tools pictured above plus something to wet the leather for tooling (also something to dye your leather with, and gloves if you are going to dye it). The edge following groover, awl, E-600 glue, and the six prong punch aren't really necessary, but they are very helpful.
Material wise, you don't need much. Leather, obviously, waxed thread, leather sewing needles, leather dye and sealer. I use Veg tanned sides from Tandy leather. They usually run about 30$ each. They are more than enough for a good sized hat. If you don't know what that is, or if you would even like working with it, go to Tandy or other another leather supply store and ask them, they will gladly help you.
There are hundreds of colors of leather dye, and just as many types of said dyes. I used oil dye and an acrylic sealer for my hats but it is completely personal preference. Go to a leather store and look around, ask someone who works there, you will learn a lot.
Step 2: Picking a Style
There are hundreds of thousands hat styles in the world. Not all of them are good for leather. Hats that turn out well in leather tend to be simpler and smaller, but don't let me stop you, pick one and start thinking! Most hats you can figure out with a little time and effort. Also keep in mind the size, shape and, weight of the hat because they all play a part in how the hat will turn out. Also size changes the amount of time it takes to make. Bigger hat= more stitching= more work. But don't let that hold you back, be creative! I personally have made a fedora and two top hats. So it is up to you! For this instructable I will be making a pork pie style hat because I like that hat, and it has a nice, simple shape.
Step 3: Patterning
Here comes the tricky bit, Patterning! This take a bit of practise so don't give up! A little time spent on this will save you a ton of time later. So here it goes.
After you have decided what hat you would like to make, it is time to start measuring. Start with the circumference of your head. Then add about 1-2 inches to account for the shrinkage of the the leather (you will most likely have to turn the hat inside out by soaking it in water so that will make the hat shrink). Then, start sketching! I use Autodesk Inventor Professional 2015 for my patterns but you can just sketch them up yourself, or find a pre-made pattern and scale it to your noggin. I have included the pdfs of my Pork Pie hat patterns I did not include the side because it is just a rectangle (which is 25.18 inches long and 5.75 inches tall.) and can't fit on a piece of printer paper.
*After making the hat, it turns out the height should be a little less so if you are making this hat, make the rectangle 4 inches tall instead of 5.75, also make the brim larger.
Step 4: Cutting the Pieces
After transferring your pattern onto the leather it is time to cut them out. Since I had to split my brim into four pieces I could use my leather scissors on all of the pieces, which I think is the easiest way to go, but it is up to you because hey, it's your hat. (I used my rotary tool on the side because it was quicker but I could have used scissors.)
*I ended up needing to cut small triangles out of my brim to make it curl so if you want to make this hat, keep that in mind.
Step 5: Punching and Stitching
Next is the most time consuming, stressful and tedious part of it all. THE STITCHING!!!
I hope you took some time on your pattern because ladies and gents, this is where it really pays off. If all of your measurements are right, all of your stitches should line up the way you want. But if not, you will have to do some emergency cutting and maybe overlap some pieces. But hey, that's hat making, it took me two to figure it out, so push through! Depending of the style of crown, changes the way you are going to stitch it. For a crown like a porkpies's you would saddle stitch the hat inside out. For a fedora crown you could get away without having to stitch it inside-out. You will figure it out as you go. I would recommend starting at the crown, then sewing the brim and finally the back side seam. But it's your hat so, you do you. For the stitching of the crown and brim I always start at the front and then take each needle in the opposite direction around the hat so they meet back where they started. That way everything turns out nice and symmetrical.
Step 6: Dying and Finishing Touches
Now here comes the fun part! finishing off the hat and adding your personal touches. After you finish the stitching, you have to turn your hat right-side-out and then give it its final shape. You may also want to make a band for around the outside. This can be made out of leather, but it is up to you. I always texture mine with some interesting pattern. For the band on this one, I used a small spring and hammered it into the leather at random intervals for a nice contrast of pattern. I then dyed it the same color as the hat. In my second top hat I used some suede that I had laying around to make a sweatband. It really finishes off the hat but it does cost a bit more, especially if you use suede. You probably could get away with a nice ribbon or strip of soft fabric. Also if the hat is for someone or you are going to sell it, consider making a little piece of leather with your name on it, to glue inside.
Congrats! Your hat is complete!
Step 7: Show Off Your Beautiful New Hat!
Its done! or at least close enough. Show it off!
Step 8: Thoughts
So this hat didn't turn out as well as I would have liked but hey, hatting is an experiment. The only way to really get the hat you want is practice, practice, practice. Other than the brim I think it was quite a successful leather en-devour.
Keep making and enjoy your new hat!