Picture of How to Make a Leather Top Hat

I've wanted a leather top hat ever since I saw them at the Georgia Renaissance Festival. The one I saw that inspired me to make one myself wasn't quite a typical top hat. Rather than getting larger at the top like a Mad Hatter top hat or just going straight up like a stove pipe top hat it actually kind of angled in toward the top. It also had a very stylized brim. I think this one in particular was designed for a woman, but I thought I could make something similar in a more masculine style, so that's what I did.

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Step 1: The Pattern

Picture of The Pattern
In my research into making a top hat I found several very useful instructional sites, which I will share here, but because of the style I wanted I couldn't actually follow any of them to the letter and had to create my own pattern.

Leather Learn: Top Hat

I believe this site uses a pattern that you can buy at Tandy Leather. The site does have a copy you can download and resize.

Tom Banwell: Leather Hat Tutorial

This one has two different patterns that you could potentially use.

I printed off and put together all three patterns as well as one I free handed. Then I tried to combine aspects that I wanted into one SUPER PATTERN! Okay, maybe that's a little much but, regardless, this is what it looked like.

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It was at this point I realized it looked like I was making a pattern for underwear...

Now that you can see what I came up with let me explain why the pattern looks the way it does. The three parts of the pattern are the Crown, the Brim, and the Top. The wavy bottom line on the crown is because I want the brim to swoop down in the front and back, but curve up on the sides. The sides of the crown are angled in towards the top because I didn't want it to flare out like most top hats. Oddly enough the top of the crown has to be curved so it will be flat when it's rolled into a cylinder. If the top goes straight across it actually ends up with an odd peak in the front once you put it together. This is caused by the angled sides. If they were straight up and down you could cut the top straight across.

As you make your pattern you'll want to check to make sure the fit is right. I have a felt top hat that my wife bought me for Christmas that is a perfect fit, so I took measurements from that to make sure that this new top hat would be of similar height, brim width, and fit. If you don't have that, it's okay, you can just measure your head and either stick to a pattern or just eyeball how big you want it to be. It's actually not a bad idea to make it slightly bigger than you need it because the leather can shrink. If it turns out a little too big in the end you can just add a sweat band to the inside, which isn't a bad idea anyway.

My measurements were:

Crown Circumference: 24 5/8"

Crown Height: 6"

Brim Width: 2 3/4"

Regardless of how you choose to do it remember to continually check the fit by actually trying it on your head, because that's the best way to know if it's going to fit. Another plus side? You can take goofy pictures of yourself wearing it!

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No instructable, I don't want to steal your glory! I was going for more of a Indiana jones look.
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The Rambler (author)  desertsniper1 year ago
Awesome man!That is a sweet looking hat. I love the finish on it too. And thanks for the compliment, but I wouldn't consider it stealing my "glory" haha. I'm sure you improved on my instructions where they needed it and figured out different ways that worked better for you. Sometimes I'm just interested in seeing other people's methods and what they've thought of that I haven't. That way next time I make something I can do it even better!
Mythor made it!11 months ago

So here is my first attempt at a leather top hat. thanks for your advice - it helped a lot. I messed up on the inner diameter of the brim. I made that too small, with the result that the hat fits my wife perfectly, but not me. So its back to the drawing board for round 2 and my hat. :-)

The Rambler (author)  Mythor11 months ago

Wow, that is seriously a cool hat. I love the overall shape you went with, and the reddish stain and x-stitching on the sides look awesome.

But, I think you meant to say "I surprised my wife by telling her I was making myself a hat but really making her one instead". ;)

Wow great job on the hats! Incredible!

The Rambler (author)  HollyMann10 months ago

Thanks! It was a lot of fun. I've made a hat kit now and I plan on making another hat as well. Leatherworking isn't addicting, no, not at all. ;)

Mythor The Rambler11 months ago

Thanks a lot for your comments. It was really great fun to make it. And you are right about "what I meant to say" - diplomacy is simply not my strong point :-)

Deltic1 year ago
Great looking piece of headgear & excellent instructable! One question, when you attach the brim to the crown I notice that the brim overlaps the crown thus leaving the seam open to any water running down the hat. Since the joint is always going to be the weak link it would seem preferable to have the crown overlapping the brim & allowing rainwater to run straight off. Is this more difficult to sew & would it affect the shape of the hat? Also does this edge need finishing a la brim? (I cheated, that's three questions).
The Rambler (author)  Deltic1 year ago
Haha, whenever I have "one question" it always seems to have tag along questions as well.

To be honest I hadn't given rain a lot of thought. Probably because I think of this more as costume piece than everyday wear. In fact, I would hesitate to wear this in the rain anyway simply because water and leather don't seem to mix well. That being said almost every leather top hat I've seen has been made like this so I'm guessing either rain doesn't cause that much of an issue for that seam or there really isn't a better way of doing it. I have seen the brim done with only a single layer and the crown as the outer layer. It doesn't affect the shape and it's actually easier to sew but it does weaken that joint because it just has two layers sewn up against each other instead of sandwiching one layer in between the others. I think the best bet to avoid any water damage in that area would be to seal it really well with a water proof leather sealer after it's been sewn together and add a band around the crown that either overlaps that seam or at least bumps right up against it to direct the water over it. If you did decide to have the crown overlap the brim you would need to finish it just like the edge of the brim, otherwise you don't have to worry about since on my hat you can't see the bottom edge of the crown.

Whew, a wordy answer but I hope it helps.

Excellent hat! Need to make one of these!!

As for the rain issue, that is also addressed in this excellent leather hat 'Ible as well:

Just thought you might be interested.

The Rambler (author)  ElChick29 days ago

Thank you! And thanks for pointing that instructable out. I have seen it since but have to admit to being slightly confused by his description of the two methods. He seems to suggest one method is best but all of his pictures seem to suggest he uses the other. Either that or I'm misunderstanding his description. Regardless, his hats are fantastic. Good luck on your own!

Thanks very much for your helpful answer Rambler, I think you deserve a nice cup of tea & sit down after all that typing!
The Rambler (author)  Deltic1 year ago
Why thank you, I love some good tea and a nice sit down! :)

Nice hat! Apparently, looking at your instructables, we're into some similar stuff!

The Rambler (author)  MakeItWithJason9 months ago

Thanks! Well, it's good stuff to be into (though I might be biased). I have another instructable in the works to be added to the leather contest that you might enjoy so keep an eye out.

Mythor12 months ago
Managed to get the leather to day! Got 1.45 m2 which is about 15.6 ft2 , so that is enough to kit out the whole family :-). Will get a pattern printed out next week and then see what I can put together.

Thanks a lot for the help.
The Rambler (author)  Mythor11 months ago

That's the best and worst thing about buying leather. You have to buy so much of it that it's almost an investment but once you do you can MAKE ALL THE THINGS! Or at least that's what it feels like.

Mythor1 year ago

Excellent hat! Found it in my search for a pattern to use for a Steampunk party. Could you tell me what thickness leather you use? I see references to the weight in ounces, but have no idea how to relate this too the thickness.

The Rambler (author)  Mythor1 year ago
Why thank you! I referenced the weight because that was how they sold it at Tandy Leather. I just measured the leather I used though and it looks to be about 1/8" thick.

A steampunk party sounds great! I'd love to see pictures of your outfit or at least your hat.
Thanks a stack for the quick reply. So that works out to about 3mm thick ( I am in South Africa and we use SI units here :-)

Did you use thinner leather for the double layer brim?

I will definitely post some picks when I get it done.
The Rambler (author)  Mythor12 months ago

No problem, I get excited when people can use my instructables. It's especially cool when people from all over the world are referencing it.

I used the same thickness of leather for everything. It was thick enough to be stiff for the crown but thin enough to not be too chunky for the brim, and since the brim is the only part that you can actually see the thickness you can't tell there's any difference.

carl27131 year ago

nice hat if you use a stitching groover you can level your stitches so they are protected

The Rambler (author)  carl27131 year ago

Very true. Thanks for the input.

This is pretty awesome. How long did it take you (hours)?
The Rambler (author)  sellers.nathan1 year ago
Thank you! Oh wow, I wish I knew. It's always hard for me to gauge because I do most of my projects on my lunch hour at work, which means that it's done in 30-45 minute increments (I've got to eat too!), and that some of that time is spent getting everything out and putting everything away each time I work on it. Let's see though, based on my blog entries it took me about 20 days which means that it could have taken me anywhere between 10-25 actual work hours, maybe? I know there's a huge margin in there but I'm just not sure. That time could probably be pared down a bit if you have a work station where you can leave everything set up.
peyton141 year ago
Sigh, leather is expensive i bet. Id love to have a real top hat instead of the cheap Party City one :( Do you know where i could look for leather anyways?
The Rambler (author)  peyton141 year ago
I got my leather at Tandy Leather. It can get a little expensive since you usually have to buy it in large pieces instead of being able to cut it down to just the size you need. Of course that also means you usually have left over leather that you can use for other projects. If you have a Tandy store in your area check them out. You might find a piece that's a good size and not too expensive. Also, they often have sales on the website. I'd say you're probably looking at spending $30-60 depending.
Nope, I never heard of Tandy. Do you think pleather would work?
The Rambler (author)  peyton141 year ago
Hmm, possibly? Pleather tends to not be as stiff as leather so it might be a little floppy. I'm not really sure though. You could always try it and do some sort of inner support frame to help it retain it's shape. Or use heavy buckram like you would use to make a standard cloth top hat.
Hello! Thanks for taking the time!

I have a question.. does not brim stretch around the crown a bit? If so, do regularly-spaced holes that you punch still line up pretty good? Or is the trick here to make sure there isn't *that* much stretching?
The Rambler (author)  theukrainian1 year ago
The trick for me was to make sure there was pretty much *no* stretching. I mean, I can't really claim it didn't stretch at all but the sizes were so similar that I didn't really notice any. There was definitely flexing (because of the curve of the brim) and that made it more difficult than just sewing two flat things together. Also, I'll be honest and say that the holes did not always line up perfectly but I think that was because of my imperfect hole punching.
I started making my hat! I'm going for more of a bush style hat, using about 8oz leather.
The Rambler (author)  desertsniper1 year ago
Sweet! At 8oz that is going to be one heavy duty hat. You're doing an instructable right? If not at least post some pictures. I'd love to see the finished product.
zomfibame1 year ago
nice hat
The Rambler (author)  zomfibame1 year ago
Zivig1102 years ago
I love the hat, would you mind saying where you got your leather? I'm planning my own hat and I'm having some difficulty finding a good supplier.
The Rambler (author)  Zivig1102 years ago
I got it from Tandy Leather. If you have one nearby I recommend going and picking it out in person. That way you can check for defects, imperfections, and brand marks. You can also talk to the employees and actually see what you're getting instead of just going by descriptions.
If there isn't one close you can order on their website. For certain types of leather you do have to order the whole hide. I think the one I got is considered a "belly" or something like that. It's the best way to get enough without having to get way more than enough.

Good luck! Don't forget to post pictures!
Hzlbrwn2 years ago
You do amazing work my friend! Your hand stitching is so neat!!
The Rambler (author)  Hzlbrwn2 years ago
Thank you!
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