Leather Steampunk Top Hat

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Introduction: Leather Steampunk Top Hat

If you've got some basic leatherworking know-how and need a spiffy hat for your steampunk getup, give this one a try.  It took me 3 hours of construction and alteration on day 1, and 2 hours dyeing and finishing on day 2.

Step 1: Materials

From your leatherworking tool kit:
rivet setter
hammer
knife or rotary cutter
cutting mat
rulers
leather hole punch
marking pencil

Supplies:
LEATHER (I used a cheap-ass utility hide I bought off a sale rack because the price was too good to ignore.)
Dye and a dauber
20 or so rivets
mink oil
leather finish
bailing wire

AND either a good quality sewing machine (I used my home sewing Viking machine, but it's got a great motor) or leather stitching supplies for hand sewing (ick)


Step 2: Take Measurements

I measured the interior height of an old hat, and around my fiancee's head. 

Step 3: Cut Your Brim

If you're not real confident about your pattern drafting skillz, do this on paper first. I started by cutting the hole in the brim to the same circumference as the head measurement.  It should be an oval.  Then, I traced the outside edge, adding 3/4" for hem allowance. 

Step 4: Cut the Top

I wanted a very dramatic curve on the side band, so I make the top oval much larger than the hole in the brim.  Don't forget to add 1/2" for seam allowance.

Step 5: Cut Your Side Band

The sideband starts as a rectangle 2 1/2 inches taller than the hat height you decided on before.  The hat I measured was 7 1/2 inches deep, so I cut a 10" high rectangle.  The rectangle should be the same length as the circumference of the hole in the brim.

Step 6: Making Waves

This is where we hack up the rectangle to give us that dashing profile and steamy look.  The "high" parts of the wave are the front and rear, the low parts are the side.  Next, cut it in half to make room for the triangle inserts on the sides.

Step 7: Finish Cutting

Cut your triangle inserts.  Cut them big; this lets us adjust things as we go.  Here are all your parts, ready for assembly!

Step 8:

Sew the flat part of the sides to the top piece.  Center them on the long part of the oval.  Next, sew the inserts to the top to cover the gaps.  DO NOT sew the inserts to the sides.  Pull the brim over the sides and sew it on.  Make sure to line your long points of the ovals up.  Roll the outer edges of your brim over and hem, inserting the bailing wire as you go.  I used a zipper foot.  Go SLOWLY.

Step 9: Rivet in the Inserts.

Carefully mark and punch your rivet holes where your sides overlap your inserts.  Set your rivets.

Step 10: Steam Some Shape Into It!

I have a big Jiffy Steamer in my basement, but for little stuff like this my electric teakettle works just fine.  Hold a small section of the hat over the steam for 20 seconds, then remove and bend the hat into the desired shape as it cools.  Repeat until the hat has the desired shape.

Step 11: Dye It!

I originally wanted to airbrush the dye on, but Matt wanted it darker so I used a fully saturated dauber instead. 

On a side note, if you KNOW you want to use a dauber, dye first, then steam.  You'll loose some shape when you dye.

Select an appropriate finish for your needs.  I chose a heavy coating of mink oil.

I let it sit overnight, then buffed off the excess mink oil.

Step 12: All Done!

The completed hat.  STEAMY!

2 People Made This Project!

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118 Comments

I love the top hat! Great job! It'd make a fantastic gift!

Thanks for this! Was a great learning experience and fun project!

This is absolutely fantastic!! I'm definetly keeping this in mind, just have one question, how thick is the leather you used?

Tried this for myself, now this has brass rivets all along the gold dyed side panels. Lots of fiddly work (especially since I also hand sewed the whole thing), and the rivets near the top were a royal pain to set but I love how it turned out. Especially like how the main red dye turned out (2 layer with Mahogany over Cranberry)

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I found this to be very helpful. I was uncertain how to shape the leather without supports. Anyone looking for cheap leather and doesn't mind getting a little dirty, hunters often throw away the hides after a kill. Most are happy to give them away if you don't mind tanning it. It's not that difficult to do and you never have to worry about running out of it. Hides will keep in the freezer until you're ready to tan them.

is that 3 or 4 inches or three quarters of an inch?

Thank you ;) I just ended doing my own top hat here are fotos

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I normally use fabric and flexifirm, but I recently purchased 4 old leather coats at a 99 cent Goodwill sale and I can't wait to try making my own leather tophats. Thanks!

Do you have any suggestions for the shaping step with faux leather? (polyester with a leather look, is what mine is, i believe)