Instructables
Picture of Leather Steampunk Top Hat
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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.
 
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Step 1: Materials

Picture of 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

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

Step 3: Cut your brim

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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

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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

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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

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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

Picture of 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!
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DeaconMortis5 months ago

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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wblack3 made it!10 months ago

Made a couple of modifiations such as:

  • Thick gauge jewellery wire in the brim
  • Less 'swoop' / wave
  • Eyelets and thonging on the sides, which also helps adjust size/tightness of band
  • Thonging also allows more ventilation for hot days/nights
  • Hand sewn with awl
  • Thicker leather, more like shoe upper
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Is it ok to use faux leather fabric?? Are there differences???
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.
jimbo-g1 year ago
is that 3 or 4 inches or three quarters of an inch?
Ashenguar1 year ago
Thank you ;) I just ended doing my own top hat here are fotos
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LynnKS2 years ago
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!
kanadra4 years ago
Do you have any suggestions for the shaping step with faux leather? (polyester with a leather look, is what mine is, i believe)
i would suggest if your uesing a faux leather to first cut the pieces from buckram, wire the out side edge of the brim, the top and botom of the crown then sew on the faux leather. once all pieces are covered, top and botom side of brim, crown and top of hat. then put the pieces togather. it will take a little longer but the finished hat will last a long time and the brim can be shaped buy just shaping the wire, the buck ram cann be shaped with steam befor you add the faux leather. hope this help. you can find buckram at hancock or joann fabrics. i have even found suppliers on etsy. hope this helps.
yallen kanadra2 years ago
You could try glue, or starch.
you could make some sort of wire frame for it, i suppose...
Jenn Nelson (author)  kanadra4 years ago
Nope. Any heating will most likely damage the faux leather. Sorry!
kwhitacre2 years ago
I love your hat. I didn't see you mention anything about rubber cement. About 43 years ago, when I was teaching Jr. Hi, I taught leather craft: we would glue, using rubber cement, applied like contact cement; apply to each surface to be joined and then join them once the glue is dry. This makes stitching easier and if hand stitching, makes punching holes for stitching/lacing easier, too. I love steampunk and have some leather. So I'll keep this idea handy. Thanks for the clear description and great photos. Your husband is handsome in the black hat... matches his hair. :-)
tinker2342 years ago
wow very cool could i possably make a wool one
This work was wonderful!
sonofstone2 years ago
this is amazing, i'll try and make one, but i dont think im gonna dye it, the colour of leather looks cool to me, i'll be using this 'ible a whole lot
DragonFJ2 years ago
This is one of the better top hat tutorials I ran across, I loved it so much I ended up going back to it religiously to make my own hat!

Ended up not riveting the inserts instead i hand stitched it together and it turned out pretty nice.

Thank you again!
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13thvulture2 years ago
where do you get utility hide? i make tophats too, not anything like this of course, mine tend to be more mad hatter style, but a bit steampunk too. i use only recycled materials since i dont have much money. for example, the last one i made was old shirts, a leather car seat, a large amount of coffee grounds, and a tomato cage.

if utility hide is cheap leather, id love to know where to get it. old car seats dont much care for being shaped when steamed. they either dont change shape at all, or just shrivel up for some reason.

Tanz273 years ago
Hi all,

I am planning to make this and after a discussion with a couple of leather suppliers it seems Veg Tan or tooling leather is most appropriate for this project. I have found it difficult to get hold of in the UK. However, try The Identity Store. They are an online store based in Matlock in Derbyshire. They seem happy to help, and willing to cut hides that are way to much for this project down to a size that suits. I managed to get 4ft sq of natural veg tan leather for £27. Hopefully it will be enough. I'm completely new to the world of leatherwork but really wanna give it a go. So, any handy tips to add to this instructables would be much appreciated.

Happy Making
Tanz
hanlie3 years ago
Hi
I wanted to make one for a costume party, but the leather was too expensive (One would think that it would be much cheaper in South Africa than in the States)
Anyway I had an inner-tube of a truck lying around and decided to try it. I think it came out quite nice. It's a bit top heavy and it gets hot after a while, but you know, it's painful to be beautiful.

Thanks for the instructable it was fun making it
Hanlie
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Jenn Nelson (author)  hanlie3 years ago
That's awesome!
mdrummer3 years ago
How much leather did you need to make your size 7 hat please? As you hat is awesome and inspiring me to have a go but unsure of the costs.
Jenn Nelson (author)  mdrummer3 years ago
I bought half a skin and used about half of it.

Hope that helps!
Where do you get your leather?
Jenn Nelson (author)  JamesRPatrick3 years ago
I work near a big Tandy warehouse, so every once in a while I wander in and buy some stuff.
mdrummer3 years ago
How much leather did you need to construct this hat it looks incredible . I know this will only be an idea of how much based on your size 7?
ajs13133 years ago
Fair enough. Didn't mean to disturb you.
Jenn Nelson (author)  ajs13133 years ago
You didn't disturb me, I just didn't really have a good reason for omitting it; I didn't feel like it needed one.
ajs13133 years ago
Very nice, but why didnt you add a headband onn the inside?
Jenn Nelson (author)  ajs13133 years ago
I didn't feel like it, I guess. My husband hasn't noticed...I suppose you could put one on yours if you really felt like it..
Leo46133 years ago
Really liked this!! I tried making it with " Faux leather"( upholstery Naugahyde I had left over from a job.), would have came out great but I messed up 2 times. Once sewing the bottom edge to the top piece, and not leaving a seam allowance on the brim. Was able to salvage it though. turned it into a "regular" hat. to get the brim to curve up on the sides I cut thin plastic(a can lid),heated it over the side of a can to get a curve, the inserted them between the upper and lower parts of the brim. Picture of it in my profile in case I can't add one to my comment.
Thank you for sharing this! :) :)
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Jenn Nelson (author)  Leo46133 years ago
Cool!
Thank you! Glad you both like it. :) For not being what I intended, I have gotten quite a few complements on it. Guess if you learn to adapt your mistakes they work . ;) :) :)
loooks like a steampunk cowboy cool
dray33 years ago
Can i use leather that is already cured and polished? Will the steaming effect still work on it?
Jenn Nelson (author)  dray33 years ago
I'm not sure... I steamed mine a second time after dying and waxing it and it worked fine...
dray33 years ago
Sorry for all the questions, but also, I was wondering about how thick the leather needs to be because i have some thin 1.5 millimeter thick leather. If it is too thin can i use two layers of it?
Jenn Nelson (author)  dray33 years ago
Probably not, they won't have enough structural integrity. The leather I used was about 3mm.
skim-23 years ago
can you use fleece? Because I don't have leather
Jenn Nelson (author)  skim-23 years ago
You probably couldn't use these instructions with fleece.
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