Picture of Party top-hat made of playing cards
I always thought about playing cards being a great material for DIY projects and one of the things I pictured in my had to look very natural if made of playing cards is a top-hat for parties.

I had to look into Wikipedia to get real name for the hat (it's called "cylinder" in russian) and I still might have some parts named incorrectly - english is not my native, it's also my first instructable so please don't judge too hard. I'll greatly appreciate all corrections.

Step 1: Get playing cards and stapler

Picture of Get playing cards and stapler
First you need to get several decks of playing cards and a stapler.

The fastest way is to go to closest pharmacy - they always have different decks for sale (for some reason I like classic Bicycle decks for these projects).

You can also buy decks in bulk in your closest Costco, BJ's club or similar.

Most popular decks have red or blue backs and regular pocker faces but if you have some special project and you know where to look, you can find black backs, white (yes, empty) faces or even some colored ones.

As for stapler, you can buy the simplest one as I did or go for signature staplers like this red swingline stapler from Office Space movie.

Step 2: Attaching cards for the top

Picture of Attaching cards for the top
So you got the ingredients, let's start making it.

First, we want to make a top of the hat so we need to attach cards in a line long sides next to each other.

- Staple two cards overlapping them just just enough for one staple (you can quickly measure it by aligning one card to touch the circle on another card). Just staple them next to short side of a card.
- Check the other side to see if you stapled through both cards
- Keep stapling them to make a line of cards (amount of cards depends on a size of the target head - I got 15 and it was a little bit bigger then needed).
- Staple the last card to first one and try it on your head - it should fit relatively tight).

Step 3: Finishing the top

Picture of Finishing the top
Now, when you put it first on your head, add or substract a card or shift several cards a little to adjust more precicely. You'll need a staple remover for this.

When done adjusting (it's important step - it'll be too late when you have whole thing done), remove one staple getting it back to flat form.

Then get a ruler and use it to bend a edge of the cards up. It doesn't really matter how much you'll leave for bending - it will only affect the size of the ventilation hole in the middle.

Now, when you bent the whole thing, you can connect last and first cards together to see how it'll look.

Step 4: Attaching brim

Picture of Attaching brim
Remove one staple again and attach a card face to face, shifting it half the side.

Maybe it's better to do both sides simultaneously saving on staples and making the edge a little bit more neat but it's harder to handle when bending so you can try it with your second hat.

Keep stapling until you get whole line of cards finished. Keep in mind that you'll have last card shifted the same direction first one was.

Step 5: Add some height

Picture of Add some height
Now attach more rows if you want.

It doesn't matter actually how many rows you put and if you attach long or short sides of cards.You can also shift next row against previous to make pattern more interesting. You can use one row of staples or do double rows. You can have additional inner layer of cards face to face with outer layer to make inside colored and so on - feel free to improvise.

When you're done with second row, attach them to make a cylinder - it'll be much harder to do when you have third row (depending on the size of your stapler of course)

Now try it on and make sure it fits exactly as you want it - it's still not too late to adjust the size until we get to making brim.

Step 6: Staple top cards makng the ventilation hole

Picture of Staple top cards makng the ventilation hole
You can actually do this later but it'll make structure stronger and will help you with handling whole thing on later stages so I suggest you do it now.

I used special (tiny) stapler to do this but with some practice you can do this with a large one too. Just staple through cards - the more staples goes through cards the stronger hat gets.

Step 7: Make holders for the brim

Picture of Make holders for the brim
No we need to create something to attach brim to.

Staple cards that match bottom color you planned for the brim with faces into the hat, one half overlapping the sides, shift this raw against the sides for a half of the card.

Then cut outstanding parts of the cards into halfs with scissors and bend them out so they spread out evenly. You can probably cut them into three parts to make an edge more round and smooth but you'll have to do more stapling later and that's a lot of staples ;)

Step 8: Top layer of cards for the brim

Picture of Top layer of cards for the brim
Try your hat on last time to make sure that it fits perfectly - after this step you will not be able to change anything without unstapling whole thing.

Now attach top layer of cards for the brim by stapling them to the folded out half-cards you made in a last step.

Make sure they aligned radially and not skewed left or right. Overlap cards to cover about hakf to 2/3rds of previous card - we need relatively smooth edges. Be aware that brim takes most cards and it can make hat havier if you overlap too much or less strong and less neat if you overlap too little.

Also make sure you staple through the cards on the bottom - this will give brim needed strength.

You might want to shape it into oval to match the form of your head. I didn't try it but for better results this step be better done while target wearer has it on. Be careful with ears though - staples are sharp ;)

Step 9: Adding bottom layer of cards

Picture of Adding bottom layer of cards
Now align a card on the bottom layer to match top level and staple them close to the outer edge.

BTW, Here you might want to use pliers or something similar to flaten the staple so they don't bother you that much when you touch them.

When you're done attaching all cards (remember, last card should go under first one), do another round of stapling closest to the sides of the cylinder having flat sides of staples towards the bottom of the hat - otherwise ends of staples will give your hair a hard time.

Step 10: First one done, make them for all your friends and family

Picture of First one done, make them for all your friends and family
That was it - whole project takes about an hour, or two when you do that for a first time.

Don't be afraid of improvising with sizes and colors.

When you're done, make another one for you friend, put them on and go to a party - others will just die of envy.

Hope you enjoyed the process.


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Exscaly2 years ago


Huzzah, there is my hat! I skipped step 9 and added small pieces of bent wire to give it a curved brim.
Sergey Chernyshev (author)  Exscaly2 years ago
Looks pretty cool! I uploaded them here so they are easier for others to see.
Hat 1.JPGHat 2.JPG
badideasrus4 years ago
here's my top hat. it came out pretty well. (i'm not sure how to use pics exactly.... i've uploaded them, but i'm not sure of the results so they may not show.....)

and my brother's fedora, which i made as a present.
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Sergey Chernyshev (author)  badideasrus4 years ago
Great! Any ideas what went wrong with Fedora? Any ways you think it can be improved?
i think that the curves were made wrong. if the top were alittle better made, and it sloped more, i think it would have come out better.... also, i was using cheap paper cards. plastic bicycle card may hold their shape better than the paper. also, paper cards have a tendancy to crease instead of .... 'round'? to curve...., which made the top part rather dificult. if i had to say, i'd say my fedora hat looked more like one of those hats people wear on safari..... not much like a fedora. also, when connecting the two ends of the sides in the front, i had to rip the card so that it would bend and yet still have the flared brim.... a better look may have been to use two cards, one for brim and one for connecting piece..... look at the bottom pic if you don't understand....(i'm not much good with words....)
Sergey Chernyshev (author)  badideasrus4 years ago
Yeah, plastic cards are more sturdy. Also, top-hat has less curves and that's why fedora is harder to make.
i agree, though i think the plastic cards would be more apropriate because they wouldn't crease, not because they are stronger (though that is a bonus....)
Sergey Chernyshev (author)  badideasrus4 years ago
And they don't have to be plastic - plastic-coated is enough.
tay815 years ago
This is so cool - I know it's been around for a few years now - but I was looking for a different sort of hat for a Mad Hatter's tea party this weekend... I made mine in just a few hours, and then I bought some embellishments for the side to jazz it up - I love it! Thanks for great instructions (though I did get a little confused re: step 3 as I wasn't too sure how to make the flat top curved - but I worked it out!) I used only the black & white suits - so I ended up using about 4 packs (used the red suits for the anchoring parts and as an extra layer on the brim) but the end product looks mighty fabulous if I don't say so myself!
Sergey Chernyshev (author)  tay815 years ago
That's awesome - Mad Hatter's version is pretty good idea! Great work!
Jake Turner7 years ago
Hey Sergey, excellent Instructable. Don't worry about your English, it's better than that of many people who post here. I made the hat with 2 and a half decks in about 3 hours. It complements my strange sense of style quite nicely. Of course there's photos. Thanks for posting this!
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Sergey Chernyshev (author)  Jake Turner6 years ago
Oh, I don't know how I missed your post! It turned out great and with that secret Ace, it's just perfect.
CabbitCastle made it!1 year ago

Very nice instructable and a splendid idea!
It's a quick, cheap project and definitely a looker and nice addendum to many costumes.

Was pretty fun making it :D

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Appollo645 years ago
Great idea for making the hats, but step nine isn't really necessary, is it?
Sergey Chernyshev (author)  Appollo645 years ago
Yes, it's not really necessary except that it hides the staple ends and will not tangle your hair and scratch you.
what i found worked really well was stapelling an old beanie and putting that so the edges just come out from the tube part makes it very comfortable and i made my hat a little too big and it also sorted out that problem but thanks for the instructable
Sergey Chernyshev (author)  weaverowns3 years ago
Yeah, that would make edges soft and easy to wear.
Can you post photos?
i havent finished the underside of the brim yet but as soon as i do i will. its so annoying having a big head as ive already gone through 2 packs of cards
here you go its not as neat as yours but oh well and i gave it a trial run through town earlier and got some odd looks but people seemed to like it http://www.instructables.com/id/playing-card-hat-mod/
wow i have my own top hat i think there awesome
p.s can you put the hat on or will it just fall apart?
spel3o3 years ago
thank you so much! I have a silly hat party to attend tomorrow, and now I am well prepared.
Sergey Chernyshev (author)  spel3o3 years ago
Cool! Please post some photos from the party!
awesome dude i made one and it turned out awesome. i used some Jack Daniel's playing cards for the cylinder part, sorry no pics yet but when i do ill be sure to post them. Great Instructable!
Post the photos when you have a chance ;) Jack Daniel's sounds awesome!
VogelYogel6 years ago
This is a great instructable! It inspired me to make a matching suit out of cards. I've made the jacket, all I need to do is make pants and a bow-tie and I'll be the snazziest dressed person in the universe!

PS: If you try curling up the brim, you can get this nice Mad-Hatter curl to it. Looks more like a top hat.

PPS: No, I am not planning to put up an instructable for the suit, but if you use the basic principles in this instructable, you can do very well!

PPPS: Line the suit with duct-tape, and make the joints out of duct tape. Those are my instructables.

Could you post any pictures?
Braeburn6 years ago
If only i could figure out how to make a playing card fedora....
i made one.... but it didn't turn out so great.... look at my post up above.
Sergey Chernyshev (author)  Braeburn6 years ago
It's probably not that hard, but will requite quote a lot of planning.
badideasrus4 years ago
........... why can't i reply to myself? oh well

first, the fedora. i'm actually rather disapointed in it, but oh well, it was worth a shot. still going to give it to him ;)

now, a tip for the topper. be very careful about letting the cards overlap as you go down the rows. because of the bend in the top peice, the cards all want to pull towards the center, meaning that (especially if you have 3 or more rows) the opening for your head will be too small. i have to make do with a very tight hat....
willabeast4 years ago
YAY I MADE ONE!!!! i did it with the cards facing outwards which looked quite cool :-D I'm wearing it for our housewarming tonight THANKS!!!
Sergey Chernyshev (author)  willabeast4 years ago
Hey, post some photos here! It's great to see this instructable working for so many people! Sergey
I am making this as we speak. (it's awesome, original idea) This is perfect, because we have a Vegas-themed school dance soon. Hahahaha, I collect hats, this will be a perfect addition. Thank you, this instructable has very clear directions and pictures.  :P
Great! Post your photos when you're done! ;)
How did you measure it out so that it properly fit on your head?
I'm guessing you just took the inside of the brim and checked that on your head right?
Sergey Chernyshev (author)  lollerskates5 years ago
bladeyarn5 years ago
If you make the hat with the cards sideways (especially the brim), it takes a lot less cards; like just over one deck rather than 2.5 decks.
ipwnumore6 years ago
what do u mean by take out 1 staple to get it back to flat form?
Sergey Chernyshev (author)  ipwnumore6 years ago
Basically, you need to break a pipe that you used to measure if it'll fit your head before you can continue.
ipwnumore6 years ago
what do u mean?
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