Introduction: Puff Embroidery Flat Brimmed Hat

Picture of Puff Embroidery Flat Brimmed Hat

Puffy style embroidery is pretty expensive to have done with custom designs.  Some places online or in meatspace quoted me around 80 bucks for a single hat! (setup fees and whatnot).  So I decided to embroider my own hat in the style of New Era caps and the like.  I also don't have the ability to make a machine do any of the work, so I did it all by hand.  The end result is pretty neat, and I think the effort for a completely original hat is worth it.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

You don't need a whole to get this project going, and everything but the hat can be found at Joann's or a similar place for less than 10 bucks.

You will need:
 - A Hat. Flat Brimmed, a solid color, and some stickers is what I went for.  I found some from a store in Florida on E-Bay which shipped super super quick and were 12 bucks including shipping.
- Embroidery Thread.  The kind I used was in the hand embroidery section, and it comes a thick thread composed of 6 strands.
- A Needle.  I used one which had the skinniest eye I wanted to try and put 3 strands of the thread through.
- Craft Foam.  This is what makes the embroidery puff out.  I picked the same color as my thread, so any gaps in coverage wouldn't be too noticable. I used foam that was 3 mm thick.  It comes by the sheet.
- Thread Locker.  This was recommended to me as a way to secure the loose threads on the inside of the cap.  The bottle is called Fray Check.  If you want to tie all the loose ends together, don't worry about this, I just need it because I didn't pay attention to doing it in a more proper way (See the fifth step for more on this).
- Time. I didn't use a timer, but fidgeting the image, and doing a test piece for the complicated areas put this project around 15 hours.  My second hat took around 6.

Step 2: Preparing the Design

Picture of Preparing the Design

The point of this step is to end up with some pieces of the craft foam, in the right shapes that we will embroider around.  I made my logo on the computer, and printed it out.  I used an exacto knife to perforate the paper around the outline of the paper, while it was lying on the foam.  This left an outline of the shape on the foam.  The perforations didn't need to be that deep or close together, just enough so that you can separate the excess paper from the logo.  Then going back at the foam with the knife, you can cut off all the excess bits.

The next part is where the design gets complicated, and you may have to go back the drawing board if your logo gets too difficult.  I drew an outline of my logo on a piece of paper, and thought about how I would cover everything using threads that need to go from one side of the shape to the other.  I used different color pens to distinguish which threads I would need to embroider first, and so I can see what would get covered by other sections of thread.  This turned out to be challenging because my design has sharp corners and complicated large spots to cover.  I strongly recommend that after you come up with a threading design, you test it out on a standard fabric and hoop setup before potentially ruining your hat.  This process is called digitizing, and I couldn't find good general tutorials on the web, so all I can say is just think it through and test your ideas so you can learn how well the thread covers, and how is presses down the foam and things like this.

I lost the paper with the first wrong way to do it, as I found out with my test piece, but the way I did it is presented in the pictures. Below.

Step 3: Starting the Embroidery

Picture of Starting the Embroidery

To thread your needle, seperate ALL of the strands of thread, and recombine 3 of them.  This will help the threads lay flat ontop of the foam so the surface looks smoother.

Next I pinned down, with a single stitch, a few places around the design.  I just used a simple up-one-side-down-the-other-side to up-the-first-side-down-the-other-side stitch. I began with the "simple" sections around the jaw which are essentially a variation on a straight line.  After they were well and covered, I moved on to other parts.

An interesting part of the design was how I handled the forehead and lightning bolt.  To cover all of the foam, some thread went from between the eyes, up the lightning bolt, and to the top of the head.  This was the only way I could easily cover the forehead.  After this, I did a diagonal stitch on the lightning bolt, because of the way the thread pressed down the foam, and created a slope.  Horizontal stitches slid out of place and looked weird in the test piece.

Step 4: Some Tricky Parts

Picture of Some Tricky Parts

The trickiest part I encounter was the ears.  There was no good way to cover them. Since there have 3 sides (the outside, inside the forehead circle, and inside the eyes).  The "three sided" nature of the shape made it hard to figure out how to cover everything, and not leave little triangles where the forehead met the ear.  My test piece was helpful here because what I thought was good on paper, turned out to not be very good at all.  At first I tried to have some stitches go from top to bottom, and cover them with some going from left to right, but the stark contrast looked bad.  I also played with having some threads disappear down in the middle of the ear, but this bunched up the  other threads causing gaps.  I ended up doing an alternating weave which covers the entire area, and also provides good edge covering and looks slick enough that the different thread directions don't stand out horribly.

Step 5: Finishing Up

Picture of Finishing Up

Now that the main part is embroidered I just finished up the eyes and nose really only making sure to get coverage, not paying attention to "looking nice" since they are round and small.

The final touch is trimming the loose ends, and locking the threads.  To lock the threads I used Fray Check.  I just oozed it all over the lumps of thread inside my cap, and it took about 30 minutes to dry and smelled bad in the process.  But now I have a cap with threads that won't come loose, so it can withstand a bit use.

If there are any little foamies sticking through the thread on the front, I think using a hairdryer might melt them away.  Be careful though, I haven't tried this, just a tip I head on the internet.

Now your done, enjoy having a cool hat! and looking sweet on the street.


21GeeOff21 (author)2010-08-26

kept forgetting to get around to commenting on this but here I finally am. I made my own hat with kinda a dino look to it. I only used your embroidery tips on the black parts on the eyes but that helped give it a nice professional look.

jessyratfink (author)2016-06-30

This is fantastic! Great documentation and it came out looking perfect :D

jessyratfink (author)2016-06-30

This is fantastic! Great documentation and it came out looking perfect :D

JTMLB26 (author)2012-09-23

This is cool! But one question: Did you already know certain stitches? If so what types should I know if I were to do something similar? I don't know my design yet but I plan on doing this on an old umpires hat!!!

TacticalTrumpet (author)2012-03-04

Nice job! This is a great way to cheaply embroider custom images.

Mauigerbil (author)2012-01-05

Alternatively, You can use fabric with various thicknesses to make certian parts stand out more. You can also just layer the thread.

nushiboo (author)2011-05-03

wow this is awesome great work

manouttatime (author)2010-10-03

So by "seperate ALL of the strands of thread, and recombine 3 of them" do you mean you only use half of your 6 strand thread? Did you really split an entire spool of this stuff into 6 separate strands?

And by "recombine" do you just mean group them or twist it in some way?

I'm looking to make my own hat too. Lids wants to charge $50 per image on top of the Image fee of about $10 on top of a $16 hat. So yeah, same as your $80 quote (if I only do one spot)

SGAC (author)2010-09-10

I was wondering how I would embroider some eyes on a hoodie I was making, and lo and behold, here's your instructable! This shall be perfect for my purposes. Although in lieu of foam, I may utilize this stiff iron-on stabilizer that I have. That way, I can adjust the thickness I need AND I know for a fact that this stuff is washable.

T-Rave (author)2010-09-02

Very slick looking! I was just wondering about getting a custom, but will def try this out. DIY first! Thanks for this

Mo4488 (author)2010-08-09

Go Pete!

sdemaria (author)2010-08-09

Pete. Lock it up.* *This is a positive and constructive comment.

Lima Rodan (author)2010-08-03

Sweet, Bro!

guitarmonk15 (author)2010-07-24

I think it's pretty sad when people use automatic embroidery machines, and call the work their own. You know, anyone can push a few buttons and walk away. This 'ible actually took talent and time. Good job.

DavidKaine (author)guitarmonk152010-07-24

Actually, automatic embroidery machines aren't that automatic. Setting up a stitching program requires quite a bit of learning and skill. Same for any programmable automated system.

guitarmonk15 (author)DavidKaine2010-07-27

It's still easier than doing it by hand.

DavidKaine (author)guitarmonk152010-07-27

It's less time consuming than doing it by hand.

everyneverisnow (author)2010-07-24

This is effing cool. Think I might try it out to spice up my old LRG cap. How much were all the supplies?

well you already have the hat so that would be "free" i found a big sheet of craft foam at michaels for .99 i dont remember how much the thread or needles were that i got but i also grabbed a pack of gum and the total was under $10

angelabchua (author)2010-07-23

oooh, i love this idea! I've embroidered by hand and on a machine...but this looks money!

Cman127 (author)2010-07-21

What is the thing you used for your logo?

quasiyodel (author)Cman1272010-07-21

What do you mean by thing? I kind of ripped of a retro Cubs logo, and put shortened version of a lightning bolt in its forhead.

makalove (author)quasiyodel2010-07-22

heh, i assumed you were going for a grateful dead kind of thing.

quasiyodel (author)makalove2010-07-22

I did get the idea from their logo, but I had to make my original lightning bolt smaller to be more easily embroidered.

makalove (author)quasiyodel2010-07-23

:) awesome. i love it. TOTALLY gonna do this.

Robot Lover (author)2010-07-22

cool instructable! But i got to be honest, i don't like it when people keep the stickers on the hat. It's like wearing a pair of pants with the tags still on.

Bernyk (author)2010-07-22

sweet job man, i've been drawing on my own hats to give them designs for a while now and just the other day i thought to myself 'self' you could really kick your game up a notch with embroidery, and low and behold you come along with this! its clearly a sign! thanks for the ible man it is awesome im gonna give it a shot!

pcgirl (author)2010-07-22

Well done. :) I own an embroidery machine, but it doesn't do hats. But then again, I don't wear hats! LOL Jealous of your hand embroidery. :)

21GeeOff21 (author)2010-07-22

about how long did the embroidery process take?

quasiyodel (author)21GeeOff212010-07-22

I think it took around 5 hours. Maybe a little more. More still to glue the back, and cut the foam. I was kind of watching a movie while I did it, so your mileage may vary.

21GeeOff21 (author)quasiyodel2010-07-22

alright, just started on a very simple design on a 2 dollar hat i found at the craft store to get a little practice in before i go out and buy a nice hat. again, thank you for the great ible. never really realized it could be so simple.

dandydanee (author)2010-07-22

I do this for a living on a machine. Yours looks as good as the ones i do turn out. Good Job.

HollyHarken (author)2010-07-22

quasiyodel, I am lucky enough to own a Husqvarna DSE computerized embroidery machine. Your idea is basically sound with the exception of using craft foam. Sulky makes a puffy foam designed for embroidery that can be washed. It is available online and in most Jo-Ann's in the notions department. It comes in many colors. The basic advantage is that it can be washed without fear of having your foam shrink or do anything strange. If you wear your hat then it will eventually need to be washed. If your hat gets wet you might also find that the blue dye in the hat will will soak into the cotton embroidery thread and discolor it. If you ever want to have a hat or any other item embroidered then I suggest that you look up any of your local sewing machine shops. They will probably have a list of people who are willing to do the work for much less than the prices you were quoted. It helps to have a digitized image to start with. That is where your extra costs were coming from. The design needs to be in a machine readable format so that it can be read into an embroidery machine and then stitched out. It is just a suggestion. Your way works and looks very nice. Good job.

quasiyodel (author)HollyHarken2010-07-22

I've heard of the foam you are talking about, but didn't find it looking around on my own. The foam I used says don't light on fire, but doesn't mention washable, so I will tread cautiously. Thanks for the tip though!

scoochmaroo (author)2010-07-22

What an awesome way to do embroidery. Genius! 5*

fozzy13 (author)2010-07-21

Great idea. I've been thinking of how I could do this for a while. When I saw craft foam I screamed at myself for not thinking of it first. Anyway, great job, the hat looks great, you took really clear pictures : )

21GeeOff21 (author)2010-07-21

this looks really good and seems pretty darn simple too. heading to the craft store tomorrow. thanks for the idea and the good ible!

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