Introduction: Gandalf the Grey's Wizard Hat

Let me start by saying I am a big fan of Lord of the Rings -- and all things Tolkien related. I still remember the first time I picked up a copy of The Hobbit in my elementary school library as a fifth-grader, and how many of my teachers and older family members told me I was in for a real treat.

One of the most beloved characters in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings is Gandalf the Grey, later Gandalf the White -- although "many are his names in many countries." When Tolkien first mentions Gandalf in the first chapter of The Hobbit, he describes Gandalf this way:

"All that the unsuspecting Bilbo saw that morning was an old man with a staff. He had a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak, a silver scarf over which his long white beard hung down below his waist, and immense black boots."

...So a little different from how the wonderful Sir Ian McKellen portrayed Gandalf in the films. Both versions, in my opinion, are completely valid, however.

Tolkien's inspiration for Gandalf can be traced to a postcard he said he bought while on holiday in Switzerland (although the origins of the postcard have been debated). The postcard is called Der Berggeist (German for "the mountain spirit"). The postcard was a reproduction of a painting of an old man with a white beard sitting under a tree in the mountains. On the back of the postcard, Tolkien wrote "The origin of Gandalf."

So with all that being said, if you can get ahold of some blue-grey felt, as opposed to the dark grey felt I used, that would be more true to the books as well as Tolkien's original vision of Gandalf. But I think a medium-dark grey felt works just fine.

Okay, let's get started!


For this project, you'll need:

  • Two yards of grey felt
  • Cotton batting
  • Matching thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Scissors
  • Marker
  • String/yarn
  • Polyfil stuffing
  • Sewing needle

Step 1: Make a Circle

This is the felt I used -- two packages, each containing one 36" x 36" felt piece, which is one square yard. If you were making a hat for a child, you might be able to get away with only using one yard, but I was not able to cut out two circles from one yard. I'm happy I thought to buy two.

Tie a piece of yarn to a marker and cut it so it's 10 inches long, from the marker to the end. Make a dot in the center of the felt and then, while holding the end of the yarn in between your thumb and index finger in your non-dominant hand, use your dominant hand to draw a circle. This is essentially a very simple compass and how to make a ~20" circle. It might not end up exactly 20" but that's okay.

Step 2: Cut Another Circle

Cut out the 20" circle you just drew. Place that circle on top of more felt, pin it, and cut that out too. So now you should have two 20" circles.

With the string of yarn still on your marker, cut the length of the string so it's 4.5" long, from marker to end. Using the same method you used to draw a circle in the last step, draw a smaller circle in the center of the felt circle. This inner circle will roughly be about 9".

Step 3: Cut the Brim Pieces

Cut a slit to get to the circle and cut it out, leaving it in one piece so you can use it later.

Now cut a wedge from the donut shape. But before you cut, you can overlap the pieces and test it on your head to make sure it will still fit. Cutting out this wedge will allow the brim of the hat to have a downward, outward slope, similar to Gandalf's hat's brim. The wedge I cut out from my brim was about 5" at the widest part, but yours may (and probably will?) differ, as people have different sized heads. So just make sure you test it on your own head before cutting.

Place right sides together and pin -- do that for both donut shapes.

Step 4: Cut the Batting

Cut a piece of cotton batting (this is the stuff I used, but any kind will do) in the same shape as the felt brim pieces. To do this, all I did was fold the batting in half, place one of the brim pieces (that's also folded in half) on top, and trace around it with a marker. Then I cut it out slightly smaller than what I had drawn, placed the right sides together, and pinned. So now you should have two felt brim pieces and one cotton batting brim piece. Now head to your sewing machine!

Step 5: Sew the Brim

With the right sides pinned together, sew on your machine, leaving about 3/4" seam allowance. Now we have a closed donut shape again, but with a slope. Do this for all three brim pieces.

Step 6: Sew the Brim, Cont.

Place the two felt donut pieces right sides together and sew around the perimeter. Snip around the edge with a pair of scissors just up to the seam you just sewed, but not further. Turn right side out.

Step 7: Sew the Brim, Cont.

Sew the cotton batting in the same manner and insert it in between the two felt pieces. The cotton batting, while not entirely necessary, will stabilize the brim more and make it less flimsy.

Step 8: Sew the Brim, Cont.

Sew a top stitch around the perimeter of the brim, and then again around the inside of the brim.

Step 9: Make the Pointy Bit

To make the conical part of the hat, take out a piece of felt that's at least 25" by 25" and fold it in half. Measure 21" and mark a dot with a marker. Move the measuring tape over, keeping it at the same spot where you marked the dot, so it makes a triangular shape, and draw a straight line. Cut it out. This will be a little too big for the hat, but it's a good start.

Step 10: Sew the Hat

Fold the brim in half. Match up the triangular top part of the hat to the brim where it will eventually be sewn. This should give you a rough idea of where to sew. Mark this point with your marker and cut a straight line from that point to the pointy part of the triangle.

Step 11: Sew the Hat, Cont.

Leaving a 1/2" seam allowance, sew the cone part of the hat. Turn it right side out. I used a chopstick to help me turn the more difficult parts right side out, but a knitting needle or a crochet hook might work too.

Step 12: Sew the Brim to the Hat

Place the cone part inside the brim part (right sides together) and pin them together. I chose to hand sew at this point, just because I don't even think my machine could fit four thick layers like this. All I did was use a small running stitch and securely knotted it once I made it all the way around.

Step 13: Stuff the Hat

At this point, the hat looks pretty silly. So to make it resemble Gandalf's hat a little bit more, we need to stuff it. I probably used about five or so large handfuls of poly-fil stuffing, but you can stuff it however much you want. You don't want stuffing to just fall out of the hat, (and I forgot to take a photo of this part) so you can use one of the circle pieces you cut from the "donut" pieces earlier and hand-sew that inside to keep the stuffing from falling out. Just make sure it's far enough inside that the hat is still able to fit on your head.

Step 14: Scrunch at the Seams

Using a needle and thread, sew at various parts of the back of the hat. Gather the thread tightly so it makes a slight curvature in the cone part of the hat. Do this all along the back seam. You can even do a little bit on the other side to make it curve slightly upwards. Just make sure to knot the thread when you're finished so nothing comes undone.

Step 15: Finished!

And that's all it takes to make a hat similar to Gandalf the Grey's. I love it. I've been wearing it all around the house just for fun.

I think it would do well for a Gandalf cosplay, or, in other colors, it would make a good hat for a general, generic wizard/witch costume.

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