Introduction: How to Make a Coconut Palm Hat

About: I like to make things more simple with easily available resources. My favorite quote: A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a…

We have few coconut palm trees in our home garden. From time to time I used to prune few old fronds and also part of some which obstruct the path way. I always thought of making something useful from the fronds instead of throwing them out.

The Hats and Headpieces Challenge gave me an idea to make a Hat from the coconut fronds. I have never woven a hat using coconut fronds. My search on the web led to few youtube videos where professional weavers made some amazing looking headpieces using coconut fronds. At first it was very confusing. I repeatedly watched those videos many times, practised with few coconut fronds and finally made this hat. This may not be as good looking as those woven by professional hat makers, but it is a craft I have learned on the way.

This hat is something that definitely turns heads and also protects the wearer from sunlight. No special tools are required other than a machete or a sharp knife.

In this step-by-step instructable, I have tried my level best to explain how to make the coconut palm hat from scratch. Please read on. Your comments and suggestions are most welcome.

Step 1: Harvest the Coconut Fronds

For weaving the coconut palm hat, you need fresh fronds harvested from the tree. The middle portion of the frond is best suited for weaving. If you cut a whole frond from a tree, you can make about 4 to 6 portions for weaving the hat. Make sure each portion consists of about 22 to 24 leaflets.

Here I have harvested two portions of fronds, each containing about 25 leaflets on each side, from our coconut tree in the home garden. I can split these two into halves and will have four fronds for weaving the hat.

Step 2: Split the Coconut Fronds

The harvested coconut fronds can be split at the middle rib. Use a machete or a good knife to split the fronds. Each portion of the split frond can be used to make one hat.

Step 3: Soak the Fronds in Water

Initially I tried weaving the hat from freshly harvested coconut fronds, but the leaf sticks broke in many places, unsuitable to continue the crown. Please see the first picture here. After weaving a beautiful rim, I had to discard the piece due to broken sticks.

Then I soaked the freshly harvested coconut fronds in water for about 24 hours. This made the sticks more flexible and I did not face problem of breaking sticks.

Step 4: Prepare the Coconut Frond

After soaking the frond in water for about 24 hours, you will find the leaf sticks are more flexible. But still you can not bend the frond due to the excess thickness of the rib.

Use a machete or a sharp thick knife to thin out the rib as much as possible. Do it till you can bend the frond to form a circle as shown in the last picture.

Step 5: Remove Excess Leaflets

To weave the hat, use between 17 and 20 leaflets, means use 17, 18, 19 or 20 leaflets. Hats weaved with 17 leaflets will give a normal hat. below 17 will be smaller and suitable for kids only. Above 20 leaflets will make the hat very large.

  • In the first picture you can see that this frond consists 20 leaflets. We will use 17 of the leaflets to weave the hat.
  • Trim three leaflets from bottom end of the frond. You can just pull them off one by one without damaging the frond.
  • Shave off the knots where the leaflets were attached to the frond and make it even.
  • Now, when you fold the frond, the shaved off portion will go inside and you can tie it firmly between the leaflets to make a circle.

Step 6: Tie Both Ends Together

Once the excess leaflets have been trimmed off, you can tie both ends together to make a rough circle.

  • Bring the long end without the leaves inside the short end to make a circle. Initially it may be out of shape but do not worry about that.
  • Place both ends in proper position and tie them together. Here I have used strings from dried banana stem. You can use strings made from coconut fronds or normal thread. Tie the ends in between the leaflets at few places so that the ends will not slip out from their position.
  • Sometimes the coconut frond may not be in a circular shape after tying. Now adjust the frond with your hands to make a somewhat reasonable circle shape.

The last two pictures show the top and bottom views of the coconut frond ready for weaving

Step 7: Weaving the Rim: Part 1

Weaving the hat from coconut fronds will be done in two parts, the Rim and the Crown. First we will start with weaving the rim of the hat.

  • If you look at the circular frond carefully, you will see that the leaflets are slightly turned towards the left in a clockwise direction. The leaflets from other portion of the frond split from this one will run in the opposite direction, that is in the anti-clockwise direction. You will start weaving the hat towards the direction of the leaflets.
  • For easy understanding of weaving the rim, I have numbered the leaflets from 01 to 17 in the clockwise direction as you can see in the first picture.
  • Now take the Number 01 leaf, pass it below the Number 02 leaf, pass above Number 03 and finally pass below the Number 04 leaf. Do not weave very tight, make it slack.
  • Now the Number 01 leaf will be below the circle. Hold it firmly with your left hand.
  • Follow the same procedure with the Number 02 leaf, that is below Number 03, above number 04 and below Number 05.
  • Repeat the same procedure with all leaflets up to Number 15, which passes below 16, above 17 and below Number 01 leaflet. You can see this exactly in the last picture with the numbers marked on each leaflet.

Step 8: Weaving the Rim: Part 2

Now you will find that the Number 16 and Number 17 leaflets are standing free.

  • Take the Number 16 leaflet and pass it below Number 17.
  • The Number 01 leaf is already weaved. Pass the Number 16 leaflet above Number 01 and below Number 02. To do this, you have to insert the Number 16 leaflet through the gap between already weaved Number 01 and 02 leaflets.
  • Take the last one Number 17, pass it below Number 01, above number 02 and below Number 03. The weaving of the rim is complete.
  • Now starting from Number 01 leaflet, pull each leaflet lightly below the circle. While pulling, push the stick at the rim towards inside.
  • Repeat this procedure till the rim is tightly woven.

Now we have completed weaving the Rim portion of the hat as seen in the last picture.

Step 9: Arrange the Leaflets for Weaving Crown

Weaving the crown is the difficult part. Many people find it easier to weave the rim but they could not finish the crown properly. The following few steps will guide you on how to arrange the leaflets and weave the crown.

  • After completing the rim, the remaining portion of the leaflets are at the bottom side of the rim.
  • Now pull each leaflet separately towards the top side of the rim as shown in the picture.
  • Arrange the leaflets in order and tie them about 12 to 15 inches above the rim. Professional weavers do not tie the leaflets, but for non-professional hobbyists like us, tying will avoid confusion during weaving the crown.

Step 10: Weaving the Crown: Part 1

Here again I have numbered the leaflets from 01 to 17 in a clockwise direction. If you are using the other portion of the frond split from this this one then it will be in an anti-clockwise direction.

  • We will split the leaflets in three portions. Half the number of total leaflets in the first portion. Here our total number of leaflets are 17, so you can take 8 leaflets in the first portion.
  • The second portion will consist of the next three leaflets, that are Number 09, 10 and 11.
  • The remaining leaflets from Number 12 to 17 will form the last portion.
  • Now take the Number 01 leaf, pass it over all other leaflets in the first portion. Also take care to keep the stick facing down as shown in the first picture.
  • Pass the Number 01 leaf below Number 09, above Number 10 and below Number 11. Please refer the last two pictures on how to do this

Step 11: Weaving the Crown: Part 2

Repeat the same procedure with the other leaflets in the first portion.

  • Leaflet Number 02 will over 03 to 09 and pass below 10, above 11.
  • Now take the Number 12 leaflet from the third portion and pass the Number 02 below 12. Please see the first picture for reference.
  • Repeat this step with all other leaflets till the 07th leaflet is passed below the Number 17 leaflet. The last picture shows the exact position at this stage.

Step 12: Weaving the Crown: Part 3

At this stage the leaflets from Number 01 to 07 are weaved through other leaflets and the leaflets from Number 08 to 17 are yet to be weaved.

  • Now take the Number 08 leaflet, pass it below 16 and above 17.
  • This leaflet should now pass below number 01 which has already been weaved. Lightly lift up the Number 01 leaflet without disturbing the weave and pass Number 08 below this one.
  • Continue this process till all standing leaflets are weaved through others. This may be little confusing, but take your time, Identify each leaflet and weave through.

The completed crown will look something like this in the last picture.

Step 13: Weaving the Crown: Part 4

Now pull down all the leaflets one by one lightly to make a tight crown. Do not apply force. You can use your hand to push down the leaflets one by one from top of crown and pulling them down simultaneously.

Now you have a perfectly woven crown. My weaving is not pretty but I made a somewhat reasonable one.

Step 14: Trim Excess Length of Leaflets

Once you complete weaving the crown, you will find excess length of leaflets protruding around the hat. Insert the excess length securely through the weaves and trim excess length.

Step 15: Completed Coconut Palm Hats

You can see the completed hat from coconut fronds in the above pictures. I made two of them. These hats are rather stylish to wear during your outing but will also protect you from the sunlight. They can be stored and used for a very long time for more than two to three years. The only thing is that the leaflets will dry and turn from green to brown in colour.

Step 16: Epilogue

It took me about 10 days to learn the basics of weaving the hat from coconut fronds. The half-done things you see in above photographs are my repeated efforts in learning. There are few videos available in youtube but most of them are done by professional weavers. I had watched those videos repeatedly and admired the way professional hat makers weave a hat in less than half an hour. Now I could weave a hat with coconut fronds in about two hours, but the quality and look may not be same as done by professionals.

It is nearly 15 days since I made the hat. The leaflets are slowly drying up as you can see in the last picture. This hat can be kept safely and used for many years.

In this instructable I have explained the basics involved in weaving the hat from coconut fronds in easy to follow steps. Wear it when you go out and it is sure to make heads turn to admire the headpiece.

Happy Hat making....

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