Introduction: 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

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

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

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

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

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.

Summer Sewing Contest

Finalist in the
Summer Sewing Contest