Checkpoint Charlie Hat





Introduction: Checkpoint Charlie Hat

About: I run Neal's CNC in Hayward, CA, an expert CNC cutting and fabrication service. Check out what we do at I'm a founding member of Noisebridge, a hackerspace in San Francisco, and Ac...

This is a copy of a hat my friend Doc Pop brought back from (East) Germany. He got it near Checkpoint Charlie so that's what he calls it; to me it looks more like the hat Governor Tarkin is wearing when he gets insulted by Princess Leia. But either way it's cool.

I made this from a thrift store blazer, rather than buying fabric new. It cost about $9 (in expensive San Francisco) and I'll get another 2 hats from it, easily. If you have fallen in love with yardage, you'll need about a third of a yard -- but take the pattern to the store and lay it out there to be sure.

For the brim, I use a piece of flexible clear plastic of the kind blister packages are made from. Many packages have large flat areas from which the plastic can be reclaimed, although a lot are just too closely molded to the product. I have a stash of flat plastic for brims. Yay reuse!

The only other material needed is a yard or so of quilt binding or wide bias tape for the inner hat band. Tools required are sewing machine (although you could do this by hand as well), pins, and scissors.

Update: pix of one made from paper!

Step 1: Pattern

Download the attached ZIP file for the pattern. It contains five files:


I have not worked out a good way to get a paper pattern into a computer. If anyone has a good idea I'd love to hear it. Anyway I traced these in Photoshop... I didn't take the estimated 4 hours I thought it would take to add the seam allowance, so each of these shows only the stitching line. When you print them out, you'll want to cut a quarter inch out from the line; it may be easiest to draw the cutting line on first.

Also: the sizing is probably not correct. I marked a red line with a number of inches on each file, so you may need to make some xerox adjustments to get that marking to the right length.

Thanks for your patience everyone! Please post pictures of yours!

Step 2: Cut Out Pieces

If you're using a jacket, first deconstruct it, at least enough to lay out the pattern pieces. For this pattern, cut as follows:

1 x crown
1 x side
2 x flap
1 x strap
2 x brim, with seam allowance

1 x crown
1 x side

1 x brim, without seam allowance

Make notches as marked so you'll know where to match the pieces up.

Step 3: Construct Crown

I like to sew the lining first, it gives me a sense of how difficult the stitching is. This one has a couple tricky points, where the outside curve of the side piece attaches to the inside curve of the crown. Pin carefully at the notch points. Another advantage of doing the lining first is that it's harder to sew the thin, hard rayon (or poly, or acrylic) than the thick, soft wool. Wool really wants to behave for you.

When you have both pieces together, press and/or topstitch the wool piece (I never bother with this for the lining). Then put the lining inside, wrong sides together, and baste around the bottom close to the fabric edge.

Step 4: Construct & Attach Flap

Stitch the two flap pieces together along the curved edge, leaving the straight edge open. Turn and press; topstitch if desired (I think it looks better but it isn't essential).

Pin the flap to the edge of the crown, making sure the ends are symmetrical to the center front. Baste.

Step 5: Construct & Attach Brim

Sew the two brim pieces together along the long edge. Turn and press (don't topstitch this one!)

Starting from one end, insert the plastic brim stiffener inside. Pin lengthwise, tight to the inside edge of the plastic brim piece, so that the pins are pointed to the left with the heads to the right. It doesn't matter if the seam allowances inside go on one side of the plastic or one on each side, but try to keep it consistent the whole way or you may get an Unsightly Bulge. Pull tightly so the fabric is a little bit stretched, rather than potentially saggy.

Pin the brim to the front of the hat, matching notches, over top of the flap. Sew it down along the pin line, removing the pins as you come to them.

Step 6: Inside Band

Try the hat on. Cut a piece of wide bias tape or quilt binding a little longer than the inside of the hat, to be the band. If the hat is a little big, you can cut the band to the right size and ease around the back, or stuff it with newspaper like they did in the Forties!

Pin the band to the inside of the hat edge, folding the first end in to make a nice edge when it's done. Stitch all the way around, keeping on the fold of the bias tape for a tidy edge. Tack the ends together on the side not sewn to the hat so they don't flop around.

Fold the band to the inside and topstitch all the way round the hat, making sure not to catch in the flaps (or brim, but that would be difficult).

Step 7: Add Strap Across Front

This is really optional but for me the strap makes the hat.

Press the long edges of the strap piece to the center, and topstitch if desired. The original actually did not topstitch this piece, it was simply pressed hard enough to stay in place. You could also use stitch witchery or a flexible glue to keep this down.

Pin to the hat front as in the pictures. You could tack through all layers but the original was stitched only on the inside, a nice touch that I wanted to retain.

Working carefully, adjust the pins until the inside fold of the strap is pinned to the crown, but not the outside. The pictures show this better. Stitch down, a millimeter or so to the outside of the pin, to get a nice taut strap.

And that is it! Hat complete. You may now put it on and order Imperial Senators to be terminated.



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    59 Discussions

    Hey, this looks fantastic! I must have missed when you first posted it. Great work!

    Thanks! I get complements on the street. Despite (or because of?) its lopsidedness. From a look at the streets of Seattle, hats (or at least cute little caps) seem to be coming back in fashion. Now that I've made one, I look more closely at others. (spell check: not in dictionary: "denim", "Seattle" !?) I can't wait to see DocPop's denim rendition, if he ever slows down and gets a chance to do a little tailoring.

    As modified for Halloween, with a Star Wars Rebel Alliance insignia, stitched red felt on white felt.


    This Instructable has won the "I Made It" Challenge, Thanks for being a part of the instructables community!

    Excellent Instructable, and it turned out to be much easier than it looked! (Though, admittedly, I probably cheated by using fleece)


    Just made one of these: too small, alas! But as a first try I'm quite pleased. Thanks for the instructable!


    Thanks so much for making this instructable!!!! Made one out of what I had lying around the house. That one I made too small for my hubby. The second time around got a thift store old wool mens coat & made it prefectly. I did use iron-on stiffing for the bill instead of plastic. My husband loves it, because he can cover his ears when it's cold. Thank you again:)

    1 reply

    So far, because of my printer, Ive done this all by just looking and measuring...and scissors....however, its coming nicely. Im making mine out of old jeans

    What a great, sassy pattern! Thank you so much for providing it!

    I made mine out of a fleece boucle onto which I applied a light interfacing on the back of all pieces. Instead of using anything (other than the interfacing) inside the brim as a stiffener, I topstitched five lines. The end result is not stiff, but stiff enough to do the job. I realized that the hat was going to be too big the intended recipient according to the given dimensions, so I cut out all pieces on the pattern lines (i.e., not cutting them larger for a seam allowance), then sewed with a 1/4" seam allowance - meaning that each piece was 1/4" smaller on all sides when finished. This worked well for all parts except for the ear flaps, which I wish I'd made longer.

    Thanks again for a great pattern. Much appreciated.

    Photo on 2010-09-07 at 22.49 #2.jpg
    1 reply

    This step is so hard. One side keeps trying to sneak away and then I get these krinkles that make it fit badly. :[

    3 replies

    Yeah, sewing opposite curves takes some practice.  if it's really beating you up, try basting it by hand first.  Just sew with a needle and thread (a contrasting color is helpful when you go to take it out) along the problem areas, to hold them in place for the machine.  Since you're doing one stitch at a time by hand, you have a lot more control over where the fabric pieces meet.  Good luck!

    Thanks! I'll give it a shot. It at least has taught me to use a seam ripper better.

    Ha!  I've been sewing since i was 8 and I can probably count on one hand the number of things I've made where I didn't need to rip out something!

    Post a pic of your hat when you're done, I'd love to see how it comes out.

    First, thanks for the pattern!

    With very little previous sewing experience, I managed to make a couple of hats a while ago.  For the first version, I used unmodified pattern pieces, which turned out to be much (much) too big, so I adjusted the pattern to fit my head better. It serves me well as my work hat, now.

    Thanks again. 

    2 replies

    How did you reduce the pattern? I printed them out all at like 90%. I measured the first hat I tried and compared the inner circumference to the circumference of my head and ended up with that ratio. Just wanted to see how you scaled and if it worked out well for you before I try.

      How did you manage to scale them?  I attempted scaling but ran into problems, then decided to modify the pattern pieces instead.

    On the side and flap pieces, I removed an inch from the length by taking  it from the center.  I cut a triangle shaped wedge from the top piece, so the circumference removed equaled what I took out of the sides.  I'll make diagrams if I didn't explain well enough.

    The bill and band didn't need modification.

    I imagine scaling would work better than what I did, especially for smaller iterations where my method would break down, but this was sufficient for me.