How to Make a Leather Hat




Introduction: How to Make a Leather Hat

About: I am a jack of all trades and, dare I say, master of a couple. A self proclaimed maker of all things and avid pyrotechnic.

Hello! Have you ever wanted a good adventure hat, need a unique hat for a costume or just wanted a new fashion statement? Well then this instructable is for you! I am going to show you how to make your own leather hat! It takes some doing but it sure pays off in the end, so let's get started!

If you are just getting into leather work, I wouldn't recommend trying to make a whole hat right off the bat. But by all means go ahead and try. If you are new, I would recommend looking at these instructables to learn all of the basic skills needed for this project, actually I would strongly recommend looking at these because they are very good, and I will not be teaching you any of those skills in this instructable. This is for hats, not basic leather working skills, so read up!

How to Prepare Leather for Sewing

Comparing Leather Finishes

How to Dye Leather

How to make Folds in Leather

How to Saddle Stitch Leather

How to Burnish Leather

How to Cut Leather

(Not in order of importance, I just can't re-arrange them so this is how they are.)

Step 1: Tools and Materials

After going through those tutorials, it is time to begin!

You will need most of the tools pictured above plus something to wet the leather for tooling (also something to dye your leather with, and gloves if you are going to dye it). The edge following groover, awl, E-600 glue, and the six prong punch aren't really necessary, but they are very helpful.

Material wise, you don't need much. Leather, obviously, waxed thread, leather sewing needles, leather dye and sealer. I use Veg tanned sides from Tandy leather. They usually run about 30$ each. They are more than enough for a good sized hat. If you don't know what that is, or if you would even like working with it, go to Tandy or other another leather supply store and ask them, they will gladly help you.

There are hundreds of colors of leather dye, and just as many types of said dyes. I used oil dye and an acrylic sealer for my hats but it is completely personal preference. Go to a leather store and look around, ask someone who works there, you will learn a lot.

Step 2: Picking a Style

There are hundreds of thousands hat styles in the world. Not all of them are good for leather. Hats that turn out well in leather tend to be simpler and smaller, but don't let me stop you, pick one and start thinking! Most hats you can figure out with a little time and effort. Also keep in mind the size, shape and, weight of the hat because they all play a part in how the hat will turn out. Also size changes the amount of time it takes to make. Bigger hat= more stitching= more work. But don't let that hold you back, be creative! I personally have made a fedora and two top hats. So it is up to you! For this instructable I will be making a pork pie style hat because I like that hat, and it has a nice, simple shape.

Step 3: Patterning

Here comes the tricky bit, Patterning! This take a bit of practise so don't give up! A little time spent on this will save you a ton of time later. So here it goes.

After you have decided what hat you would like to make, it is time to start measuring. Start with the circumference of your head. Then add about 1-2 inches to account for the shrinkage of the the leather (you will most likely have to turn the hat inside out by soaking it in water so that will make the hat shrink). Then, start sketching! I use Autodesk Inventor Professional 2015 for my patterns but you can just sketch them up yourself, or find a pre-made pattern and scale it to your noggin. I have included the pdfs of my Pork Pie hat patterns I did not include the side because it is just a rectangle (which is 25.18 inches long and 5.75 inches tall.) and can't fit on a piece of printer paper.

*After making the hat, it turns out the height should be a little less so if you are making this hat, make the rectangle 4 inches tall instead of 5.75, also make the brim larger.

Step 4: Cutting the Pieces

After transferring your pattern onto the leather it is time to cut them out. Since I had to split my brim into four pieces I could use my leather scissors on all of the pieces, which I think is the easiest way to go, but it is up to you because hey, it's your hat. (I used my rotary tool on the side because it was quicker but I could have used scissors.)

*I ended up needing to cut small triangles out of my brim to make it curl so if you want to make this hat, keep that in mind.

Step 5: Punching and Stitching

Next is the most time consuming, stressful and tedious part of it all. THE STITCHING!!!

I hope you took some time on your pattern because ladies and gents, this is where it really pays off. If all of your measurements are right, all of your stitches should line up the way you want. But if not, you will have to do some emergency cutting and maybe overlap some pieces. But hey, that's hat making, it took me two to figure it out, so push through! Depending of the style of crown, changes the way you are going to stitch it. For a crown like a porkpies's you would saddle stitch the hat inside out. For a fedora crown you could get away without having to stitch it inside-out. You will figure it out as you go. I would recommend starting at the crown, then sewing the brim and finally the back side seam. But it's your hat so, you do you. For the stitching of the crown and brim I always start at the front and then take each needle in the opposite direction around the hat so they meet back where they started. That way everything turns out nice and symmetrical.

Step 6: Dying and Finishing Touches

Now here comes the fun part! finishing off the hat and adding your personal touches. After you finish the stitching, you have to turn your hat right-side-out and then give it its final shape. You may also want to make a band for around the outside. This can be made out of leather, but it is up to you. I always texture mine with some interesting pattern. For the band on this one, I used a small spring and hammered it into the leather at random intervals for a nice contrast of pattern. I then dyed it the same color as the hat. In my second top hat I used some suede that I had laying around to make a sweatband. It really finishes off the hat but it does cost a bit more, especially if you use suede. You probably could get away with a nice ribbon or strip of soft fabric. Also if the hat is for someone or you are going to sell it, consider making a little piece of leather with your name on it, to glue inside.

Congrats! Your hat is complete!

Step 7: Show Off Your Beautiful New Hat!

Its done! or at least close enough. Show it off!

Step 8: Thoughts

So this hat didn't turn out as well as I would have liked but hey, hatting is an experiment. The only way to really get the hat you want is practice, practice, practice. Other than the brim I think it was quite a successful leather en-devour.

Keep making and enjoy your new hat!

Tandy Leather Contest 2016

Third Prize in the
Tandy Leather Contest 2016

Maker Olympics Contest 2016

Runner Up in the
Maker Olympics Contest 2016



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    18 Discussions

    Any chance of getting PDFs of the patterns you used for the fedora?

    This is some leather work I have always wanted to learn. Great job, the hat turned out very nice.

    I love this project! Were the hats made the same way one century ago?

    1 reply

    I think so. If they were making them out of leather. Leather craft hasn't changed much.

    I like this! You do nice work! Thanks!

    Great instructable! I've just enjoyed a couple of hours reading and following links etc. on this subject and learnt a lot. I especially liked the video about sharpening the awl it was great and as an experienced "tool sharpener", I still learnt something valuable I hadn't known.

    1 reply

    Thank you! I really means a lot getting all of this positive feedback on only my second Instructable!

    P.S. there is a second leather instructable in the pipes.

    Very nice. I especially like the main top hat pictured. Quite clean looking. Makes me want to get back into millinery again. I haven't made any hats in a while.

    2 replies

    Thank you! You are partially the reason I made my first hat! Your instructable was quite helpful.

    Thanks for all of the support everyone!

    Amazing! I've done felt blocking or hats but leather molding is where it's at. These look great.


    2 years ago

    Wow, I love this brown leather cylinder! Super cool!

    Very cool. I want to learn to work with leather & suede, but don't know where to start!

    The fedora looks great. The top hats a bit too steam punk for my taste but look great too. The pork pie (the black one on white background??) great but not truly a pork pie model i think. Nevertheless, great craftmanship. If only I could find a place where they sell leather. When I was young that was easy, but basic material shops seem to get fewer and fewer

    These hats are tops! Great Instructable. Thank you for sharing.