Leather Steampunk Top Hat




About: I like to make stuff. I teach stagecraft to high school kids, and have won some awards for it. In my dream world, I will get to make wacky stuff all day and teach other people how to make wacky stuff. Tea...

If you've got some basic leatherworking know-how and need a spiffy hat for your steampunk getup, give this one a try.  It took me 3 hours of construction and alteration on day 1, and 2 hours dyeing and finishing on day 2.

Step 1: Materials

From your leatherworking tool kit:
rivet setter
knife or rotary cutter
cutting mat
leather hole punch
marking pencil

LEATHER (I used a cheap-ass utility hide I bought off a sale rack because the price was too good to ignore.)
Dye and a dauber
20 or so rivets
mink oil
leather finish
bailing wire

AND either a good quality sewing machine (I used my home sewing Viking machine, but it's got a great motor) or leather stitching supplies for hand sewing (ick)

Step 2: Take Measurements

I measured the interior height of an old hat, and around my fiancee's head. 

Step 3: Cut Your Brim

If you're not real confident about your pattern drafting skillz, do this on paper first. I started by cutting the hole in the brim to the same circumference as the head measurement.  It should be an oval.  Then, I traced the outside edge, adding 3/4" for hem allowance. 

Step 4: Cut the Top

I wanted a very dramatic curve on the side band, so I make the top oval much larger than the hole in the brim.  Don't forget to add 1/2" for seam allowance.

Step 5: Cut Your Side Band

The sideband starts as a rectangle 2 1/2 inches taller than the hat height you decided on before.  The hat I measured was 7 1/2 inches deep, so I cut a 10" high rectangle.  The rectangle should be the same length as the circumference of the hole in the brim.

Step 6: Making Waves

This is where we hack up the rectangle to give us that dashing profile and steamy look.  The "high" parts of the wave are the front and rear, the low parts are the side.  Next, cut it in half to make room for the triangle inserts on the sides.

Step 7: Finish Cutting

Cut your triangle inserts.  Cut them big; this lets us adjust things as we go.  Here are all your parts, ready for assembly!

Step 8:

Sew the flat part of the sides to the top piece.  Center them on the long part of the oval.  Next, sew the inserts to the top to cover the gaps.  DO NOT sew the inserts to the sides.  Pull the brim over the sides and sew it on.  Make sure to line your long points of the ovals up.  Roll the outer edges of your brim over and hem, inserting the bailing wire as you go.  I used a zipper foot.  Go SLOWLY.

Step 9: Rivet in the Inserts.

Carefully mark and punch your rivet holes where your sides overlap your inserts.  Set your rivets.

Step 10: Steam Some Shape Into It!

I have a big Jiffy Steamer in my basement, but for little stuff like this my electric teakettle works just fine.  Hold a small section of the hat over the steam for 20 seconds, then remove and bend the hat into the desired shape as it cools.  Repeat until the hat has the desired shape.

Step 11: Dye It!

I originally wanted to airbrush the dye on, but Matt wanted it darker so I used a fully saturated dauber instead. 

On a side note, if you KNOW you want to use a dauber, dye first, then steam.  You'll loose some shape when you dye.

Select an appropriate finish for your needs.  I chose a heavy coating of mink oil.

I let it sit overnight, then buffed off the excess mink oil.

Step 12: All Done!

The completed hat.  STEAMY!

2 People Made This Project!


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123 Discussions


Question 2 months ago on Step 7

Hi! I'm new here... does the download contain the pattern?


8 years ago on Introduction

Really liked this!! I tried making it with " Faux leather"( upholstery Naugahyde I had left over from a job.), would have came out great but I messed up 2 times. Once sewing the bottom edge to the top piece, and not leaving a seam allowance on the brim. Was able to salvage it though. turned it into a "regular" hat. to get the brim to curve up on the sides I cut thin plastic(a can lid),heated it over the side of a can to get a curve, the inserted them between the upper and lower parts of the brim. Picture of it in my profile in case I can't add one to my comment.
Thank you for sharing this! :) :)

steampunk hat 05.jpgsteampunk hat 04.jpg
4 replies

Reply 1 year ago

It looks great, what a clever idea to use a can lid as a form!

Leo4613Jenn Nelson

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

Thank you! Glad you both like it. :) For not being what I intended, I have gotten quite a few complements on it. Guess if you learn to adapt your mistakes they work . ;) :) :)


8 years ago on Step 10

Do you have any suggestions for the shaping step with faux leather? (polyester with a leather look, is what mine is, i believe)

5 replies
Jenn Nelsonkanadra

Reply 8 years ago on Step 10

Nope. Any heating will most likely damage the faux leather. Sorry!

saladgyrlJenn Nelson

Reply 1 year ago

but if they use buckram and wire, it probably won't need the steam that the leather did to shape it, just a thought...


Reply 7 years ago on Step 10

i would suggest if your uesing a faux leather to first cut the pieces from buckram, wire the out side edge of the brim, the top and botom of the crown then sew on the faux leather. once all pieces are covered, top and botom side of brim, crown and top of hat. then put the pieces togather. it will take a little longer but the finished hat will last a long time and the brim can be shaped buy just shaping the wire, the buck ram cann be shaped with steam befor you add the faux leather. hope this help. you can find buckram at hancock or joann fabrics. i have even found suppliers on etsy. hope this helps.


1 year ago on Introduction

This is awesome! Thanks for the great project idea, I hope to actually make a version of this soon.


2 years ago

I love the top hat! Great job! It'd make a fantastic gift!


4 years ago on Introduction

Thanks for this! Was a great learning experience and fun project!


4 years ago on Step 12

This is absolutely fantastic!! I'm definetly keeping this in mind, just have one question, how thick is the leather you used?


5 years ago on Introduction

Tried this for myself, now this has brass rivets all along the gold dyed side panels. Lots of fiddly work (especially since I also hand sewed the whole thing), and the rivets near the top were a royal pain to set but I love how it turned out. Especially like how the main red dye turned out (2 layer with Mahogany over Cranberry)