For about $50 and with very few special tools, you can make a super-sized cowboy hat! I created this for our local Christmas parade float. It (of course!) isn't suitable for everyday use on a vehicle. It would also make an interesting decoration or prop.
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Step 1: Materials List
To make a giant cowboy hat which is 5 feet deep and 8 feet wide, you'll need:
A box which makes up the center of the hat (I used a sturdy cardboard box that was 22 inches wide, 26 inches deep, and about 17 inches tall)
Some extra cardboard
Enough felt to cover the bottom of the hat, the brim, and the center. I needed 8 yards of 72 inch-wide felt.
Two rolls of hardware cloth (2 feet by 5 feet original size)
Strong fishing line (I used 50-pound weight)
Wire cutting shears
Thin scrap wood (I used 1" by 2" furring strips-- don't go much thinner than that)
Glue suitable for felt
Optional: If you want to temporarily attach this hat to a truck, for low speed driving in parades only, you will need four loading straps
Step 2: Make the Hat Frame
This frame is basically the skeleton of the hat.
Your measurements will vary slightly based on the box you choose for the middle of your hat and how deep/wide you want the hat to be. I wanted a hat for my husband's F150 truck in the parade; the top of the truck is 5 feet wide and 4 feet deep, so I wanted a hat that was 8 feet wide and 5 feet deep (so I could have a little brim in the front, and then for the side curl the edges up a little for the exaggerated cowboy hat shape).
You need to make a frame which fits over the box (with about 1 inch of wiggle room from any side of the box). The frame will serve to hold the box down and will be what makes up the hat brim shape. You'll need to leave just enough gap to fit over the felt which you will attach around the center of the hat, but not so much that it slides around or has a big unsightly gap. Do not cut the flaps off the box or tape the box shut.
For a hat which is 8 feet wide and 5 feet deep, you'll need to cut your furring strips or scrap wood into: two 5' pieces, and two pieces just slightly longer than the depth of your chosen cardboard box. My box was 26 inches deep, so I cut the cross pieces about 30 inches.
Get your hardware cloth and carefully trace out the curved edges of a cowboy hat. You'll end up with a half-circle, basically (See first figure). Cut the extra corners off with shears designed for cutting hardware cloth-- BE VERY CAREFUL IT IS SHARP!
Align your hardware cloth shapes and then place your boards on top of them so that there is a six inch overlap (you want the boards to be ON TOP of the hardware cloth, so you end up with a flat bottom to the hat, and so when you bend the cloth upwards later it makes a smooth-looking curve). Use screws to attach the hardware cloth to the ends of the board so you end up with one solid piece (See second figure). I actually flipped everything upside down and came up through the cloth and through the wood, from the bottom, using a screw with a wide enough head that it could hold the cloth on. Then I turned the frame right side up and used a hammer to knock the protruding part of the screw flat.
Step 3: Make the Hat Center
To make the curvy top of a cowboy hat, use a little spare cardboard and cut out two symmetrical wavy shapes. Firmly attach them to the hat with duct tape.
At this point, you will need felt. You'll have to use math to determine how much you need-- I needed 8 yards of 72 inch width felt.
Cut some felt to shape and affix to the sides with spray glue, folding the edges of the felt over a little so you cover all the cardboard and have a surface for the center piece of felt to adhere to.
For the center, you need to build up the top of the hat with something to give the hat shape, but which is lightweight. I used trash bags stuffed with newspaper and taped into two rolls. Cut a long rectangular strip of felt which is as deep as your hat, and wide enough to run from the bottom of the box, up the flat side, over the curves, and down the other flat side.
I started in the middle and worked outwards to cover the top of the hat. I used a gooey super-glue product to glue the edges of the felt together, and just before you reach the flat side, you can stuff a little extra newspaper into the top of the hat to give it the right shape. The cardboard sides, being flat, can be sprayed with the spray glue and the felt pressed neatly down onto the flat sides. It doesn't matter that the flaps are not covered.
Step 4: Cut the Felt; Combine the Frame and Center; Cover With Felt
Cut a large oval which will go under the frame and center. Add a couple extra inches to the edges so you have plenty of overlap and the hardware cloth won't stick out-- be careful of sharp edges and cutting tools.
Trace an identical oval and cut that out as well. This will be the final piece, which will slip like a skirt over the hat center and down neatly onto the base. Lay the frame down and mark the center square onto the oval, then cut it out so you have it ready to put down last.
Put the first oval down flat, then the hat center (with box flaps out) in the middle (CAREFUL- in my photo I DO NOT have the hat center down, just the frame-- you must put the center down, flaps out, and cover it with the frame-- see figure). FINALLY, use the frame to hold down the hat center. Make sure everything is symmetrical and just like you want it, then use spray glue to secure the hardware cloth down and the flaps of the hat. Make sure you do this outside and in a well-ventilated area-- the fumes of spray glue are potent.
Once you have that done, use that second oval you cut with the square out of the middle to slip over the top and secure it neatly over the frame and hardware cloth. You'll probably need a little more spray glue. Now you have your hat 90% done!
Step 5: Finishing Touches
Use some equal lengths of fishing line to give the hat a curled edge. Just carefully separate the felt a little to reach the hardware cloth, tie one end of a short length of fishing line to the cloth, and secure the other end down onto the frame. I used three pieces on each side. You will need to measure this length "to taste" depending on how much of a curl you want. Use a little scrap felt to cover any gaps at the edge of the hat, or do like I did and add some fake flowers and battery-operated Christmas lights as your hat band.
We used this hat in a parade and so we needed a way to firmly secure it to the top of the truck. So, I cut a slit in the felt up from the bottom of the hat at each corner of the frame and tied a loading strap to all four corners of the frame so that the long ends of the strap hung down (see photo). Then I secured them to loading points inside the cab of the truck. We DID NOT drive over 35 mph with the hat on, and I DO NOT recommend you keep the hat on your vehicle permanently. It will probably blow away!
Enjoy your hat! Our float won first prize commercial in our local parade!
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