Quick 'n' Dirty Steampunk / US Civil War Foraging Cap

Those of you who are into the costuming aspect of Steampunk have probably noticed somehow your ensemble doesn't feel complete without some sort of hat. Bowlers, tophats and newsboy caps are easy enough to source. If you want to stand out, however, you might be interested in something different altogether. 

I know I was! I started looking at reenactment sites and the like to find out what soldiers of the 19th century were wearing. One of the hats that I thought had great steampunk potential was the foraging cap as used during the US Civil War. There are replicas available online, though they tend to be expensive, and I had trouble sourcing one in "steampunk-friendly brown" (yes, that is an official color).

So I went looking for patterns to make my own. I had no luck finding any. I thought that perhaps I could perhaps find a pattern for another type of hat and adapt it, but as it turns out, hats are surprisingly complicated things, and at this point I had never even touched a sewing machine in my life!

So I started mulling it over in my mind.. how hard could it be? They're little more than baseball caps, how complic... hang on!! Baseball caps! Of course! I can just cheat and modify one of those instead! Here goes! 

Step 1: Supplies & Tools Needed

You need very little to make one of these caps. I used the following materials:

- The cheapest baseball cap you can find. You'll be cutting into it and sewing cloth onto it, so it doesn't have to be fancy at all! Just make sure it fits and you'll be fine!

- Cloth in the color and material of your choosing. This cap was meant as a prototype so I just used some scrap material. You really don't need much. A piece of 18x32 inches will give you plenty of material to work with.. 

- Some thick paper or thin carboard for the top. I used the side of a juice box.

- Some sheets of paper to make a rough pattern.

- Spray paint (optional)

I also used the following tools:

- A pen

- Tape measure

- Scissors

- Glue

- Some tape

- Sewing machine

Step 2: Modifying the Baseball Cap

What you want to do, is trim the length, and possibly the shape of the sun visor. If you look at pictures of foraging caps, or kepi's of the period, you'll notice the visor to be quite short compared to the baseball caps of today. You also have the choice of a rounded or squared visor. I prefer the squar elook myself, so I cut the visor in the shape I liked best. 

Depending on the color of your 'donor-cap', you might have to paint your visor. Mine came in green. I prefered black, so I simply spray painted it the right color. 

Step 3: Top of the Cap

Let me start out by saying making one of these isn't an exact science. Far from it. I often made stuff up as I went along, without taking any exact measurements. Start making the top by taking your piece of cardboard and marking a circle of the approximate diameter you want the top to be.  I just happened to have a saucer that I thought was pretty much the right size, so I used that.

Cut out the circle, then cover it with a thin layer of glue. I used ordinary paper glue for this. Be careful at this point you don't use too much glue, as it could soak through the cloth and stain it!

When the glue is applied, cover the circle with cloth. Use a piece slightly bigger than the circle you cut. Give the glue some time to dry, then trim the excess cloth. 

Step 4: Making the Sides

This is the part where it gets a bit fiddly, though it isn't overly complicated. First you will need to make a pattern.

You pretty much need three measurements:

1.) The circumference of your cap while wearing it.

2.) The circumference of the top part.

3.) How tall you want your hat to be. (Mind you, it will slope forward - too short, and it will look more like a kepi. Too tall, and it'll bounce all over the place, looking quite silly)

Write down these measurements, then tape some sheets of paper together to make your pattern.

Fold the sheets in half so you'll only have to draw one half of the pattern.

On the fold, mark out the distance you would like to be the height of your hat by placing two dots. For example: if you would like your hat to be 12 inches tall, space them 12 inches apart.

Now from the dot at the top, mark out the circumference of the top (divided by two, of course - your pattern is already doubled up)

From the dot at the bottom, do the same for the circumference of the cap (again, divide this number by two)

Connect the dots, now allow half an inch or so for seems when you cut it out. 

When you fould it open, you're left with a paper trapezoid. This is the pattern you'll use for the body of your cap. 

Next, use this pattern to cut out the body. Fold over the cloth and sew it at the seems to stop it from fraying. You can test fit it by holding the pieces together by hand and see if they more-or-less fit. I had to redo some of my sewing to make adjustments. As I said earlier: you probably have to make some stuff up as you go alomg to make everything work together nicely. 

Step 5: Adding the Body to the Top

To attach the body and the top together, I did the following: I turned the body inside-out. The narrow part should be atached to the top, so I sewed this to the circumference of the circle all the way around. I then pulled it righ-side out again,  rolling the top over on itself, creating a nice anf finished look. 

Step 6: Adding It All Together

Now comes the fun bit, the part where your collection of bits becomes an actual hat.. First you need to decide on the final height of your hat. Again: to short and it will resemble a kepi rather than a foraging cap. Too tall, and it will flop about, making you look like a demented Smurf. 

Once you trimmed it to the correct length, simply sew the body to the base of your baseball cap. The material is prety thick at this point and some sewing machines might struggle a bit at this point. Mine did, and since I was trying to rush it at this point, it didn't come out as nice as I had hoped. So: take your time, move at a slow but steady pace, and chances are yours will end up looking much nicer than my quickie prototype! 

Step 7: Wearing It And.. Profit??

Finish it up, add some goggles, straps, badges or other accessories and see how it works with the rest of your ensemble! The perfect hat for hunting aliens, or just walking your pet dinosaur!

I hope you enjoyed this quick instructable. It was my first ever! If you decide to make your own, please do post a picture or two, as I'd love to see it!



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    14 Discussions


    2 years ago

    I made several kepis and forage caps for reenactors over time. Very easy to make and great in winter . (i make em as they were made way back then,lol.)

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    Hi, Anthony. Where did you find instructions on how to make the kepi using the historical method? Would you share the information? susanmconner@yahoo.com


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Gotta love this hat! I also like the idea of upcycling a boring ad-baseball cap into a unique headpiece. Have you thought about adding some lining in the next version of it? Lining always adds style!

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Never shoot a xenomorph that close without your goggles!!! ;-)

    That looks great! Some advice, if you use a needle designed for sewing thicker fabric on your sewing machine, it might make the final step easier :)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I... I just wanna know where the Xenomorph Queen came from, and where can I get one!!! (Also, the hat is pretty awesome, too ;) )

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    The "Silver Snail" comic shop in Toronto. On Queen street, close to the John street intersection. They have really cool busts in the back, and most of them are for sale. I believe this particular Alien can be found there.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I encountered her in the murky depths of the Interweb.. just follow the tubes past the 'Here be Dragons' sign..


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Fun project! I can see an army of steam punk dino-fighers. :-)