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Monday, July 11, 2011

Witch Hat Tutorial

What you'll need:

5mm Straw Braid x 1m
Tacky Glue
Sewing Pins
Fray Stop
Hat Form (See Below)

When I sat down to figure out how to make a witches hat I very quickly figured out that I needed something solid to support the hat and help keep the shape even.  This support is what I call a Hat Form.  Changing the size and shape of your hat form changes the size and shape of your finished hat.  The measurements given below make an average sized hat.

There are two ways you can make your own hat form.  The first way is to use thin cardboard. With the pin end of a compass on the point of a ninety degree corner, mark a quater circle on the cardboard with a 4.5-5cm radius.  Cut this out and bring the corners of the semi-circle together to form a cone shape.  You want the base of the cone to have a diameter of about 1.7cm and may need to overlap the edges a little to achieve this.  Once happy with the size and shape of your cone, use some tape to fix it in shape.  You'll also need to cut a small circle of cardboard with a diameter of about 4cms to shape the brim of your hat.  Draw a circle in the centre of the circle the size of the base of your cone.

Cardboard Hat Forms
The second and best way to make a hat form is to use paper clay.  You must use paper clay and not regular air drying clay.  Simply shape a lump of paper clay into a solid cone about 4.5-5cm high with a base diameter of about 1.7cm and leave until dry.  To make the brim form, roll some paper clay flat until it's 3mm thick and carefully mark and cut out a circle about 4cm in diameter.  If you want a sloping brim push up the centre of your circle to create a slight convex shape.   When the brim form is dry carefully mark a circle the size of the base of your hat form in the centre of the circle.  All the photos in this tutorial show a clay hat form being used.

Paperclay Hat Form
Please note that you will be pushing pins into the hat form.  This is why paper clay is ideal as it remains soft and a little spongy when dry.  If you are using a cardboard hat form you'll need to use more force to punch the pins through but be careful not to use too much force and distort the shape of the hat form.  Also when using a cardboard hollow hat form I find myself holding it with one finger inside the form.  This works fine, but please remember where your finger is when pushing pins into the hat form!

If your straw braid has been twisted or kinked, you may like to iron it with a medium heat iron before you use it.

To make a hat:

While working with the straw braid, you'll need to keep it tightly wound around the hat form, but be careful not to pull it too tightly as this will distort the braid.

Take your piece of straw braid and loop the end of it around the top of the hat form so that the braid wraps tightly around the tip to create a point.  Ensure the cut end of the braid is beneath the continuing length.  Carefully push a pin through the straw and into the hat form to hold the braid in position.  This forms the point or peak of the hat.

Run a thin line of glue around the bottom edge of the part of the straw braid already wrapped around the hat form.  A glue syringe is perfect for this, but if you don't have a syringe squeeze a small blob of glue onto a piece of plastic and dip the tip of a toothpick in it.  Run the toothpick along the edge of the braid to leave a line of glue behind.  Carefully wind the braid around the hat form so that it overlaps the row of braid above by about 3mm.  This first rotation is a little tricky as the braid tends to want to go in a different direction than you want and you have to overlap the braid above while at the same time angling this rotation to create a downwards spiral.  Just fiddle until you're happy with what you have, then push another pin through the braid to hold it in place.

Run another line of glue around the bottom of the rotation of braid you've just positioned and wrap another rotation of braid around the hat, remembering to angle it slightly downwards.  Pin this in position.  Repeat this step until you approach the bottom of the hat form.  Stop when you have either about half a centimeter of hat form exposed at the bottom or you have only about 20cms of braid left.

Cut the braid at the bottom of the hat as shown in the photo and leave it to dry.

NOTE:  If you have a copy of Dolls House World magazine, August 2011 issue, use the instructions by Kat Hazelton detailed in the issue to make your brim.  I haven't tried doing it that way yet, but it makes so much more sense than the method below!

To create the brim of the hat:  Start with the end of the braid, pin it onto your brim form following the line of the centre circle.  (If using a cardboarm brim form, try resting it on a pice of polystyrene foam to give the pins something to sink into.)   The inner edge of the braid will want to stand up so use lots of pins to hold it down as securely as possible.

Run a thin line of glue around the outer edge of your braid circle.  Wrap the braid around the circle so that it overlaps the inner ring by about 3mm.   Position only about a finger width of braid at a time and press and hold it in place for several seconds before securely pinning it down and moving on to the next segment.  The inner edge of the braid will want to stand up vertically, so keep pushing down on anything that tries to rise up.  If using a convex brim form this will be less of a problem than if using a flat form.  Don't worry too much if some bits are left standing up though, we'll flatten the brim later on if needed/desired, the important thing at this point is that enough of the braid is secured to the inner ring so that the brim will hold it's circular shape when the glue is dry.  Repeat this step until you have either completely covered your form or run out of braid. Leave the brim to dry.

Once both peak and brim have thoroughly dried, carefully pull the pins out of both pieces and remove the forms.  For the peak, hold the exposed base of the form and gently twist the straw braid in the direction it spirals to free it. 

If you need to flatten your brim, iron it with a low to medium heat iron.  If necessary, poke a little extra glue anywhere the rings of braid have not held properly and secure with a small clamp until dry.

To tidy up the ends of the braid, dip a toothpick in some Fray Stop and run it over the braid along a line that runs diagonally across the braid and joins the bottom of the braid with the row of braid above it.  Once the Fray Stop is dry, carefully trim the braid along the line to create a tidy edge.

Check that your brim fits the peak by taking your brim and sliding it over the top of the peak of the hat and work it down to the bottom.  The brim should be a snug fit around the base of the hat.  If the brim doesn't fit you can carefully pull the brim apart and remake it to fit by changing the size of the circle in the centre of your brim form.  If the brim fits, slide it back up the hat and run a line of glue around the base of the hat.  Slide the brim back down into position and leave to dry.  Try to position the cut ends of the straw braid at the back of the hat where it will be less noticable.

 Finally, decorate your hat with your choice of ribbon, flowers, charms or findings.


  1. I just came across this thank you for mentioning me( I am the lady who did the article on making witches hats in Dolls House World many years ago lol ).