Friday, May 2, 2014

I made Bofur's Hat (and you can, too!)

Remember a few weeks ago when I showed you the prototypes for the hat I was making? I was waiting on my leather to come in the mail. Well, it came and I love my hat!

Time for hat selfies!
For those of you who are not Lord of the Rings/Hobbit fans, this is a replica of the hat worn by the dwarf Bofur in the Hobbit movies.  You can buy a nice replica from the original makers here.  But, besides not wanting to shell out the cash, I really wanted a functional hat, not a show piece, and I wanted to make it myself. 

First I'm just going to show you the hat, and toward to bottom of the post I'll show my templates and give tips for making your own. I made 4 prototypes before I made this hat out of a nice shearling sheep's hide.  The first two were from jersey fleece, then I moved on to a fake suede/polyester fuzz combination to incorporate the thickness that the real hide would have.

Photo-bombed by one of the local dogs. Her name is Pepper.
This hat is meant to have 2 positions.  With the ear flaps flipped up and the back rolled up when it's not too cold and flaps down when it's cold and windy.  Having been at sea, doing deck watch with frigid winds cutting to the bone, I have a special appreciation for anything that can keep my ears warm.

With the flaps down the back of the hat reaches almost all the way down my neck, well below the collar of a jacket, and the ear flaps actually cover my ears and wrap under my chin.  I haven't been able to test it yet as it's coming on summer here, but with the leather to block wind and wool to hold in the warmth I'd bet this hat will be unbeaten in the keep-my-ears-warm department.  As long as my ears are warm I don't care how goofy I look :)

So you want to make your own?  Here's the best info I can offer. When I went looking for Bofur's hat tutorials I assumed there would be several good ones already out there, but in fact there weren't. Of the few I found only one of them had actually caught on to the fact that you need to sweep the ear flaps forward to make them flip up right.    The construction of the hat is basically similar to an old bomber cap but with the ear flaps modified.  There are two mirror-image side pieces and a tapered strip running down the center.

These are my templates.  I am trying to figure out a way to scan these in, but for now I hope the measurements give you enough to make your own.  You can download the full-size image here.  These templates make a hat that fits fairly loosely on my head.  I am a petite person and generally "one size fits all" hats fit me too big, so you may need to scale the templates up/down.  I HIGHLY recommend making a prototype or three before you cut into any real leather.

Prototype made with "suede" and polyester "shearling" from Hancocks. I decided to shorten the eat flaps and front flap after this.
As far as the leather, I ordered mine from Leatherwise on ebay. I believe they have an Etsy shop, too.  I highly recommend them. Item descriptions and photos were good, I thought the prices were reasonable, and shipping was fast.  I got a sheepskin "shearling" which means the wool was trimmed down to about 1/2" long, and I avoided getting one that had "suede" on the leather side, just for personal preference.

With careful placement I was able to get all my pieces out of one sheep's hide, although I did end up having to cut and add an additional piece to the end of the center strip after the sewing machine scrunched it a bit.  (Make SURE you flip your side piece template so you get mirror image pieces). If you look carefully at the picture above you can see where I added seam allowance to some areas, then eased it back down to just the size of the template in the areas that didn't get sewn into seams (look at the wide end of the strip where the front flap is).

Not every day you need clippers and a vacuum to sew :)
The wool doesn't shed too badly until you start cutting into it, then it's everywhere. I cut with both a rotary cutter and scissors and kept a little vacuum nearby.  I recommend running the vacuum along the freshly cut edges as soon as you cut them to keep the fluff down.  After you cut your pieces out you're going to want to shave your seam allowances (trust me on this.)  We shave one of our cats in summer, so I happened to have animal clippers, but you could also just use scissors.  On the areas that will wind up in seams (ie not the ear flaps or front flap) trim in between 0.5"-1" wide from the edge,  that much will end up folded up in the top-stitching, so the lack of wool won't be visible, but the reduced bulk helps construction sooo much.

Top-stitching along a seam
Assemble the hat with a 0.5" seam allowance. I bought a leather needle, which definitely helped. I also lengthened my stitch length and went s.l.o.w.  Leather does have some stretch, so you'll want to use a walking foot and even so whichever piece is on the bottom with the feed dogs will probably end up shorter than you expected.  Just be careful, ease it in, and make you have the same piece on bottom when you sew both seams (whether it's the center strip or the sides).

Top-stitching seen from the inside.
Top-stitching is a tedious but necessary process.  Slowly work your way along the seams, sewing the allowances open a slim 1/4" from the seam line.

Fold up the front flap and pin in place with a few stitches. 

And that's it! Enjoy your new hat.  Here are plenty of photos of mine, below, to help for references.  If you make a hat please send me a pic or a link!

Linking up to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.