Making a Doll Hat with Repurposed Knits, the easy way.
As promised in this week's newsletter, here is a little tutorial on how to make a simple, yet charming, doll hat for your sweet Little Fig doll or any other doll, using repurposed knit fabric. Follow this quick step-by-step process and you should be able to make this lovely accessory in no time at all.
What ingredients do we need?
All you will need is a doll handy, to measure her or his head; a piece of knit fabric big enough to cover the head of your doll; a sewing machine and a serger (this last one is very helpful but you can also use just your sewing machine); sewing thread and sewing machine needles; a blunt needle (a wide eye, blunt needle, if serging); a length of ribbon (for the ties) AND if you wish to embroider the hat, well a large embroidery needle and needlepoint thread. But more on that later.
First, let's talk a little about using repurposed knit. What am I talking about? Well, we are going to repurpose a sweater, cardigan, knitted dress, etc. that we are not longer using, but that we can't necessarily part with.
You can also go to a thrift store looking for just this thing, or if you are like me, people actually send you their cashmere sweaters because they know you turn them into sweet dolly clothes. The whole thing is that we are going to be using knitted clothing and re-using the fabric for a cute dolly hat.
Now, you will see I am using a very chunky knit, and I think this works especially well for simple hats, where you won't be making many seams. In the case of this specific hat, we are only doing the back seam, and finishing the neck part of the hat. Easy peasy.
Now, putting a bit of thought into this, you might want to use the ribbing at the bottom of your sweater, or a cuff from a sleeve. It all depends on how you cut your knitted piece so that it gives you more design details for free. Put your thinking cap on and try to cut the fabric in a way that makes your hat look more beautiful, just by being more intentional.
If you have never used repurposed knit and you are afraid of using knitted fabric, just a couple of recommendations:
1. Lower the pressure feet of your sewing machine so that it doesn't stretch your fabric as you sew. Very important.
2. Depending on the "gauge" of your knitted piece, if using a very chunky piece like I did, or something more dainty, you are going to perhaps have to change needles. For this chunky number I used a Schmetz Universal needle 7/10 because that's actually what I use the most. If I was sewing a hat with very thin knit, I would have definitely used a ballpoint needle.
3. If this is your first time sewing with knitted fabric, take it easy on yourself and use fabric that is mid-weight to slightly chunky. I actually think is much easier to sew simple shapes with it, than trying with thinner knits. The fabric to use totally depends on the project, but even more so in this case.
Having chosen the victim, I mean, the sweater to chop up, let's get started. All supplies at the ready, we are going to measure our doll.
We are going to measure around their head, this way. Leaving about half and inch at each side. Your measurement can be "tight" or "lose". I like mine lose, so that the hat is a bit oversized on the doll's head as I feel this make them look a bit more mysterious, and they can choose to hide a little inside their hat. For this particular doll, we got a measurement of 10".
We are now going to measure how deep we want the hat to be. Losely, we are going to measure atop your doll's head, and see how much fabric we need from the "forehead" to about half and inch past the "crown". In this case we got 3". These two measurements tell me I need a piece of fabric that is at least 10" wide by 3" long. In this case, I am going to cut mine bigger, just to show you.
Note: You want to position the knitting, so that the stretch of the knitting goes around her face, so on the 10" side measurement. And you want to make sure that you are cutting without twisting your knitting so that your hat looks very presh, ok?. Basically the ribs of your knitting need to go straight out towards the back of the head.
We are going to position our knitted fabric like this, all around our doll's head, and place pins close to the back of the head. Make sure the pins are centred on the back of your doll's head.
Please notice, I didn't make a curved line at top, to hug the doll's head. I went round starting at the nape, and then ended on a somewhat straight line at top. This will give us a very nice "pointy" hat, which my dolls adore, and we call it our traditional Fig hat.
Once you have the pins in the shape you want them, you cut about half an inch or quarter of an inch from the pins. Depending on the thickness of your knit, or your preferred seam allowance. I gave myself half an inch.
Now you are going to turn your hat inside out, pin it close at the back, and sew it with your sewing machine. Making sure you follow the seam allowance you gave yourself, and that you don't stretch the knit as you sew.
You can choose to finish the raw seam allowance with a serger, like I did. Or you can zig zag it with your sewing machine. If you use the serger, grab a large-eye blunt needle and enclose the tails of your serger within the seam allowance or serged edge.
The Neck and Ties
Now we are going to serge all along the bottom of the hat. If you don't have a serger, you can zig zag this part too. All we are trying to do is finish the raw edge so that it doesn't unravel all over the place.
Once you tuck in the serged tails, or zig-zag-ed the neck part of your hat, you are going to cut a length of ribbon in half. You are going to pin one ribbon length to the right side of your hat like in the photo. Take notice there is a little bit of tie outside of the hat.
You are going to sew the tie to the hat, close to edge, but making sure you catch the knitted fabric underneath. And then repeat it with the second tie on the opposite side of the hat.
Fold under the serged edge of your hat, and tuck the end of the ribbon inside. This will make sure the raw edge of the ribbon is secured inside the seam we will make, and finish the whole thing in one go.
Fold the entire bottom edge, and pin it. Take notice of how both ties are being secured within the folded edge. Sew this edge. I sewed right on top of the serged seam, you can do the same, or sew a little closer to the fold. Whatever you do, make sure you are catching the raw edges of the ribbon.
Turn right side out and press very, very gently to shape. You are finished with your lovely chapeau!.
Wasn't that just so easy? I tell you. Dolly clothing sometimes is just the thing to do to make you get a quick win in the day.
Depending on what kind of ribbon you use, you can finish the ends several different ways:
- If you used a natural fibre ribbon (like cotton twill for example) you can fold the ends twice and stitch them shut by hand. That's what I like to do. I also fold them once and attach wool felt beads, or crochet pompoms I make. Anything the doll requests.
- If you used polyester ribbon, you can use a little candle to just seal the edges. Lightly pass the raw ends of your ribbon over the lit candle so that they are melted and it doesn't unravel.
You could leave it at that, and your doll would be most grateful. However, if you are itching to add some decoration to your blank canvas, you can add wool embroidery. Most fun and also simplest thing in the world.
For that, I will show you how I embellished this sweet little hat, with a cute video I put together for you. (Keep an eye on that channel because I am editing two years worth of videos that will be loaded over there>>>).
And if you want to see more recent videos, what I am up to on a weekly basis and more in-depth tutorials and Behind-The-Scenes shots as I create my dolls, you are also welcome to subscribe to my Patreon channel. It is brand-new as of this post, but many exciting things are coming over there as well.
I hope you like this quick tutorial. I tried to make it super open-ended and not give you too many measurements, so that you can just follow the process and make hats galore for the dolls you have at home. I think this is so simple that an enterprising child wanting to make clothes for their doll can actually make it with just a smidge of supervision.
I hope you take it and run away with it, perhaps adding fabric flowers, buttons, needlefelting, wool felt beads, etc. I give you a blank canvas and hope it is enticing and sweet enough to push you to experiment and reuse all that lovely knitted fabric you may already have.
Next time one of your children outgrows a favourite sweater, or that cardigan gets a big hole, you know just what to do.
Keep me posted.