Experimenting with “free vintage hat patterns”

I am worried my blog about style and stitching, fit and fashion might become a blog about hats! I have gone a bit hat-crazy over the last couple of weeks!

I went on a short course and I hope to do more, when time and funds allow. In the meantime I have searched for hat patterns. Vogue and other pattern houses produced several hat patterns, especially in the 1940s when everyone wore a hat. Today many of these patterns are available as reproductions, but they are rather expensive (around £15 each). As they are very small, essentially rather simple, patterns, I am going to see if I can do it myself. If I can I will share my approaches with you.

My first step was to see what free patterns were out there. The first is from Constance Talbot’s Complete Book of Sewing 1943. Demented Fairy will be pleased to note that Connie knows her triangles!

I like the look of this lady in her intriguing 1940s hat. As I read through the instructions I realised we have a woollen triangle with the cross grain across the top and the bias down the two sides. I cut out a nice piece of blue wool I got at Abakhan and zig zagged the edges. I tried following the instructions for putting it on but they didn’t make any sense to me. Canyou figure it out? I wore it like this – 1940s housewife style – on my day out with Megan. But it was far too hot to keep it on.

The Triangle Scarf hat - free hat pattern
Talbots Triangle Scarf hat


Then there is the Mad Cap pattern. And here are the instructions, from the Art Deco society of California. I cut the rectangle of fabric on the bias, sewed it up and lined the inside hem with a piece of vintage ribbon.


I love this hat. I made one in the same blue wool as the top hat (not a top hat – more like a little scarf) and I got my Mum to model it for me. I have been wearing this hat quite often too. It’s really fun. You can shape and model it once you have it on, in front of the mirror. Alternatively you could mould it into the style you like and then stitch it down. You could easily put a brooch or flower or badge on this hat. You could make it out of fleece or knit one. It is a truly great pattern and I really encourage you to give it a try.


The final hat I tried is more like a blocked hat.

You can find the instructions here, on the Tuppence Ha’penny website. However I didn’t find them very accurate or useful, I am afraid. The diagrams are good (from the original Vogue 8426 (1943), and you will be able to see how to construct the pattern. But I remade the pattern mainly because it was too small to sit on my head. I increased the length of the side band from 18″ to 21″ so that the hat would sit as the drawings below suggest. I also very slightly curved the Side piece by removing 1/2″ in 1/8″ slivers at four symmetrical points. The website also fails to specify the depth of the hat. Having tried on the paper pattern I suggest the depth of the hat would be about 2 1/4″. I used 1/2″ seam allowances throughout. Tuppence Ha’penny suggests using pelmet interfacing (upholstery product) which I think would do the trick. I was keen to use my Fosshape.

Vogue 8426
Vogue 8426

I used the pattern to cut out my fabric pieces. Fosshape shrinks when heated so I didn’t remove the full seam allowances – just 1/4″ all round. I have since found out that Fosshape can shrink as much as 30 per cent. I used the overlocker to join the top to the sides and hand stitching to finish it with a simple overlapped seam at the CB. I steamed it on an up turned glass jar as it needed something to hold its shape when steaming.I used my steam iron and a wet linen drying cloth to do this. Of course a wooden hat block with a nice crisp shape would have been better had I had the right equipment.

I am not very satisfied with this hat, mainly because of the sweet jar being a bit rounded, when this hat needs a sharp edge. I didn’t get the size of the gre wool covering quite right either and it has pulled to one side (since corrected) Also a tiny bit of Fosshape got tucked under when I was pressing, and it’s now permanently bent out of shape. But it’s all learning.

I used the same cheap petals I got at the Earls Court exhibition for £2. Having used some on my 1940s hat I still have enough left to create a third hat. And here is my sweet Mum wearing the hat.

Free hat pattern for 1940s hat
Mother in 1940s Pillbox Tilt Hat


23 Responses

  1. Sam

    I’m curious as to when you wear your hats. I love hats myself, but never know when or how to wear them… I always feel faintly ridiculous if I’m wearing one anywhere other than to a wedding.

  2. thedementedfairy

    Your ma looks lovely in both hats! Very interesting post- I’ve had one of Vogue’s 1940s hat patterns for years, and never got round to it because of all the palaver of blocking etc. I’ve recently bought a couple of more Victorian styles to have a go at. Lovely Work as ever!

  3. viliene

    Thanks for the mad cap pattern, I will try it. I like hats that cover my ears in winter but most of them look ridiculous when you wear glasses. I often wear wide brimmed straw hats in summer and have some in various colours. I am curious what you can say about hats and glasses. Could you show the pillbox on you with glasses on so we get an idea.
    Looking forward to head craziness and everything else you come up with!!

  4. seamsoddlouise

    I love hats. I spent my first ever wages (age 16, weekend waitress in a seaside hotel) on a cloche hat. I still have it though it is too battered to wear now! Your mum can definitely carry one off! those flowers make it.

  5. Lynn Mally

    Your mother looks like she is really enjoying herself in those hats! I really the mad cap and may try it out for my next visit to Chicago in the winter.

  6. Joyce Latham

    What fun! Thanks for all the information and free pattern. Fun fun fun.
    Looking forward to you post on how and wear to dawn a hat. They are such a challenge, but do fun. I found a book once called, ” Saturday night hat” by EUgenia Kim, quick, easy hat making for the downtown girl. ( the fedora hats are purchased and only trim is added to most of the hats) –but there are some sewing – classic beret , cloche, pill box hat ..) Nothing overly exciting.
    Good luck with your new adventure…I’m very interested and inspired to see where this one takes you !

  7. SJ Kurtz

    I have spent money on those patterns you got for free, and I have no more idea how to assemble them than you do. Who knew that there was money to be made off of people like me in this manner? Like so many patterns of an era, the instructions assume you know what you’re doing and only need vague reminders about button size and seam allowances. “Of course the bow goes that way, you ninny”

    The hat for your mother, on the other hand, is charming charming charming.

  8. Mary Funt

    I love the look of hats but here in the US they aren’t worn often and I feel like I’m wearing a costume. Think there is any chance of hats returning to wearable fashion?

  9. Stephanie

    Your mum looks so lovely. Like Mary above, I have tried wearing hats but they stand out and then some in North America.

  10. Sue

    Hats! The sort of thing I buy but never wear, so I really should take up making them. I tend towards large floppy brims, so it might be nice to wear something small perched atop my head – thank you for posting about the options!

  11. Joyce Latham

    About hats….I think we are really going to need them for sun protection. I also think we need a current , modern hat movement. Our hair styles don’t seem to work – I suffer from hat-head flatness. I really have to spent any time reaching….but if anyone can bring back the hat..it’s you kate. Go for it!
    Hat supporter,

  12. Jo Anderson

    great post, I love the blue hat on your mum. Is that the same pattern as the black hat? the Mad Hat? it is really cute.

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