Fascinator Top Hat Tutorial

Fascinators, not a comon household name until the recent wedding of England’s most loved royal couple, have come back into fashion.  Fascinators are any item placed in the hair to decorate while serving the function of retaining hair.  They can be on clips, combs, elastic, or headbands.  Made with everything from simple silk silhouettes to skulls lying in a bed of feathers.  What ever you imagine can be made to adorn the hair!

One fun fascinator that has made a resurgence in modern fashion, are Top Hats, being popularized in every genre from Steampunk to newborn photography. The origin of the top hat is from the 1800’s, speculated to have been brought into fashion by Charles II in the English aristocracy.  As with all fashion trends they spread to many cultures, and over time, mutated into obscure and over the top editions. We are all familiar with Abraham Lincolns “stove top hat”. If you would like a little more on the history of the Top Hat, visit this awesome site: http://www.silktophats.eu/historytophat.html.

With the recent release of Alice in Wonderland, the mini-top hats became popular for Halloween, New Years, and general accouterments to celebration. Of course they made their way all the way down into children’s photography. Who doesn’t love seeing such absolute innocence, adorned in one of the many symbols of aristocratic elegance?

My daughter, not quite so happy about her modeling debut…

I learned my method of making hats during a short period of time when I became infatuated with Millinery (the art and trade of making women’s hats). I have found it to be quick, fairly painless, and you get an absolutely stunning result. The best part is, now I am going to share these little tidbits with you!


This is a NO SEW method, which works with mini top hats and small fascinators. There are lots of fun tutorials out there on the internet, each one uses a different method and materials.  So you may ask- What makes mine different?  Most use a cardboard base and spray adhesive, I do not.  When you get done making a mini Top-Hat using this method it will be with you for years to come, standing up to rigorous wear and tear.  If you do not want to invest money into a lot of materials and you just want to try one to start, I will have starter sets available for sale through my facebook site.  Just contact me with the colors you are interested in and I will get a set together for you.

*Please note: I tried to supply pictures with most steps, but some parts of the process just do not photograph well.  Please read the instructions carefully, and scroll through the pictures to get a gist of the idea.*


What you will need:

1. Glue Gun

2. Buckram

3. Wonder-Under (Heat Bond)

4. Iron (and ironing board)

5. Fabric

6. Flowers

7. Bling


You are probably going: What the heck is Buckram… or Wonder-Under? Don’t worry these are not items that you need to bust the bank getting your hands on. Granted you won’t be able to go down to your big box store and pick up Buckram, but it can easily be delivered to your front door. Buckram is a woven mesh that is saturated in a stabalizing solution. When moistened or heated can change shape and hold it. It is incredibly easy to work with, forgiving, and it will hold up a lot of embellishments. (what do other tutorials tell you to use? cardboard or card stock paper…All I am going to say: It’s your choice, and you will figure out the con’s.)

Wonder-Under (also called Heat Bond),which can be found at any fabric store- even at Walmart, is an iron on glue.  It comes on a roll like fabric.  In order to not waste any, or glue anything to your ironing board,  cut out a piece the size of your fabric (usually a square) and follow directions that come with it. Super easy! (It works really well for aplique as well, but that’s another tutorial.)  But please note:  Wonder Under can not be used on velvet or velveteen fabrics.  You will have to use a spray or paint on adhesive for these fabrics.

Important question: are they expensive?  The answer: NO! I will place links at the end of the tutorial for both.

Fabric Choices: Your final product will reflect the quality of materials. Trust me, you can get about 10-15 mini Top Hats out of a quarter yard. So buy the silk, linen, velvet… acetate will not be your friend. AND Please do not be afraid of color! Black is elegant, white is becoming, and pink is sweet… but chartreuse with fuchsia is absolutely striking.

Flowers: You can use any flowers you can dream up; dried, fresh, silk, handmade. There are lots of Millinery supply shops on Etsy, heck you can even put a mini-bambi eating a mini-mushroom on your hat!!! Birds, are very popular and chic!  If you are interested in making your own flowers, please look through my blog pages to find my list of links to some awesome tutorials!

Bling: This is everything else. Rhinestones, pearls, hand dyed silk ribbon, lace, tulle, feathers, applique, beading, painting, ect. Whatever your little heart desires!

Lastly, make sure you have a good working relationship with your glue gun, and choose transparent glue.  Nuff said.

Have all your supplies together? Now onto the fun part!


1. Make your pattern. No ladies and gentlemen, I am not going to post: use x-diameter and y-height. It’s time to use your discretion and elementary math skills. Take out a piece of paper, any paper- cut a circle, then cut out another circle about 3/4 the diameter of the first. Then cut out a SLIGHT arc (you can see an example in the pictures below) the length equal to the circumference of the smaller circle. Tape the arc together to form a tube, tape it in the center of the larger circle, tape the smaller circle at the other end. Viola!!!  You have started your top hat!  Adjust this pattern (a little bit at a time) until you have a paper top hat you like. The trick with this step is to get it as close to perfect as possible, that way you have very little finagling to do with the real thing. Paper and tape is a lot easier to take apart and cut, than expensive fused silk and hot glue!

2. Find a model to try the mini top hat out on. Stick it to their head (yes I actually scotch-taped it to my 11mo old daughters head, she thought it was HILARIOUS). Like the way it looks…?  Adjust if needed, otherwise move onto step 3.

Once all the pieces are correct in paper form, it’s time to start the real Top-Hat.

3. Take your pattern apart (carefully!). You are now ready to make a mini top hat!  Just warm up your iron and hot glue gun.

4. Lay your pattern pieces down on the buckram, make sure to leave a little space between them (about 1/2 inch) and trace them out. Why trace? If you notice a mistake, you have not wasted any material!

5. On both the long sides of your arc- add 1/4 inch, and on the short sides add 1/8 inch.

Pattern Pieces on Buckram. Note: the Body piece has the added 1/4 inch traced around it

6. Cut all your pieces out:

Note the lines drawn. The hat base is the estimated lines where the hat body will be insterted.

7. Now that you have your pattern pieces, you can see how much fabric you actually need (lay out all 3 pieces, but leave enough room for a 4th hat base circle).  I suggest cutting out a regular form (square, triangle…) something easily replicated. Cut out an identical amount of Wonder Under.  Place your fabric (Good side, facing YOU) on the glue side of the Wonder Under .  Follow the directions supplied with your Wonder Under.  LEAVE THE PAPER ON.

8. On the paper side, trace your pattern pieces. Leave space around each one. A hint: if you do the arc on the bias, the fabric will stay smooth and not pucker.  Once you have all three pieces traced, you need to do an additional piece:  trace out one more of the base of the hat.  On (1) of the hat bases and on the top piece of the hat; mark out the additional 1/4 inch around the circumference.

Pattern pieces traced out on the Wonder Under, Note: the Lines traced around the pattern pieces before they are cut out.

Now cut out each piece, you should have 1 identical to your pattern pieces, and 3 slightly larger.

9.  On the two round slightly larger fabric pattern pieces (hat top and one of the hat base), you should have the original shape drawn in the center.  Take a pair of scissors and cut out little notches (pizza pie shape) with the points ending right before your drawn line.  You can do this every quarter inch or so, the closer your wedges the smoother your fold down line… but the more work when glueing.

Buckram and Pattern Piece cut out, please note the “wedges” cut out of the wonder under backed fabric pieces.

10.  Now we get to adhere your fabric pieces to the buckram.  On your ironing board, lay your ARC piece down.  Remove the paper from the back of your fabric (if the heat bond starts to separate from the fabric, you need to go back and re-read the directions that came with the heat bond… usually you just need to re-iron for a longer time. Let cool before trying to remove the paper).  Place the fabric arc ontop of the buckram with the glue side towards the buckram.  Iron with a firm downward pressure, do not slide your iron back and forth.  Just pick the iron up, place it down give some firm pressure, release. Repeat.  You will want to do this for a significant amount of time.  Let your fused pieces cool completely and then test the bond.  It should not be easy to separate them, and there should not be any bubbling.

Here is a big tip:  Do not just move to the next tab.  Go to the tab on the opposite side of the pattern piece, and repeat the above directions.  Then go to a tab right angle to the  last tab you did… repeat… go to the tab directly across from the last one you did.  If you alternate fusing the tabs down in this manner, you are making sure your pattern pieces stay centered and the fabric will be pulled taut.

When all the tabs are firmly attached, turn pattern piece over so the fabric is facing up, and press with the iron.

12.  Repeat all of the above steps with the Top piece.

Note: the fabric tabs around the top and one of the hat bases.

13.  Take your arc piece, on both  long edges take your sissors and cut down ¼ inch.  Repeat this every ¼ inch or so. 

Now join the short ends together, using the hot glue to secure.  Make sure not to over flow the hot glue onto the fabric surface.  Your fabric should slightly overlap and create a seal.  You now have the body of your hat!

Note: in my version the cylinder is larger on the top than the bottom. Yours can be any shape you want!!! Try a heart one time.

14.  Take your hat base piece that has fabric and buckram.  Using the narrower end of your newly formed hat body, place in the center of your hat base and on the INSIDE trace the circumference onto the buckram side.  Cut this out, careful not to extend past your trace and to make sure the line stays smooth.  Your hat base should now look like a donut.

15.  Feed the narrow end of your hat body through this hole, with the fabric side up.

Note: Tabs are only cut, not folded out yet!

16.  With the hat base on the hat body, take the tabs you cut in step 13, and bend them away from the center of the hat.  They should be flush with the hat base.

Note the tabs are folded away from the center of the hat.(if your hat base is too small and causes the hat body to waffle or wrinkle, simply cut the hole larger… a little bit at a time so you don’t overdo it.  Or if you found your hole is too big, as long as the tabs will still reach the buckram underneath and  you still like the shape of the hat, this is okay.  you may just have to modify how you decorate to help cover the gap)

Once all the pieces are bent our correctly, start gluing. The end result should resemble:

17. TADA, it should start looking like a HAT!

18.  On the hat body; at the top, bend over the tabs towards the CENTER of the hat. If you do this one after the other, it should create a layered smooth effect around the edge of the hat body.

Note: the tabs are folded over towards the center of the hat in a consecutive order.

19.  Take your Top Piece and lay it on top of the folded over tabs.  It should be a near fit, all the tabs covered and the top piece flush with the side of the hat body.   This is where all the perfection at the beginning really pays off.  (if it is too small, as long as it still touches all the tabs to be glued down that is okay… but decorations may need to be modified to cover this error.  If the top is way too big, make another one.)

Note: you may need to push out from the inside while glueing, to have the body walls line up with the top piece.

20.  Carefully start to hot glue this piece down. Start at the front side of your hat working back to the seam.  Glue a little at a time.  You may need to have a couple fingers on the inside to push the hat body out, so the edge of top piece lines up with the side of the body.  If there is imperfections, that is okay and can be covered up.

Note: the top seam is not always smooth! There are ways to get the top smooth, but that is another tutorial 😉

21.  Starting to really look like a hat now!

22.  Take your last pattern piece, the purely fabric hat base.  Remove the paper backing.  Dry fit it to the base of your hat, covering up all the buckram.  It should line up perfectly with the outer edge of the hat base. Trim accordingly if needed.

Now is another tricky part.  ON THE EDGE of your ironing board place your hat brim (with the buckram side facing up). Line up your fabric hat base and using firm downward pressure, iron.  Now turn your hat 180 degrees and repeat.  Remember to line up the edge of the pattern piece with the edge of the hat base.  Turn 90 degrees, repeat. Turn 180 degrees, repeat.  Now you can firmly attach the rest of the fabric until all is adhered 360 degrees around the donut.

23.  Congratulations!  You have a mini top hat!!!!

Now comes the fun part.  You can add clips on the bottom, or attach directly to elastic or headband… or another fascinator.  Then you get to embellish.

You can use clips, or attache directly to elastic or headband… or another fascinator

This is the truly artistic part, and don’t think everything has to match… they just have to complement each other!  On such a small canvas it is best to have one focal piece and accent with everything else.  Layering textures, colors, items also gives a dramatic effect.  Some guidelines:  cover up the seam at the base and top of the hat body.  You can use matching materials or go hog wild.  Traditionally hat decorations were either asymmetrical or they encompassed the entire surface.

Getting all the possibilities together before starting the decorating process

Just imagine all the possibilities!!! Please feel free to modify your pattern to whatever method you feel works for you.  This is meant to be a start, inspiration, and nudge to do something awesome!  As a way to make a beautiful art piece without needing to break out the sewing machine.  If, after doing all this, and you would like to learn the traditional method of making a top hat, let me know and I may put together an advanced tutorial.

A simple sample set of inspiration!

If you just read through all this and find that this is awesome but just too much to handle, and all you want is the finished product… that is A-okay.  There are lots of awesome suppliers of premade and custom made mini top hats out there.  Each one has their own aesthetics, and I am sure you will find one that is perfect for you.

8/1/12 Update: new post regarding mini-top hats and fascinators  https://valkariesrest.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/a-continuation-of-mini-top-hats-and-other-fascinators/

Here is a short list:








http://www.etsy.com/shop/TwoBackFlats?ref=seller_info (Adult, new addition to the list 9/25)

http://www.etsy.com/people/LadyBirdHatCompany (children, new addition to the list 9/28)

Remember  I will have starter sets available to order through my Facebook site (listed above).  We will decide together what supplies you will ultimately need, but to give an example these sets will include:  buckram, wonder under, fabric, and some embellishments to inspire.  Otherwise here are some links I promised to get you started on your search for supplies:











7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. angela
    May 03, 2012 @ 21:22:38

    what kind of buckram did you use i got some from hobby lobby and it seems to flimsy


    • ursula glass goddess
      May 03, 2012 @ 23:06:32

      Hello Angela, I buy mine in 1 yard lengths from millinery suppliers off Etsy. They are fast and top quality. Here is a direct link to the one that I use. If it gets wrinkled in shipping you can just iron it flat. I have found that hobby Lobby or other large stores just don’t carry the high quality supplies, so I have turned to small business suppliers. They are usually just as discriminating in their tastes as I am. Please let me know if you have any other questions! Happy hat making.


  2. angela
    May 13, 2012 @ 11:20:12

    what can i use as a replacement for millinery wire? for mini top hats so i can work the brims a little i got some extra heavy buckram and going to get heavy thread but now im stuck with where do i get the wire


    • ursula glass goddess
      May 13, 2012 @ 12:09:07

      I have not had to use the millinery wire with any of my small or mini-top hats, I generally only use one round of it on the full size top hats. I guess if you wanted to use it on the small ones and don’t want to purchase actual millinery wire (which is awesome and so worth it for all types of head pieces) You can use thicker floral wire. It is stiff but can be shaped with some manipulation. Just don’t bend it to much in one area, because it will snap. Hope this helps!


  3. angela
    May 13, 2012 @ 14:05:19

    Thank you


  4. Trackback: A continuation of mini-top hats and other fascinators « Valkyries Rest
  5. Trackback: Camping, Top Hats and Tiling | Qs Blog Space

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