How to make a civil war hat

Written by amanda herron
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Kepis were felt hats common during the Civil War for Union and Confederate soldiers. The basic kepi design is the same for either Civil War hat. Just use grey or navy felt for whichever army's kepi you want to make. Metal cross-rifle ornaments are optional decorations for Civil War hats, but they make a nice finishing touch. These instructions will fit most adults, but you can cut a larger circle base for larger hats.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 1 yd. Navy or grey felt
  • Black thread
  • Straight pins
  • Scissors
  • Fabric pencil or chalk
  • Warm water
  • 1 f. Black faux leather
  • Mini ½ or 1 inch metal buckle
  • 2 Metal brad fasteners
  • Thin cardboard
  • Glossy black spray paint
  • Glue

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  1. 1

    Draw a circle with a 6-inch diameter on the felt and cut it out. Cut one felt strip about 12 inches long and five inches wide. Cut a separate strip about 24 inches and two inches thick. Fold the 24-inch-strip in half. Pin the ends and sides to hold them in place. Begin sewing the halves together along either side. Sew 1/8 inch in from the edge in an even, straight line along both edges.

  2. 2

    Lay the felt circle flat on the table. Place the edge of the 12-inch-strip to meet the edge of the circle. Pin it in place. Take the next inch of the 12-inch-strip and line it up around the circle. Pin it in place. Continue working the strip around the felt circle until the ends overlap. It will pop up from the work surface a little. Cut off the excess where the ends overlap.

  3. 3

    Sew the strip to the circle 1/8 inch in from the edge all the way around. Remove the straight pins. Flip the circle base over so the rough hem is below. If the felt hat is too stiff to work into shape, soak the base in warm water for several minutes. Rework the felt so the circle is at the top of the Civil War hat and the felt strip pulls down.

  4. 4

    Retrieve the two-inch-wide double felt strip you have sewn. Wrap it around your head and overlap the ends until it fits snugly. Pin the ends in place. Sew the ends together where they overlap and trim off the excess felt.

  5. 5

    Place this circle on the work surface. Place the felt circle base on top of the circle rim. Arrange it so the seam from the felt strip in pointing to the front of the Civil War hat. Push the bottom of the felt strip inside the circle rim. Adjust the top circle base so it sticks up above the rim as much as you want. The back will have more material sticking up than the front creating a forward slouch. Adjust until it resembles a slouching baseball cap.

  6. 6

    Pin the top circle base to the circle rim. Hand sew the rim to the base along the same hem you sewn in the double strip. Trim the excess material from inside the rim.

  7. 7

    Cut a cap brim from thin cardboard. It should stick out about four inches from underneath the cap base. Leave an extra inch on the back to sew it to the cap. Cut notches in the back inch of cardboard and fold them straight up. Shape the hat brim by slightly bending the sides down to form a curve. Spray paint the cardboard brim and let it dry.

  8. 8

    Sew a hem around the edge of the brim to make it appear more realistic. Sew a border 1/8 inch in from the edge around both sides and the front. Adjust the brim so the notches are underneath the rim of the Civil War hat and the brim sticks out from the front. Sew or glue the cardboard notches to the inside of the Civil War hat to secure the brim.

  9. 9

    Cut a strip of faux leather trim to fit from on the circle rim the width of the hat brim. Add three inches. Cut the strip in half. Mark the circle rim ½ inch above the left side of the brim. Line up the end of one leather strip and secure it to the hat with a metal brad. Do the same on the right side of the hat rim. Thread the middle ends of leather together with a metal buckle. Glue behind the buckle to keep it secured to the centre of the hat.

Tips and warnings

  • Be patient. Felt is hard to work with and needs constant reworking.

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