Step-by-Step Instruction on Sinamay Hat Making

Written by lani black
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Step-by-Step Instruction on Sinamay Hat Making
Sinamay has risen in popularity bringing about beautiful shapes and designs to the world of hat making. (woman in a straw hat image by Galina Barskaya from

Sinamay has risen in popularity because it shapes and dyes well giving hat makers the opportunity to push the boundaries with dramatic shapes and sculptural designs. Sinamay is a natural fibre that comes from the abaca plant. It is sold by the meter and one hat usually requires two to three meters to get the proper thickness. Because it is easy to mould, you do not have to be an expert in millinery to create your own sinamay hat.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • a hat
  • cling film
  • artists' plaster-bandage
  • sandpaper
  • diy filler
  • 3 meters of sinamay
  • hot water
  • millinery pins or household pins
  • thimble
  • elastic or hair bands
  • water soluble fabric stiffener
  • scissors
  • needle and thread
  • tarlatan
  • fabric for the trim and hat band
  • millinery wire

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    Create a Mold

  1. 1

    Line the hat you wish to replicate with cling film.

  2. 2

    Following the directions on how to apply your artists' plaster-bandage, line your hat making sure to overlap lines to create a sturdy mould. Let it dry completely.

  3. 3

    Use sandpaper to smooth down the surface and seal it with diy filler.

    Create the Hat

  1. 1

    Place your mould on top of a piece of wood like an old drawer. Cover your mould and wood with cling film.

  2. 2

    Cut six pieces of sinamay, three will be the brim and the other three for the crown. Cut a hole in the middle of the brim pieces about one inch smaller the crown block.

  3. 3

    Soak the sinamay in very hot water for three to four minutes. This will soften the material.

  4. 4

    Block the brim by pulling it down over your hat mould with some of it sticking up (about an inch). This is where you will attach the crown later. Block the brim one layer at a time with the second layer shifted 45 degrees and the third layer back in the same position as the first. This will make it sturdier. Secure the centre with elastic or a hair band.

  5. 5

    Pin down the sinamay to the wood with millinery pins or household pins (use a thimble to get them in wood). Keeping the intended shape of the brim, stretch out and pin down more of the sinamay, trying to get it as flat and smooth as possible.

  6. 6

    Drape the other three pieces for the crown over the mould layering one at a time and shifting the second layer 45 degrees. Hold it down with another hair band. Gently pull on the sinamay getting rid of the creases and folds. The sinamay should be very pliable from the hot water. Cut the excess off your crown piece, leaving about one inch for wiggle room.

  7. 7

    Paint on some water soluble fabric stiffener and let it dry for at least 12 hours in a warm environment.

  8. 8

    Cut the cling film and remove the sinamay together with the cling film from the mould. Then separate the cling film from the sinamay.

  9. 9

    Cut your brim to the desired shape.

  10. 10

    Place the crown on the brim, trying to line up the grain of the sinamay from each piece. This will give your hat more of a continuous flow. Stitch the pieces together with the thread showing on the outside of the hat (not the inside). This will be covered by the hat band.

  11. 11

    To wire the brim, stitch a bias strip of tarlatan on to the edge and stitch the wire to the tarlatan. This bias strip should be smaller than the trim you will use.

  12. 12

    Cut your trim and stitch it on to finish the brim's edge.

  13. 13

    Create any trimmings you wish to add to your hat and cut out a bias strip to use as a hat band. Stitch on the finishing touches as well as the hat band.

  14. 14

    Secure to your head by creating a small head band out of millinery wire that would be attached with booby pins when wearing the hat. Secure the headband by stitching it to the inside of the hat at four contact points.

Tips and warnings

  • To measure your head size, start at the flat of your forehead going around over your ears, over the back of the head, ending back at your forehead (should be between 20.5 and 24.5 inches).
  • If you are using patterned sinamay, block the pieces in the same direction to keep the pattern. Do not shift 45 degrees.
  • Hand stitching your hat not only creates a sturdier bond, but also allows the sinamay to keep its shape, which you risk distorting or losing all together if you machine sew your stitches.

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