How to make handmade sinamay hats

Sinamay is a natural fibre produced from the banana plant and is flat like dress fabric. The material owes its popularity to its lightweight and flexible properties. You will want to use a wooden block to shape the crown and brim of the hat. As you become acquainted with the making of sinamay hats, you may be able to construct the hat without the use of a block.

Lay the sinamay material flat. Measure 1 metre(1 yard) and cut. This leaves a second piece 2 metres (2 yards) long. Fold both of the sinamay materials in half.

Boil a pot of water then turn the stove off. Dip the sinamay material into the water for about 3 minutes so that it is soft and flexible.

Put the larger sinamay section on top of the wooden brim block and put the smaller section on top of the crown block. Pull down tightly and tuck the material under the wooden blocks. Pin the material as you go. Every time you pin, make sure you are pulling tighly to remove creases.

Paint the material with water-soluble sinamay stiffener or spray with millinery sizing, then put in a warm environment for 12 hours.

Remove the pins then remove the sinamay from the wooden blocks.

Cut away the excess material from the brim section, shaping the hat. Leave 2.5 cm (1 inch) of the excess material to use when finishing the hat.

Measure millinery wire around the head of the person who will be wearing the hat. Add 2.5 cm (1 inch) to that measurement then cut the wire.

Join the two ends of the millinery wire with a wire joiner and clamp with pliers. Your wire should now be in a circle.

Place the wire underneath the crown section inside the fold in the sinamay material. Tuck the wire into the fold and push the excess fabric up against the hat. The edge of the brim also has to be wired in the same fashion to retain its shape.

Cut the ribbon using the same measurement as the millinery wire. With the needle and thread, sew the ribbon on the extra 2.5 cm (1 inch) of material.

Measure a piece of ribbon to fit the circumference of the brim. Add an extra 1.2 cm (1/2 inch).

Place the ribbon on an ironing board, fold it in half by its width, and iron to enforce a crease in the ribbon.

Place the top fold of the ribbon on top of the brim and push the bottom fold of the ribbon against the bottom of the brim. Sew the ribbon onto the edge of the brim.

Place the crown section on top of the brim section. The brim section will have 2.5 cm (1 inch) of excess material that will act as a stand or a guide for the crown section.

Sew the crown section onto the brim section using the needle and thread.

Wrap a ribbon around the hat where the brim and crown meet to cover the stitching.

Sew the flower(s) and/or whichever trimmings you would like to complete the hat.


If you have a steamer, you will not have to place the hat in a warm environment to dry for 12 hours. With a steamer, the drying process would take 10-15 minutes. You can also preheat the oven to 121 degrees C (250 degrees) and place the hat in the oven for about 7 minutes instead of placing it in a warm environment for 12 hours. You can use a sewing machine in place of any of the sections calling for the use of a needle and thread.

Things You'll Need

  • 3 metres (3 yards) of sinamay
  • 2 wooden hat blocks (1 for the brim and 1 for the crown)
  • Scissors
  • Pot
  • Needle and thread
  • Grosgrain, petersham, or velvet ribbon
  • Pliers
  • Flower, feathers, beads (anything with which you would like to decorate the hat)
  • Iron
  • Ironing board
  • Millinery wire
  • Millinery sizing or water soluble sinamay stiffener
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About the Author

Tiffany Boyers started writing professionally in 2010. She has a cosmetology license from Blaine The Beauty Career School and Lafayette Beauty Academy and holds a Bachelor of Science in sociology with a minor in psychology from Northeastern University.