The bonnets worn by Amish women today are a variation of the bonnets worn by Pennsylvania Quaker women beginning around 1800, according to Dr. Alfred L. Shoemaker. Prior to this, they wore flat straw or felt hats. The Amish bonnet is essentially the same as a basic sunbonnet. You can make a bonnet in an afternoon with your home sewing machine.
Choose a fabric for your bonnet. Washable fabrics in light colours tend to work best because your bonnet will likely need to be washed frequently. Lighter shades will also keep you cooler and be less prone to fading in the bright sun. You will need 1-1/2 yards of this fabric, plus 1/2 yard of plain muslin.
Draft a pattern on an old newspaper, a brown paper bag cut to lay flat or any oversized art paper. Use a measuring tape to be sure that you're drawing the pieces in the correct sizes. Draw one half-circle brim piece 18 inches wide by 7 inches tall, one 20-by-17 half-oval crown piece, two 12-by-1 tie pieces, one 17-by-1 draw piece, and one 20-by-1 drawstring.
Cut out the pattern pieces and lay them out on your fabric. Pin the pieces to the fabric and carefully cut around them. You will need to cut one crown piece, two brim pieces, one draw piece, one drawstring, and two ties out of your primary fabric, plus three additional brim pieces of out of the muslin. These will serve to reinforce the brim of your bonnet.
Assemble the brim. Stack the three reinforcement pieces with one of the primary fabric pieces on top of them, right side up. Place the final piece of the brim on top of that with the right side facing down. Stitch through all five layers along the curved edge, leaving a 1/4-inch seam allowance. Clip a few notches in the seam allowance to reduce bulk, and then turn the brim right side out. Sew straight lines at one-inch intervals from the curved front edge of the brim to the unfinished edge. Then, cut out 3/4-inch wide strips of plastic from an old milk jug or other plastic container and insert them into the sleeves you've just created in the brim. This stiffens the brim and ensures that it won't sag.
Fold the draw piece in half lengthwise and sew the edges to the straight end of the crown piece. This will create a tube for the drawstring. Fold the long edges of the drawstring piece inward so that they meet in the centre, then fold the whole thing in half again, until it's approximately 1/4-inch wide. Sew a straight stitch the entire length of the drawstring to hold it together. Insert it through the tube you just made.
Attach the straight edge of the brim to the curved edge of the crown piece. You will need to gather the fabric of the crown piece, because it is much longer than the straight edge of the brim. This can be done in one of two ways. You can bunch the fabric by hand as you sew it to the brim, or you can set your machine to the longest straight stitch setting and sew a running stitch around the curved edge, then pull one of the thread ends to gather the fabric along the line of stitching until it is short enough to equal the length of the brim.
Sew each of the two chin ties the same way you sewn the drawstring. Then, attach them to the bonnet at the rear edge of the brim, one on each side. When you wear the bonnet, you will tie these under your chin and adjust the drawstring at the nape of your neck to ensure a perfect fit.
Things you need
- 2 yards of fabric
- Marker or pen
- Measuring tape
- Sewing machine
- Old plastic container