How to: Make a Beard Hat from a Felted Sweater
There was such a great response to my recent article about beard hats, I thought I'd try and see if there was a Crafty Crafty way of finding quick beard hat satisfaction without spending any money.
Fortunately, I started on this quest at a time of year when one of my favorite materials - the stout felted wool fabric that results when you accidentally put a sweater in the wash - is in slightly worrying abundance.
I hate to throw poor old shrunken sweaters out - as many crafters know, they make great hats, potholders, all kinds of things. So I reached in my stash and found a sunflower yellow specimen full of cables that had once been a sweater vest - and my beard hat odyssey began.
- 1 shrunken sweater (bonus points for stripes or cables!)
- 1 permanent marker in a color that shows up on your jumper (tailor's chalk is great for dark colors)
- 1 pencil or pen
- 1 large piece of paper (I used two pieces of regular printer paper taped together)
- 1 good pair of scissors
- needle and thread (to match your sweater)
- tape measure
- large snaps: 1 for the simplest beard hat, 4 for a beard hat with removable beard
- OPTIONAL: small piece of cotton fabric, approx. 2 inches by 2 inches (5 cm sq)
If you don't have a pre-felted sweater to give to the beardy cause, check out your local thrift store. But be sure to buy one that's as close to 100% wool as possible - for a list of materials that felt, and those that don't, go here for a great rundown by craft star Sister Diane.
Step one: Take your tape measure and measure from the front of your face to the back, following the diagram. The Beard Hat will roughly cover where a hood would.
Write down this measurement, plus one inch (two cm). Let's call that your 'head measurement'.
If in doubt, err on the side of a more generous measurement - it's easier to trim down the resulting pattern piece than to add fabric if it's too small.
Left: measure from dot to dot to get the measurement you'll need to draw your pattern piece to the right size. (Drawing by Ellen Lindner).
Step two: Once you have your measurement, you need to cut your beard hat pattern. This is the simplest kind of patternmaking, but it's not so different from what you would do for a shirt or a skirt.
Cut a piece of paper that is the width of the head measurement and about the head measurement x1.2 high (so if your head measurement is 10 inches (9+1 inch), your pattern paper will be approximately 12 inches high.) Be generous - it's easy to cut down your beard hat later if it's a bit too big.
Step three: Using the shape in the diagram as a starting point, draw the rough shape of a close-fitting hood on your paper, with the widest point equaling your head measurement.
Right: A look at the recommended pattern shape.
Step four: Prepare your sweater for crafting. Cut off (but keep!) the collar area, and the sleeves. Keep the torso intact for now.
If you'd like, assemble pieces from other felted sweaters - I know that some of you have a whole bunch hidden away! The Beard Hat would be particularly nice with a contrasting beard!
Step five: Cut out your pattern piece and lay it on the torso. Align the top of your pattern piece with one of the uncut, folded edges of the side of the torso. Trace around the pattern piece using your permanent marker.
Step six: Cut around the traced mark, leaving the top bit closed for less seaming later on. The bottom needs to be open, so you can actually wear your beard hat!
Step seven: Turn your massive piece of felt so that the good sides of the hood are together. Now, pin the curvy back seam. This will be the back of your beard hat. If you'd like utter certainty on the fit of your beard hat, baste and try it on.
This is a good time to evaluate how much you might want to trim from the neck area (you never know! You neck might be shorter than mine!).
You could sew by machine, I suppose, but I sewed this seam by hand, using a back stitch. Embroidery thread would be really good for this part of the process, and would make your work easier to see, but I used what I had to hand - plain old normal thread. I wouldn't recommend using yarn - it would be hard going in the thick fabric.
Step eight: Now - it's time to try the beard hat on! If it's too big, and hides your face, you can just trim a bit off the front, as it's just one piece of felt.
While still wearing the beard hat, pinch the front bits in front of your neck (see diagram). You want this to have a reasonably snug fit, but not too snug - after all, felted wool is scratchy! Either roughly mark or pin where you'd like a closure to go - we'll be using snaps.
Once you know, attach your snaps. Double-check your fit, and adjust the snaps as necessary (it doesn't have to be perfect, as this bit will be hidden by your beard!)
Now sew on your snaps, and double-check the fit. Not sure how to sew on a snap? It's a bit fiddly but very easy - don't worry! Check out this video to see how.
This is a good project for learning all kinds of skills in a low-pressure situation. If you snaps don't line up perfectly, no problem - it's a Beard Hat!
Step nine: Now - the fun part - cutting out your beard! I recommend cutting out your moustache and beard separately, for optimal impact - it's great when the moustache stands out from the beard!
Use your permanent marker on the scraps from your sleeve and collar area, using the pattern pieces in the diagram as a guide.
IMPORTANT: the side flaps on the beard are what keep it in place. Don't omit them, and do make 'em substantial.
I didn't give myself a mega-beard, because I was working with a relatively petite sweater vest (tank top for you UK folks). If you find an extra-large sweater, go to town! There is no real limit to the amount of beardiness you can apply.
Step ten: Now, put on your beard hood (it's not quite a hat yet). Perhaps with the help of a friend, figure out where to attach the side flaps: you want them to be fitted but not tight, and as symmetrical as possible.
There are now two options - one is to simply sew the flaps in place, which means that you will have to pull your beard hat over your head (once the neck is unsnapped, this is relatively easy).
The second is to make your beard fully detachable (in which case you will attach snaps on each outer corner of each flap), or partly detachable (in which case you will sew one side and attach snaps on the other.
My prototype is the latter - I find it's nice to be able to free the beard on one side to have a normal conversation with a stranger!
Finishing: Now that your flaps are affixed (not too tightly, now!), put the beard hat on once more. Make sure it's exactly the way you will wear it - everything is fitting and comfortable, and on straight.
Using your permanent marker, mark a dot just under your nose. This is where you will sew the moustache pieces to the center of your beard.
Using matching thread, get to it - and when you've finished, the beard hat is ready to wear!
Congratulations - you're beardy!
[This tutorial is for non-commercial use only. All images are copyright Ellen Lindner.]