Covering A Columbia Hat (Alternate Method)

This is a guest post by RM - I was so impressed with her results! I think there's a little more work involved in this method, but the results speak for themselves. I have no doubt that this is the way Little Nell's was probably made because the sequin pattern on the bottom of the brim go straight back.  Also, Larry now has screen accurate gold sequin fabric for top hats and tail coats.

I started out with a plain black top hat and glued on layers of felt to make it flare out at the top, just like in Mina’s tutorial. Since I wasn’t happy with any of the gold sequin fabrics I found locally and there wasn’t time to order any, I decided to create my own wavy-line sequin fabric by tracing lines onto fabric with a cardboard template and gluing strings of sequin trim onto the fabric. (NOTE: Once I was finished, I decided the sequins weren’t close together enough so I added more sequin strings in the spaces between them.) I’m not sure how many yards of sequin trim it took—I just bought a spool of 100 meters and still have plenty left over. I chose a lightweight, semi-sheer cotton/silk lining fabric layered over a yellowish gold poly-cotton broadcloth, since that was the only way I could achieve the color and texture I wanted with the fabrics available.  I used my very most favorite glue, Gem-Tac. I made three large ovals (one for the flat top part of the hat, one for the underside of the brim, and one for the top side of the brim) and one long rectangle (for the stovepipe part of the hat). Be careful to make sure the nap of the sequins are all going in the same direction!

I glued the sequin fabric oval onto the top of the hat first, pinning it in place while the glue dried. You can see I made cuts through the center of the brim fabric pieces like a pizza—this is because on the top side of the brim, you need to wiggle that piece of fabric from the top of the hat (which is wider) down to the part where it meets the brim (which is narrower).

I glued a thin line of glue around the inner side of the top brim, trimmed off the triangular pieces that were in the way (and made vertical snips in the fabric where it needed to lay flat), glued a thin line of glue near the outer edge on the underside of the brim, and then clamped the fabric in place with clothespins.  You can remove the clothespins after about 20 minutes—you just want the glue and fabric to stay in place while it’s drying, not glue your wooden clothespins to your hat forever! After it was dry I trimmed off the excess fabric on the underside so I had about ½” left.

I laid the underside piece of fabric onto the underside of the brim and made snips to the inner circle so everything would be flat and even, then put a thin line of glue on the inside stovepipe part of the hat, just past where it meets the brim. I pinned the fabric in place while the glue dried.

After the glue was dry, I trimmed off some of the excess on the outer edge of the oval fabric and then tucked the raw edge in so it was all hidden, then pinned it in place.  You want to make sure everything is evenly tucked and distributed while you’re pinning it in place.  I then hand-sewed the edge of the top brim fabric and the edge of the under brim fabric together. Use matching thread and try to hide your stitches in the sequins as much as possible. I trimmed off the excess fabric in the inside of the hat (leaving about ½” of fabric) and glued a ¾” black grosgrain ribbon over it to cover all the raw edges and finish off the inside of the hat. I decided to do the brim in this way because A) you can see vertical lines of sequins on the underside of Columbia’s hat in the movie and B) I didn’t want to attempt machine stitching through the felt hat, sequins, AND glue.

Covering the stovepipe part of the hat was pretty much the same as Mina’s tutorial. I will mention a few additional things, though. Since the stovepipe part of the hat is wider at the top and narrower at the bottom, the seam where the two edges meet is going to make the sequin lines look like the letter V instead of straight up and down. I put the seam on the right side of the hat (NOT the bow side). Also, since the hatband and bow are going to cover the edge where the stovepipe fabric meets the brim, you can just cut off the bottom edge of the stovepipe fabric so there’s a ½” gap which will be covered later anyway. I followed Mina’s tutorial for the hatband and bow.

As I mentioned above, when I was all done I decided the sequins weren’t close enough together, so I added more.  I glued extra individual sequins on the ends of the strings to cover them.  You can see some threads sticking up on Columbia’s hat during Time Warp, so it’s screen accurate. I took a photo of the brim underside during the process of adding more sequin strings.  You can really see the difference in the shininess depending on how close together the sequins are.

Here is a close-up of the finished hat….
And some photos of it in action!


  1. What a wonderful idea its !!!!seriously i really shocked to see your post and your idea..What a idea!!!
    Thank you so much for your wonderful idea which one you share with us..
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  2. Great idea.Thanks for sharing. I just love it.. I found some excellent fabrics from Fabrics World USA in NYC near me which was a nice weight, not too beefy.

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