Monday, October 19, 2009

Fleece Hats and Gaiters

You don't have to be crafty or a sewing expert to save money making your own hats and scarves or neck gaitors! I see fleece on sale at JoAnn's all the time, and I thought "How hard could a hat be?"

Well, never having made a hat and not being the type to reverse engineer one, I went to the internet. It was interestingly hard to find instructions, but Martha Stewart came through for me. (I like Martha Stewart's crafts, but I find they often aren't appropriate for the budgetarily challenged.)

First, acquire some fleece. Note that fleece comes in different weights and qualities; I prefer the "no pill" variety. With a good sale or your 50% off JoAnn's coupon (you signed up for that mailer, right?), you can get it as low as $3 a yard. I can get six hats out of a yard, or three hats with matching gaiters. If you have fleece scraps you could also piece some together to make a patchwork or motley hat.

You're going to need thread (contrasting thread can look nice, so check your sewing box before you buy), scissors, and a measuring tape. A sewing machine makes these go REALLY fast but they are simple enough to hand sew.

1. You'll need one panel of fabric to make this hat. To determine the width of the panel, measure the circumference of your head (around your ears), or use the size chart below; add 1/4 inch on each side for seam allowance. The length for an adult hat should be about 13 inches; for a child's hat, about 10 inches. Note that fleece has a stretch to it one way - be sure to make the longest edge in the direction of the stretch. Cut out the panel.

2. Sew the short ends, right sides together, to form a tube. Martha says to trim seam allowance closely. I just finger-press it open (don't iron fleece, it's plastic). Keep it inside-out for now.

3. To make the hat's cuff, fold fabric up about 3 inches (the hat is still inside-out); fold in again 1/4 inch. Sew hem close to the turned edge.

4. Sew along the top of the hat, leaving a 1/4-inch seam allowance. Trim seam. Turn hat right side out.

6. Join the two corners of the top of the hat together with a single stitch. Using strong thread, bring the needle through the inside of one corner and through the other point. Pull thread tight so the corners meet at the center. Tie off the thread. On one hat I did not join the corners; I put a pom-pom on each point instead, to make them easy to tell apart. Kiddo says it needs bells!

1. For a large pom-pom, cut a strip of fleece 24 inches in length (9 to 12 inches for a smaller pom-pom) and as wide as you would like the pom-pom to be. Fold the strip in half the long way.

2. Lightly draw a line down the center of the fabric lengthwise. Cut fringes to the left and right of the line, leaving about 1/4 inch uncut in the center. The fringes can be as narrow or as wide as you like. Roll up the strip of fabric.

4. Using strong thread such as upholstery thread, bring the needle through the core of the pom-pom (you may need a thimble), and wrap the thread tightly around the center a few times. Bring needle through the core again, and tie a knot as close to the pom-pom as possible. Use the excess thread to sew the pom-pom to the top of the hat.

A neck gaitor is just a tube of fabric worn like a scarf. They're much harder to lose than scarves, and there's no ends always coming untucked. This is also really easy.

Single-layer Gaiter:
1. Cut a panel identical to the hat panel described above.

2. Right sides together, sew the short ends together to form a tube. Leave it inside out.

3. Turn under each raw edge about a half inch and sew all around.

4. Turn right side out.

Double-layer Gaiter:
1. Use the measurements for a hat, but double the shorter measurement (the crown measurement in the list below).

2. Sew the crown measurement sides together to make a tube. When sewn the stretch should be perpendicular to the seam, so the stretch goes around your head.

3. Fold the tube so it's doubled on itself, seam side IN.

4. Pin up the unsewn edges about a half inch each as for hemming. You may like to baste them, I don't. Sew these two edges together, on the RIGHT side (the seams should all be inside, including the ones you just pinned up).

5. If you like, go back to the folded edge and sew a matching decorative seam all around.

Scarves are really really easy.
1. Decide how long and how wide you'd like your scarf.

2. Cut a piece of fleece that big. Stretch should go the long way.

2a. For extra warmth, cut it double-wide, sew one seam the long way and turn it right side out. Finish with a matching seam along the folded side.

3. You can get fancy by fringing your fleece. Sew a single line 4-6 inches from the end of the scarf. Cut even lines in the fleece to about 1/4" of the line.

Martha's Average Head Sizes Chart:
Newborn (6 months and younger)
Circumference: 14 to 17 inches
Crown: 8 to 10 inches

Infant (6 to 12 months)
Circumference: 16 to 19 inches
Crown: 11 to 12 inches

Child (12 months to 3 years)
Circumference: 18 to 20 inches
Crown: 11 to 12 inches

Child (3 years and older)
Circumference: 20 to 22 inches
Crown: 13 to 14 inches

Adult Woman
Circumference: 21 to 23 1/2 inches
Crown: 13 to 15 inches

Adult Man
Circumference: 22 to 24 1/2 inches
Crown: 14 to 16 inches

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