Last week, I did what I’ve been talking about doing for ages; I made my daughters matching bonnets from fabric that had been sitting in my stash and a bit of stiff interfacing.
I promise, I am not trying to re-live some Little House on the Prairie fantasy here. I mean, yes, we watch a lot of Little House and read the books, and yes, the girls compare lots of things to Laura Ingalls. But truly, I decided to make my daughters bonnets for a few reasons.
We have a big camping trip coming up and they need something to keep the sun off their faces and ears.
My kids are terrible at keeping hats on and notorious for losing them, I didn’t want to spend money on hats they will lose so I needed something I could make for free.
Small baseball caps are hard to find, and they still don’t protect their ears from getting sunburned.
Brimmed hats, which I have made before for them, are hard to sit in chairs or ride double on a horse with because they bump into things.
I need something that ties on so the girls can take them off and let them hang without losing them.
With that list in mind, bonnets seemed like the best option.
To get a sense of bonnet construction, I googled around for existing sewing patterns. This tutorial by Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom was quite helpful, especially page 2. But I opted for a simpler construction technique that would also protect the back of the neck.
So instead of doing a back tie, I just used a rectangle of fabric. This means these bonnets don’t fit as snugly as other bonnets online, but my kids wouldn’t wear them if they were tight feeling.
Step 1: Take measurements: I measured around my daughters’ faces from the jawline on the left to the right, just in front of the ears. I also roughly gauged how much length would be needed to cover the back of the head.
Step 2: Create 3 pattern pieces and cut out fabric. (see note below about an optional piece 4). I’m sure you could find and print pattern pieces somewhere on the internet, but I don’t have a printer at home. So I opted to draft something up on newspaper. Here’s what I cut out.
Piece 1: Bonnet Brim - cut 2 pieces of fabric and one interfacing of this piece (you can trim back the interfacing piece to be 1/4” - 1/2” smaller than the fabric pieces for a more finished look.
As in the tutorial linked, for the brim I started with a rectangle measuring 19.5” x 6”. I measured my eldest’s face at about 18.5” so I added an inch for seam allowance. I wanted plenty of brim for sun protection so I opted for 5 inches wide and added and inch for seam allowance. Shaping: At the top corners I rounded them using a container lid as a circle guide and marking 1.5” from the corner to cut off. I also wanted a bit more flare out the face, so I cut the bottom corners off 2 inches above the corner and 1/2” to the side.
I used a relatively heavy interfacing instead of another piece of the cotton fabric because I want the brims to hold their shape well enough so they don’t flop in the girls’ faces.
Piece 2: Back - cut one piece of fabric
The second piece was a bit harder to get the right measurements for. I was tempted to make the bonnet shorter than it needed to be. But after measuring the back of the girls’ heads, accounting for ease so it wasn’t tight, and covering their necks, I ended up making the back piece 16.5 inches tall and 12.25” wide. Again, I rounded the corners for shaping, leaving the middle 6.25” on the top of the rectangle uncut and rounding 3” from each top corner.
Piece 3: Tie Straps - cut 2 pieces of fabric
I didn’t cut a pattern piece, but I cut 2 pieces of fabric for string about 23” long and 2” wide.
OPTIONAL PIECE 4: The girls weren’t very excited when I finished the bonnets, so I opted to ad a applique heart afterwards which I made in the fabric of the other bonnet so they matched. I free-handed the hearts by folding the fabric in half just like you do for a Valentine’s day card. I made mine roughly 4” tall and used the applique stitch on my sewing machine to put them on either side of the brim after finishing. You could add them earlier if you plan better than me.
Step 3: Assembly
Sew the Brim:
With right sides together and interfacing on top, sew around the short sides and curved outer edge of the brim with 1/2” seam allowance. Turn right side out and press. If you want extra shape, you can top stitch 1/4” from the finished fold fro a crisper look which I did on one bonnet.
Gather the back piece for shaping.
Switch you stitch length to as long as it goes and stitch 1/4” from the edge of the back piece around the sides and rounded top of the back piece of the bonnet starting 4” up from the bottom leaving long tails of thread for pulling a gather. Once stitched, pulling the long tails, gather the fabric until it measures 17.5” (the same length as the non-curved edge of you brim). REMEMBER: part of the back piece is going to hang over the neck, so don’t gather the enter side edges to sew onto the brim. Leave a few inches ungathered to be hemmed later.
Attach the back piece and brim together.
With right sides together, pin and stitch the gathered portion of the back piece to the OUTER fabric on the straight side of the brim.
Trim away any interfacing if it’s not folding down well.
Press the seam allowance towards the inside of the brim and then turn under and press the remaining layer of brim fabric so no raw edges on the brim are showing. Top stitch over the seam you just did through all layers.
Hem the raw edges on the back piece.
If you’ve kept up so far, your bonnet is now wearable but not finished. Just turn under twice and press and sew a hem on the remaining side and bottom raw edges of the back piece. (You can also use a hem foot on your machine if you have one.)
Make and attach the straps.
Fold each strap piece in half lengthwise and press. With 1/4 seam allowance, sew one short side and the whole long side of the very narrow rectangle. These tubes aren’t crazy narrow, but they are still a pain to turn right-side out. I sewed a string inside and used that and a knitting needle to get it turned quickly. Use your favorite method.
Once turned right side out. Fold the remaining raw edges of each strap to the inside and sew closed. Press the straps so they sit flat and crisp. INTERFACING NOTE: You could reinforce the straps with a layer of interfacing inside, but I think that would have made the straps too stiff for my kids to wear them under their chins comfortably.
Before attaching the straps, I put the bonnets on the girls to see where the tie worked best. I ended up putting them further forward on the brim than I planned because my kids didn’t like how much the brim flared out when I placed the strap right under their ears at the seam of the brim and back piece.
This is the warmest reception the kids have given to anything I’ve made. They opt to wear their bonnets on sunny days when heading outside.