Red Silk Pillbox hat

The first hat that I made while taking the Millinery class was a pillbox.  I am not actually all that fond of pillboxes actually  – I’ve never found them that flattering for my head/face, but I don’t mind this one… (probably because the others that I’ve tried on didn’t fit – and this one does!)  For more about this hat, please read my comments about the class itself.

Buckram Base

I started off by cutting the band at my head measurement, plus “a finger” (under the tape) and an inch for overlap at the back seam.  The seam was overlapped and using a padding stitch and buttonhole thread, sewn together.

Sewing wire to the buckram edge with a blanket/buttonhole stitch. The untied end is secured with masking tape.

Both of the long edges were wired using a buttonhole/saddle stitch. (I’m not actually sure which one, I was just doing the stitch, not following a book or anything.  Apparently the only difference is one goes in one direction and the other goes in the other…  I covered the bottom edge with bias tape to smooth the edge.

I shaped the band to my head, and traced and cut out the tip (around the top edge of the band) adding an inch for seam allowance.  In future, I’ll add less, since it’s not needed, and means I had to trim it before covering with bias where the tip meets the band.

Then it came time to cover!

Shot fabric has one colour for the warp, and a different colour for the weft, resulting in a fabric where the colour changes slightly when you fold it or hold it in different lights.

I picked out three fabrics, and couldn’t really choose between two.  I picked a gold and red dragon brocade for the lining (I love having interesting linings – it’s like a little surprise only the person wearing it knows about…) but couldn’t choose between a red shot with black dupioni silk and a flat red silk.  The dupioni has a lot more body and “bulk” to it, while the flat silk is more like silk broadcloth – very fine) and although I liked the colour of the flat silk better (to match with a flower I was going to use on the hat) I thought that the dupioni might be more forgiving.

Basting the crown fabric onto the pillbox hat.

I traced the tip again, and cut out an oval of knit interfacing the size of the tip (no seam allowances).  I ironed this to the dupioni, and added seam allowance before cutting out.  I clipped the curve, and stitched the tip down along the band.   Then for the band fabric, I cut a rectangle of interfacing to match the length and height of the band not including seam allowances, and ironed that to the dupioni.  I cut out the band including seam allowances, and pressed down the top edge.  I folded the band fabric right sides together and sewed the back seam, turned it right side out and slipped it onto the hat. It was a nice snug fit.

Very carefully, with tiny little hidden stitches, sewing together the fashion fabric of the band and tip.

Then I slip-stitched with tiny invisible stitches, the band to the tip.  From there I folded the bottom edge of the band over the bias-trimmed wire bottom, and caught the fabric on the bias on the inside.


From there  I constructed the lining, sewing the back centre seam of the band, and then hand-stitching the tip to the band.  I was surprised how easy it was to ease the circle to the band by hand – much more so than I anticipated.  I folded back the bottom edge, and pressed it.  I used lots of steam to get the crease to set firmly – I wanted a nice crisp edge for the lining.  I turned the lining inside out, and slipped it into the hat wrong sides together.  From there caught the lining along the bottom edge of the hat with tiny invisible slip stitches as well.

Interior lining of the red pillbox hat

Slip stitched lining


Although it has a terrible name, a sweatband is really to keep body oils, hair product, and yeah… sweat… off the more delicate (and thus hard to clean) fabrics of the hat itself.  It is essentially replaceable (so if it gets soiled and isn’t cleanable, it can be removed and replaced) but I can’t say that I’ve ever replaced one.  I think that I’ve read it called a petersham band (because it’s traditionally made of petersham ribbon) and a headsize band (versus a hatband, which is on the outside of the hat).

Sweatband of red silk pillbox

I held off adding the sweatband until the instructor talked about it, and when she did, it went in very easily.  I used an almost invisible prick stitch as per her suggestion, catching just the top of the ribbed edge of a piece of red grosgrain ribbon and the inside edge of the hat.


I chose a beautiful fake flower from Michael’s to trim the hat, but since it was on a stem, it had to be completely taken apart to use on the hat.  I then covered a bit of felt with some scrap dupioni for the center, and stitched it back together again.

Large flower with replaced 'stamen' in red silk

I originally put it on a pin back, but didn’t like the effect, so took it off to sew it on directly.  Our instructor suggested sewing on decorations as a preference to gluing them, and although I agree, I’m not 100% satisfied with the way the hand sewing of the flower looks – however when it’s worn it wont ever be seen, and I imagine that I’m really the only one who will really care either!

Reverse of flower after the stem was removed


So there’s my first finished hat from the class!  Does anyone have kind thoughts to share?

Finished hat!

Finished hat on my Styrofoam head (keep in mind the head is smaller than my own..)

Finished hat on my Styrofoam head (keep in mind the head is smaller than my own..)


6 comments on “Red Silk Pillbox hat

  1. Sharon Howard says:

    I think this hat is so cute and I really like how you put the instructions how to make it! I feel inspired to make this hat, even though I have never made a hat before. Good job, and many thanks,Sharon

    • Dawn says:

      Thanks Sharon,
      You should try to make a hat like this! We did it as the first project in the millinery class I took, so it’s a good starting project. Good luck!

  2. Lissi says:

    Wow! What a gorgeous hat! Magnificent work, too; congrats on a job well done!

  3. Loretta says:

    Hello, plz can I get some videos on your work

    • Dawn says:

      Sorry, any videos I have of my work are already loaded on my blog. I usually post them through Instagram rather than YouTube, which you can find @SadinaDawn.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.