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How to Make a Chef or Cook's Hat

Cook's hat

We are planning to attend this year's Toronto Zombie walk dressed as Zombie Chef's and Zombie Waiters. For this we need some zombie Chef's hats.

Last year for halloween I went as a Zombie Garden Gnome, It was a great success. Nick went as a zombie cowboy. This year we head to the zombie kitchens.

Chef's hats come in many shapes and sizes. From very high tube-like hats to very low floppy hats. This chef's hat is somewhere in between.

By modifying the thickness of the upright brim or the size of the floppy bit you can create many variations.

We plan on cooking up some zombie cuisine including eyeballs and other dainties!

Step 1. Chef's Hat Materials and Tools

  1. A tape measure
  2. A marker or dark pencil
  3. Scissors
  4. Suitable fabric, I used a dollar store pillow case, and later made 6 other hats out of an old sheet I got at Value Village.
  5. Interfacing to stiffen the hat
  6. Pins, needle and thread
  7. Sewing Machine is helpful but this could be made by hand if you are patient
  8. Clothe Iron
  9. Spray on Starch if hat is too floppy

Step 2. Cook's Hat, Measuring

Measuring the head to fit the chef's hat

Measure around the forhead where the hat is to fit. This head has a 21 inch diameter. My head is bigger at 23 inches. Measure loosely.

Sketch of design for completed cook's hat

A quick sketch helps to design the hat.

Measuring the Height of the cook's hat

Decide how high you want your hat to be. In this case I did not want a very high hat so the headband is going to be a total of 7 inches high. It should be greater than 1 inch otherwise it will bunch up with the seams inside.

Pattern for chef hat headband

The headband is one strip folded over. Since I want it to be 7 inches high I need twice that height if it's folded in half. Add 1 inch for seams and the headband is a piece cut at 15 inches.

I've loosely measured my head to be 23 inches around, plus one inch for seam allowance. This gives me 24 inches If your fabric is thick add a small amount to the head measurement to allow for thicker fabric. Otherwise the looseness of the measurement should give you enough to allow for the fabric thickness. If in doubt make it larger.

Materials for your Chef's Hat

Your choice of materials is fairly simple. You need a light, fabric that is somewhat crisp. This eliminates knits or heavy drapy fabric. Cotton is ideal. Look around at what you have. Usually the chef's hats are white since that's the colour of the kitchen uniforms but you can choose other colours. Some hats are black. White "reads" as a chef's hat because this is the colour we expect it to be.

Dollar store pillowcase

In my case I'm going to use a dollar store pillow case. It's cheaper than buying fabric and the cheap low thread count is not a fault in this project.

Dollar store pillowcase

It has a starched finish and is very white. This will work well for the hat.

I cut the pillowcase open and ironed out the creases. There is a seam in the middle because the pillowcase was cheap and they made it with seam up 2 sides. It won't matter for this project.

I also opened up the hem at the edge. It was poorly stitched and I just ripped the seam out. I now have a nice flat piece of fabric and I'm ready to cut. If you bought fabric you don't have to worry about ripping open a pillowcase.

This hat was made from a piece 42 inches by 26 inches. If your fabric is only 36 inches wide then you need 49 inches long.

Cutting out the material for Chef's hat

Headband is cut

I need to cut one piece 24 inches by 15 inches. This will be the headband of the hat and will fit around the forehead. If you intend to wear a crazy wig under this chef's hat then add some some to the head diameter measurement, to allow for the thickness of the wig.

I also need to cut out a piece of stiffener. It will be 24 inches by 7.5 inches. It will help keep the hat looking crisp and genuine chef-like. I used some mesh material I had around, but iron on stiffener, or pellon or any interfacing would work. It's purpose is to add body to the base. It should not be brightly coloured because any colour will show through the cheap thin fabric of the hat.

Headband is cut top of cook's hat is laid out Measuring a large circle

The top of the hat, the pooffy part is a large circle. In my case I just used as large a circle I could get out of what was left of my pillowcase.

The only limitation to the size of the pooffy circle is that it's diameter needs to be larger than the diameter of the hat band by at least 2 inches. More is better.

I folded up the fabric to make a cone and marked on the largest diameter circle I could get. It was about 13 inches radius. It could have been smaller or a bit larger larger. Take a look at the hat on the head at the top.

I measured my shortest side and just measured an arc that I cut out. Don't worry if your circle is not a perfect circle, It does not matter much.

Sewing the Chef's Hat together

Sewing the headband

Baste the stiffener on the fabric, you can pin it if you prefer. I like the thin basting. You can see the stiffener on the right. I will leave the basting stitches in the hat to keep the stiffener better positioned while I work on the hat. Pin the sides of the fabric together, and sew this seam. The seem should be just a bit smaller than about one half inch wide.

ironing the headband

Turn out the tube so the seam is facing out and iron it flat. Then yo can fold the band to get your 7 or so inch wide, lined band. Iron the seam flat. This should give you a tidy tube about 7 inches wide with the seams all hidden inside. It's harder to describe than to do.

check the fit the headband

Grab your model and check that the hat will fit properly. The headband should be comfortable and fit. If it's too small undo your seam and make it narrower. IF the hat is too large make a wider seam. In this case I'm happy with the fit. My ears will stop the hat from sliding down!

run stitch around top basting all around the top of the hat to gather it.

To gather the top of the hat, run a loose stitch by hand, around the edge of the circle which will become the pooffy top of the chef's hat. It should be less than a half inch from the edge. Use sturdy thread or double your normal thread, because you will need to pull it in. Put the tube you just made in the hole to check the fit. The round opening should be just slightly larger than the diameter of the tube. Don't fasten the end of the thread yet but make sure it will not unravel. You can temporarily tie it on a pin so you can loosen or tighten as you need to. I used a red thread so I could remove it easily after it's sewn.

Pin top to base

Take the headband tube you have just sewn and which should fit around your forehead and turn it so the inside of the hat is now outside and what will be the outside is on the inside. Read this again, it's easier to do than to say.

Fold back the now inside side down out of the way, so you don't get it caught in the seam you are about to do. Pin the inner circle of the top of the hat to the top of the tube. You will need to even out the gathering some, so that it is even around the hat. Check that you did not pin the folded down part by mistake.

My sewing machine allows me to sew a tube on the outside because of an extension. If you prefer, turn the tube so that you can sew the seam from the inside. You can also sew this by hand. Baste it all around and remove your pins.

sew the hat

Carefully sew through the tube and pooffy part all around the opening. Remove your pins as you go. Go slowly. Once you have gone around trim your threads, and make sure you have not left any pins inside.

Remove the basting thread and check that the seam is ok and that you did not catch the outside side in the seam by mistake. You had folded it out of the way.

Ironing hat

Turn the hat so that the proper outside is outside and the inside is towards the inside. If everything checks out, iron the seam so that the material is folded towards the headband side.

Unfold the headband and carefully pin the top edge under. This will close the hat and hide the seam where the headband is sewn to the pouffy part. You will be over-sewing this with a thin seam very close to the edge. If you want you can sew this by hand. After pinning it all around check that it is tidy and sew. Since my sewing machine has a narrow base made to sew hems of pants it's easier for me to sew with the good side outside. If you have a flat base to your sewing machine then turn the pinned edge towards the inside and sew this way. Whatever method you use you need to sew a tidy seam about an eight of an inch from the edge of the fabric. Do it by hand if you are not happy using the sewing machine.

completed hat

Give your chef's hat a final press, and go show it around. You are now ready to head into the kitchen and cook up a zombie fest. Check out the Toronto Zombie Walk with photos of what we looked like and more.

email me if you have questions or find mistakes, I'll fix them and we'll all benefit: Christine