One of my favorite costuming tricks is to make a character hat out of a baseball cap. I do this for Halloween, for running costumes, and even just to have some fun headgear for whatever occasion might present itself. (They’re great for riding Star Tours, and make for really fun Rebel spy moments!)
Since Kowakian monkey-lizard Salacious B. Crumb is near and dear to my heart, it seemed time to add him to my hat collection. This is a project that takes some patience, but it isn’t really difficult. You don’t have to be a master stitcher by any means, and you can use the same basic ideas presented here to create other characters. Fleece, which is used for the base of the hat, is extremely forgiving, so you don’t need to fret about perfection.
-Baseball cap (I like the inexpensive ones sold in craft stores, because the bill is easy to cut.)
-1/2 yard of tan fleece
-Gold safety eyes, 18 mm
-Scrap of craft foam
-Hot glue gun and glue sticks
– Plastic boning
– Wire, 18- or 20-gauge
-Floral tape or washi tape
-Craft paint in ochre, reddish brown, brown, and black
-Brown fine-tip permanent marker
Here’s how I made mine:
First, I drew out the rough shape of the beak on the bill of the hat. Then I discarded the excess. I used both heavy shears (actually kitchen shears) and a craft knife. I also put the hat on and made sure it fit comfortably on my head with a bit of room to spare.
Once I had my bill cut, I draped my fleece over the top of the hat, wrong side out. I used a piece of fabric big enough to go from the back of the cap to the front and side to side, with plenty of extra all around. I pinned it in place at the crown — just a temporary pin to keep things in place for the next step.
I flipped the hat over and pulled the front section of fabric taut around the beak, and pinned it with safety pins. The pins marked the line where I needed to stitch a seam to snug the fabric to the beak. To make sure I pinned only the distance from the tip of the beak to where the bill meets the body of the hat, I folded the excess fabric back to keep track of my pin position.
Looking at the hat from the side, it made the rough shape of a cone.
I unpinned the top safety pin and stitched right along the pinned line, being careful not to run over any of my safety pins in the process. After stitching, I trimmed away the excess fabric from the seam section, then turned it right side out and slid it over the bill of the hat.
I found the eyes for my project on Etsy, because I couldn’t locate any that were the right color in any of my local stores.
I held a set of eyes up to my hat base to determine placement for them, and marked the spots with a light-colored marker. (Truth be told, I might scoot them a hair closer together if I make another.)
Using an awl, I poked a hole through both my fabric and my hat at one of the spots I marked, and then poked the shank of one of the eyes through. (This takes a little work.) Then I just pushed the backing washer onto it to secure it. The second eye was placed in exactly the same way. At this point, Salacious Crumb looked a little like a house elf.
With the eyes in place to secure the fabric, I tucked the extra fabric under the edge, and then it was time to tailor the remaining fabric to the hat. To get rid of the excess, I pinned two darts into place toward the back of the hat. (It’s easy to overzealously pin too tightly at this stage and accidentally shrink your hat, so this is a point to just take your time and repin if you need to.)
After my two seams were pinned in place, I cut away the excess fabric close to the pins. Then I removed the pins and flipped the resulting opening for the dart so the fabric was right-sides-together and ready to stitch.
I stitched the darts closed using a quarter-inch seam allowance. (This takes maneuvering to keep the hat out of the way.)
Once my seams were all finished, I pinned the excess fabric to the interior band of the hat, careful not to push through to the exterior fabric. With everything smoothed and pinned in place, I trimmed away the excess. The center back of the hat didn’t have an easy band to pin the fabric to, so I left that section of the fabric a little longer so I could wrap it around the adjustment band and stitch it.
I stitched the fabric in place along the band where I had pinned it. This was definitely a step with some wrangling because of the bill; the hat does not want to sit flat, so it takes a little patience. I stopped and started in some spots to adjust. As planned, I folded the back section under and stitched it into place.
So, those eye shanks needed to be covered,so they wouldn’t be jabbing uncomfortably at my forehead when I wear the hat. I cut oblong pieces of craft foam and a scrap of fleece long enough to cover both shanks; the fleece piece was a little bigger than the craft foam. I hot-glued the craft foam down a little at a time so I could push a little bit of poly-fil in as I did. Then I glued the fleece over that.
To make the ears, I cut a piece of plastic boning 23 inches long. I also cut two pieces of 20-gauge wire the same length. I first hot-glued the ends of the wire to the boning, and then used floral tape to wrap the three pieces together starting at that end and working my way down the entire length of the boning and wire.
Once my wire and boning were wrapped together, I bent the whole thing into the shape of Salacious Crumb’s ears. I used about four inches at the center as the base that would be attached to the top of the hat.
I places the shaped ear section on top of two pieces of fleece (right sides together) and traced a line about a quarter-inch from the top edge. I used that line to cut my two layers of fabric, and then stitched along that top curve using a quarter-inch seam allowance. After stitching, I clipped the interior curve to make turning easier.
Then I turned the hat right-side out and slipped the wire into it.
With my sewing machine’s piping foot, I top stitched around the top edge of the ears, getting as close to the boning and wire as possible.
Staying very close to the stitching, I clipped away the entire top layer of fabric. This left the top edge nice and substantial, while the actual ear segment was thinner and lighter. I also cut away a wedge of fabric from the center.
To augment the brow ridge, I cut a long oval about 7-by-2 inches. I folded it over lengthwise and stitched close to the edge, pushing in a light amount of stuffing as I went. When I was done, I had what looked like a tan, fleece pea pod.
Starting from the center and working out, I stitched my little pod to the face in an arch, first attaching it at the seam allowance.
After one side of the brow was in place, I ran another line of stitching along the top of the pod to create expression and ensure that the brow was secure.
I repeated these steps for the second side, letting the brow be a little asymmetrical to add character.
“Here’s where the fun begins.”
Once the structure was all in place, it was time for detailing. This is always, hands down, my favorite part of any project, because it’s where the whole thing comes together. Plus, it’s usually pretty fun to do! For all of the painting on the face, I used foam brushes and a dry-brush technique. I picked up only a tiny amount of paint on the brush, then brushed a scrap of fabric until there was very little left on the brush. Then I applied my color in layers to the fleece. This prevented things from getting clumpy or blocky looking, and gave me greater control over the results.
First I applied ochre to the upper portion of the beak, the forehead, and the exterior corners of the eye. Then I added reddish brown shading to the eye sockets and ears. The veining on the ears was made by just gently dragging the pointed edge of the foam brush along the fabric.
With a brown permanent marker, I carefully added lines around the eyes and wrinkles to the forehead and under the eyes. I used small dashes with the marker to mimic his nasal openings. I also deepened the shading along the seam where the ear flaps meet the wire and boning sections. Then I used brown paint mixed with a little black to finish off the end of the beak and shade the bottom edge of the hat back toward the ears.
This project only needed a small remnant of fur. To cut it, I cut from the back with sharp scissors underneath the pile on the right side. (I prefer a small pair for this rather than my usual sewing shears.) This prevented the fur from losing its length. I cut several strips of fur that were each only about a quarter-inch wide and about four inches long.
Since Salacious Crumb has a little bit of a center part, I applied his little top knot of fur in two sections. First, I marked the center of his head-arch with a marker. Then I applied hot glue to one half of the arch at the front.
I folded the fur back around the rear of the ridge created by the ear attachment, and glued it along the back, trimming off the excess of my fur strip. Then I did the same for the second side. (Voila! Center-parted monkey-lizard hair!) My fur, which was just a remnant I had on hand, had some nice gold tones in it, but also a lot of gray. So I used my permanent marker to add some reddish brown and warm up the color.
Using the small bits I had trimmed from the ends of my fur strips, I cut four tiny bits of fur — the back for each was only about a quarter-inch square. These pieces also got some brown marker coloration, and then were glued to the tips of the ears and the back edge of the jaw line. I did lose a little depth to my hat, but no worries there. If it turns out that it doesn’t want to stay put, I can always add a little strap to secure it.
This is one of those projects that people think takes a really long time, but really, this was only about six or seven hours of work. You can combine this with a tan outfit and add fur cuffs and a ruff around your neck, and you’re all set. I am planning to wear mine as part of a running outfit during the Star Wars Half Marathon in January, so if you see me, say hello!