If you have failed in all your searches for the proper hat blank, or desire a hat that is uncommon, you may find that making the hat yourself, from scratch (yes, I said from *scratch*) may be the best option. To start, I would recommend redirecting your search towards hat patterns. It is always better to start with as much information as possible, and learn from someone else's mistakes and experience, than to flounder through the thing yourself. Here are some fabulous sites and companies that sell hat patterns:
How To Make Structured Hats
What you will need:
- needlepoint canvas, heavy. (NOT needlepoint plastic)- stiff felt - two large sheets (11x17)
- soft felt - several sheets (8.5 x 11 usually) for thin fabrics such as silk.- heavy upholstry-weight thread
- your outer fabric, whatever that may be.
- 1/2" (or greater) double fold bias tape in a color you want to match or contrast with your hat- medium-gauge wire - strong enough to hold the hat brim in place, soft enough to bend with the help of a gorilla.
Step 1: Patterning The Crown
The easiest way to determine your crown is to curl a large piece of paper into a tube somewhere close to the right shape. It can be conical, straight, whatever you're after. Trim down the excess - the height, the overlapping edges- until the shape is just what you want it to be. For my example piece, I have a tall, tapered crown, oval in shape, with a curve on the bottom edge. Depending on the shape of the hat, you may or may not want to curve the bottom edges.
Step 2: Patterning The Top of the Crown
This piece is circular, or oval in shape. Lay your curled paper crown-tube from the last step on another sheet of paper, top side down, and trace around the inside. Remove the tube and add an allowance - 5/8" - 1" - to the circle or oval. When you attach the top to the crown, you will cut the allowance into tabs and fold down the edges.
Step 3: Patterning The BrimBrims can be huge, or quite small. Start by laying your crown-tube, bottom side down, on a large piece of paper and tracing around the outside. Extend your brim from the drawn circle as far as you want, using a ruler to mark the measurement every few inches, around the entire circle. Then just connect-the-dots. Add an allowance to the interior circle.
Cut out all your materials.
For your brim, cut one layer of canvas and stiff felt. Cut two layers of soft felt and outer fabric. Remove the seam allowance on the stiff and soft felts.
Start by sewing your needlepoint canvas and stiff felt together (wrong sides together), making stitching lines around the edges, and throughout the middle. I found it helpful to iron the stiff felt, pulling the felt out from under the edge of the iron to keep it from "breaking" funny, and to curve it slightly (for the crown). Join the felt and canvas for all the pieces.
Now join the stiff layers with the soft by laying them together and basting around the outside edges. For the brim, you have the stiff layer sandwiched between two layers of outer fabric. All edges are still raw.
Now for the tricky parts:
First let's put the crown and top together. Fold over the edge of the outer fabric on the height portion of the crown and either stitch it or glue it down, to create a clean edge at the top. To do this, make cuts in the seam allowance, and pull and fold the fabric over the edge towards the inside. Glue.
Now make small cuts into the seam allowance all the way around the circular top and fold the tabs downward. Fit the top into the crown, adjusting the cuts of the tabs as needed, until the top sits properly in the crown, with the edges meeting. It might help to do this upside-down, with the top flat, and fitting the crown-tube down over the tabs. Joining the top to the crown can be achieved by whipstitching around the outer top seam, stitching the tabs on the inside, or calling on the power of the Glue of the Gods (hot glue!) to adhere the tabs to the interior of the crown. I recommend a combination of techniques.
*If you would like to add a lining, now is the time to do it. Cut out one crown and one top piece and join them, right sides together (clip the seam allowance to get the circle to lay correctly). Turn under the bottom edge of the crown and press. Place the lining in the hat and either glue (yes) or stitch in place. The raw edges of the tabs will be covered now.
The hat is now completely constructed, and only the outer edge of the brim needs finishing. If you plan to wire the brim, cut the wire to the proper length, curve it around the edge of the brim, and whipstitched it roughly into place. Now bind the edge with bias tape, fitting it tightly over the wire (or edge if there is no wire), and either hand-stitch into place, or machine stitching with a heavy needle and a zipper foot.