05 Aug

handmade party hat crowns (a cautionary tale)

Feature image: party hat crowns

Feature image: party hat crowns

A note about the photos: the good photos here were taken by Mel from from Emdee Photography (the rest are by me, taken on my iPhone, so it’s pretty easy to see which are Mel’s work!). She is Birthday Party Photographer Extraordinaire! She has photographed the twins’ party every year for the last three years. Her photos are gorgeous and the kids love her.

And for the pattern: thanks to Blissful Sewing for the great pattern!

I had this awesome idea to make crowns for birthday party hats for my niece and nephew’s fourth birthday party. One of the the reasons I wanted to do this is that kids never wear party hats because those horrible elastic strings that go under their chins feel awful. The other reason I wanted to make them is because I’m like an aunty version of a Pinterest Mom (proper noun – deserves full capitalisation) and I wanted them to have awesome hats and an awesome party.

I mean, look at these amazing hats. Who wouldn’t want to try to make something just as divine?

There are two things you should note about this story. The first is that I decided to make these four days before their birthday party. The other is that there were more than 30 kids coming to the party.

I used a free pattern I found on the blog Blissful Sewing.

Sizes

The pattern comes in two sizes – newborn to 12 months and 12 months to adult. Most of the twins’ friends have baby brothers and sisters, so I used both sizes. The age chart for the elastic worked well, however I would suggest going slightly longer for the baby size – perhaps a centimeter.

What about the boys?

Our party was co-ed, so I needed to modify the pattern a bit for the boy version. I just printed out a couple of extra copies of the pattern and cut the two side points off till I had three pieces, each with two points. Then I sticky taped them together to make a pattern that had six points of the same height.

Fabrics

The party didn’t have a theme, but the decorations were all spots, stripes and chevrons in bold colours, so I stuck with this theme for the crowns.

For the boys, I did red with white polka dots on the outside and blue and white stripe on the inside. I used a piece of grosgrain navy blue ribbon with a big white stitch down each side for embellishment on the front.

Cut out crown shapes in blue and white stripe and red polka dot fabric

See how the points are all the same size? I achieved this by cutting up the original pattern and adding two points the same height to the middle (where the high point is on the girls’ crowns).

For the girls, I did multicoloured stripe on the outside and pink with white polka dots on the inside. I actually planned to use the polka dots on the outside, like the boy version, but the multicoloured strips were too cute. I bought crocheted ribbon with white and pink tassels sewn on for embellishment on the front.

Cut out crown shapes in multi coloured stripes and pink with white polka dot fabric

I originally planned to put the polka dots on the outside, but the stripes were too cute!

Embellishments for the front of the crowns

Pom poms for the girls and ribbon for the boys.

Tips

Disclaimer: I am a novice sewer in the truest sense of the word. You should double check before you follow any of my instructions! But I’m sure you’ll realise that when you read my cautionary tale!

The most important tip of all

There is a back story for the most important tip of all, so you have to read it first. Don’t get half way through this post and think you’re ready to start crown-making. Nope, you gotta read the whole thing.

Get a new rotary cutter blade

The best thing I did through this whole project was to buy a new rotary cutter blade before I started. I would have given up five minutes in without it!

Cut the shapes out in bulk

I cut the fabric in bulk – basically I cut as many as my rotary cutter would get through at once (10 or 12). It meant I had to cut a couple of threads that didn’t quite get cut on the pieces at the bottom of the pile, but considering I had to cut about 80 of these babies out, it was well worth the effort to snip those last few threads individually.

I also roughly cut the interfacing into rectangles, piled them up into pile of about six or eight pieces, and whipped through them with the rotary cutter too.

Caution: use heavy weight interfacing but not extra heavy weight!

I bought super, super stiff interfacing. I probably should have gone for something slightly less weighty. Consequently, if I ironed the interfacing on to the outside piece before I stitched the pieces together, it was almost impossible to turn the crown in the right way after I’d stitched the whole way round them – even if I left the whole bottom side of the crown open. I managed it, but the interfacing was so bent and buckled I wrote the first one off as a trial.

So I had a bit of a brainwave. Instead of ironing the interfacing on before I stitched round the two pieces, I changed it up. I stitched round the two pieces, clipped the corners and points, turned the crown in the right way, then slipped the interfacing in and ironed it on. My plan was to top stitch the bottom of each crown crown closed.

To be honest, if I knew I was going to have to do them this way, I probably wouldn’t have made them! But at this point everything was cut out and I was pretty determined to get them done. So on I soldiered with slipping the interfacing into the pre-stitched crowns.

But that was not the end of the super heavy weight interfacing saga… Three more pain points awaited me. But don’t worry, these things won’t happen to you because you won’t make the same mistakes as me! Learn from this cautionary tale and you will avoid all of the pitfalls I encountered.

I discovered the first pain point quickly. Even though I had cut the interfacing 5mm smaller the whole way round, I needed to cut it even smaller to slip it in after the crown was stitched. Which meant I had to cut another few millimeters off every side of every point on every piece of interfacing. Thanks god for the rotary cutter! I piled them up and whizzed through them, roughly cutting them and not worrying too much if I accidentally cut into the body of the crown (which I did, many, many times).

Paint point number two was caused by the way the interfacing had been rolled: sticky side facing in. Initially, I started slipping the interfacing in and ironing it onto the front piece of each crown (that is, the *right* way), but the interfacing was so stiff that it was holding the curve from being rolled and it was creasing and folding. So I just started slipping them in and ironing them on the other way, which of course meant that in the end, my front pieces had wrinkles because the interfacing wasn’t fused onto the front. The absolute pedant in me wanted to chuck them out and do them again but my family talked some sense into me. The two-, three- and four-year-olds, they said, would not care about fabric wrinkles. We set up a bit of a production line and my mum ironed the interfacing in while I pinned and sewed. If I had’ve used a slightly less weighty interfacing, it wouldn’t have creased to the same extent and I would have avoided this problem.

The final pain point was stitching up the bottom of every crown. I had to top stitch the full length of every crown closed once the interfacing had been ironed in. That was a lot of folding, pinning and stitching. (It was made a little bit more tedious by the fact my trusty assistant didn’t push the interfacing in quite far enough so on some of them, I had to peel the fabric off and cut the interfacing down before I could sew the crown closed. But I really can’t complain – I would still be making the crowns now, three months later, without her help.) This was also the part of construction I ended up doing at 11pm the night before the party, so you can imagine just how painful it was at that point!

Which leads me to the most important tip of all…

Make a trial crown

I did all the cutting before I got started with any assembly. In hindsight, this was a wee bit silly and I probably should have just made my trial one from start to finish (for reasons I will talk about shortly…) before cutting the rest out.

Work in stages

Once you have made your trial crown (and don’t do it earlier, or you’ll end up in a mess like me!) you should start working in stages. Do the tasks in bulk in this order:

  1. Cut everything out (fabric, interfacing, trim/embellishments, elastic)
  2. Fuse the interfacing to all the front pieces
  3. Pin all the crown fronts to the crown backs, sandwiching one end of the ribbon and elastic into one side of the crown (see below)
  4. Take all the pinned crowns to the sewing machine and as you pick up each one to stitch it, pin the ribbon and the elastic into the other side of the crown, then stitch round the edges, leaving a small gap for turning
  5. Clip all the points and corners
  6. Turn and press all the crowns, folding the edges of the gap in (you shouldn’t need to pin them if you use give them a good press)
  7. Top stitch along the length of the bottom of the crown

Sew the embellishment and elastic into the seams of the sides of the crowns

Instead of sewing the embellishment on the front as the pattern indicates (in the pattern it’s ruffled ribbon), I sandwiched the ribbon between the inside fabric and outside fabric right sides facing. I also did the same thing with the elastic.

Ribbon and elastic sandwiched between the fabric

Place the ribbon right side down on the right side of the front fabric. Then lay the ribbon on top of the that, followed by the outside fabric.

 

Sewing the elastic into the sides like this was tricky, because it kind of scrunched the fabric pieces up.

 

Crown with both ends pinned

Once you pin the elastic in to the other side, it will look like a scrunched up mess. But never fear – it will work!

To make the crowns easier to handle, I pinned one side of each and then pinned in the other side just as I was about to stitch it. This stopped them from getting tangled up.

This made the crowns a little bit trickier to stitch than they would otherwise have been, but it saved work in sewing the embellishments and ribbon on at the end, and gave them a really tidy finish. And when I got a bit of a rhythm going I whizzed around them fairly quickly. Out of the 30 or so crowns I made, I missed either the elastic or the ribbon (or both!) on one side of three or four hats. I just stitched these on at the end. You’ll notice I didn’t cover the elastic with ruffled ribbon like the pattern suggests – that just seemed a bit too ambitious to get done in the time I had.

The finished product

Tada! Wrinkly thanks to my interfacing woes, but still pretty cute, if I do say so myself!

Finished girls' hats

A bit wrinkly, but still super cute, I think! Thanks to Mel from Emdee Photography for the gorgeous photo.

And the best part is, the kids wore them! Woo!

Finished hats

The finished hats, sitting in front of a long line of party bags. Thanks to Mel from Emdee Photography for the gorgeous photo.

Crown in situ

Another photo by Mel from Emdee Photography.