bicycle · bicycling · cap · cycling · diy · hat · sewing

Making a cycling cap

A cycling cap is useful in so many ways. It keeps the hair in place. Sweat is managed. Shades the head and face from direct sun. Can be micro-adjusted to block the glare from oncoming headlights. The thin fabric allows it to fit under a helmet. Pulled low over the eyes, it’s how I begin a nap. The sun blocking will make your dermatologist happy.

Years ago, when my old columbus hat was starting to disintegrate, I knew there would be a long and difficult search for a replacement. My head is BIG, and few hats would fit it. And I was never was that happy about paying for a hat that gives free advertising to some business. And I find the bill on store bought cycling caps is always too small. It was time to figure out how to make a hat that fits me well and has a bigger bill. I have made about 50 of these caps so far. For a person who does not sew much, is not an easy project at first. Your initial caps will not be that great but they quickly improve with practice. I am satisfied with mine now, and they take about 2 hours to make. They last about a year if you wear it a lot. Make lots, give them as gifts, it’s fun!

Rather than hunting for an online pattern, it made more sense to me to get the pattern from the old cap which I knew actually fit me. So I took it apart and had the perfect pattern right there. This 3 panel style would be easy to sew, compared to a more complicated 6 panel hat for instance. I had to figure out the steps of construction myself. There are probably other ways to put it together too. If nothing else, this type of project will help you appreciate the effort and complexity involved in making a garment.

The old hat, disassembled.

I used the pieces as a template for making the new hats. With the visor, I drew an outline of the existing one, and then drew it a little bigger. The bills on traditional cycling caps are just too small.

The templates.
From the top: visor, side panels, and center panel. The new templates are made of picture frame mat board. It’s a thick cardboard like material, durable and easy to cut. When I make a new hat, I just lay the templates down on the new fabric and run a pen along the edge, and cut along the lines. All templates are symmetric.
Fabric is cut. The 2 center pieces will be sewn together. I had to orient the bird pattern so they would be seen as upright on the front and back. With most fabric patterns, the center would be one piece. The yogurt container bill sits on top of the 2 pieces of bill fabric.


Making the bill

We have lots of light cotton material leftover from quilting projects. Shown here is this bird pattern. The top and bottom of the visor fabric is a lightweight, black wool. bill stiffener is cut from a 32oz plastic yogurt container. (Note: now I make soft bills with Pellon; see below). The container is just big enough for a generous sized lightweight bill. I set the orientation using the natural curve of the plastic, but get it mostly flattened out with an iron, set on low. If an excessive curve returns (like from having it scrunched up in a pocket), I can always iron it flat again. Don’t iron the plastic directly; use a piece of fabric on top of it! It takes just a minute or 2 of ironing on medium, and I let it cool down with a heavy book on top of it.

After tracing the visor line on the yogurt container, I cut it to its finished size. I make the ends rounded so they don’t cut into the fabric. Then I make a chalk line of the visor edge on the fabric visor material. Then I sew the 2 pieces of visor fabric together. I make 2 passes; making the stitching as close together as I can. One pass may be enough, but 2 will ensure it will not come apart at the front of the visor.


Next I trim the visor material away, very close to the stitches.


Now I turn it inside out, put the plastic visor stiffener inside. Then I pin it, so that the visor is positioned evenly and tight inside the pocket. Also I chalk a line on the inner edge to show where the inside of the visor is. Notice that there is about an inch of fabric past the edge of each side of the visor. You will need that extra fabric when you sew the cap together.
Now I sew the visor in the pocket. I go slow, trying to sew right along the edge of the plastic. 


Then I trim the inner edge of the fabric so there is about an inch of material beyond the inner visor edge. This material will help absorb sweat.
Edit: there is another way to make a bill!
Goodbye yogurt containers. Now I use Pellon (Pellex ll, ultra-firm 2 sided fusible). It’s a firm poly material that you can bond the fabric to with a hot iron. I get it from my local fabric shop (Mill Ends, Portland OR). Now I just make the fabric bill pocket and insert the Pellon that I cut to fit. A hot iron fuses the cloth on to the Pellon bill, and the result looks great. Lightweight but substantial enough, it can be folded without cracking or damage. It can still go in washing machine. It’s a soft bill that holds it shape well even after stuffing the hat in my pocket. The material is easy to cut and making the bill is faster now. 
Now I sew a strip of elastic band material along the inside (bottom) of the visor, slightly overlapping the visor stitches. I pull the elastic material slightly while sewing, to give it some built-in tension. I go very slow, doing a few stitches and stopping to reposition as needed. 


Thats a 26″ long strip of elastic material. Fabric stores sell this by the yard or the roll. This is probably nylon, but cotton blend versions are available. About 4″ extends out from one side.


With the bird pattern, I need to sew 2 identical pieces together for the center panel section. Otherwise the birds would be upside down on one of the ends.


Now I am sewing the 3 hat panels together. I go slow, trying to make an even seam; about 3/16 inch.


Panels sewn, hat is taking shape!

Next I sew the edge of the cap. I roll the inside edge about 3/16 inch and sew all along the edge of the cap.


Now I need to sew the cap on to the visor. First I center the visor and cap. A chalk line along dead center of the visor, and a pen dot in the middle of the front edge of the middle cap strip. If it is not well centered, it will be obvious when all is done. 
Starting from the center, I sew the cap on just slightly in front of the existing stitches. 
It should look like this. I don’t want to see the visor stitching when I pull the material back. 
Then I sewed the other side, going from the center to the edge. Cap and visor are connected now.
View underneath.


Now I sew the rest of the elastic band along the inside of the cap. I pull it a little as I sew, to add some built-in tension. You can see how the edges a bit puckered/wavy. This makes the cap gently hold on to my head.


At the back/inside of the cap, I fold 3 layers of elastic together along the length of the back part of the center panel. I pin it in place, and try the hat on, making adjustments to how firmly it holds to my head as needed.


Now I sew the 3 layers along the pin line, on each side. 


Now I stretch the material with the elastic and sew it down the middle. I do the same thing, 2 more times.


The goal is to have an even looking puckered area along the back of the cap, like this.
Finished. It fits well and improves with use.
A variety of hats from my current collection



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