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. It shades the head and face from direct sun. Can be micro-adjusted to block the glare from oncoming headlights. The sun protection will make your dermatologist happy.  Thin fabric allows it to fit under a helmet. Pulled low over the eyes, it’s how I begin a nap.

Years ago, when my old columbus hat was starting to disintegrate, I knew there would be  difficult search for a replacement. My head is big (59cm), and few hats would fit it. And I  was not so keen on wearing a hat covered with commercial advertising. 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 that protects my nose from the sun and is easy to flip up.  For a person who does not sew much, is not an easy project at first. My initial caps were not that great but they improved with practice. I am satisfied with them now, and they take about an hour to make. They last a year or so if I wear it a lot. You can make then too; 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 may not be as hard 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 templates, and cutting the main pieces 

The old hat, disassembled.

I used the pieces of the old hat to make templates for making the new hats. With the visor, I drew an outline of the existing one, and then drew it a little bigger. Because I could.

IMG_4857
Above are the current templates I use for my 59cm head. Units shown on the board in this picture are in inches. Templates are cut from picture frame matte board.  When I make a new hat, I just lay the templates down on the new fabric and run a pen (or a sharp white chalk line for dark fabrics) along the edge, and cut along the lines. The templates are all symmetric.
Fabric is cut. The 2 center pieces (middle) 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 (hard version) sits on top of the 2 pieces of bill fabric; cut wide. You want to have about that much material around the cap visor to work with..

Making the bill; fusible fabric interface, or plastic yogurt container material?

These days, I prefer to use the soft bill version, made of a fusible fabric interface stiffener (Pellon, Pellex ultra-firm 2 sided fusible fabric stiffener is what I use). There are other types of fabric stiffener out there similar to it. You can get this stuff at fabric stores. It’s a lightweight white poly material that you can cut to any shape with scissors. Fusible means there is a glue applied to it which is activated by a hot steamy iron. Fusible on 2 sides is what I want, so that both sides of the bill fabric are securely attached. The resulting bill is durable and machine washable. I haven’t been able to damage one yet, they can take all the wash (and dry) cycles I give them. I can fold the hat bill in half and lay a dictionary on top of it all day. The next day the cap will have no evidence of damage. It won’t crack or assume a permanent distorted shape.

While I machine wash my caps cold or warm I don’t put them in the dryer. But when I do so inadvertently, the cotton ones survive just fine, although they may shrink a bit. But if I mistakenly put a wool cap in the dryer, it will shrink a lot.

IMG_4847
Pellon instructions

But maybe you just wanna recycle that plastic yogurt container for the bill. With the fusible Pellon, you get a more flexible and durable bill, The plastic yogurt container is subject to cracking and digging its way thru the fabric edges over time. But despite this it works well and many cap stiffeners are made with plastic. You can sew lines around the bill and through the plastic to add design and or make a better connection.

The plastic bill stiffener I cut from a 32oz plastic yogurt container. The container is just big enough for a generous sized lightweight bill, and I rough cut a slightly larger size out of it. I set the orientation using the natural curve of the plastic, but get it mostly flattened out with an iron, set on low. The natural curve of it is too much, more like a baseball cap. If an excessive curve returns (like from having it scrunched up in a pocket), I can always iron it flatish again. I don’t iron the plastic directly of course; I put a piece of fabric on top of it first.  It takes just a minute or 2 of ironing on medium, and I let it cool down with a book on top of it for 5 minutes, so it will have a slight curve when it cools off. Iron mostly the sides, not the center; if you apply too much heat to the center, the bill gets distorted, into an almost W shape.

IMG_4849
Above represents steps in making a plastic bill. Start with a yogurt/cottage cheese container (top). Cut out an oversize part of it that is the general shape of the bill you want.
After ironing, I trace the finished visor line on the rough cut yogurt container material with the brim template, and I cut it to its finished size. I make the plastic visor ends rounded so they aren’t as likely to 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. 

 

IMG_4831
Here I am cutting  fabric that will be the top and bottom of the bill, leaving plenty of extra material to cut away later.
IMG_4832
The visor template (white) is on top of 2 pieces of the visor fabric. I draw a chalk line around the visor template onto the fabric, and extend it past the edge, an inch on each side.

 

IMG_4833
Here I sew a straight stitch along the chalk line.
IMG_4834
I cut along the stitch line, leaving about a quarter inch of fabric past it. This is the inside of the bill fabric. It will be turned inside out to form a pocket for the bill stiffener.
IMG_4848
A cap brim cut from Pellon material

 

 

 

Next I insert the bill, either the hard plastic or the pellon version. I fit it in so that the quarter inch of fabric edge is located under the bill edge; all of it on the underside. This takes some fiddling. I line it up, using the pins, I pull and tuck, so that the edge is as even as I can get it. Looking inside the bill, I can see how good a job I did of getting all the edge material on the underside of the bill. I may need to use my fingernail to pull some of it in place.

 

 

IMG_4845

 

After ironing the fabric to the pellon you may see the faint line of the quarter inch of fabric on the underside of the bill (above image). The black fabric (will be the part underneath the cap) is visible, with the lighter pattered fabric of the brim edge seen as well. The brim edge is pretty even. I ironed both sides with a hot iron for about 10 seconds each side, and about 10 blasts of steam.
IMG_4846
 Top of the bill (this is a woolen one) with pellon insert. The inside edge of it is marked with a faint chalk line. I don’t need to sew the inside edge because the fabric is fused to it with the iron. The fusion is very strong, and it would be very hard to pull apart.
With the plastic yogurt container bill version (above), I do need to sew the visor in the pocket . I go slow, trying to sew right along the edge of the plastic. The sewing machine can sew thru the plastic; and while doing this, that will probably happen. 

 

Then I trim the inner edge of the fabric so there is about 3/4 of an inch of material beyond the inner visor edge. This material will help absorb sweat.

Sewing the liner to the bill

I like to use a 3/4” cotton/rubber swimwear elastic for the bill. It is durable, comfortable, absorbs sweat well, and keeps its elasticity better than anything else I tried.
Now I sew a strip of elastic band liner material along the inside bottom of the visor, slightly overlapping the existing visor stitches (pictured here is a polyester elastic strip). I pull the elastic material just a little bit while sewing, which give it some built-in tension. I go slow, doing several stitches and stopping to reposition as needed. I pay the most attention to where the edge of the liner slightly overlaps the edge of the chalkline. 

 

The liner is sewn in.  I like to sew it once more, right along the inner edge, because it’s difficult to sew it next to the edge in one pass. If it is not sewn right at the edge, the unattached fabric will create a ledge visible when you flip the cap visor up.

Sewing the 3 cap pieces together

 

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 with a simple straight stitch. I go slow, trying to make an even seam; about 1/4 inch. This step takes practice to do well. I always have the side panel on top during this step.
You could use a finishing zig/zag stitch which would prevent fraying, or just do a straight stitch like I do.  In my experience, caps made from lightweight cotton broadcloth don’t last long enough to benefit from having the edges finished. A loose thread here and there on the inside of the cap is not an issue for me.

 

Panels sewn, hat is taking shape!

Next I sew the edge of the cap. I roll the inside edge about 1/4 inch and sew all along the edge of the cap.

Putting it all together

Now I need to sew the cap on to the visor. First I center the visor and cap. Above you see 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, the mistake will be obvious when all is done. I also rubbed a chalk line along the inside edge of the visor to help me sew the curve with accuracy. 
Starting from the center, I sew the cap on just slightly in front of the existing stitches, so no stitching will be visible on the top of the bill.
I don’t want to see the visor stitching when I pull the material back. I see a little of it here in the above picture. I can sew that inside area again, just in front of the existing stitches, to make that stitching disappear on the outside. 
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.

 

I am aiming for an even looking puckered area along the back of the cap, like this.
There are lots of ways to finish the back to get it to hold on to your head. You can make a cutout that a ponytail can go thru, or use velcro, or a strap.
cyclingcapadjust.jpg
This cap can be adjusted to fit on heads from 54 to 60cm, using the 2 black velcro tabs on the rear. Not the most expert sewing going on here in this cap. I can color the errant stitches over with a black sharpie.

Finished. It fits well and improves with use.
cyclingcaps.jpg
Recent caps from my cycling cap drawer. You can never have too many. 2 of them are made of wool that I got from the $5/lb Pendelton Mills scrap box.

 

THE END
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. It 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 protection 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 (58cm), 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 up to 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 templates, and cutting the main pieces 

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 for me.

The templates.
Templates from the top: visor, side panels, and center panel. They 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. The templates are all 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 (hard version) sits on top of the 2 pieces of bill fabric.We have lots of light cotton material leftover from quilting projects. Shown here is this bird pattern fabric.

Making the bill (the hard plastic version)

(Note: these days, I prefer to use the soft bill version made of Pellon, described below). The top and bottom of the visor fabric is a lightweight, black wool with this hat, but you can use any fabric you like. The bill stiffener is cut from a 32oz plastic yogurt container. 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. I don’t iron the plastic directly; and 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 book on top of it for 5 minutes, so it will have a slight curve when it cools off.

After tracing the visor line on the yogurt container, I cut it to its finished size. I make the ends rounded so they aren’t as likely to 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 with a zig-zag stitch. I want to 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 so that the seam is inside, and 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 plastic visor is. Notice that there is about an inch of fabric past the inside edge of the visor. I need that extra fabric when I sew the cap together. It provides a place for sweat to be adsorbed from the forehead.
Now I sew the visor in the pocket. I go slow, trying to sew right along the edge of the plastic. The sewing machine can sew thru the plastic; and while doing this, that will probably happen. Sewing thru the Pellon material (soft brim, described below) is also not an issue.

 

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.

Making the bill (soft version using Pellon)

An alternative to the plastic bill is a soft bill. You can make them using faux leather; lots of folks on Etsy seem to like to use it.  I like to 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 same fabric bill pocket described above, and insert the Pellon that I cut to fit. Then I use a hot iron which fuses both sides of the cloth on to the Pellon bill; a minute or so on each side, with steam, 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 best to avoid putting the hats in a dryer though; let them air-dry. It’s a soft bill that holds it shape well even after stuffing the hat in my pocket.
 Above center, the white Pellon material cut into brim shape. Easy to cut with scissors. The brim on the left is ready to iron. The pins in the brim set the material where I want it. On the right after ironing, you can see the inside of the brim, and how the fabric is now fused to both sides of it.
Plastic bill advantages: It can keep a curved shape. Easy to find material for it.
Plastic bill disadvantages: Plastic can crack or break eventually. Edge of plastic can dig into fabric and protrude from the fabric bill over time.
Pellon bill advantages: More durable, longer lasting, and will not deform. You can stuff the hat in your pocket and it will not wreck the bill. Since the cloth is fused to the bill, the hat will last longer, since the bill is usually the first thing to fall apart. It is easier to make a clean front edge with the Pellon bill.
Pellon bill disadvantages: Material is not as easily found, not all fabric stores carry it. The bill tends to stay flat, which may be what you like, but if you want a curved bill I don’t know if that is possible with Pellon. When you put the hat on, it will curve around your head, but this curve cannot be adjusted with heat, like with a plastic bill.

Sewing the liner to the bill

Now I sew a strip of elastic band liner 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 slow, doing several 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 one is probably nylon, and cotton blend versions can be used. About 4″ extends out from the short 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 with a simple straight stitch. I go slow, trying to make an even seam; about 3/16 inch. You could use a serger to finish the seam; or just leave it alone. In my experience, caps made from lightweight cotton don’t last long enough to benefit from having the edges finished. A loose thread here and there on the inside of the cap is not an issue for me.

 

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.

Putting it all together

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, so no stitching will be visible on the top of the bill.
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.
There are lots of ways to finish the back to get it to hold on to your head. You can make a cutout that a ponytail can go thru, or use velcro, or use a strap.
Finished. It fits well and improves with use.
From my hat drawer. My favorite hat is the next one I’m gonna make.

 

THE END