Floppy Topper

Beloved internet, I am not late period. Aethelflied lived and died before the year 1000. Yet I am led to believe that some of you insist on living after I died, centuries after even. And a few of you even have the nerve, nay the sheer bold faced audacity! To be people I like and want to give textiles to.  So for the purposes of this post, and the one following on how I made my apprentice sister’s French Hood, assume Aethelflied found a time machine for the sole purpose of going forward in time to make awesome folks hats. So without further ado I present:

Donovan’s Floppy Topper

What in the name of Alfred is a floppy topper?! A floppy topper is the super technical proper term (that I made up) for an Elizabethan men’s hat. You know the one. It looks like a half risen loaf of bread got in a fight with a non-rigid plate and the plate lost.  You can see them in several portraits. For example, this one by Ludger Tom Ring the Younger (Self Portrait – 1547)


So how do you make one of these stunning bits of fashion? To be honest I have no idea if any of what follows is technically correct, or how anyone else does it. I reverse engineered off of portraits because I was too impatient to wait to borrow my apprentice sister’s copy of Tudor Tailor; and I was making this in a time crunch so didn’t want to take too much time letting perfect be the enemy of good or good be the enemy of finished.  That being said, this seemed to work. So it’s at least plausible.

Because I wanted this to be entirely machine washable I skipped any kind of stiffeners. Normally I’d use glue, but I wasn’t sure how that’d hold up, and being able to wash it (as it’s intended to live in a gear bag, and those can get…fragrant) was more important than strict accuracy. That is also why this version is made out of cotton I had on hand.

First we are going to do math to figure out how much fabric you need. Yes, math is scary, but I’ll walk you through it I promise. I am not a math person (in spite of what previous posts would lead you to believe), which is why I tend toward early period; straight lines make for less math. But we will get through this ordeal together.

Step 1: Measure around the intended wearer’s head where they want the hat to sit. In my case that was 23.25 inches.

Step 2: look up how to figure out the diameter of a circle from the circumference because you forgot middle school math. Because I love you I did this step for you. Divide the number you got above by Pi (Use 3.14, don’t go further, you’ll drive yourself bonkers trying to get that accurate. This is fabric, not a life support system). For me this looks like 23.25/3.14 = 7.40.

Step three A: Take that measurement, add 4 inches (11.40 for me) and multiply by 4 (45.2). For the internal of the brim I will need a piece of fabric 11.40in x 45.2 in.

Step three B: Take that measurement, add 6 inches (13.40 for me) and multiply by 2 (26.8). For the shell of the brim I will need one piece of fabric 13.4in x 26.8in.

Step three C: to determine how big you need the flopsy loaf part to be take your brim shell diameter (13.4 for me), subtract 3 inches (so 10.4 for mine) and multiply it by 2 (20.8) that is the diameter of your flopsy loaf. So you need a piece of fabric 20.8in x 20.8 inches.

Total fabric needs: 11.40 + 13.40 + 20.80 = 45.6in x 45.2in if you’re doing it all out of the same fabric.

Interior fabric needs: 11.40in x 45.2 or a little less than ½ a yard of 60in wide fabric.

Shell fabric needs: 13.40 + 20.80 = 34.2in x 20.80in or a yard of 60in wide fabric to be safe because that math looks weird to me and I don’t fully trust it even though I did it 3 times. Better safe than not.

YOU WILL ALSO NEED: a 2-3in wide strip of fabric about 2 inches longer than your circumference/Pi measurement for an internal brow band thing.

Ok so we have our fabric. Now what? Cutting. I’m not going to lie, I hate cutting out circles. Circles are hard. Therefore my circles are not perfect because I do not own a compass (I know, I know, eventually I will get one, or make one out of a stick, string, and tailor’s chalk. But I’m lazy guys, you know that.)

To make/cut the pattern:

Interior brim:

Step 1: draw a circle 7.4in in diameter (or whatever your circumference/Pi measurement came out to)

Step 2: Draw a concentric circle 2in outside that one, or 11.4in in diameter with the first circle centered inside it.


Step 3: Cut 4 of these. Cut the center circle out of them too. You’ll end up with 4 floppy, hollow, Frisbee looking things.


Step 4: sew those together. I did a line around the outer edge, one around the inner edge, and a big zig zag to stabilize it. (If you want a stiffer brim and if machine washable isn’t a concern for you; feel free to stiffen this by soaking it in a solution of 1 part white school glue to 4 parts water and let it dry flat on wax paper. I did not do this, but I won’t judge you.)

Set that aside for now.

Make the brim shell:

Step 1: draw a circle 7.4in in diameter (or whatever your circumference/Pi measurement came out to)

Step 2: Draw a concentric circle 3in outside that one, or 13.4in in diameter with the first circle centered inside it.

Step 3: Cut 2 of these. Cut the center circle out of them too. You’ll end up with 2 floppy, hollow, Frisbee looking things


Step 4: With the right side of the fabric (if it matters) out run a line of running stitch along the outer edge, as close as you feel comfortable to getting, but aim for 1/8 an inch or less.

Step 5: Flip that inside out and run another line of running stitch ¼ of an inch from the edge. This will enclose the raw edges in a little tube of fabric. The astute among you will notice I just had you do a French seam. I did this because trying to flat fell in a circle, when you’re trying to avoid visible finishing stitches on the outside of the shell, is an exercise in self-hatred and I love you too much to put you though that.

Step 6: Flip that back right side out. Take your internal brim and stuff it in the little pita pocket made in the brim shell. Line up the centers as best you can, understanding that circles are fickle things and it will probably not be perfect and that’s ok. Don’t be afraid to trim the center disk if you need to in order to make it fit.

Set that whole 6 layer hollow Frisbee aside without sewing around the center.

Making your flopsy loaf:

Step 1: Cut out your circle (20.8in for me)

Step 2: Run a line of basting stitch about ¼ in from the outer edge. Do NOT tie it off at the end.

Step 3: Gather the fabric along that basting thread (if it doesn’t move freely your stitches are too small, pull your thread out and try again.) until the diameter of the gathered edge matches the interior circle of your hollow Frisbee.

Step 4:  Pin the gathered edge of your flopsy loaf around the interior circle of your hollow Frisbee.


Step 5: Take your 2-3 inch strip of fabric. Fold it into quarters long ways (hot dog bun, not hamburger roll). Iron it if need be. I didn’t.

Step 6: Pin your quartered strip along the interior edge of your hat (it looks like a hat now right?) sandwiching the raw edges inside the fold of the strip. Tuck the very end under when you get all the way around so you have no raw edges showing.

Step 7: Break your sewing machine needle trying to stitch the band/interior of hat sandwich. Skip this step if you’re smarter than me and realize your machine won’t go through 14 layers of fabric.


Step 8: Hand stitch the band into place around all the raw edges. Please use a thimble otherwise your fingers will be sad. Also use the stab stitch method, like you do with a bone needle, otherwise you’ll get super long/loose/ugly suture like stitches, sore hands, and a broken needle.

Step 9: Wear your floppy topper with pride you fancy late period person you. Or give it away and get back into your time machine and return to where textiles make sense.


(Yes I am wearing it, no it is not actually mine)


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