How to make a Hat Box

How to make a Hat Box

Since I began working at millinery full time, I have been frustrated with Hat boxes. I love the designs and have bought quite a few, but they are never quite right for the hats I design. If I buy larger boxes to get the height for something like a top hat, my hats are often swimming with too much space. If I buy the right size around then the height is shorter and my hats don’t sit in them with the lid closed. I have designed drawstring hat bags which keep the dust off and look pretty, but won’t stack on top of each other, so they take up a lot of space. Then I had an even bigger problem. What to do to preserve my Steampunk, Victorian hats with very tall feathers. I love designing them and sell lots of patterns for others to have a go at making them, and what makes these hats stand out is the use of beautiful and often tall feathers. I often cover these hats with velvet fabrics and I don’t like dust sitting on top of the fabric, plus leaving them unprotected can result in damage to the lovely feathers I used. So my New Year’s resolution was to put on my thinking cap and solve the problem.

Thinking outside the box literally! I made these two hat boxes and stacked them on top of each other.

Containers and sheet plastic.
Last Easter my daughter and I bought some cookies on sale at Wal-Mart after the holiday and they came in clear plastic containers. They cookies with container were 75cnets each and I bought 6, removed the cookies and froze them so that they could be used over time and stay fresh. The containers were really nice and I thought I may be able to use them to put some of my head pieces in them, but the sides were sloped and they were not deep enough. I washed them up and saved them for another use and a couple of days ago I stared at them again. It was then that I came up with a great idea. I could use the lids for tops and bottoms of hat boxes.

The plastic I used to make the sides.

Houston Chronicle newspaper did a story on my murals. Top photo; I am on right and the Mayor at that time on the left side.

In 1997 I turned fifty years old and at the same time, my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I closed my design shop down after twelve years to be with him as much as possible and felt at a loss, so I decided it was time to do something I had always wanted to do. Paint wall murals. However, I needed walls somewhere to practice on. I didn’t want small walls either; I wanted to do something big to commemorate my fiftieth birthday year. I put my thinking cap on and decided to go to the local Community Center. I was living in the City of South Houston at the time and it was a few blocks away, so I went there to check it out. The building was shabby, unpainted and really dismal, perfect for what I wanted to do. So, I went to the Mayor’s office and asked to see him. I told him what I wanted to do and did not want a penny for supplies or my work. He was quite surprised but knew me from my volunteer work with the local children and knew I had many talents, so he said I could do whatever I wanted. I spent six months painting murals everywhere in the entire building and both the Houston Chronicle (see copy above) and Channel 11 news came out to do a story on what I did. I purchased rolls of opaque plastic to hand cut all the stencils at home, so that I could do half my work there and the other half at the center. I still had some of the remaining plastic and I decided to try sewing millinery wire on the edges with my machine. It worked!

So I began experiment

How to make a hat box.

I purchased throw away plastic covered cake boxes at my nearest restaurant supply store. The bottom one is 12″ around and the top is 10″ around and you will need two of one size to make one hat box. At my local store the largest was 79c and the other was 58c. Remove the tops as you will not need them and can save them for another purpose or give them to an organization who needs food covers for an event.

Measure around the track area with a tape measure and add 2″. Decide the height you need, which should be an inch or two taller than the hat so as to not damage the crown. You will need sheet plastic that is 20 mil thick and then cut one piece.

Check that your hat will fit in the box and the top of the crown is clear.

Use millinery wire and sew with zigzag stitch down both sides.

Turn the wire edges inside and tape together using heavy clear packing tape. Add a photo to see which hat is in the box.

Set the lid on top and it is done. Hats are light weight and these boxes will stack on top of each other.

Add hot glue in the bottom track to hold the wired plastic edge in place.

To stop the brims and crowns from becoming crushed, I make hat stands for the boxes by rolling up bubble wrap tall enough so that the brim doesn’t touch the ground surface and tape it together. Then to stop it tipping over, I hot glue the bubble wrap to a round cake board.

Now my hat has a hat stand that is light weight and won’t damage the crown or the brim.

Your hat feathers will never get damaged when stored this way.

These light weight hat boxes store easily and your hat feathers will be free from damage and dust.

If you have any questions, please email me

6 Responses

  1. Mary
    | Reply

    Very clever and nice of you to share. Thank you.

  2. Kellie Greene
    | Reply

    Hi, Thank you so much for sharing this step by step tutorial. My grandmother recently passed away and I just inherited some beautiful hats that were my great grandmothers and the boxes were so old and dusty and falling apart. I want to be able to keep them preserved but my allergies are so bad that I have to find something better to put them into besides these old cardboard boxes. I have looked online for hat boxes but they are expensive and its hard to find the right size around and also enough depth for the tall hats! I’m going to try to make my own now using your helpful instrustions. Thanks so much!

  3. Jeri
    | Reply

    Hi Linda, Your ideas are fantastic. I have call all over town to find a roll of sheet plastic 20ml with no luck. Where did you get yours. I know you started by getting the cookies with the plastic but you said you have a roll of it. I would really appreciate your help. I am old but also a beginner and making hats and would like to make sure they are kept clean. Hugs and Blessings to you, Jeri

    • lavalinda
      | Reply

      I bought mine in a plastic supply place in the City of South Houston but I don’t know the name or if they are still there.

  4. Kim
    | Reply

    First of all, thank you for sharing! And I have two questions… I buy inexpensive hats and decorate them for KY Derby, wine festivals, Halloween, etc., and I do not want to pay high prices for the boxes to keep them in. I also need as wide as 20″ diameter. Your idea is great! I shop at Costco and SamsClub, and they always have the big containers, so I guess I need to start eating. Where do I find the plastic sheets? And do I need to sew the millinery wire on the edges, or can I just leave them raw and hot-glue them?

    • lavalinda
      | Reply

      Kim you will have to call around and then go and see the weight of the plastic.

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