How to sew a straw hat

You can create a custom-made straw hat by using simple techniques and tools that have been adopted from the days of the pioneers. All you need is good quality rye straw, a darning needle, doubled twine string, an upholstery needle, and a grosgrain ribbon.

The first step is to purchase the rye straw. Rye straw is the preferred straw for handicrafts because of its general toughness and long sections between the nodes. You can either purchase the straw from a farmer or through a straw supplier. If you obtain the straw from a farmer’s field it will be necessary to cut, sort, and dry the stalks yourself. After you have accumulated a sizeable quantity of straw, purchase a curved upholstery needle. The needle is used to join the strips of braid that make the hat.

Do not use a straight needle as this will not go into the flat surface of the braid and come through easily. Needles can be obtained at fabric, craft, or department stores. These stores also sell doubled twine string and grosgrain ribbon. You will need a one-inch beige-colored strip of this ribbon to make the sweatband for your hat.

Before you begin making the straw hat, submerge nine, thick, long straws in a basin of water. Soak the straws overnight or pour boiling water over them and soak for one hour. Do not soak the straws unless you are definitely going to use them within one day because they will develop a yellow color.

After the straws are soaked, flatten them and lay five side by side horizontally and four side by side vertically at right angles to the first five and on top of them. Keep the straws flat on a hard surface and secure the nine ends together by taping or stitching. Now you will begin making a braid that will be 288 inches long and approximately 11/4 inches wide.

Make the braid by first bending the first horizontal straw (starting at the top) and crossing it over the next two and under the last two horizontal straws. Then take the first vertical straw (working from left to right), bend it, and cross it over the next two vertical straws, and under the following two vertical straws. Next, bend the second horizontal straw; weave it over the next two horizontal straws, and under the last two horizontal straws.

Bend the second vertical straw, weave it over the two vertical straws beside it, and under the following two vertical straws. Continue with this pattern of alternately bending and weaving horizontally and vertically until all nine straws have been used once. Resume weaving again, beginning with the first straw. If you need more straw length for one of the straws, lay another flattened straw on top of it, overlapping generously, and continue weaving until your braid measures 288 inches in length.

If you have to stop braiding and the braid dries out presoak the unfinished ends before you begin weaving again. When your braid is at the required length, tape or stitches the ends. If the entire braid has dried, presoak it for approximately thirty minutes before you begin to make the straw hat. Thread the long darning needle with the double twine string. Insert a drawstring at one edge of the braid and pull it through seven inches.

Continue pulling through gently but firmly until that edge begins to curl around, leaving a tiny circle in the middle. Use a warm iron to press the circle of the braid until it is dry. Stitch the beginning end of the braid securely and continue threading through with the drawstring. If the double twine string gets short, tie an additional piece to it and continue pulling through. The braid should continue to spiral outward and around.

As the curved braid spirals around, stitch each coil together with the curved upholstery needle threaded with twine string. Ensure that as you pull the drawstring through, the crown is kept pressed and flat. After the braid has spiraled approximately three times, cut a makeshift brim from cardboard or card stock paper. Ensure that it fits your head comfortably. When the braid has spiraled five or six times, place a second drawstring in the bottom edge of the crown and pull the braid upwards to fit the head hole of the cardboard brim. Press the gathered edge until it is dry, and secure that drawstring with stitches or a knot. Remove the cardboard brim and discard it.

Continue spiraling and stitching the spirals of the braid as the brim takes shape. Make the front of the brim one-inch wider than the back. When you are at the last spiral, bring the end under the brim and stitch it in place. After this, you can proceed to make a smaller braid of four or five straws that should be long enough to stretch around the circumference of the hat.

Stitch this finishing braid to the underside of the brim at the outer edge. Remember to soak the straw before you begin to weave the finishing braid. Weave another four or five straw braid to make a hatband. Use thin straws to give the hatband a neat, contrasting look. Finally, attach the one-inch long grosgrain ribbon to the inside edge of the crown of the hat as a sweatband.

Your straw hat is now complete and you can either decorate it with beads, ribbon, netting etc. or leave it in a simple natural style. Whatever your choice wear it proudly as your creation hand made from straw.

Your straw hat

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