January 10, 2009

My version of a Smoking Cap

Filed under: Millinery projects,Smoking cap — Cristina de Prada @ 1:01 pm

My brother Jose works from home and is always surrounded by his books. It seemed to me that he could make good use of a smoking (or lounging) cap. He doesn’t smoke, but I thought he would look wonderful with the smoking cap on, and he would keep his head warm in the process.

I went fabric hunting and decided for a chenille open mesh with wonderful earthy colours. It was love at first sight, so I went ahead and bought it. I kept on searching because I needed another fabric to put underneath and on the top. Finally I decided on a dark brown cotton velvet.

For the lining I used something I had at home, and for the tassel I bought the cord at Mokuba (unfortunately they measured it, and dumped it in a bag… it took me 3 hours to undo the knots…).

On the picture you can see that the chenille fabric  is very thin and needs backing.

The first smoking cap I made (and gave to my brother for Christmas) turned out to be too tight, so I took it apart and did it again only saving the top part with the tassel (I will make another one with the remaining bits).

This time I decided to do it properly (the original one didn’t have a sweat band), and Peter said jokingly that I would end up with exactly the same size… I hope that’s not been the case, but I will not know for sure until my brother tries it on!

There was no time for pictures when I made the tassel, but there are many tutorials on the Internet.  I always find it difficult to make the top look neat… I think I should buy myself a good book on the subject.

I covered the button myself with a Prym cover button kit. I was worried because the velvet is very thick, but it worked wonderfully as you can see. I decided to use a counter-button to avoid the fabric getting ripped if the tassel was accidentally tugged. At the same time I sew the tassel in place through the twisted cord I had made using two strands of the tassel cord -resulting in a 4 strand cord-.

The chenille and velvet tended to shift, so I machine basted the two pieces together. I cut it to be 3 centimeters too big, (plus allowance) because with all the thicknesses that then fold inwards the headsize gets reduced substantially.  The final height has to be something between 8.5 and 10 cm, depending on the person that is going to wear it.

When the lining was finished I inserted it in the cap, pinned it in place, measured the desired height and I sewed all the layers together a little bit below that measurement. If you have too much left now it’s the time to trim, but remember that it still has to have the sweat band sewn in place and the whole thing folded over.

I machine sewed the grosgrain (pressed into a curve) in place.  Be careful not to reduce the headsize by accident.

Stuff I have learned doing this project (in the process of ripping away stitches and re-sewing a few times):

1. Basting might seem like a waste of time but it’s not. The fabric was shifting and just using pins was not enough.

2. With a checkered fabric you want the stitches to run straight. otherwise it looks very sloppy.  Because the velvet was underneath covering the back of the chenille I had no way of knowing if I was sewing straight or not. Next time I will run a machine baste in a contrasting colour so I have less trouble in sewing the thing straight.

3. After folding inwards all the layers slightly above the grosgrain, I have stitched the folded fabric layers that are under the grosgrain onto the lining, this way it stays folded in place without pulling on the outside fabric.

On D*Hub’s website you can see a few old smoking caps. They tend to be embroidered (often hand embroidered by the wearers sweetheart) and look amazing.

I’m not the only one who has given this ago, follow this link you can see Magot’s smoking cap.

Also check Victoriana online magazine for some history on the smoking cap.


  1. Oh Christina, Awesomeness indeed! Often find myself hand basting as in the long run for me it does save time as there is less ripping and redoing. This cap is so wonderful, you are inspiring me to try making a few “smoking caps” too. As always so enjoy your post and am energized by your enthusiasm.

    Comment by Jane C — January 10, 2009 @ 2:37 pm

  2. Beautiful! I just love it.

    Comment by pretty penny designs — January 10, 2009 @ 3:43 pm

  3. Thank you for such a masterly lesson Cristina!
    Is your brother’s picture the one bellow?

    Comment by Nila Taranco — January 12, 2009 @ 11:35 am

  4. Thank you all or your kind comments!

    Jane, I would love it if this post started a wave of “smoking cap” projects. I would be very happy to see your take on the subject, and I’m sure you would find lots of people wanting to take home a smoking cap made by you.

    Nila, yes, the one in the picture with the smoking cap one is my brother Jose! The one with the fedora is my brother Joaquin.

    Comment by cristinadeprada — January 13, 2009 @ 3:04 am

  5. Great Tutorial “Smokin’ Hat”!

    Comment by Montez — January 15, 2009 @ 11:09 pm

  6. Muy Bien

    I love your site. Your smoking cap article is great. I will refer to it on my new blog Many Hatty Returns. It’s a blog dedicated to the love of hats for both men and women. I am not clever enough to make hats myself. My mother made hats though. I do admire people who make hats and I will be speaking about people who make hats

    Darla Sycamore
    Hat Revivalist
    Many Hatty Returns

    Comment by Darla Sycamore — January 18, 2009 @ 2:44 pm

  7. […] just discovered a great blog by a person who describes herself as a Mad Hatter […]

    Pingback by How to make a smoking cap — January 18, 2009 @ 3:22 pm

  8. I love the fabric you used.

    Comment by Min — January 22, 2009 @ 7:39 pm

  9. Hi Cristina, love the smoking cap. Have just finished a trilby for my husband and perhaps this could be a project for him for next Christmas?! Also just tried out your microwave steaming technique after struggling a little this morning and it worked a treat. Your blog is inspiring, informative and lots of fun to read. Thanks so much.

    Comment by Cath — January 23, 2009 @ 11:05 am

  10. A big thank you to everyone for your encouraging words.

    Cath, I’m glad my microwave technique worked for you. It’s a pity that it can only be used once (before blocking), because it would be very ill advised to put a block in the microwave (with nails, screws, pins… a sure recipe for disaster). Still it leaves the felt all soft and steamed to the core in a few seconds which is wonderful. That technique is my claim to fame! Hahaha!
    Will you let us see a picture of the trilby? I would love to see it!

    Comment by cristinadeprada — January 23, 2009 @ 11:30 am

  11. Cristina.- en primer lugar felicitaciones por el sombrero, una maravilla más que sale de tus manos. Quiero preguntarte donde consigues los kits para forrar botones. Me han enviado unos cuantos de USA, pero no logro encontrar su venta aquí en Barcelona. Gracias, un abrazo y hasta pronto.


    Comment by paco peralta — February 2, 2009 @ 7:55 pm

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