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Making a hat...smaller?

Discussion in 'Hats' started by MrPumpernickel, May 8, 2007.

  1. MrPumpernickel

    MrPumpernickel One of the Regulars

    This may seem like a really stupid question, but I am admittedly rather a newbie when it comes to hat modifying since I've always bought hats that fit me rather well in the past. However, on the opposite end of stretching a hat I've now found myself in the dilemma of looking to buy a hat that's a little bit too large for my head (which is rare, since I have a large head) and I wonder how much one can make the hat smaller by stuffing things behind the sweatband basically.

    The hat I'm looking at is one to two sizes to large for my head so I'd have to get it down almost a half to one inch (one to two centimeters) in circumference. Would that be going to far, and what possible side effects could that have? Further more, what should I use behind the sweatband? I've heard many people are recommending tissue paper or strips of suede, though is there something better?

    Thanks :)
  2. BillTyre

    BillTyre New in Town

    Better advice to come I hope

    Well, I've done a bit of this myself. I read on another thread here that you can dampen the sweatband of the hat, and then place it on top of a lamp. The heat from the bulb will cause the leather band to shrink. It worked great for me. I'm sure if you did a search you could find the instructions I used, but I remember it being a pretty simple process. Although, I'm not sure I had to shrink it quite as much as you're suggesting. Good Luck!
  3. MrPumpernickel

    MrPumpernickel One of the Regulars

    Thanks for the suggestion, I looked into the instructions you mentioned and they do seem somewhat promising. Though my poor experience with sweatbands in the past makes me a bit weary of doing something that invasive on the structure of the leather - worried about cracking and the leather turning brittle and so forth. I gotta look into getting myself some Lexol (or whatever equivalent is avaliable in Sweden, any scandinavians have a tip?) to soften up the leather I guess.

    Even if the shrinkage isn't enough for what I need it may be a step on the way there, meaning that the amount of padding behind the sweatband won't have to be so thick.

    ...although this of course means I have to actually win the eBay auction before trying :p
  4. Uncle Vern

    Uncle Vern One of the Regulars

    There's a lot to be said for buying hats that fit properly right from the git-go. Those of us who love hats all go through stages in which we become atached to certain lids and then struggle to make them fit. There are exceptions; I have a few one-offs that can't be replaced, but other than those few hats, I eventually get tired of fooling with them.
    As it is, hats tend to shrink with age, and if we ignore them for too long, they need attention. There are thousands of hats in the world that would fit me. I'd as soon wait and find the proper size and spend my time simply wearling them.
  5. MrPumpernickel

    MrPumpernickel One of the Regulars

    Aye, I totally second those sentiments, buying hats that fit are always the best route when such hats are avaliable. Though when looking at a vintage, good quality, hat on eBay while it may not be a once in a lifetime hat it's still not one that's avaliable in the tousands, especially not when it comes to my large head size (which makes it kind of ironic that this hat is too large). So rather than waiting for this opportunity to come by again it would be nice to have it fit...though I may just keep it as a display object as well. I fell for this hat the moment I saw it :)
  6. Twitch

    Twitch My Mail is Forwarded Here

    The only other admittedly cheezy solution is single sided, 1" foam rolls that you can stick around the entire sweatband itself.[huh]
  7. SinatraStyle

    SinatraStyle A-List Customer

    A couple of suggestions...

    There is always the option of putting some sort of padding inside the sweatband. However, you want to be careful to use a material that won't pull the moisture away from the leather. In this thread BD Jones suggested using tenon cork. Scrap pieces may be available at your local musical instrument store. There are other suggestion in the thread as well.

    My personal suggestion for shinking a hat is sweat and heat. Wear the hat a few times and sweat in it. The combination of moisture and the shape of your head will cause the hat to start to form to your head's shape and size.

    Second, leave your hat in the car on a hot day, preferably with the sweatband slightly moist. The heat will cause the hat to shrink. I just did this the other day with very good results.

    Good Luck, and let us know if any of the suggestions in this thread help or hurt the shrinking process.
  8. MrPumpernickel

    MrPumpernickel One of the Regulars

    I'll definitely keep you updated, as long as I win the eBay auction and find that it truly is in need of a size alteration, though I suspect it to be.

    Leaving it in the car is impossible though, lacking a car and all...though that makes me wonder, one should be able to achieve the same results by "baking" it in an oven at very low temperatures, perhaps even just in the afterheat of a turned off oven.

    Thanks very much for all the suggestions :)
  9. Zig2k143

    Zig2k143 Practically Family

    I've seen FedoraFelts(tm) Hat Sizing Strips they say it will reduce a hat by 1/4. I haven't used them and I think you could probably make them but for under $3.00 its worth a shot.
  10. ScottF

    ScottF Call Me a Cab

    Drumming a sweatband

    Has anyone tried the 'lamp method' mentioned above? While I agree with others that it's best to buy hats the correct size, obviously there are situations where you have the opportunity to acquire an amazing hat that's just wayyy too big...so you succumb.

    Another method I read about in "Scientific Hat Finishing" for down-sizing a hat is to 'drum' the sweatband (page 110) - it says that it is (was) a frequent request from retail stores that are short on a particular size. Have any of you had this done?
  11. bolthead

    bolthead My Mail is Forwarded Here

    I was curious about this as well Scott, I'm glad you asked it here.....
  12. jdbenson

    jdbenson One of the Regulars


    I have used the lamp trick to shrink a hat. I had a vintage stylepark hat which was in dire need of a new sweatband, a cleaning and a slight strech to better fit my 7 1/2 LO noggin. I took it to Gus Miller at Batsakes and he agreed to do it all for me for only $50. After the cleaning it looked wonderful but the reblock made it too big. I'd read about the lamp method so I decided to give it a try, and it does work.

    I fired up the kettle to get a good jet of steam going and steamed all around the base of the crown, where the crown meets the brim. Once the hat was moist and hot to the touch, I set it down on lampshade over a hot bulb to dry for about 5-10 min max. Then I tried it on to see how well it fit. I had to repeat this process a number of times to get it down to the correct fit.

    Some advice: Go SLOW; this is a process, not a quick fix. Don't try to shrink a size 7 1/2 down to a size 7. Don't leave the hat on the lampshade too long. The hat will continue to shrink even after you've taken it off the lampshade, so put it on your head to finally dry and 'shrink to fit'.
  13. ScottF

    ScottF Call Me a Cab

    Thanks! Do you think this technique could take a hat down 2 sizes?
  14. Life Lesson

    From personal experience, I know that wearing a hat in the rain and then leaving it by the campfire to dry overnight will shrink a hat so small that you look like Magilla Gorilla next time you wear it. Not for everyone, but in general, water followed by heat will shrink fur felt or wool felt hats. Good luck, Frank.
  15. ScottF

    ScottF Call Me a Cab

    Thanks - I'm still repeating that process with my Akubra Fed IV, but not up for exposing the hat I have in mind to that much of the elements...need a gentler approach.
  16. Depending on the age of the hat, you could probably go from a 7 5/8 to close to a 7 3/8 if the felt packs in & the sweatband is supple enough. The lamp is just a low heat source to make the wet felt fibers bind tighter & dry the leather quicker. If it was middle of summer, soaking the hat & putting it in a hot car out of direct sunlight would do the trick too.
  17. carldelo

    carldelo One Too Many

    If the hat is an ebay purchase and is vintage, there is a chance it is not the size marked - it may have shrunk already over the years. I have a Christy's fedora that has shrunk 2+ sizes since I got it 22 years ago.

    If you want to pad behind the sweatband, it has been suggested by others on the lounge to use un-dyed felt from a craft store cut into strips of appropriate width. They should stay in place without adhesive and have no dye to leach into the hat when wet.
  18. Doc Glockster

    Doc Glockster One of the Regulars

    Can a hat be "shrunk" or "shimmed" to come down two sizes?

    I wear a size 7 3/8 with the hat being comfortably loose, or a 7 1/4 for hats I like to be tight.

    In the past I was able to take a hat in size 7 1/2, and by getting it sweaty, leaving it in the hot car for an afternoon, or whatever, I was able to "shrink" it to fit better.

    I've also been able to correct a slightly oversized hat with felt shims under the sweatband.

    Now, my dilemma: Even though I wear a 7 3/8 I am wanting to bid on a rare hat listed on Ebay in size 7 5/8.

    Can something be done to "shrink" or "shim" a hat this oversized, or am I wasting my time bidding?

    EDITED TO ADD: This is a wool or fur felt hat.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2013
  19. BladeOfAnduril

    BladeOfAnduril One of the Regulars

    You could probably shrink it down some, probably not two full sizes though. Maybe a combination of the methods you mentioned. Though beware that you'll probably upset a few of the 7 5/8 sized fellows on here for even considering it. :p
  20. Not sure a hat that old will draw up 2 sizes....a hatter may be able to put in a new sweat & draw it down...

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