On Designing a Zero Waste Hat

The Making Zen Online Retreat is coming up at the end of this month (it’s free – register here and read more). I’m presenting a sew-a-long for a low waste sunhat.

The idea of a zero waste hat has been rolling around in my mind for the past year+, and I’d planned to talk about designing a zero waste hat at the end of my presentation, but I’d used up all the allocated time. So instead I made a separate video for anyone to view on YouTube. It goes for about 13 minutes.

The hats referred to in the video are:

Clair hat zero waste three quarter view
The tie on hat that goes with the Clair skirt.
The cap, which is discussed here and then here.

I’ve experimented a lot with sewn hat patterns the last year, and learnt a lot trying to make patterns with less waste. I have no wish to gatekeep what I’ve learnt, so maybe it was good I couldn’t add to the Making Zen video, as more people have access to YouTube.

Two other things I’ve been thinking about which aren’t in the video:

1. Cutting a shape apart and flipping the pieces to give straight outer edges can give more useful/whole/bigger surrounding shapes.

2. I’m discovering that even when a hat fits, there are many little things that influence if it fits really well:

  • The amount of hair you have and how it grows (out or down).
  • How you wear your hair under a hat eg flowing or ponytail.
  • The thickness of the hat’s fabric and interfacing.
  • The tightness of the hat’s interior ribbon (this can be adjusted within a certain amount).
  • How big/high your ears are, or even if one is higher than the other (like mine!).
  • The shape of your head (as opposed to the size).

In breaking news, here’s a freshly-sewn sample of a zero waste hat (yes, zero waste, not low waste). The shape is based on the sunhat’s crown. It’s a very warm hat, being a double layer of fabric and four layers for the turn up. It also looks OK as a slouchy hat, without the turn up. The only thing that’s not zero waste is the fabric, but if any Aussies can point me to a good natural, non-itchy, substitute for polar fleece, I’m interested!



  1. Liseli on May 7, 2024 at 6:24 pm

    Very interesting, thank you! About the bonnet, I think this is going to be a hit for my husband’s Christmas, thanks! And as for the fabric issue, is merino wool too itchy for you? I’ve got a “tube” that I use as a hat or a scarf made in merino knit and it’s really soft. I thought the fabric came from Australia but it’s maybe New Zealand? Or is there another reason not to buy this kid of fabric?

    • lizhaywood on May 8, 2024 at 10:55 am

      That is a good suggestion. I was thinking about a fluffy type fabric, like a natural version of polar fleece, but you’ve reminded me I have a piece of merino knit here I could try (the thin kind you make base layers from) which I know isn’t itchy.

  2. Julie on May 7, 2024 at 7:32 pm

    Oh, I love a good beanie…. and would also love to hear of a natural fabric that didn’t make my head itch like crazy… resulting in the ditching of much needed hat. Your pattern looks fabulous Liz.

    • lizhaywood on May 8, 2024 at 9:37 am

      Yeah, itchyness is the deal-breaker, isn’t it? I’m thinking some sort of wool blend might work. I’ve been searching online – it’s surprising how many 100% synthetic fabrics are called things like Lambs Wool.

  3. Laurinda on May 7, 2024 at 9:07 pm

    Your emails are always a bright spot in my day, & make me think about fabric differently.

    I would have thought that getting soft, merino fabric would be fairly cheap & easy for you to get!

    • lizhaywood on May 8, 2024 at 9:32 am

      Yes, you’d think soft merino fabric would be easy to come by, here in the biggest merino wool producing country in the world. At our house, I can literally look out the window and see sheep. But unfortunately wool processing and fabric mills have gone offshore, so actual fabric is neither cheap nor easy to get.

      • Laurinda on May 8, 2024 at 10:04 am

        I’d hate for you to fall down a rabbit hole, but spinning & weaving are really fun 😉

      • lizhaywood on May 8, 2024 at 11:31 am

        I’m deliberately resisting!!!

  4. Michelle Cahill on May 7, 2024 at 11:21 pm

    I’m very interested in the slouchy hat! Although I have a few months before I would need it here in the upper hemisphere.

    • lizhaywood on May 8, 2024 at 9:23 am

      You totally rock a slouchy hat! Keep it in mind for October 🙂

  5. Judith on May 10, 2024 at 6:31 am

    Your hat pattern looks really cool and has so much potential!
    It might come in handy for lining knitted hats. I really like knitting hats but sometimes they can be a bit itchy and they are not that wind-proof. So lining them helps to solve these two issues.
    I tend to line knitted hats with a cotton version of polar fleece. I’ve got no idea if this material is available outside of Germany. It’s rather pricey here. So I try to use it efficiently.
    But it might be worth looking for it.
    You could also use two layers of fabric: a warmer outer layer and a thinner layer that is less itchy.
    I keep asking myself if felted wool would work. I felt pullovers in the washing machine once they have reached a stage when they’re not really wearable any more. I really wonder if I could turn the felted pullovers into a hat…

    • lizhaywood on May 10, 2024 at 2:36 pm

      Thank you Judith – you have given me some great ideas!

    • Laurinda on May 11, 2024 at 12:36 am

      Yes, you can! I have bought felted sweaters to sew with. I love wool, but not the itchy kind

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