The scrubs hat challenge

My friend Belinda, a health care worker in Victoria, has been making scrubs hats for her co-workers.

She wondered if it was possible to make a no-waste scrubs hat? Preferably one that’s quick and easy!

Zero waste hats are tricky because our heads are round, curves take a bit more thinking to work out, and the fit of hats is important.

Clair hat zero waste three quarter view
I’ve only ever done one, which was a tie-on visor cut with the Clair skirt, but I already had curved shapes to work with. There’s a bigger chance of success if a hat is in the layout with something else.
Free pattern Headscarf first sample
I looked back at the other headscarf pattern on this website. It’s a free pattern I did in 2018. I wear it for renovating – it’s very comfortable and I like that the forehead part is on the bias.
It’s not particularly economical with fabric (it’s not zero waste) nor is it super-fast to sew.
Hexagon ideas for scrub hats
With the above headscarf pattern in mind, I messed around substituting hexagons for round shapes, since the corners are obtuse angles, but didn’t end up going in that direction.

So, the design brief is: a scrubs hat that’s zero or low-waste, and fast and easy to sew. (And obviously) fits well and looks good.

I’m putting this out here on the blog because I think it has potential but I would appreciate any input anyone would like to give.

First attempt

Here’s what I came up with:

Original scrubs hat pattern
It’s kind of a glorified bandana.

Belinda reported that it was nice and quick to sew, but found that there wasn’t enough coverage at the back of her head. When I tried the prototype on again with my hair up, I saw she was right – it needed to be bigger.

Original pattern for low waste scrubs hat
A single pattern piece.
It’s essentially a large triangle, shaped to the head with seams/darts.
Original scrubs hat instructions
The pattern’s shape is crazy-looking but this is how it goes together (sorry it’s a bit rough).
Originally I had ties at the back with an option for cutting them off and substituting elastic, but for the second attempt (below) I just had ties.

It’s not zero waste; there are 2 triangle shaped offcuts, but maybe a quilter can use them?

Second attempt

New bigger scrubs hat

It doesn’t look too much different from the first one, but it’s bigger. I extended all the points of the “triangle” by 3cm. Have I gone big enough?

8 hats now fit on a 124cm square of fabric (instead of the original 115cm).

Want to try it? It prints out on 4 x A4 sheets, portrait orientation. I’m having trouble embedding the pattern into this post, but it’s at the end. There’s a download button at the top if you wave a cursor over it. If you can’t get it, just leave a comment and I’ll email it to you.

This hat can be tried on without doing any sewing: press up all the hems accurately at the ironing board, make the pleats then pin the two seams together and try it on.

So, it’s got possibilities, and I’m open to all thoughts and ideas 🙂



  1. Valerie Lebedevas on October 12, 2021 at 11:36 am

    Hi Liz, I am a scrub nurse and have worn turbans for years, that’s just a square of quilting cotton cut on the diagonal into two and hemmed. No tie up hat sits well on my large head and long hair in a bun. But I found a Japanese sewing book that has a very clever three piece design that I’m going to modify. Would you like me to email you some photos of the original?

    • lizhaywood on October 12, 2021 at 11:39 am

      Yes, interested! Have you got a link to the book?

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