I've been making a few odds and ends with the kids over the holidays in preparation for this September's Scarecrow Festival (yes, I know it's still only August!). Last year I managed to rope in friends on my street to do Alice in Wonderland scarecrows. This time our scarecrows will be characters from Roald Dahl's books, in celebration of what would have been his 100th birthday. I've got grand plans for our tableau (which will be a character and scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), and one of the things I wanted to include was Willy Wonka's iconic hat, laid casually on his desk as if he'd just popped away for a moment. Making the hat turned out to be surprisingly easy - read on to see how I did it!
I was inspired to make my own Wonka top hat by this ace Instructables tutorial for a Burton-esque Mad Hatter Hat. If you are thinking of making one of these yourself, I highly recommend checking it out (along with the über helpful comments) - the Mad Hatter hat is a slightly different, bigger and more exaggerated shape than Wilder's Wonka hat, but the basic construction is the same. While the instructions there (and here!) may seem pretty detailed, don't be put off as this is actually an easy make with everyday materials and an impressive end result, and is something the kids can (with a little bit of help) even do themselves.
To make Willy Wonka's hat, you will need the following:
Stage 1 - Measuring and Scoring the Tube
Your first task is to make the TUBE part of your hat. For this, you will need a rectangular piece of corrugated cardboard. Let's call it your TUBE PIECE.
To work out the size of this rectangle, take the following measurements:
Draw two horizontal TAB LINES across the full width of your tube piece, positioned 2 centimetres from the top and bottom of the rectangle, to mark where your tabs will end.
Using your pencil, score vertical parallel FOLD LINES, pressing through only the top layer(s) of your corrugated cardboard (NOT all the way through - at this stage the last layer should remain intact to hold all these strips together). These fold lines should be at roughly 4cm intervals, as shown in the picture below.
Mark the last 2 centimetre-wide vertical strip as the OVERLAP (used to join the tube together).
These fold lines will allow your cardboard to curve enough to form the tube.
Next, snip all the way through your fold lines at the top and bottom edges, just to the tab lines you drew before. This will give you a fringe of tabs at both ends of the tube. The bottom fringe (let's call it the BRIM FRINGE) will fold outwards to attach the brim, whereas the top fringe (let's call it, imaginatively, the TOP FRINGE) will fold inwards to support the top of your hat.
Final task before joining your tube together is to decide where you want the outward bulge of the hat to begin. Mark this with a horizontal line (faintly - so as not to score or dent the cardboard), and snip right through your fold lines from the top (continuing the top fringe cuts) to this point.
At last, you can now join your tube together by attaching the overlap to the opposite edge of your tube piece - I used double-sided sticky tape, but you could glue it.
You can see in the pictures here that I originally made my hat far too tall for Willy Wonka (following the Mad Hatter instructions too closely!), and later trimmed it down by about a third. However you should get the general idea. Once you've formed the tube, gently bend the top strips (where you snipped all the way through to make the bulge) outwards, being careful not to make to definite a crease - you want a gentle outward curve. You should find that your tube now looks a bit like a chimney pot.
If you haven't done this already, then now's the time to also bend (with a sharp crease) your top fringe tabs inwards, and your brim fringe outwards, as shown in both pictures above.
Stage 2 - Top and Brim
Now it's time to cut out the top of your hat and also the brim.
For the top of the hat, you'll need your compass to draw a TOP CIRCLE roughly two centimetres wider than your original head circumference measurement. You will need TWO of these - but If you have enough corrugated cardboard, I recommend cutting out three and setting one to the side to use as a template for the covering later on.
You will also need to cut out the BRIM. Start by drawing an INNER CIRCLE (your head-hole!) the same circumference as your original head measurement. Check that this matches up with the bottom of your tube as you will be joining these two together...
Centred on this inner circle, draw the outer circle of the brim, approximately 5 centimetres wider. Cut out inner and outer circles to leave you with a cardboard donut shape - this is your brim. Do not discard the inner circle you've cut out though - you will use this very shortly to level out the top of your hat, so put it with those two top circles.
You'll notice in the picture above that my brim is oval as I was still following the Burton hat instructions too closely at this point. Later on, I trimmed this back to the circle that you can just faintly see is marked in pencil.
Stage 3 - Attaching the Top and Brim
Take one of your top circles, and attach it to the top of your hat. Note that the tabs need to be folded over on TOP of your top circle (see photo). This will create your bulge and make your hat look suddenly much more hat-like!
Attach the inner circle as well, to fill in the gap in the centre. This will allow you a level surface to glue the final top circle onto (so tabs and inner circle piece are sandwiched between those two larger top circles). This gives you a perfectly smooth top to your hat.
Attach the brim to the bottom of the hat, on TOP of the tabs this time (see pictures). Yes, my incredible magic hat is short and Wonka sized above, and then suddenly tall and Mad Hatter-ish below (or scarily Number-Taker like if you're a Cbeebies parent) - I didn't take a short-hat picture showing the brim tabs being glued, but hey, this way you can see what a Mad Hatter Hat would look like too!
Once your brim is on, you're almost done with the structure of the hat, but there is just one more thing to do before you can move on to covering or painting.
Stage 4 - Shaping the brim
The last thing to do on your cardboard hat skeleton is to shape the brim into that distinctive Wonka curve. This is not as tricky as it might sound!
First off, you'll want a nice rounded edge to the brim to soften the otherwise rigid straightness of the cardboard. Using your paintbrush and water, thoroughly dampen the outer edge of the brim (only up to the tabs), and then gently roll between your fingers. You should create a roll of damp board about the thickness of a drinking straw all around the edge.
Next, to create the iconic Wonka undulation, dampen down the two opposite sides of the brim (this time from the rolled edge right up to the inner circle). Pin these back with a peg or bulldog clip, and then leave both rolled edge and pinned sides to dry.
Once your board has dried, remove the clips and you should find the brim now permanently bent into that Wonka undulation. Congratulations - you're all done but for the decorating!
Stage 5 - Finishing Touches
I chose to use orange felt for my hat - admittedly not perfect colour-wise (I'd have prefered a on orangey-brown to outright Leprechaun orange), but it was the closest I could get and is not quite as day-glo as it looks in the pictures! To attach the felt, I cut it into strips a little wider than the original strips in the tube piece, and fixed double-sided tape onto the hat itself. You could just as easily (and in fact in may even work better) use glue.
I attached my strips around the edge, with a little overlap onto the top, and with enough length to cover the underside of the brim and slightly up into the hat tube. I covered the top of the hat with a circle of felt (cut using that template you put aside at the beginning!).
Any gaps (and there are likely to be a few, as you're applying straight lines to curves!) can be filled with snippets of felt and glue.
Finally, to soften the edges of the felt where they met, I teased them with my nails to fluff them out, and then damped them down with a clear glue. The lines are still visible, but much softer - I quite like the effect! You could cover the hat with a single piece of fabric around the tube section, but this will be quite fiddly because of the way the hat curves. Alternatively, applying squares of paper and glue all over would give you a surface to paint, if you didn't want to bother with fabric at all!
So there you have it - a Willy Wonka hat, created from an old cardboard box and a bit of felt! Now all I need are the Wonka bars...
If you've enjoyed reading this, why not check out these other entries?
Or take a look at our Roald Dahl Pinterest board for even more inspiration.