Whether attending in person or at a watch party with your friends, learn how you can make a Kentucky Derby Hat to be a part of Spring’s fashion spectacular! You can also make Kentucky Derby Party Favor boxes to fill with treats and share with your friends!
The Kentucky Derby takes place on the first Saturday of May and is one of the greatest spectacles, not just for the race, but for the people-watching. The fashion, mostly the hats, is one of the reasons people attend in person or have their own watch parties each year. Now, you can learn how to make your own Kentucky Derby Hat!
Materials and Supplies
(This post contains affiliate links to one or more of the items I used in this project – which means, if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission. There is no added cost to you!)
- Big hat – In the spring, these hats are quite popular in many stores. You can always find a nice selection of big floppy hats on Amazon. Or, you may have one stashed away in a closet that you have always meant to turn into a Derby hat (that’s me!).
- Big flowers – This is your opportunity to peruse the floral department in your local craft store until you find the flowers that suit you. I found a bouquet of large white flowers for 50% off. You can even try searching Amazon for something specific such as large white silk tiger lily (or something similar) and see if it returns exactly what you want.
- Accent Flowers – I decided I wanted my accent colors to be purple or blue. As I continued my wandering through the floral department, I found a bouquet (also 50% off) of purple flowers with blue accents. They were perfect! The same search technique can be used on Amazon to find something specific, such as blue silk pansies. Try lots of searches until you find the flowers that suit you – or go wild!
- Wide Ribbons – I have several wide ribbons from previous craft projects but I did not have a 3″ wired organza ribbon for the main bow. I managed to find one in a dark purple that matched my accent flowers quite well.
- Hot Glue
- Optional – Sewing clips to hold things together while you work (I love these clips!!!)
Plan Your Kentucky Derby Hat
I use the word “plan” pretty loosely but I envisioned some basic concepts going in to my project. My Kentucky Derby Hat is not outrageous at all. Compared to many I have seen, my hat tends toward the conservative side. It could also work as a hat to a garden party someday.
Start by deciding if you are going to go wild or go mild. Then, do some online searching for Kentucky Derby Hats to see what people actually wear to the Derby. Some of those hats are crazy, some are elegantly outrageous, and others are beautifully subtle. Add the word “crazy” to your online search to see what some people will wear to the Kentucky Derby. These online searches will help you to define the spectrum of what you can wear.
Use this is an opportunity to spread your creative wings! You could attempt to replicate something you find online. But, why not “own it” and come up with your own design based on things that appeal to you? Again, this is an opportunity to add a little wild to your mild. 😉
My Own Plan
Personally, I’m “mild” when it comes to fashion. I also do not think of myself as a “hat person” — you know, those people who look great in hats. While I said my hat tends toward the conservative side, this is a bit on the wild side for me. I have to tell you, though, I LOVE how this turned out and I cannot wait to wear it to the Kentucky Derby watch-party we are attending!
For my own plan, I opted for a combination of ribbons and flowers, which resulted in the Materials and Supplies list shown above.
The hat is something I already owned. I bought it a couple of years ago off a sale rack somewhere, intending to make it into a Kentucky Derby hat… “someday.” There are so many options for the hat itself. The link I provided in the Materials and Supplies brings up a search on Amazon for big floppy hats that will get you started. Other places to find big floppy hats include (sorry if these are regional store chains) Target, Meijer, and Claire’s.
I have always been a brunette with medium tone Caucasian skin. The 2019 Kentucky Derby has me at a week shy of turning 58 and more gray hair than brunette now but jewel tones have always been my preference and played a part in my “plan” to look for something in the purple or sapphire range for my hat.
Pick a color scheme that appeals to you, for whatever reason that makes you happy. Own it! If you did the online searching I recommended earlier, you know that the sky is the limit!
Some hats are just ribbons and bows. Others have a combination of flowers and bows. In some you will find feathers of varying types. On the far end of outrageous, you may find hats that have none of the above but are a style unto their own. Seriously, dual pink flamingos as a hat…?
For my style, I chose flowers and bows. I almost bought a bird when I was in the floral department to add as an accent piece but opted not to buy it. I was so close, though. 🙂
Decorating Your Kentucky Derby Hat
Once you have your pseudo-plan in place and your materials and supplies purchased, it is time to decorate your handmade Kentucky Derby Hat.
When working on the outside of the hat, it may not be obvious where the center-front of the hat is located. For many hats, it will not matter. For the style of hats for which it does matter, you will want to somehow mark the center-front of the hat.
For my own hat, the center-front did not matter but, to help you, I marked mine.
Turn the hat over so you are looking at the inside of the hat. Most hats will have a tag. When the center-front matters, the tag is positioned in the center-back of the hat.
Use a piece of tape that will not leave any residue on the hat. Blue painter’s tape works well for this. Place a piece of this tape at the brim of the hat, opposite to the tag. Then, fold that tape over the brim so you can see it from the top of the hat.
Decorate Left or Decorate Right?
Mostly, this is personal preference. Do you want the decorations on the right side of the hat or the left side of the hat?
Does it matter? Realistically, no. Practically, it may.
Do you have a “good side” that you prefer for photos? If yes, you will want your decorations on the opposite of your good side. If the decorations on your hat will add significant weight to your hat, that side of the hat may sit lower on your head and hide that side of your head more than the other.
Again this is personal preference. I don’t think I have a side that is better/worse than the other. So, arbitrarily, I picked to decorate the right side of my hat.
Making The Big Bow
The biggest part of my hat is the big purple bow, made from the purple organza wired ribbon. I made this bow in the same way that I made the bow on my Loopy Burlap Wreath… except bigger. This is a Kentucky Derby hat — go BIG!!
Make the Loops
Cut four pieces 30″ long each of the 3″-wide wired organza ribbon and one piece that is 4-6 inches long.
Take the shorter piece that is around 4 to 6 inches in length and remove the wires.
Fold this into thirds and clip to hold together. This will be the center piece of the bow that ties all the loops together.
Take each of the 30-inch pieces and find the center. Bring the two ends together so they overlap the center by at least half an inch and clip them together (or you can glue them).
Your bow sections are now ready to assemble. See how handy these clips are?!
Gather the Loops
Stack the four sections on top of each other and clip them all together. This is where the sewing clips come in handy. They are like having some extra fingers to help hold things together while working.
Pinch the stack of loops in the middle.
Lay the center tie across the front of the pinch, wrap one end of it around the back and glue it in the back of the stacked-and-pinched set of loops.
Wrap the other end around and glue it in place.
Cut off any excess from the center tie.
Poof the Bow
Be sure the hot glue has cooled so your bow does not pull apart. Turn the bow over and start fanning out the loops so they are no longer stacked on top of each other. Un-flatten the loops and poof them out.
Assemble the Pieces to Your Hat
Making the bow was the most time-consuming part of my hat. But, now that it is done, it is time to assemble the pieces to my Kentucky Derby Hat! Let the fun begin!
The Hat Band
For the band around my Kentucky Derby Hat, I used a medium-wide light-green satin ribbon. To me, this represents the “stem” of the flowers on the hat and I love the little added color to the purple. Use a little hot glue to attach the band to your Kentucky Derby hat.
Attach the Big Bow to Your Kentucky Derby Hat
Since the bow is the biggest element, it needs go on before the flowers. Glue the bow on the side you chose for your decorations. Mine is on the right side of my hat. It is positioned so that the center of the bow is at the top of the ribbon. I used just enough hot glue to secure the bow to the ribbon band and the hat.
Adding the Large Flowers
The number of flowers you add will depend on how big your flowers are. These types of flowers are constructed from parts and often glued together. I did not want any actual stem included with my flowers so I needed to remove the flowers from their stems. To do this, hold the entire flower in one hand, pinching the base of the flower in your fingers. In the other hand, hold the stem, pinching close to the base of the flower. Twist and pull apart. If the flowers are glued, this should easily separate the flower from the stem.
Much of the placement of the flowers is personal preference. Decide where you want the flowers and attach with hot glue at the base of the flower. If you have a flower that will not stay in place with hot glue only added at the base, try adding a spot of hot glue on the back of a petal (near the base of the petal) and press that against the hat to help hold the flower in place.
Adding Accent Flowers
My accent flowers are the purple and blue flowers and they are assembled in small bunches on soft plastic stems that have no wires. I was able to snip these off as I added them to the hat. Run a bead of hot glue along the stem and tuck the accent flowers around the larger flowers.
Finally, I added accent ribbons in two colors. I used a light frosty blue wired ribbon and some of the green satin I used as the band around the hat. I cut these into 10-inch lengths, folded in half, pinched the ends and glued in various places by tucking them behind the flowers.
The light green satin ribbons add a little pop of color and represent leaves in the same way the band represents the stem.
Once everything is added, you can spend a few minutes poofing the wired ribbons that may have gotten misshapen while gluing the flowers and accent ribbons.
Kentucky Derby Hat is Complete!
You now know how to make a Kentucky Derby hat and will be ready if you are fortunate enough to attend the spectacle in person or if you will be going to a watch party. Grab a mint julep and cheer for your favorite horse!
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