Tutorial: Giant Hats (Lulu)
I’ve received a lot of questions about how I make my Lulu hats, so I decided it would be fitting to write a small write-up that shows the general steps I take to make them! Please note that my method is more of a structural one, and the result ends up being relatively heavy, but the hats are extremely durable (if done right).
The following materials are used for my hats:
- General Purpose Copper Coated Oxy-Acetylene Gas Welding Rod (1/16″) – Purchased from Airgas
- Painter’s Tape
- Poly-Fil Stuffing
- Final fabric used for hat
The weirdest material is the welding rod. I use those rods because they’re extremely affordable, I buy from Airgas’s retail store in Marina Del Rey and I pay $8 for more than 20 rods, each one being 3′ long. It’s a pretty good deal, considering sculptural wire at any art store is a lot more expensive. I used this method for a project in my Freshman year at Otis, so that’s where I discovered these rods and this build technique.
I begin by building a rough wire frame structure of the hat. I use painter’s tape to actually connect wires because it took less time than soldering/welding every joint. (I soldered all the joints on my BRSB wig, and it took forever!) For my first hat (Wicked Lulu, pictured above on the right) I used a lot more wire frame because it was my first time using this technique for a hat. For the second hat I built I used a lot less because I knew the general shape I was going for.
Before you move on to the next step… throw your wire frame around. I’m not even joking, just toss it around your work area. This will make sure that all your joints are strong! When I built each one of my wire frames I was literally throwing them around the room to test the structural integrity. I didn’t want any joints breaking loose after the wire frame was covered by batting + fabric.
Note: Make sure your wire frame has a good amount of extra space around your head on the inside, it will be padded with batting, so make sure there’s enough extra space for your head to comfortable fit inside!
If you’re comfortable with your wire frame structure, you can begin adding your batting. In this photo I was doing a size test/comparison of everything else that I had for my hat. You can see that I was sewing batting to the seams, starting from the inside of the wire frame. You want to make sure that the inside is padded first so that you don’t get hurt by wires!
Unfortunately the batting I used on the second hat wasn’t as thick as the one I used on my first hat, so I really had to double up the batting layers to make sure it was smoothing out the shape enough, as well as reducing wire exposure. I try to make it so the hat is relatively soft and comfortable to hold. You don’t want to feel wires when holding the hat!
Here’s the final form, covered in a lot of batting! I purchased a yard of batting from Joann and pretty much used it all. You can see that I stitched it on in pieces, I call this step the “Frankenstein step” because you’re literally stitching together pieces of batting everywhere to make sure all the wire is buffered and so that you can’t feel/see any rough edges/faces from your wire frame.
Just remember, don’t be afraid of adding too much batting! The more the better!
The next step is to pattern out your piece using felt (or any other fabric you decide to use). I use felt because it’s relatively cheap and it has good body to it, so it’s easier to form around the shapes.
Patterning is my weakest skill when it comes to sewing process, which explains why I have so many tiny strips on this. The batting/wire frame form made patterning the hat a lot easier because it gave me a “body form” to work with (think of a dress form). I literally added rough pieces of felt and added more and more until I got a shape I was satisfied with.
Here’s the final felted piece! As you can see, the rear brim was re-cut as one piece of fabric and everything is clean with large full pieces of felt! I took these felt pieces and traced them out to serve as pattern pieces for my final fabric.
Another step I took at this point (not directly pictured) was adding Poly-Fil Stuffing. After adding the felt, I felt there were some rather “flat” areas, or weren’t full enough from the batting underneath, so I would add Poly-Fil Stuffing to make it a little softer and give it more body.
And here’s a shot of the finalized hat! All the other pieces are just decorative parts (laser cut and resin-cast pieces, as well as other fabric layers for more detail). It’s a rather strange technique, but it works.
Another step not listed in these photos is adding counter-weight! These hats are pretty heavy, and most Lulu hat designs end up being back-heavy. My Wicked Lulu hat was especially back heavy, so I added 1¼ pounds of lead and steel rod to the very front brim of the hat. It makes the hat even heavier, but at least I can comfortably wear it and take it off when I want!
You can’t really tell in this photo unless you look really closely, but look at my chin, follow my jaw line into the hair, and if you look close enough you can see a brown strap in between the wig hairs (there’s a small gap in the hair right before my ear). That’s how I ended up fixating my hat for Dragon*Con, I literally added a strap to the front of the hat to hold all the weight of the hat forward, but it was extremely uncomfortable! That’s why I ended up adding counter weights to the very front, to help it balance on my head without choking me!
I added fishing sinkers of various sizes as well as two scrap steel rods I had lying around. For the Dragon Trainer Lulu hat (the brown hat), the resin-cast decor was about ¾ of a pound, so I added only one sinker and it was able to balance after that.
And here’s a final shot of three Lulus from the League of Legends Season 3 World Championships at the Staples Center featuring Pizoobie, Camille Petrai, and myself! Pizoobie’s hat was made in a completely different way, you can check out her page to see some information on how she made her’s!
I also put together an article that features the result of other cosplayers using this tutorial! Click the image below to check out what others have done!
Thanks for reading, and I hope this was helpful! Feel free to leave any comments if you have any questions and I’ll answer as soon as I can! Follow me on Facebook and Twitter for all my recent progress/updates!