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
  • Batting
  • Felt
  • 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.

Wireframe

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!

Covering in batting

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!

Covered in batting

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!

Patterning

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.

Accessories assembled

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.

Complete hat

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!

Wicked LuluYou 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.

Group photoAnd 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!

View gallery

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!

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77 Comments. Leave new

Wow, this tutorial will be really useful, i’m going to do a lulu genderbend cosplay and this may be a really good reference for the materials i need and how to build the hat, thank you

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Glad I could help!

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Daniel Rivera
March 21, 2014 7:34 PM

I’m also doing a gender bender version of the Dragon Trainer Lulu. Do you have any pics? I’m thinking of getting a green ruffle top with some brown or green pants. How did you interpret her outfit?

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Hey, your hard looks so nice, it’s really perfect!!!!
I’m also cosplaying lulu but i’m having a hard time with the hat… could you please tell me how much fabric you needed for the hat (approx) ? Thanks for the tut btw, i think i’ll try your method :p

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Thank you! :)
Which version of Lulu are you thinking of making? Each hat is really different and requires different amounts of fabric, also depends on your scale. That’s why I mention that you use the form to create your template out of scraps which would determine how much fabric you need. :)
But if I had to guess, I think I used one yard of black and a yard of red.

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Thank you very much! I am doing the no skin version of lulu (i should’ve waited to make the winter wonder lulu… it’s so beautiful!) and you are right, 1 yard is plenty :)
Thank you again!

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General Purpose Copper Coated Oxy-Acetylene Gas Welding Rod what’s this for? In what part did you use this?

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I used it for the wire frame structure.

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This is a great tutorial! Thank you for sharing! One question, what material did you use for the hat ‘accessories’ ?

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Thank you! If you are referring to the extra parts of Dragon Trainer Lulu’s hat, I wrote that they were made of laser cut Sintra and resin cast parts. :)

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This is amazing. You are amazing! Thank you for sharing your expertise <3 You are an inspiration!

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No problem! ♥ Glad I could help! ^_^

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Tried making the wire structure tonight, came out well thanks to your tutorial! Any tips on what pattern you used for the dress/coat?

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Glad it worked out! I just used a coat pattern I had laying around and modified it to fit the design I wanted for my Wicked Lulu.

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I’m doing a genderbend of classic Lulu and was wondering what you’d use for material for the staff. I’ll probably use your method with the wires for her hat though, it’s looks really durable! Thank you very much!

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The best/easiest way to do the Lulu staff would probably be the classic expanding foam + paper mache method. Pizoobie has posted progress on how she made her Lulu staff.

http://tinyurl.com/l9gtlcg

Kamui has posted a very in depth tutorial on how she uses the technique for her props:

http://tinyurl.com/n77yoty

When you’re finished with the project, shoot me a picture when you’re done! I’d love to see.

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Okay! I sure will! Thank you very much. I might ask again for some assistance :D
The way Pizoobie made her hat is a bit more out of my reach since I need to order fosshape. So do you think your wire frame will do for the classic cosplay hat? The weight may be a concern but I’m sure there’s ways around that too like you said with the counterweights etc.

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The wireframe method has worked for me and many others so it should work for you too! ;)

http://www.vensy.net/2014/04/giant-hats-gallery/

Gallery featuring other people who used this tutorial.

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ezreallygud
May 16, 2014 2:12 PM

Hello Vensy!
What did you use to bend the Welding Rods easily?

The wire I used was easy enough to bend by hand, no tools were required.

Did you make the pattern for DT lulu’s hat adornment yourself? Is it available for purchase or anything?

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Hi! You mean the front piece? Yeah I made that myself and have a mold of the form. I can potentially sell raw castings of it if there was an interest in it.

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I just meant a digital file of the template!

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I do have an Illustrator template that I used to laser-cut all the pieces.

Wasn’t sure if anyone would be interested in Illustrator templates.. if that’s something of actual interest I could put it up for a small fee (it’d be more like a donation of sorts, for my time).

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I’d love to grab one if its at all possible :D

It is officially in the works now. ;) I’ll be adding some template packs to my shop really soon.

Hi!
I love your tutorial, and obviously I’m trying to make a giant hat as well.
But I wanted to ask , for wicked lulu, how did you get the red parts on the hat ?
It all looks so very smooth, and I’m kinda troubled with how I’d put the fabric on the hat.
If you sew it all by hand you can’t really get clean edges, but I don’t see how you could sew it before attaching it to the hat itself.
Thanks in advance!

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After I drafted the pattern using the form, I sewed all the pieces together like a pillow case before actually adding it to the form. I sewed the red onto the “fabric case” using applique.

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Really!
That must’ve been difficult, you don’t happen to have those patterns in rough sketches or anything do you ?
(I know they will be different for each hat but a rough idea would be usefull)

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I do not, sorry.like you said, they’re unique per build anyways so that’s why I didn’t bother saving mine ubfortunately..

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Darn, that’s too bad, but thank you so much !

Hello!
This is amazing, thank you so much.
I want to cosplay Lulu so bad, she’s the best.
I’m just having difficulty figuring out what to use to make the dress!
What fabrics did you use? Did you sew the whole thing ? it’s amazing, I’ve checked out Pizoobie’s page too, and both of the dresses are beautiful! I really want to make one that nice :p

Yep! That tasted Purple!

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Thank you! Yeah,I sewed the whole thing myself. I used sateen and suiting for my dress.

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I must figure out how to do this!!
Would you be willing to make one if you got paid? cause I don’t think i’m talented enough to sew one :(

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Unfortunately I don’t do sewing commissions. :(

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Okay! thankyou for all your help! I love your work :) keep on doing awesome things! Oh! one more question, are you planning on doing any World of Warcraft cosplays? I think you’d do an amazing job :)

No problem! I actually do plan on making a World of Warcraft costume for this year’s BlizzCon.

Hello !
I see your tuto to the giant hat, and i love it ! I would to try this to the japan touch in Lyon :) But, to the cosplay, i need a dragon plush, and I would like to know where you found your fluff dragon for lulu huntress of dragon please.
She is so much completed!
Thx ! Lowa

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I didn’t make the dragon plush, my friend Fiendle did: https://www.facebook.com/fiendle

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I was so looking forward to this tutorial when I saw that the pictures aren’t showing up! D:?!?!?!?

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I’ll fix it today, sorry!

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This tutorial is so so helpful. lol
I’m making a Winter Wonder Lulu cosplay and I’m having some trouble with her hat “accessories” Like the front head piece part with the gem in it. Do you have suggestions on how to make it for someone who doesn’t know how to do the resin casting and all the other fancy thing pro cosplayers do?

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One way I’ve seen people do the accessories for Winter Wonder Lulu would be out of EVA foam. All the raised edges can be carved/sanded down from EVA foam mats and such. Hope that helps!

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[…] part of this costume was obviously her giant hat. But thankfully, Vensy  made a very usefull tutorial on how to make Lulu’s hat! It took me very long to make the frame of her hat, because it was […]

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your URL Template at etsy is no longer there. still there is enough info in this tutorial for me to go off. I’m not making this style hat, I’m trying to do one based off of the sorting hat…but no exact

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Yeah all my items are now available on the shop on my website instead. (www.vensyprops.com/shop) It was only for the front decor piece of Dragon Trainer Lulu’s hat specifically (the plastic gold piece). Glad the tutorial his helpful though! :) A few people have used it for hats other than Lulu’s as well.

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Will any of the 1/16 gas welding rods work? Could you link the ones you use?

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I’m 99% sure this is what I used: 1/16″ X 36″ R45 Harris® W-1060 RG-45 Copper Coated Low Carbon Steel Gas Welding Rod

Unfortunately you can only order it in 50lb quantities online, but they sell it in smaller quantities in their local stores. You can use armature wire as an alternative though, just as long as it is rigid enough to hold a shape.

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Hey Vensy :) i’m having trouble creating the wire frame for the wicked lulu hat. Do you have any pictures or tips as to how to build the structure for the top of the wicked lulu hat? ty :)

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The first picture in this article shows how I do my wireframes, I just tape all the wires together. The only tips I could really give for the top of Wicked Lulu’s hat would be to create the profile of the “horns” first, bulk it out from there. The only picture I have from when I was doing my Wicked Lulu hat’s wireframe is:

Progress

It unfortunately doesn’t show the entire horns though.

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This was very helpful! thank you :)

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No problem! Glad I could help.

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This is super helpful! But i was wondering for the last steps, do you sew the red felt on? Or use fabric glue?

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The red details were sewn on (I used sateen, not felt).

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Hi! i was wondering which fabric did you use for the whole costume

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Sateen and suiting.

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Hello~ I was wondering if you might know how big the gold plate is on the Dragon Trainer Lulu hat. Like how tall and how wide. I’m trying to make my own but I think I made it too small in comparison to the size of the hat and I’m not sure what to do, haha.

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The size of the gold plate depends on the size of your hat. The one I made was about 12.5 x 7.75″

I have a PDF pattern of it available in my store ( https://www.vensyprops.com/shop/dragon-trainer-lulu-hat-decor-pattern/ ) which you could scale to find the perfect size to work with your hat.

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About how much copper ‘wire’ did you use? I understand it will be different for everyone but I just wanted an estimate. What ever length you tell me I’m most likely going to be doubling it seeing that the hat I want to make will be huge o-o

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I honestly wouldn’t be able to tell you how much I used. x_x It was a weight based pack of copper wire, and I don’t remember how long the pieces were each.. I wish I could answer this. :(

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So, I went shopping for welding rods today, and all I’ve seen are the ones with the coating on the rod. D: I’m so clueless.

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You can use armature wire! It doesn’t have to be welding rods, that’s just what I used because I had it on hand.

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Also, some wires have the size crud in gauges D: What gauge do you think I’d need? I’m freaking out :P last minute stuff lol =_=

Would this crud work?:3 http://shop.hobbylobby.com/products/1/8-aluminum-wire-rod-armature-198754/

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It should work. As long as you can shape it, and it holds shape decently, it’ll work. :)

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Can you help me with the lulu pool party hat? Please

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What kind of help are you looking for? I don’t recommend using this technique for that hat though.

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What materials do you think that I should use?

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Probably just foam if you can, or make a plushie.

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Hi! I am currently making the Wicked Lulu hat and I was wondering if it was okay to just use black felt (without any final black fabric) since I don’t have enough fabric for the hat(?). Would it be hard to sew the red sateen fabric on or have any problems?
By the way, thanks for the awesome tutorial :D!

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Of course you can just use felt. :) If you set your sewing machine correctly it should be okay to sew sateen onto the felt, I think. I’m not too familiar with different fabric types, but it should be okay.

I’m glad you find the tutorial helpful! ♥

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Oh okay :D! Oh well, I’ll try that then, but just another question ;-; ..Did you use your sewing machine (for the fabric/felt/red fabric part) or everything is hand sewn?

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I used my sewing machine for the fabric and sateen, but the felt part I sewed by hand.

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Hi! I’m gonna make a dragon trainer lulu cosplay so I would ask : which material do you use to make the ornamantation of the hat? ^^

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I made that piece out of resin~

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Hello!
I am about halfway through making my own Dragon Trainer Lulu hat, and I’m not sure how to approach finishing the inside of it, as in, the part that actually sits on my head. When covering it with fabric, I’m not completely certain on how I should go about it. Any tips on that specific step would be much appreciated! Thank you!

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When I made it I just did a roughly drafted fabric piece that would cover the inside. x)

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