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Sewing for kids: Pioneer Sunbonnet Tutorial

Hats, Sewing  |  September 20th 2011  |  0 Comment

Pioneer Sunbonnet Tutorial

UPDATE:  So many of you have looked at this pattern, I’m wondering….have you made one?  How did it go?  Would you be willing to share photos?  Please leave a comment, or email me and let me know!

I had some time today to finish up my Halloween costume preparation, and created a new pattern for making a pioneer sunbonnet.  I have a little sunbonnet I wore as a small girl (as modeled by Baby, above), and used it as a pattern to make a larger one for my first-grader who wants to be Kirsten from the American Girls.  I figured I’d take photos as I made the bonnet, and would share the tutorial with any who might need it.  Enjoy!

Step 1:
For this project, you will need 1/2 yard cotton print of your choosing, matching thread, and 5 1/2″ inches of 1/4″ braided elastic for the preschool size, OR 7 1/2″ inches of 1/4″ elastic for the schoolgirl size, and 1/4 yard iron-on medium duty interfacing.  You’ll also need pins, scissors, and your iron.  Additional tools that will be helpful are a bias tape maker, rotary cutter and mat, seam ripper, and a contrasting fabric for the bias tape.

Step 2:
Print out your pattern, and then cut out the required pieces.  You will need to cut two pieces for the bonnet visor, two pieces of interfacing that match, one bonnet back piece, a strap piece that is 1″ X 30″, and a bias strip that is 2″ X 17″. I forgot to mention on the pattern, but all seams are 1/4″.  Topstiching is at 1/8″ or less if possible.

 Being careful not to burn yourself, fold the chin strap in half, then iron each side to the center, and then iron the whole thing again.  It should be 1/4″ wide when you are done.  Topstitch the strap to finish, and then set aside for now.
Be sure when you pin the visor pieces together, you tuck the straps in at the markings.  The strap shouldn’t be twisted, and should be inbetween the right sides of the fabric, with just 1/8″ sticking out of the seam.
Step 7:  Take a deep breath, shrug your shoulders, and roll your head a few times.  You’re doing great!
Step 9:  Fold the bottom of the bonnet piece up 1/4″ and iron, then repeat.  Sew just under1/8″, and you’ve created the casing for the elastic.  Cut your elastic to the right size, and put a safety pin on one end.  Thread through the casing until the end is barely showing, and sew the end in place.  Continue to thread through until safety pin is out.  Take off pin, and secure other end by sewing it down.
Step 10, the fun part, gathering the bonnet.  The easiest way to gather is to tighten the tension on your sewing machine (I put my Bernina at a 9, and usually keep it at 5).  Widen your stitch length to the widest setting, and sew two seams at 1/8″ and 1/4″.  You won’t even have to pull the threads to gather.  The machine does the work for you.

Step 11:  Pin the bonnet to the visor, and sew it together.  I tried to keep the gathers minimal at the beginning and end, concentrating them at the middle portion.  Be careful to backstitch at the beginning and ending of the seam.  I like to sew with the gathered side up, so I can make sure the gathers are being sewed nicely, and not getting bunched up in the wrong places.
Whoever thought of the bias tape maker, THANK YOU!!!  I love this tool.  It makes creating your own bias tape so easy.  I bought mine at If you don’t have one, no problem!  Just use the same method as I used for the chin strap.

When I sewed on my  bias tape, I used the same method I use to bind quilts.  I opened up the tape, and pinned it so it was just over 1/4″ from the edge.   I use the iron mark for a sewing guide, and carefully sew down that line.  Then, I fold the bias tape over so it covers the seam, and pin it in place.  I use a blind-hem stitch and hand-sew the seam closed.  The end result looks very tailored.

All finished!