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Support for Wide-brimmed Basketry Hats


This support system serves as an alternative to solid polyethylene cores when constructing for basketry hats that cannot rest safely on either the brim or crown. The rolled polyethylene sheeting provides as much support as a solid polyethylene foam plank and more than quilt batting or polystyrene beads (Hill, 1986; Oak, 1986). The sheeting takes less time to shape than solid polyethylene foam planks and is easier to handle than the beads. The hat supports can be made from scrap pieces of polyethylene foam sheeting left over after cutting sheets to line drawers and shelves (Fig. 1).



Virginia Greene
The University Museum of
Archaeology and Anthropology
33rd and Spruce Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19104 USA
Tel (215) 898-4018
Fax (215) 898-0657

Photographs and Illustrations:
Virginia Greene

Publication: 1992


The support is made with a core cut from a tightly rolled strip of 1/8in polyethylene sheeting. The support consists of two parts: a central section that fills the crown, and a donut-shaped section that fits around the central section and supports the brim. Hats in good condition with narrower brims may need only the central section; those that are damaged or have very wide brims will need both parts.

Figure 1. top, Hat on support. bottom, Core and brim support.

Materials Tools Supplies

  • 100% polyester felt with or without acrylic adhesive backing
  • Cotton jersey
  • Cotton muslin
  • Polyester quilt batting
  • Polyethylene foam sheeting
  • Spunbonded olefin tape with acrylic-based adhesive backing


  1. Measure the height of the hat (crown to plane of brim) and add at least 2in (Fig. 2, dimension a). The mount can be shortened during finishing. Measure the diameter of the crown where it meets the brim, or the diameter of the headband if one is present (Fig. 2, dimension b).

    Figure 2. Measure the hat: a is height of the hat, b is diameter of the crown, and c is height of brim plus two inches.

  2. Cut a strip of 1/8in polyethylene foam sheeting as wide as the maximum height of the mount. Polyethylene foam sheeting comes in rolls 56in wide with a grain that runs lengthwise on the roll. As the strips must be rolled with the grain, the maximum length of a single strip is 56in. A strip 40in long will make a cylinder with a diameter of approximately 2 1/2in and additional strips can be joined with spunbonded olefin tape with acrylic adhesive.
  3. Roll the strip loosely enough so that the center can be pushed up. The diameter of the roll should be slightly less than the diameter of the crown or headband (Fig. 3).

    Figure 3. Central core with part of cover and batting.

  4. Fasten the end with the tape specified above.
  5. Insert the roll carefully into the hat, pushing up on the center until it conforms to the shape of the inside of the crown (Fig. 4). Leave space between the top of the crown and the top of the mount, so that the sides of the crown, rather than the top, will take most of the weight; this is important because the edge of the crown is usually a weak point.
  6. Remove the roll, and trim the bottom edges so that they are even with the center. A long serrated kitchen knife works very well. This will produce a conical shape with a flat bottom (Figs. 4, 5).
  7. Cut another strip of polyethylene foam sheet, the width of which should be the dimension c on figure 2.
  8. Roll this strip around the lower part of the central core, and secure it with the same tape (Fig. 4). The final diameter of the mount will depend on size and condition of the brim, but the brim can usually overhang the mount by at least 1in. 

    Figure 4. Central core constructed from rolled polyethylene foam sheeting. right, Core and brim support.

  9. Place this support carefully inside the hat, and push gently until the outer roll conforms to the underside of the brim.
  10. Remove this support from the hat, then trim the bottom surface of the outer roll until it is even with the base of the center (Fig. 4).
  11. Separate the two parts of the support.
  12. Cut pieces of polyester quilt batting to cover the upper surfaces of both sections of foam.
  13. Make covers for the support from washed, unbleached cotton muslin, jersey or 100% polyester felt. Make the covers in several sections (top, bottom and side[s]) and sew together (Fig. 5).

    Figure 5. Cross section of rolled support padded with polyester quilt batting and covered with fabric.

  14. After the central section is covered, refit the outer ring, removing a layer of polyethylene foam if necessary so that there is room for two layers of muslin between the sections. The sections should fit snugly (Fig. 6).


Figure 6. Core and brim support with fabric covers.


For exhibition, cover the support with a suitable stable material. Normally, only the lower part of the outer ring and possibly the base will need to be covered. The upper edge of the fabric can be sewn to the muslin with a few tacking stitches, and removed after the exhibit.


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