How to make an infant’s costume hat for about $2

This how-to explains how to make a hat for a Toy Story Alien infant’s costume, but the same basic idea may be adapted to make several other costume hats, such as a hat with cat’s ears, a hat with dog’s floppy ears, a hat with butterfly antennae, etc. Please read through ALL of the instructions before you begin so that you are certain you understand them and can decide in advance which optional things you’ll want to include and which parts, if any, you may want to change to suit your infant’s costume.

To make the base of the infant’s costume hat, you will need a fabric stretch headband approximately 3 inches in width, in whatever color will work with your particular costume.  Mine is neon green and I purchased it from the 99 cents Only store.  You can also find them at stores such as WalMart & Target.  Second, you will need at least one sheet of felt (roughly the size of a piece of printer paper should do), again in a color which suits your costume.  My felt was also neon green and purchased for under 40 cents at Joann’s Fabric & Crafts Store.  For the eye, you can purchase either a large googly-eye or one small piece each of black and white felts and use either hot glue or a small amount of embroidery thread to attach it.

You will also need:

  • a pencil
  • a marking pen/pencil for marking the fabric (disappearing ONLY) OR chalk
  • 1 piece of standard copy paper (or any paper you can use for creating a template)
  • a cloth measuring tape (or you can substitute a length of yarn & a straight ruler)
  • some thread
  • a few straight pins
  • a sewing machine that can make a straight stitch and a standard zig-zag stitch
  • a seam ripper

Before you begin, get your cloth measuring tape (or length of yarn) and set it nearby because you’re going to want to do these first two steps pretty quickly.

The first step to making your infant’s costume hat is to place the headband on the baby the same as you would your own head, but pulled a little lower on the forehead. This means it should create a circle that begins just above the eyebrows, follows around to one ear, down to the base of the back of the child’s head, around the second ear, and back up to above the eyebrows. If you’re still not clear, see the clip art below or check any early 1980’s photo with a woman wearing a wide elastic headband (not the exercising kind!).

Just picture the headband a little lower over the eyebrows and you've got the idea.

Once you’ve got the headband in place, take your cloth measuring tape (or length of yarn) and measure the diameter of the inner circle of the headband in several places. You want to determine the widest amount of scalp/hair showing inside the circle created by the headband.

Measuring inner circle of headband while on baby's head

Measuring inner circle of headband while on baby's head

Once you’ve determined the widest measurement, add 1 inch for seam allowance and you’ve got the diameter measurement you need to create your template. Divide that by two and you’ve got your radius measurement. (Don’t worry, you don’t actually need to remember what a diameter or a radius is to continue.) (Oh, and feel free to remove the headband from baby’s head now.)

The diameter measurement (including 1 inch for seam allowance) which I determined for my infant’s costume hat was 7.5 inches.  Therefore my radius was 3.75 inches.

****CHEATER’S TIP: If you are blessed enough to have a compass you actually know how to use, or a bowl, can, or other round object which just happens to be the exact same diameter as the circle you just measured, grab it, trace around it onto your piece of paper, and skip ahead to where I’ve typed, “Cheater’s Return Point”. ****

Take your cloth measuring tape and lay it flat on your piece of paper. Make sure it’s as straight as possible from the end until whatever your diameter measurement was. Hold it still and use your pencil to make a dot at the end of your measuring tape (or zero), your radius measurement, and your diameter measurement.

I made a dot at zero, 3.75 inches, and 7.5 inches.

Lift your measuring tape and check that you now have 3 dots in a row.

Using your radius or middle dot as a rotation point, turn your measuring tape so that it is perpendicular to your first line of dots. (Like you’re going to make a plus sign.) Make sure your radius measurement lines up with the center dot and then mark the zero and diameter points again.

I lined my measuring tape up so that 3.75″ was again matched up with the center dot, then marked zero and 7.5″ again.

Now rotate your measuring tape again so that it runs half way between the first and second line of dots but keeps your center dot and radius measurement matched up. Then mark zero and your diameter measurement again. Repeat until you feel comfortable that you can connect the dots to form a fairly uniform circle of the correct size. (No flat-sided circles allowed!)

Making the template for infant costume hat

Making the template for infant costume hat - your dots should be neater and you'll probably need more of them.


Now grab your scissors and cut out that beautiful circle.  Congratulations! You have just completed your template! Yes, it’s just a circle, but it’s the right size circle for your precious baby’s head and it’s perfect (or as close to perfect as it needs to be).

Next step? Place your circle on top of your felt so that one edge of your circle is touching one of the short sides of the felt. See that extra strip of felt left over on the other short side? Find a straight edge to mark yourself a straight line and cut that off. You’ll need that later.

Cutting off the extra strip of felt

Cutting off the extra strip of felt

Your felt should now look pretty close to square (as opposed to a rectangle), fold your sheet of felt in half.  If one side still looks longer than the other that’s the side to fold on.  (In other words, make the shorter sides touch.)

Now, take your template and set it on top of your folded felt so that the circle arches up toward & just barely touches the folded edge. Half (or nearly half) of your circle should be hanging off the cut edge of the felt.

Placing the template on the folded felt.

Placing the template on the folded felt.

IMPORTANT! Your center dot should be at or slightly above the cut edge of the felt. If your center dot is below the edge you’re felt was not big enough for the diameter of your baby’s head and you will need to get a second piece to accommodate your larger diameter.

Holding your template in place, grab your marker pen/pencil and trace around the outer edge of your template onto your felt. When you get to the point where the circle starts to curve back inward, eyeball a straight line from that point down to the edge of the felt (should be no more than an inch on either side). When you lift your template you should have a very round hill type shape – as if you’re looking at the very tip of one of those capsule pills. (You know, the ones you take to relieve the headache brought on by a day full of “worst behaviors”.)

Don’t even THINK about touching those scissors yet! If it makes you feel better, you can stick a pin in the center of your hill to keep the two layers of felt together (remember it’s folded in half still).

Now it’s time to move over to your sewing machine and turn it on (or in my case, clear off some space at the dining room table, reach dangerously high overhead to lift down my machine from the only storage spot I could find that was safe from little fingers, remove the dust cover, spend 30 minutes searching the entire house when I discover that my darling husband has “borrowed” the power cord again for one electronic gadget or another and forgotten to return it, give up, call husband, find the cord at last, plug it in and breathe a sign of relief when it powers up smoothly).

With your felt still folded, use your machine’s straight stitch to stitch along the line you’ve drawn on your felt. Do NOT stitch along the open edge.

Get away from those scissors! Unless you’re looking for a basic bald cap, this is not the time to cut!

Now, I am making a Toy Story Alien hat for my infant’s costume. So I need to add long pointy ears here. If you are making a cat costume, now would be the time to add your cat’s ears.  (This is not the time for antennae or floppy dog ears. Those come later and if you’re making a butterfly or floppy-eared costume hat, you can skip down to “it’s time to make the antenna” and be sure to read the Optional Steps & Tips section at the end.)

Think of your “hill” as the top of your alien’s head. All you need to do is use your marking pen/pencil to outline some simple ears directly onto the felt on each side of your alien’s head. You can practice on a piece of paper if you like, or, if you’re very nervous about your artistic ability, you can probably find a picture online that you can print out to scale and then cut out as a template (you’d only need to print one ear since you can flip it to trace the other side).

Once you’ve got your ears drawn, use your sewing machine’s straight stitch one more time to follow the outline of your ears.

Okay, now you can get out your scissors.  (But don’t put away your machine yet! We’re coming back to it soon.) Using your scissors, cut along the outside of your newly sewn alien’s head and ears leaving about an 1/8 of an inch of felt to make sure your stitching stays in.

If you’re making an infant’s cat costume hat and you don’t intend to give your child an extra set of eyes, congratulations! You’re done! If you are making a Toy Story alien’s hat like me, it’s time to make the antenna.

Remember that extra strip of felt? That’s for the antenna. Fold your strip in half so that the short sides are touching. Now go ahead and, using your marking pen, draw the antenna directly onto the felt. Again you can practice on paper or go online to find a picture to print, cut, and trace. Whichever method you choose, remember to leave roughly half an inch for seam allowance along the bottom where you will need to attach it to the base of the hat.

Once you’ve draw your antenna, use your machine’s straight stitch again to follow your outline.  Then go ahead and use your scissors to cut it out, but leave the seam allowance on the bottom.

Okay, here’s where everyone’s favorite tool, the seam ripper, comes into play. (Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with mine, but this part is easy and quick, I promise.) Take your antenna and hold it in place at the top of the hat where you want to attach it. Using your seam ripper, break the stitch on the arch of the hat at the points where the antenna’s stitch line touches it. This marks either end of the section of stitching you are going to rip out to create a hole into which you will later slip the end of your antenna.

Once you have broken the stitch at each end, continue using your seam ripper to remove all the stitches and extra thread in between. As I mentioned, you’re goal is to create an opening for your antenna.

Now, insert your antenna into the hole and use either your fingers or a straight pin to hold it in place as you use your sewing machine’s straight stitch one last time to stitch over exactly the same line you just finished ripping out (closing the arch of the head with the antenna’s base stuck inside).

Next flip the hat inside out and use your scissors to trim any excess fabric (again leaving a 1/8th inch seam allowance) to make the hat more comfortable for baby.

Flip the hat right side out again.

It is now time to locate the back of your hat.  The back of your hat is determined by looking at both sides and deciding which side looks the ugliest. That’s the back. If both sides are equally unattractive you can play eeny-meeny-miny-moe, or flip a coin. It’s up to you.

Now, get your fabric headband and lay it out flat, with the seam centered on the bottom. Mark a dot at the center front of the headband, and on each folded edge, a half inch below the top edge of the headband.  Similarly, mark a dot (with disappearing ink or removable chalk or pencil) on the bottom edge of the center front, center back, and each folded edge of the hat. Now slip your headband inside the hat and stretch it out to check that the marks line up nicely. Then place pins at the front and back, keeping the corresponding dots matched up, to make it easier to sew. The point is to evenly distribute the headband around the hat so that it doesn’t bunch all in one place.

Warning:  Sewing an infant’s hat this small is NOT easy to do on a sewing machine with a standard size sleeve thingy. (Yes that’s *my* technical term for the part of the machine usually used for sewing sleeves or other circular seams.) My machine has a standard size sleeve thingy and I barely managed it. If you’re baby’s head diameter came out smaller than mine and your sleeve thingy is standard sized, you may want to consider borrowing one with a smaller sleeve thingy.

Use your machine’s standard zig-zag stitch to sew along (and just slightly over) the edge of the hat to attach it to the headband with a 1/4-1/2 inch seam allowance inside the hat. Don’t worry if the headband moves a little vertically making your seam allowance inconsistent. As long as you have at least 1/4 inch you should be fine. It’s most important to get the horizontal distribution right so pay attention to those matching dots. You will need to use your hands to manipulate the elastic band through the machine as it will want to squeeze shut and stay put instead of moving with the feed dogs (feed dogs are those teeth like things under the needle that help the fabric move from the front of the machine to the back of the machine).

Once you’ve accomplished that task, stop and admire your work! You’re nearly done, the most difficult part is over, and the hat is looking great!

Toy Story Alien Infant's Costume Hat so far....

If you’re making a Toy Story Alien like me, the only thing left is to add one giant eye (the aliens in the movie had 3 but you’re kid already has two so adding just one central eye should create the right effect).  Since sewing in a circle is hard at any size and doubly difficult in small scale, I suggest either using embroidery thread to create a small knot in the middle or hot gluing your eye to your hat. (Please be sure baby isn’t modeling it at the time!!!) If you can find a large enough googly eye to purchase, great! Glue that thing on and you’re done! (But keep in mind you’ll need to glue it to the felt portion of the hat since the glue won’t hold well on the headband.) If not, just buy a sheet of white felt and a sheet of black felt (ought to be less than $0.80), cut out one large white circle and one significantly smaller black circle. Glue or knot the black circle in the middle of the white circle, then glue or knot both circles to the front, center of your hat, and voila!

Congratulations! You have just completed your Toy Story Alien infant’s costume hat!

Optional Steps & Tips:

* As a mom you know how unpredictable a baby’s growth can be. If you are making your costume a month or more in advance you may want to consider adding a half inch to the diameter measurement (in addition to the 1 inch seam allowance) to leave room for a growth spurt.

* If you want to make a butterfly’s costume hat, simply purchase an extra sheet of felt, fold it in half, draw two antennae, stitch and cut as directed above, then make two openings in the arch of the hat instead of one and stitch the antenna in. A dog’s floppy ears would work the same, except that you may want to use just one layer of felt instead of two to make them more floppy. It’s up to you.

I hope that you enjoyed this how-to and understood the instructions given. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at !


About heartmama

Hello, my name is Kathleen. My husband Luke and I were married in 2001 and we have 3 wonderful bio-sons: Ethan, born Oct. 2005, Quintin, born Feb. 2008, and Liam born June, 2010. We are looking forward to the day when our daughter(s) will join our family.
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2 Responses to How to make an infant’s costume hat for about $2

  1. Whitney says:

    Would you be willing to make and sell one? I’m not a very good sewer and I need one for this Halloween.

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