How to Sew a Sunbonnet. A sunbonnet shaded our ancestors from the harsh rays of the sun for centuries. It is also a practical item, as it can be very lightweight and wind-resistant thanks to the long ties. It is also not terribly difficult to make.
Creating the Pattern
Draw these pattern pieces onto a paper bag to create the paper pattern: the crown (which includes the duckbill, or the piece that shields the back of your neck from the sun), two brim pieces, two drawstrings and two ties. The crown is 17 inches long and 8 ½ inches wide. The top of the crown is half an arc that extends into a straight line. Either draw the curve freehand or use something curved as a guide. Make a mark 1/2 inch beyond the crown and 3 inches below the bottom of the crown and use a yard stick to draw the straight lines; this will form the duckbill at the bottom of the crown.
Create the brim patterns for your sunbonnet by drawing half of an arc that measures 9 inches wide and 7 inches tall. Repeat the process so you will end up with two brim patterns.
Create two patterns for the draw and drawstring: the draw will be 1 by 17 inches, the drawstring 1 inch by 20 inches.
Make one tie pattern that measures 1 by 12 inches.
Cutting the Cloth
Buy 1 ½ yards by 1 yard of cloth that's fairly wrinkle resistant in the color or pattern (floral, gingham, striped) of your choice.
Get a 36 by 18 inch piece of heavy muslin or something to use as backing for the brim.
Lay the printed fabric for your sunbonnet on the table and fold it in half, the printed side facing in.
Pin the pattern pieces to the cloth, making certain that the straight edge of the curved pieces (the crown/duckbill patterns and the brim) abut the center fold.
Trace around the patterns with tailor's chalk or a pencil, then draw another line around each pattern piece adding ½ inch for a seam allowance. Do not use an indelible marker as the ink can bleed through to the good, printed side of the fabric.
Cut around the pattern pieces with sharp scissors. Make certain to cut along the line that's ½ inch from the pattern pieces.
Repeat the process with the piece of 36 by 18 inch piece of muslin, but cut only one brim piece.
Assembling the Brim
Open the fabric pieces of the brim and lay one of the printed pieces on the table, printed side up. Lie one opened muslin brim piece upon it, and one printed brim piece atop that, printed side down.
Sew along the curved edge of the brim, then turn the brim piece inside out so that the printed fabric is now on the outside. To aid in this process, you may cut small darts in the fabric, being careful not to cut through the line on which you'll sew.
Press the brim flat with an iron. Be careful to set the iron at the proper setting for your cloth so you do not burn scorch marks into the fabric.
Sew seven more parallel lines into the brim, an inch apart, to add stiffness to the brim. Do this on the printed side of the fabric.
Assembling the Sunbonnet's Crown
Finish the bottom of the duckbill lying it on the table, printed side down, and folding up the bottom ½ inch and pressing it flat with an iron. Tuck the raw end of the fabric in, and press it flat, then sew it in place either by hand or with a machine.
Lay the 17-inch draw and fold it in half, printed side out. You may press it flat with an iron, but just folding it and pressing it with your fingers can be enough. Lay the crown/duckbill piece on the table, printed side down, and place the 17-inch draw piece to the unprinted side of the fabric.
Line up the draw so that the middle of the draw (the folded line) will match up with the line that separates the crown from the duckbill and pin it, then sew it in place. Finish the draw by tucking in the raw edges and sewing them down. Do not sew the ends of the draw.
Fold the drawstring in half, printed side in, and sew along its length.
Turn the drawstring printed side out, and press it flat. Tuck the raw ends in, and sew them closed. Fold the drawstring in half again, and sew along the edge of the length, forming a "string." Feed the drawstring through the draw, until both ends hang out either side of the draw in even lengths. You can use a safety pin attached to one end of the string to aid in this process. Tuck in the ends of the draw.
Thread a needle with fairly stiff thread and make long, running stitches along the curved end of the crown. Do not knot the thread; wind one end of the thread around a straight pin, and leave the other end of the thread hanging. Create gathers in the fabric by gently pushing the fabric back toward the end of the thread that's wound around the pin. Do this until the curved end of the crown and the curved end of the brim are the same length. Make certain the gathers look even before pinning the two pieces and sewing them together. Be careful to lay the brim to the finished side of the crown when pinning it.
Assembling the Ties
Fold the ties in half, printed side in, then sew along the length.
Turn the ties printed side out and finish the ends.
Finish the ends so they're square or, for interest, tuck the ends in at an angle and sew them closed.
Assembling the Sunbonnet
Turn the brim down and press it with the iron.
Pin the ties to the inside edges of the brim, near where they meet the crown, and check the placement by putting on the bonnet in front of a mirror. If the placement suits you, sew the ties in place.
Adjust the gathers of the duckbill by gently pulling on the drawstring and tying the ends into bows. Your sunbonnet is complete.