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Hat Making Materials - Traditional and New Performance Fabrics

There are an overwhelming variety of material used in hat making, past and present. In this summary we have only included materials most often used in modern millinery.


Hat making materials - woven straw


We often overlook, that natural, organic straw hats are handmade by straw weavers. The fibers are plaited or woven into cone-shape hoods. Weaving the cone can take 25-60 hours depending on the tightness and quality of the weaving, and experience of the weaver.

Raffia palm has long leaves, up to 80 feet, of which the veins are used to make hats bag, shoes, ties, textiles. Hats are crocheted, woven or it is braided and sewn into a hat. Often one long strand is used for a hat. The hats are lightweight, airy, durable, and often foldable.

 Braided Raffia Hat  Crocheted Raffia Hat Woven raffia fedora for women

Toquilla palm is used to make the famous Ecuadorian Panama hats. The fibers are sorted based on thickness, evenness, color, texture. The fibers are handwoven into cone-like shape hood, then blocked into a desired style. Based on the tightness of weave, the hats are sorted by grade, the higher the grade, the pricier the hat. Toquilla fibers are woven into a cone-like shape, then shaped into a desired style. These hats are lightweight, breathable. The best quality Montecristi Panamas are weaved only by master weavers in the Montecristi region of Ecuador. In recent years bleached palm fiber is increasingly used to make inexpensive version in China.

Palm leaf straw is hand braided tightly, then sewn by overlapping the braids. More overlaps per inch create smoother, more durable, water repellent, and sun protective hats.  

burnt palm leaf safari gardener hat palm leaf wide brim safari hat for women  Palm Leaf Visor

Seagrasses grow in coastal, saline environments. A variety of species are used in their natural yellowish, brownish hues. They are loosely woven into hats.  

Seagrass summer fedora hat for men Twisted seagrass wallaroo men's fedora hat woven seagrass cowboy hat

Rush straw is thick and stiff straw with a green hue. Hats made of rush straw are also stiff, and they often crack, but they are lightweight and airy. Generally inexpensive gardening hats, lifeguard style beach hats. 

fancy-weaved-dyed-rush-western-hat-dpc-outdoor rush straw gardening hat lifeguard hat

Wheat straw, double wheat or single wheat, is thick and coarse. The hats made of wheat straw are stiff. Laichow is wheat straw plaited into a braid.

tommy bahama wheat straw fedora laichow sun visor orange laichow 1920s boater hat

Milan strawonce upon a time it meant the beautiful golden color wheat straw grown in sandy soil, but nowadays it refers more to the braiding style of the original Milan straw hats. It is most often synthetic fibers, hemp paper. 

wheat straw cloche summer dress hat

Sinamay is made from Abaca plant fiber (grown in the Philipines). Unlike raffia, abaca fiber is obtained from the leaf stalks, not the leaves. Hats are blocked from a stiffened flat sheet, or a loosely woven hood. Usually fancy hats, derby hats and fascinators are made of sinamay. Pinok Pok, higher quality, tigher woven sinamay.

sinamay capeline kentucky derby hat large sinamay fascinator with loops for wedding abaca crunch sinamay fascinator headband

Sisal is made from sisal plant. The fibers are produced by beating and crushing the leaves. Then sorted into grades based on texture. The finer grades are used for weaving hoods. Sisal is used to make ropes and twines, especially because of its resistance to deterioration in salt water. Some "sinamay" hats are made of sisal. Parasisal is woven with 2 over 2 weave, Fine sisal with 1 over 1 (linen) weave, Wicker sisal with fish net weave.

sisal bolero

Buntal made of talipot palm. Scarce nowadays. 

Balibuntal tommy bahama fedora

Jute is a vegetable fiber made from the stem and skin of jute plants. Produced primarily in India and Bangladesh. Jute fabric is loosely woven strings of material with a golden shine. It is strong and breathable. Used mainly for bands and accents.

Burlap, hessian fabric, crocus made of jute or sisal plants.

raffia gambler golf hat with jute band organic raffia gambler golf hat with jute band and palm tree pin

Hemp straw is one of the first plants used to spun into useable fiber. Hemp straw is refined into paper and textiles. Pure hemp’s texture is similar to linen.

hemp fedora hat for men

Manila hemp, which is used to weave hats is a species of banana, abaca;

Maize - corn straw

Maize cowboy hat

Xian is an oriental straw, seagrass.




paper braid material for hat making tweed

Truly more than just look-alike. Hats made of these fibers make a cost effective, durable substitute for the organic straw hats. These paper fibers are processed from hemp, rice, most often, and machine made into sheets, or braids. Then sewn, shaped, and possibly glazed. 

Toyo straw is rice paper. The yarn is generally woven by machines. Then pressed, steamed and finished with a plastic glaze. The yarn can also be braided, crocheted. Toyo straw hats are lightweight and comfortable to wear. Bangkok weave has a perpendicular pattern, that gives a knobby, bumpy, unique look. 

white toyo panama hat Handwoven Toyo Hat pinned up back womens sun hat

women's summer cloche bucket straw hat burnt toyo safari fedora mens hat crochet toyo cowboy hat with tribal motif

Shantung straw is machine woven paper fiber. It is woven into a flat sheet, then blocked into the desired hat shape. Also refers to a type of weave when a rougher yarn runs crosswise. 

shantung boater hat biltmore made in usa  

Paper braidtwisted paper strands are plaited into a continuous length of braid. Then with slight overlap sewn into the hood starting from the center. The hood then shaped into the desired style. Paper braid hats are often made of paper-cotton, or paper polyester blends.

great hats by karen keith straw bucket hat for women extra large brim beach hat for women sun n sand wide brim womens fedora hat with black ribbon rose band

st tropez fedora panama hat wallaroo mens hat sun n sand straw fedora hat milan straw panama hat scala mens hat



Textile hat making materials linen cotton hats


Cotton is a fluffy, almost pure cellulose fiber, spun into yarn to make textiles, such as terrycloth, denim, cambric (batiste), seersucker, twill. Cotton is often blended with other natural or synthetic fibers, like linen, rayon, polyester, paper. Cotton hats are very comfortable to wear, breathable, hypoallergenic, washable and packable. Blends take advantage of other properties, to prevent shrinking, fading, wrinkling.

100% cotton ladies golf hat  rough cotton womens hat cotton sun visor coil closure

Twill is cotton, it is just woven in parallel diagonal ribs versus plain weave (over-under, over-under)

brushed twill safari hat with chin cord   usa flag baseball cap twill boonie hat with chin strap

Denim is cotton in twill weave of hard twisted ply yarns. The warp thread is indigo dyed, the weft/filling thread is white. 

denim emoji baseball cap Denim up brim golf hat ho headache midsize clip on sun visor 

Terry cloth is an uncut pile weave of cotton or linen. The loops can be on one or both sides. Mostly bucket style hats are made of terrycloth, but you'll find it often as sweatbands inside hats and sun visors. 

terrycloth sun visor

Seersucker also cotton plain weave with permanently woven-in crinkled stripes. Mostly children's hats and sun visors.

seersucker cotton sun visor with coil

Gingham is a closely woven cotton fabric. Dyed yarn is woven to create stripes, plaids. Has a soft, lustrous look.

Flannelette is a plain or twill woven cotton fabric. Used to line winter headwear. 

Canvas is mostly cotton or linen blended with a polymer, in plain weave, or a tighter duck weave. It is a heavy-duty fabric, few hats are made of canvas, but often tighter woven cotton fabrics are described as canvas.

canvas duckbill cap for men canvas up brim womens hat

Linen is made of the fibers of flax plant. Linen is lightweight, durable, moisture absorbent, more lustrous than cotton. It is a high maintenance fabric, wrinkles easily.  Linen hats are very comfortable, cooling on hot days. The classic linen weave often disguises other materials, usually cotton, as linen.

 100 % Linen hat with chin strap linen sun visor with curly coil closure 

Ramie is a made of the inner bark of stems from a wide variety of nettle family plants. Ramie is one of the olders fiber used to make fabric. Very easy to care for, does not shrink or lose its shape, it becomes stronger when wet, and more lustrous with washing. Also referred to as grass linen. 



Polyester fibers are synthesized from petroleum-based products. Polyester fabrics are durable, resistant to stretching, shrinking, and wrinkling. Hats made from polyester keep their shape, color, washable and dry quickly. Polyester fibers are made into yarn, and plaited and braided, just as straw. These hats mimic the look of straw hats with the advantage, that can be worn safely in water without damaging the hat.

polyester boonie hat with mesh  cabana solair breezer dpc soaker hat with mesh side

Nylon is also a polymer base, lightweight, durable, stretch, wrinkle, fade and shrink resistant synthetic fabric. Nylon is less hydrophobic than polyester, thus it absorbs moisture better. Open construction nylon fabrics permit air circulation, so it feels cool on hot summer days. Nylon can be lustrous or dull. Hats made of nylon are easy care, washable, quick to dry. Dirt doesn't cling to its smooth fibers, can even be cleaned with a moist cloth. 

girls cap with sun shield neck cap petite women size aqua hat for swimming

Acrylic is lightweight, soft material that can be made to mimic wool, cashmere or cotton. It is often blended with other natural fibers. It is washable, colorfast, but some may fuzz. 

kids pom pom beanie with warm sherpa lining

SUPPLEX® Nylon is an advanced nylon fabric. It is engineered to combine the soft, supple touch of cotton with the strength, durability and performance advantages of nylon. Clothing made from Supplex® stays new-looking longer. It will never fuzz or pill. That means your headwear will retain its great shape and vibrant color through sun, surf and repeated launderings.

supplex nylon boonie golf hat for men supplex nylon baseball cap supplex nylon aussie


Viscose Rayon is a man-made fiber from naturally occurring cellulose base material; usually wool pulp. As it is cellulose based, it has similar properties to cotton. Moisture absorbent (more than cotton), breathable, easily dyed, soft, hypoallergenic, comfortable to wear. It also wrinkles easily and doesn't have good durability or shape retention, very low elastic recovery. Rayon fabrics can imitate the feel and texture of silk, wool, cotton, linen. Produced in a variety of weaves, jersey knit, velvet, jacquard.  Hats are made of rayon blend materials.

Organza is a plain weave sheer fabric made of silk or synthetic fibers. It is light as air, transparent, smooth, crisp, and has subtly sheen. Produced in a variety of textures: crystal organza-shimmering, mirror organza-reflective, crushed organza-crinkled, satin organza-on side is lustrous. Many of our dress hats are made of organza fabric. It is also used to embellish women’s hats. 

large organza hat with feather

Silk is a luxurious natural fabric (80% fibroin, 20% sericin). It has a smooth, soft texture, luster. Silk is also moisture absorbent and doesn't conduct heat, just like wool. This makes it a comfortable wear for winter and summer.  

Satin is the name of the weave, not an actual fabric. Four weft threads covered by one thread in twill weave. Originally was made of silk thread, but now is mostly polyester. This causes one side of the fabric to be smooth and shiny, and the reverse side to be matte. Hats, scarves, gloves made of satin or accessorized by satin look luxurious. Other materials, such as wool or cotton can also be woven with satin weave. Sateen is cotton woven in satin, Gattar is a mix of silk and cotton, Baronet satin has rayon face and cotton back,

Taffeta, also not a fabric, but a weave. The filling yarn is heavier then the warp yard, creating a fine ribbed look. Taffeta can be cotton, rayon, nylon, used alone or in a combination.

Chiffon refers to a light, sheer plain weave fabric. It is woven in open weave with tightly twisted yarns. It really should be used to refer to the lightness of the fabric, as chiffon satin, or chiffon taffeta. Synthetic fibers, silk or wool can be used to make chiffon. 

Crinoline is a coarse fabric, used to be for petticoats. Some of our dress hats are accented with crinoline. 

Horsehair nowadays is made of synthetic fibers, nylon or saran. Horsehair nets are open weave fabrics. Many of our fascinators, and hat embellishments are made of horsehair. 

Tulle is a fine, small hexagonal mesh net lightweight fabric. 

Wool is made of soft animal fibers, most often merino sheep or lamb, but can be alpaca, camel, llama, angora goat. Wool fabrics are durable, wrinkle resistance, moisture wicking, flame resistant, hypoallergenic. What is cool about wool, is that it keeps you warm due to its insulating properties, and keeps you cool due to its breathable air pockets. 

patchwork wool flat cap  

Boiled Wool is made by shrinking knitted or woven wool or wool blend fabrics in hot water. This creates a tigher felt-like fabric. Many of our beanies and berets are made of boiled wool.

boiled wool womens beanie with flowers red beanie hat for women petite size wool

Wool felts are made from wool fibers matted together in steam and alkali. It is not woven, so it won't unravel. Natural wool has a waxy coat on its surface that makes it water and stain resistant. Same as wool, wool felt is fire resistant, and hypoallergenic.

wool felt bolero light grey womens hat Wool felt cloche with velvet bow wool felt safari hat for men

Wool blend feltsusually wool felt and rayon blend. Softer than 100% wool felt, wrinkles easier, only slightly water resistant. How much of the benefits of wool is retained depends on the percentage of wool vs rayon in the blend. 


Modern Felts, acrylic felt is made of interlaced acrylic (plastic). Advantage over wool felt, is that it will not shrink, bleach and dyes won't stain it. Disadvantage, it will fuzz, not flame resistant. Eco-felt is made of recycled plastic. Also referred to as vegan felt, fashion felt.

Fashion felt, vegan felt safari hat with red under brim


Bouclé yarn is made of two plies of uneven tension creating loops and curls. Bouclé fabric can be knitted or woven of bucle yarn. It appears nubby. It can be wool, wool blend, acrylic, etc.
boucle beanie 
Tweed is a closely woven, rough surfaced wool fabric. Woven from multicolor wool yarn by plain or a variation of  twill weave (herringbones, diamonds, chevrons, checks weave. Tweed is also made of wool blends. 

Cassimere is a closely woven wool fabric.

Cashmere wool is obtained of cashmere- and other types of- goats. Cashmere wool is softer, finer, stronger and more insulating than other wool. But not all cashmere is alike. There is enormous price difference, due to the length and strength of fibers. 

Polar fleece, soft polyester fabric. Used for cold weather headwear and inner lining.

Velvet is a pile weave smooth fabric. It can be made of silk, cotton or synthetic fibers. Hats, caps, berets, scarves are made of velvet. Also used to accent and line hats.

wool felt cloche hat with wide velvet bow

Chenille refers to the type of short cut yarn used. Fabrics woven of chenille yarn.

Chambray has a white frosted appearance, due to a white yarn used in the warp.

Batiste is a sheer fabric made of wool, rayon, cotton, silk or linen.

Fur, soft, thick animal hair. Fur felt is most often made of rabbit, beaver, hare skin. It is softer than wool felt. Mohair is a high qualifty fur felt, usually made of rabbit fur. Peachbloom very high quality rabbit fur felt. 

Leather is made from the skins of animals, mainly cattle, sheep and goat. Semi-aniline and pigmented leather are surface coated with pigment to provide consistent color and stain resistance. The surface of the leather is abraded to remove imperfections (full grain is not sanded). Finished split and antique grain leather is treated to mimic a grain leather or a worn look.

leather outback hat made in usa timeport leather steampunk hat with watch crusher outback leather hat made in usa

Suede a leather with a napped finish. 

monterey breeze outback made in usa hat

COOLMAX® Fabrics CoolMax® fabric is the industry leader when it comes to moisture management. Many customers look to CoolMax® fabric for their activewear needs. People require different levels of comfort in their activities. CoolMax® classification system of three distinct performance levels help you optimize your performance and keep cool and dry during workouts, sports, adventure or leisure. Whatever your degree of activity, CoolMax® has you covered. 

HYPERKEWL™  Evaporative cooling material is a unique fabric that absorbs and slowly releases water through evaporation. When the water evaporates, a cooling effect occurs, "super-charging" the body's natural cooling process helping the wearer to combat heat stress. Simply soak your hat in water for 1-2  minutes, gently squeeze out the water and enjoy the cooling effects for 5-10 hours. HyperKewl™ hats.

HyperKewl cooling soaker hat    HyperKewl cooling hat with insect repellent  No Fly Zone™ Cooling Outback Hat with Chin Cord - Stetson Hats




Descriptions and Names of Men's and Women's Hat Styles and Parts of a Hat