How to Make a Pioneer Bonnet

    by Michelle Powell-Smith

    About the Author

    Michelle Powell-Smith has been writing on a variety of subjects from finance to crafts since 2004. Her work appears on various websites. She holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in art history from the University of Missouri-Columbia, which has provided strong research skills and a varied range of interests.


    A pioneer bonnet is a delightful addition to a little girl's dress-up box, a useful costume option for school plays, and even practical sun protection. If you have a young fan of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, a pioneer bonnet is sure to be a well received gift. These bonnets are comfortable to wear and easy to make. Use the same basic pattern to make a bonnet for a baby or adjust it to fit an adult.

    Things You'll Need

    • Cotton print fabric
    • Lightweight cotton muslin
    • Thin quilt batting
    • 3/8 inch grosgrain ribbon
    • 3/8 inch elastic
    • Newsprint or pattern tracing paper
    • Compass
    • Sewing machine
    • Coordinating thread
    • Hand sewing needle
    • Quilting needle and thread
    • Iron and ironing board

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    Use a compass to draw the curves necessary for your bonnet. There are two pieces, a brim and a crown. Use the compass to draw a half-circle for the brim to begin. A a pioneer bonnet brim should have a 10 inch diameter for infants and toddlers, a 14 inch diameter for children, or around 17 inches in diameter for adults. Next make the pattern for the crown. Start with a circle the same diameter as the brim. At the widest part of the circle, draw a straight line down to the bottom of the shape on either side so that you have an arch shape with a flat bottom.

    Cut the entire bonnet pattern on the fold of a piece of lightweight cotton calico fabric, allowing for a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Cut one on the fold out of muslin to form your bonnet lining, again adding a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Cut the brim piece out of cotton batting.

    Pin the crown and the lining right sides together along the bottom straight edge, leaving the round part free. This will be the back of your bonnet. Stitch and clip the corners. Turn the crown right side out and press. Fold the raw edges of both sides of the back portion in and press them in place.

    Pin the bonnet brim and lining right sides together. Pin the batting into place on top of the lining, then sew along the straight side and around the sides of the brim, leaving a generous opening for turning. Trim seam allowances to a scant 1/4 inch, clipping corners on the diagonal. Turn and press.

    Gather the round part of the bonnet crown with three lines of stitching. Spread the gathered material to fit the free side of the brim. Pin the hat with right sides together and stitch the crown to the brim.

    Try on your pioneer bonnet and mark the base of the skull in the back. Stitch two lines along the back of your bonnet, spaced 1/2 inch apart. Thread elastic into this casing, using the remaining opening in your bonnet to access the casing, securing at either end with a backtack on your sewing machine or sew it into place by hand. Stitch any open area closed by hand.

    Quilt the brim of your pioneer bonnet. Work in straight vertical or horizontal lines for the most authentic look.

    Hand stitch ribbons into place near the brim to tie the bonnet under the wearer's chin.

    • Use modern interfacing, slats, or cording in the brim instead of batting to avoid quilting your bonnet.