If you've ever bought the hat you've always wanted only to find it hugs your crown just a little too tightly, you may have experienced an unpleasant headache as well as a case of buyer's remorse. However, a too-small hat isn't a terminal problem: there is something you can do to resize hats to fit your head perfectly.
Almost any hat will stretch when handled with the proper patience and tools, even stiff, formal hats. Wool stretches easily two sizes; felt should be handled with more care as it tears easily when wet. Leather also stretches, although it takes longer.
Hat Resizing Tools
Use a spray bottle and warm water or the steam from a stove-top teakettle. A garment steamer is also a good option; the steam is the agent that makes stretching possible, so it's the most important tool to have.
Measure the circumference of your head where the hat rests, then find an object (such as a bowl or pot) of the same circumference. A bowl is a good option because of the gradual curvature that will be more forgiving on your hat while it is stretching.
A Hat Jack, sold in most hat retail stores and many western stores, is designed for resizing hats. The Hat Jack consists of two curved pieces of wood that fit inside the hat brim, attached to a screw-like device that acts like a reverse vice, pushing the wooden components outward in small increments.
However, you can use household items although you may need to be a little creative. The greatest challenge is to find something oblong, not round, so that your hat retains its shape.
Dampening the Hat Band
Dampen the inside band of the hat. Fill a spray bottle with warm water and lightly spray the inside band until it is damp, but not soaked. You could also bring water to boil in a teakettle and carefully hold the hat over the steam, directing the steam towards the inside hat brim to dampen it; the same goes for a garment steamer.
Resizing your Hat
Immediately place the hat onto the stretching object and pull firmly from the base, not tugging on the brim. Tugging on the brim can warp your hat. Don't push the hat too far too soon. It could lose its shape if you don't progress slowly. Stretch it a little, then leave it for an hour. Re-dampen the band each time you stretch it a little farther, trying it on every time.
Once you find the hat has stretched sufficiently so that it fits perfectly, replace the hat on its stretching object and leave it for a few hours so that it stiffens at the perfect size. On this final hours-long stretch, it is not necessary to re-dampen the inside of your hat.
Maintaining your Hat Size
Keep whatever you used to stretch your hat handy for maintaining your hat's shape. A crushed hat in a suitcase isn't a cause for concern, just dampen, reshape, fit onto your stretching object and let it dry.
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Rachel's work has awarded her two scholarships and she has been published twice in Headwaters Magazine. She has a BA in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Asheville; she has five years of professional writing and editing experience.