One of the reasons I’ve come to like boats so much is that there are endless things to learn about and to do with them. The opportunity to gain new skills like varnishing, working with epoxy, knot tying, woodworking, and reading the weather abound.

Bicycling on the other hand is more like playing with Legos. You certainly have to know a few things, but by and large you buy stuff and go pedaling off. If you’re more creative, you might buy all the parts, then bolt them together, but for most cyclists, that’s where the creativity ends.

One realm of crossover between boats and biking for me (besides the self-propelled nature of the activities) is that I can sew accessories and gear myself. Not only are these things far less expensive when I make them, but they’re exactly the way I want them.

A few years ago I decided that wearing a hat under my helmet was not only stylish, but it kept the sun off my face and made it easier to see where I was going. I had this old store-bought greenish hat that fit perfectly between my enormous puffy hair and my brain bucket. But over time, the hat slowly started to disintegrate. I won’t repulse the reader by describing the nefarious cause of such issues, but needless to say, it was time to replace said hat.

Lots of bikers wear cute racing-style hats that might soak up sweat, but at best they have a tiny vestigial brim. As I’ve found the need to wear glasses if I wish to see anything with clarity beyond about 20 feet, a good brim has become all the more critical. I started to draw up a design brief for my new hat. It had to contain a lot of curly hair and fit over by big noggin. (Note, those hats with a tag that say “one size fits all” have never seen my head.) It would be nice if it actually fit under my helmet comfortably, without sliding around, and it looked good off the bike. Finally, I had the idea that the visor could be made large enough or broad enough to stop rain from flying into my glasses, ruining their functionality during most of the Portland commuting year.

With this in mind, I cut up my sad old hat and used some of the panels as a starting point for designing a new and better hat. The first model had a reasonable shape, but it came out, well a little small:

I made the second pattern a little larger and found that I succeeded in the goal of containing all that hair. Next, in order to get some nice thick canvas for the brim, I raided the scrap bin over at Lord’s Luggage. Using a variety of dinner plates I cut broad half circles and found that I was starting to get someplace.

The first brim was functional, but not much better than what I had before. The hat itself was mostly functional, except that I sewed at least one seam backwards, which made a dorky shark fin on the top. Still, I was sort of proud of my oddball creation.

I kept extending the brim and adjusting the pattern for the hat itself, moving just one or two variables with each prototype. I discovered that a tiny adjustment in any one seam, had a multiplier effect across the rest of the hat. The brim on the other hand, was really straight forward: a larger brim stuck further out, and perhaps a little father down.

It wasn’t long before I was making brims so large that to maintain structural integrity, I gave up on canvas and moved on to dry bag material. When I looked in the mirror and thought I recognized the creation on my head as a cap from the Handmaid’s Tale, I knew I’d gone too far.

Using an old, thick pair of discarded pants and a bit of leftover Sunbrella fabric from a boat project, I crafted my final draft. It didn’t stop the rain, though I figured out nothing would, but it worked beautifully on all other counts.

On a day when my hair was particularly unruly, I popped on the hat and cycled to work. Pulling off my helmet upon arrival, I strolled into the office. The hat was apparently stylish enough to others, that a couple of people asked me where I bought it!

Now that’s what I call a success.