Where’s my Popcorn: How to make Walt’s Ostrich Hat

For D23 Destination D in 2016 I knew I wanted to make something fun to wear that only deep fans of Disney history would get. For a few years I have been marveling over the odd phenomenon of the ever present ostrich feather fedora hat seen in tourist pictures and on Walt Disney himself from the 1960s – 1970s. Being a fairly easy craft I knew I could whip this together while doing other projects (see my Fiber Optic Skirt). This is a semi-homemade craft with the lowest skill level:

Items needed:  one ostrich feather (the bigger the better), a white fedora style hat, fabric dye (such as RIT) – optional gloves for using the dye

Skills needed: ability to follow fabric dye directions and stir

The first challenge is finding the ostrich feather. Not having person access to my own ostrich polo team that meant a trip to the craft store. I found that the time of year effected the availability of the types of feathers. Ostrich feathers apparently are a seasonal item for early summer weddings and Halloween 1920s gangsters costumes.

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All of the examples I have found of the classic hat involved bold bright colors such as vibrant blue and pink. There were no natural or subtle tones, so picking a white or artificially dyed feather will get you started. I chose a white feather so that when I dyed the hat and feather they would match.

The hat took a few months of keeping my eye open for just the right time. I was picky in that I wanted a more classic fedora style rather than a modern shape. I also did not want a pinstripe on the fabric of the hat, and needed it to be white so that it would be dye-able. I had the best luck in fall as end of summer items were on sale and Halloween costumes for (again) 1930s gangsters were out.

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Some thoughts on dying (yep, I said it): natural fibers and synthetic fibers hold the dye color differently. There are a lot of helpful videos and instructions out there so I won’t review it all here. If your hat has a mix of fibers, like mine which had a build in accent ribbon, then it may take the color differently. My hat had natural fibers for the base and synthetic fibers for the ribbon. You can see the base of the hat took in more color than the ribbon.

Follow the instructions for using the fabric dye (it can be either powder or liquid). I do this in a bucket that is itself inside a large sink or bathtub. The dye can be easy to splash, so be very careful and/or be in an area that can be stained. This is where gloves can be a help, or you will look like Lady Macbeth (ask the theatre kids). Soak both the feather and the hat in the dye, the longer the better. I wanted a vibrant color like in the pictures, so I waited overnight to rinse. Hats are made by shaping wet fabric, so while you want to get the liquid dye all over the hat it also might not be best to have underwater. I happened to have a squirt bottle from a tie dye craft that was very useful.

Let the items dry with well circulated air. I put mine on an old cookie rack for airflow around and under. I also periodically fluffed out the feather. Birds get wet in real life so it doesn’t hurt the feather to be wet and then re-dried.

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The last step is to connect the feather to the hat. I knew I would be traveling so I wanted my feather detachable. I merely bent the lower wire to wrap around the hat brim. For more permanence you could put a dab of glue (such as hot glue or tacky/craft glue).

For added cool factor carry around some popcorn for your friends to steal, just like Walt Also, don’t be a jerk to those behind you and remember to take your hat off for fireworks or on rides.

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