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How to Sew a Surgical Cap - Pattern & DIY Tutorial

Our local hospital has put out a call for 1,000 surgical or scrub caps to help them respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to sewing up a storm, I made this DIY Surgical Cap Tutorial to help others join in this effort. Below you'll find a free printable pattern, step-by-step tutorial and YouTube demo (my first, awkward attempt at a video - which was much harder than it looks!).

If you're local to Guelph, you can join Guelph Covid19 Surgical Cap Sewists on Facebook - donations are being coordinated there, and you can find out about current needs and where to drop off completed caps. I know that during this crazy time I feel better when I can do something productive, no matter how small (and the fact that it can be done at home while social distancing makes sewing the perfect way to contribute).

I've also been asked about where to buy fabric and supplies locally right now. Make 1 Guelph (where I also teach classes) is a lovely local fabric shop that is open online and has a beautiful selection of high quality quilting cotton perfect for caps and masks - they are currently offering free local no-contact delivery within Guelph (and $12 flat rate shipping Canada-wide). Highly recommended!

Here goes...

How to Sew a Surgical Cap - Step-by-Step Video Tutorial

Note: This pattern is provided for personal use only - please do not make caps to sell or make a profit using my pattern!



You'll need:

  • PRINTABLE SURGICAL CAP PATTERN (Click to download - print at 100% scale) 
    • *Note: If you don't have access to a printer, I have added a scale diagram of the pattern below, which will help you to draw the pattern out yourself.
  • Quilting cotton - about 1/3 metre (13") x width of fabric (44"- 45") (pre-washed and dried)
  • Coordinating thread
  • Two buttons (optional)
  • 1/4" elastic - 3" (optional)
  • Straight pins, fabric scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Sewing machine
  • Iron
Scale Diagram of Surgical Cap Pattern

Watch my YouTube tutorial above, or follow these instructions: 

  1. After printing or drawing your pattern, cut out the pattern pieces and tape Piece 1a and 1b together where indicated. Be sure to pre-wash and dry your fabric! This ensures your cap won't shrink the first time it's washed. Give your fabric a quick press to remove wrinkles, then fold in half so the selvedges meet. Lay out pattern pieces (being sure to place Piece 1 on the fold), and cut. 
    If you cut with your fabric doubled (like on the black fabric, above), you will get one side piece and two top pieces. In order to cut two caps at once, just flip your side piece up and cut a second side piece (like on the green fabric, below). This lets you make two caps out of about 1/3 m of fabric.
  2. Double fold back of Cap Top (Piece 2) and sew: Fold over the flat edge 1/4" to the wrong side and press, then fold another 3/8" and press. Sew a straight line across this folded edge. If you are using elastic in the back for a closer fit, thread it through this opening and baste at each edge. Elastics can make for a more snug fit, but are also prone to breaking down after repeated washings in hot water (like when they are sanitized frequently for hospital use) - so you can choose whether or not to use it in yours. 
  3. Attach Cap Top (Piece 2) to Cap Side (Piece 1): With right sides together, line up the centre front of both pieces and pin, then continue pinning along the curved edge of the Cap Top all the way around each side. With a 1/4"-3/8" seam allowance (it doesn't need to be precise), sew with a straight stitch all the way around, backstitching at the beginning and end of the seam. (Optional: if you have a serger, serge this edge all the way around, beginning and ending a couple of inches before and after the curved part of the side piece.)            
  4. Finish this seam with a zig zag or overlock stitch: Start and stop sewing a few inches before and after the curved part of the side piece (shown as a blue line in the photo below). Zig zag stitch all along the edge of this seam to finish it and prevent fraying.    


  5. Cap with serged edges (starting and finishing beyond the curved part of the pattern piece)
  6. Starting at the curved top edge, fold over the raw edges of the side piece by 1/4" all the way around and press (top edges with curve, bottom of cap, and ends of ties).             
  7. Fold the bottom of the cap side piece up to meet the top folded edge, press and pin in place. You can see below why we finished that seam in the first step - once the band is folded up, all raw edges are enclosed and the part of the curved edge left exposed is nicely finished.                    
  8. Beginning at the end of one tie, with the open edge facing towards you, sew along the open end of the tie, then along open top edge of the tie piece. 
  9. Start sewing down one open end of the tie. Continue along the open top edge of the tie until you get to the curved edge (see below).

    When you get to the curve, veer off and sew up the curve as far as the hem at the back of the top piece, then with your needle down in the fabric, pivot the cap to sew back down the curve until you meet your original stitching line (see photo with messy green arrows below). Pivot your cap (again with your needle down) and continue sewing around the entire hem of the cap until you get to the curve on the other side of the cap. Veer off again to sew this one the same way you did the first one. (See photo below and/or the video tutorial - this part will make sense when you see it!)

      Stitch in the direction shown by the green arrows - up the curved edge as far as the hem at the back of the top piece, then make one stitch across, then turn and come back down to meet your line of top stitching, then turn to continue stitching along the bottom hem.
      This shows what the stitching looks like on the right side of the cap. It's not the prettiest, but it really reinforces the part of the cap that gets the most stress when it's tied up. 
  10. Optional: Add buttons to the outside back of the cap - this gives medical staff a place to hook their masks, which gives their ears a break. (You can see button placement below - a towards the back of the cap, a few inches from the start of the ties.) I sew a batch of caps, then use my sewing machine to sew on the buttons all at once. To attach buttons by machine, remove your presser foot (or use a button-attaching foot if you have one), switch to a zigzag stitch with your stitch length set to 0, place your button under your needle and use your flywheel to carefully determine the correct stitch width that will sew from one buttonhole to the other. Set that width, then sew! I go back and forth about 10 times, then tie off my threads a few times by hand before clipping them short to make sure the button stays on. If you have any tips for machine-sewing buttons, please share them below!
  11. You're done!
I hope this tutorial is helpful! If you're making these to donate to local front line health care workers - thank you for doing your part while staying home and sewing. If you're a health care worker making one for yourself - thank you for your hard and selfless work keeping us all safe and healthy. Regardless of why you're making one, you're amazing. Stay home and stay safe out there. xo

                                                                                                                      

39 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing! The video was great! I am making caps forbmy coworkers at GGH

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    1. I can't download the pattern to print. Can anyone help please? thanks!

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  2. Does the fabric have to be 100% cotton. Or will cotton/poly broadcloth work?

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  3. Does the fabric have to be 100% cotton. Or will cotton/poly blend broadcloth work?

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  4. Got my answer re 100% cotton or not from the video. Fabulous video!!! Thanks.

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  5. Thank you so much for the pattern and instructions. I was asked to help make some for local hospitals. This is a blessing. Thank you again!!!

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  6. What size paper do you need to print out this pattern

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    1. It prints out on regular letter-sized paper (8.5" x 11"). Hope that helps!

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  7. can you put bottons on each side to hold the mask and save the ears?

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    1. Absolutely! I've been adding buttons to mine. I mention the buttons in step 8 of the tutorial. :)

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  8. How do I download the pattern

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    1. Click on the link to the Surgical Cap Pattern in the materials list!

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  9. Wonderful tutorial!!!! Here in Renfrew, Ontario they are also crying out for masks and caps. This tutorial and pattern is easy to follow and I will enjoy making some. People in the area have been so generous with fabric, elastic and encouragement. Let's go sewers!!!

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    1. I'm so glad it was helpful! Who knew that sewing would turn out to be a super power?! I know the caps you make will be greatly appreciated there. P.S. - My mom's family is from Renfrew! The Ottawa Valley is such a lovely place. Small world! :)

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    2. you are so awesome for taking the time to do this...much appreciated!!

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  10. Hi, Thank you for the pattern. I'm making these for nurse friends in Woodstock, NB!

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  11. Thank you the pattern worked great wish I could attach pictures UofM says thank you from Maize and Blue

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  12. What kind of thread is best to use?
    100% cotton, cotton polyester, or silk thread? With all the stresses of pulling, and tieing, what is your recommendation on the thread? Most durable?

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    1. I use General Purpose 100% polyester thread for sewing garments (or these caps) because it is generally stronger and more durable than cotton. That said, use what you have on hand!

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  13. Thanks Your a life saver (maybe literally) !! I am making caps for all my ICU CO-workers in New Brunswick NJ

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    1. You are the life saver! Thanks for doing what you do! xo

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  14. Very easy to follow, thank you for the pattern!

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  15. Hello - love this pattern! Thank you so much for sharing.
    I have just acquired a serger... any thoughts on if this would make the cap easier/ faster to make?

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  16. Does this fully cover a woman (or man's I suppose!) Ponytail or bun? Or does it stick out the back through the space above the ties?

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    1. Hi Melissa - No, this doesn't cover a ponytail or bun (it would stick out the back). There are different styles of patterns that you would use to make a ponytail surgical cap - you should be able to Google it to find one of those.

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    2. Thank you for replying! I made a few for my short hair friends and they love it! Take care :)

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  17. Hello from a Chicago RN! Many thanks for both the pattern and the video! Easy to make for a non-sewer like me, and an enjoyable way to spend my evening.

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  18. Thank you for being so clear and not requiring elastic! I am new to sewing and my niece is a nurse who desperately needs these. Your pattern and instructions were the only one I could understand. THANK YOU!!!

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  19. I'm making caps and masks to match, what a hit, everyone loves them. Such a great video, THANKS !

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  20. Hi from South Africa!! Thank you so much for sharing this pattern and tutorial for free. We are also making masks and caps for medical personnel fighting against Covid-19

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  21. Thanks so much for posting this very helpful information. I made masks for hospital staff in Greensboro, North Carolina, where I have nurse relatives. They just asked if I could do caps. Thanks to you my answer is yes.

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  22. I have formed a group of ladies here on the Jersey Shore that are making these for local hospitals - this was a perfect pattern with fantastic instructions!! A million thanks!!

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  23. Thank you so much for posting the pattern and the video - both are very clear and easy to understand. I am making caps for staff at Collingwood General and Marine Hospital

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  24. Thank you so much for the pattern and video - I'm in the UK and will be sewing these for our NHS local hospital.

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  25. Finely something my wife can make to help in the fight against the coronavirus, thanks.

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