DIY Coonskin Cap

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DIY Coonskin Cap

Craft and don a coonskin cap like the pioneering greats Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett with this instructional guide.

September 16, 2013

Edited By Abigail R. Gehring

Anyone who wants to learn basic living skills, the kind employed by our forefathers, and adapt them for a better life in the 21st century need look no further than the eminently useful, full-color guide, Back to Basics (Skyhorse Publishing, 2008). The following DIY coonskin cap guide is excerpted from Part 5, “Skills and Crafts for House and Homestead.”

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Back to Basics.


The coonskin cap has been an American favorite from pioneer days to the age of television. Its origins predate the arrival of the white man — the oldest painting of an American Indian shows an individual wearing a round hat with a raccoon tail attached to the crown. By the time pioneers were beginning to settle Kentucky and Tennessee, the coonskin hat had evolved into the hunting cap that we associate with Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett.

When making a coonskin cap, use a large skin, free of blemishes and bald spots, with a tail that is full and well marked. Cut the pattern out of a heavy grocery bag, baste it together, and check to make sure you have the fit you want. The crown should be somewhat elongated — about an inch longer than it is wide. When cutting the leather, use a razor-sharp knife and cut on the skin side.

Tanning and Leatherwork

Finished cap should look like a single piece of fur without any seams showing.

1. Pattern consists of four pieces. Crown (A) is the size and shape of the head at its widest. Headband is in three pieces (B, C, D), each about 4 in. wide.
2. Join pattern pieces A and B with pins and place them on flesh side of skin close to tail. Use felt-tip pen to mark pattern. Cut A, B, and tail as one piece.
3. Place pattern pieces C and D on flesh side of skin near where A and B were cut; mark with pen and cut. Grain and color of new fur pieces should match piece B.  
4. Use knife to slice base of tail one-third of way in at each side, then use blanket stitch to sew tail together into a tubular shape all the way down its length.  
5. Blanket stitch is often used for joining pieces of fur. Use fine needle and nylon thread. Do not pull thread too tightly or you may cut the leather.  
6. Bring edges of fur together when sewing, then stitch through. Be careful that hair is not gathered into seam, otherwise seam will be visible.  
7. After tail is sewn, join rear part of headband (B) to crown. Sew on the skin side, and make stitches close so that joined fur looks like a single piece.  
8. Add pieces C and D to headband and continue sewing to crown after testing for fit. Pieces C and D may need to be trimmed a bit so that the cap fits properly.  
9. Satin lining can be added. Use same pattern except cut C and D as one piece. Turn cap inside out, then join lining to leather along lower edge only.

Read more from Back to Basics: DIY: How to Make Moccasins.

Reprinted with permission from Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills edited by Abigail R. Gehring and published by Skyhorse Publishing, 2008. Buy this book from our store: Back to Basics.

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