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DIY Beaver Hat

Keeping Warm on the Kuskokwim

Beavers History Getting Beaver Treating Beaver Selecting Beaver DIY Beaver Hat Resources


They are really cute. Live in North America, Europe, and Asia. Build dams that are important for wetland habitats. Build "lodges" in resulting pond. Connection between beavers and their dams providing good places for salmon to spawn.

Fur Trade

Beaver pelts are a great raw material for the felt in European hats. About 30,000 pelts a year were exported from North America in the 1790's 1700's to mid 1800's Russians were the largest exporter of furs. Beavers nearly hunted to extinction. Beaver pelts slowly replaced by silk hats.

Beaver to the Yup'ik

"The parka she is wearing is one of many that she made over the years. She is a skin-sewer of great skill and artistry. This parka is made of beaver, wolf, marten, and wolverine, with the borders at wrist and hem made of cowhide trimmed with mink. In the old days, the animals would have been hunted by her sons and brought home for her to skin, stretch and tan the hides. She would have softened the leather by chewing it..." 2/wearing-fur.html

Yup'ik Sewing

Shell thimble Ivory needle case Sewing bag to hold needles, Thimble, sinew thread, small knife, and whetstone. Squirrel bone needles Skin scraper for scraping and tanning skins.

Other Yup'ik Uses

Beaver Castor "My grandmother used these beaver castors [scent glands] as medicine. The inner portion tasted like pitch from a tree, and they chewed them." - Timothy Myers

Getting Beaver

Trappers in the 18 and 19th century used various kinds of traps. The best time to trap beaver is in winter. Today, you can buy them in Bethel or Anchorage. You can also buy them over the internet.


Treating/Tanning the Beaver

Traditional method: 1. Wash away blood and dirt. 2. Stretch and dry. 3. Remove the flesh and fat. 4. Paste made of brains and other organic matter rubbed into hide and dried again. 5. Saturated in water and rolled up for the night. 6. Water squeezed out of hide, pounded to soften. 7. Smoked over smoldering fire.

Due to the difficulty of tanning hides, most people just either send their hides to a tannery or buy hides already tanned.

Selecting Your Beaver

Beaver furs come in various sizes. There are various colors. Variations in the browns, even reddish. Black furs are all dyed. Check your fur for holes. Small holes are okay. Think ahead about how you will place the pattern on the hide. For the inside of the flaps of your hat, you may consider using a sheered beaver fur.

DIY Beaver Hat

Not a top hat, but it will keep you warm.

1. I chose a XXXL brown beaver fur. This way it was large enough for one whole hat. (If I were to do it again, I would consider sheered beaver for the inside flaps.) 2. With a pencil, draw the pieces of the patter on the hide. Consider coloring of the hide so pieces will match. Also, think about the direction of the fur for each of the pieces.

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3. You will need to find glover needles (size 7?). You will also need tough waxed thread (4 split?). I used 10 yards of "4 split". 4. Carefully sew the two outside back panels together. Start at the top. 5. Sew the left and right flaps to the back. Start at the top. 6. Sew the pieces of the inner liner together.

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7.You will want strings/laces of some sort to hang from the flaps. This will secure the hat when you are driving fast on your snowmobile. They should be long enough to be sewn into the hat and hang from the flaps to your chest. 8. To sew the inner liner to the outside, put the fur together and sew it inside out.

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9. Continue sewing the inner portion to the outer panels. 10. When you get to the bottoms of the flaps, stop and sew in the strings/laces.

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11. After sewing in the laces, finish sewing the inside liner to the outside panels. 12. At this point, the hat is inside-out. You will now sew the front panel of the hat on. The flow/ grain of the front fur panel should be going up/back.

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13. Starting at the top, sew in the front panel to the hat. 14. You can add some furry beaver balls to the ends of your laces. To do so, cut some circular pieces of fur. 15. You will thread/sew around the edges of the circle. When you pull the thread tight, the circle's circumference will pull together to make a ball.

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16. Fur is probably to warm to be all of the inside liner. Choose a lighter weight material for the liner. 17. Use the pattern to cut the panels for the liner. 18. You can use a sewing machine to sew the liner. 19. Keep the hat insideout and hand sew the liner in.


Price depends on your fur choices (black is more expensive, using sheered requires a second pelt). My hat cost about $130 ($120 for fur, needles and thread were cheap). Furs are cheaper in Bethel than Anchorage. You can buy a beaver hat from $200 or more.

Resources Encyclopedia of American Indian Costume By Josephine Paterek (page 433) Secrets of Eskimo Skin Sewing by Edna Wilder


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