How to make a Quilted Graduation Cap

Graduation Season is coming up!

Are you a quilter graduating this year? Do you know any students struggling to know how to decorate their graduation cap? Are you wondering exactly how to decorate your graduation cap with a quilt? I would love to help teach some things I learned while decorating my graduation cap by making a mini quilt! Read below to learn how I made my very own quilted grad cap for both my Undergraduate degree and then also for my MBA!

My experience making my first Quilted Grad Cap:

In December of 2015 I finished my undergraduate degree at the University of Florida (Go Gators!) and knew that I had to incorporate quilting into how I decorated my graduation cap, but couldn’t really find any examples of how it had been done before. So, naturally, I decided to wing it. I learned a lot through that process and really perfected it my second go around when I completed my MBA in 2017.

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I’ll walk you through the steps I took while making mine, so you can be confident when you make your very own quilted graduation cap!

First off, I measured my cap and saw that it was a 9.5 inch square, but had a little knob/button thing in the exact center for the tassel to go on. It’s important to note these features since you kind of need the quilt to fit!

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In order to design the quilt I first needed to find the pattern that I would use and gather the right fabrics.

At the time, I had just finished making a quilt with all kinds of blue fabrics so I simply used the scraps; that was the easy part. It turned out more difficult to find a pattern, so to make things easy I decided just to play around with squares and half square triangles. I did the math and determined an 8 inch finished quilt would work out well on the square graduation cap, and to keep things easy & simple, I decided to make each square or HST 1 inch finished, or 1.5″ with seam allowance. NOTE: while 9″ would have fit on the cap, there would not be seams directly in the center, which we need for the tassel.

Many quilters like to use graph paper to sketch out their designs before ever cutting into fabrics. You can see the design @thebackporchstitcher mocked up, and how useful this technique can be!

I personally just made a bunch of blocks and then played around with the layout until I liked it. If you look reallllly closely you might even spot where a couple of my tiny blocks got turned around incorrectly. I actually did not notice that until after graduation, but even if I had noticed sooner I probably would not have gone back to fix it.

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Once I had my 8″ block, I added borders on all sides to have something to actually adhere onto the mortar board. I added a 3″ border on each side but you really could get away with 1.5″ which I did on my next grad cap. I suggest having the border fabric match the color of your cap as close as possible (mine was black) but if it doesn’t, it will work out just fine; you’ll just need to put more work into making sure the fold-over attachment looks nice and even. Think about how the cap will look while you are actually wearing it! People see your face while also seeing the UNDERSIDE of the cap itself.

After your block is made and your borders are on, you will actually need to use your seam ripper ON PURPOSE. How fun! Find the exact center seams where the tassel button pops up, as those seams will need to modified just slightly to make room. Pick out the stitches for about a half inch in all 4 directions, and then fold the extra fabric underneath to create a diamond shape. You’ll want to squeeze the tassel button through the hole you just created and make sure its a snug fit. Then once that part is secure, you can carefully put your tassel onto the button on top of the quilted block.

Now that the quilt is centered on your cap and secured in the center, its time to secure the edges. I folded my borders over twice, to conceal the raw edge of the fabric, and then hand stitched it directly onto the fabric of my graduation cap. You could do mitered corners here if your borders are a little wider, or just square them up.

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If you are familiar with my quilting story, you already know about how my grandma “Tutu” taught me to quilt when I was a sophomore in college. I (surprisingly) did not tell her about my quilted graduation cap, and her first glance of it was from the nosebleed seats of the O’Connell Center, while I was on the floor of the arena walking into commencement. Rumor has it that she teared up a bit when she saw it and knew immediately that it was me!

Quilted Grad Cap: Round 2

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I have a confession to make: I actually did not even go to the graduation ceremony for my MBA. I did the whole degree program online so I did not really feel much of a connection to the school or my classmates. I decided to save the hassle and just celebrate at home with friends & family. Of course, I did still make a cap and wore it proudly all night. My dad grilled steaks, my mom made sangria, and we all had a really great time!

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For my second Quilted Graduation Cap, I decided to do things slightly differently with a different quilt pattern altogether. I searched and searched and eventually found a quilt block pattern for a block that finished off at a 4.5″ square. I made 4 blocks which came together nicely to make a 9.25″ quilt with center seams exactly where they needed to be for all the tassel cap shenanigans that you read about above. I did the teeny tiny piecing and then proceeded with the rest of the steps to get the tassel to fit and secure the borders onto the cap.

When designing your quilt, it is good to know that if the design you want to use is smaller than 8″ or so, you can always make larger borders and it will fit perfectly as long as your exact center has seams you can rip out for the tassel button.

OK quilters, now that you know how to make your own quilted graduation cap and wear it proudly across that commencement stage, it’s time to buy yourself a graduation gift! Check out my Amazon Idea List for some of my favorite things to get some ideas.

Be sure to use #quiltedgradcap on instagram so I can see what you make! As always, let me know if you have any questions about my process or materials. I would love to help you!

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