How to Make a Priest Biretta for All Saints' Day

After writing about my kids' All Saints' costumes last year, I received multiple requests for a pattern for the boys' birettas. So here you go!

The source pattern is for a real biretta so I have to warn you that I used extensive creative license with the it and produced great costume pieces -- not real birettas. 

Our All Saints' costumes from last year were a great success, mostly because the teenagers gave full participation. And wouldn't you if your mom stayed up until the wee hours crafting an awesome biretta for your priestly garb? Of course you would. And now you want to know how to share this excellence with your kids... so I will give you the link to the instructions and a few words about my crafting adventure.

First, the link to the PDF pattern: 
How to Make a Collapsible Biretta

UPDATE: Lena at Joyfilled Family now has a picture tutorial that walks you through the steps. Check it out HERE.

Now, a few words:

I did not make collapsible birettas. My birettas only collapse if you sit on them. I used the pattern provided, fused fabric to the pattern pieces, and glued the pieces until I was reasonably sure they would not collapse under normal stresses. It was a hack job but perfect for costume purposes.


All materials for this project were things I already had on hand:

  • Poster board
  • Heat n Bond to fuse the fabric to the poster board.
  • Black fabric. I used a wool/cashmere blend fabric because it was the only black fabric I had on hand. (My sons had the warmest birettas ever made.) This would have been easier with a lighter fabric but the heavy stuff did lend the finished product a bit of weight and it stuck to their hair well.
  • Satin fabric. Because I tend towards crafty perfectionism even at 3am. And because glue guns are awesome. And because I had scraps of satin fabric... I lined the inside of the hats. I wanted red but gold was a fine alternative. 
  • Red Piping Bias Tape on Professor's Fulton Sheen biretta. (I left a gap at the top of the poster board when I glued it so that I could hot glue the piping in later.)
  • Red Yarn for the pom pom and a plastic pom pom maker. But you can use these instructions if you don't have one.

And yes, Professor's biretta IS only supposed to have only 3 of those sticking up things. It means something. Professor knows all about it and was dismayed that Cub's St. John Neumann biretta had four. I gave his concerned face a blank mom stare and handed the four-pronged hat to his brother.It's fine, son. I made it. Wear it.

(This is the 2-year old's biretta. Because I didn't have enough piping bias, I used hot glue to strengthen the attaching pieces. And because the hot glue was ugly, I decided to paint it with a black paint pen. And because the black paint pen was "glossy" the seams are shiny. I wasn't thrilled. You can also see here how the lining is far from perfect -- just folded and glued in place -- but also how a kid would think it is cooler than plain black.)

Measuring...

The other thing I want to tell you is that I found the measurements tricky. I was not particularly careful and was rushing.  I measured once (hastily) for the Professor (15 years old at the time) and ended up with a hat that fit a two-year old. Fortunately, I had a two-year old on hand, but you should probably take more time to measure than I did. And then... I made the second one too small as well but it was much closer and wearable. I'm not making a third one, son.


The rest of the costume:

  • Altar server cassock that fits (like Professor's) or even one that is several sizes too large held together with thread and safety pins (like Cub's). Or... DIY if you are totally awesome.
  • Red or black sash. Lend your kid one of your inexpensive pashmina scarfs that he can poke a hole through with a dull safety pin. Let it go. It's for a good cause.
  • Roman Collar. You could probably come up with something better but I picked out two lengths of wide white satin ribbon (wide enough to cover the notch and extend a bit above the collar), measured necks, and stiffened it with Heat n Bond. Then I used sticky Velcro dots to hold  the collar together and in place on the cassock. The other option was to sew something in but I didn't want to alter the cassocks too much.

Are you going to try your hand at making a biretta for All Saints's Day? 

Please link your pics back here in the comments (or email them to me) if you do. I would love to see your creations and I'll add your link to the post.


Posted on September 29, 2014 and filed under Liturgical Year, Family Life, All Saints' Day.