Add the Perfect Touch to Your Birthday Care Package

The really annoying thing about care packages is that you constantly have to come up with new ideas for what to put in them. When your servicemember has a birthday while deployed you may find yourself in a particular rut. You probably have already sent him all of his favorite things 15 other times, so including that special flavor of chips yet again just isn't going to make it have that extra special "happy birthday" edge you are going for.

That's why the birthday care package is the perfect time to whip out some extra happy birthday craftiness to add just the touch that you can't buy at the store. And what better way to do it than by including a customized, homemade birthday hat?

I originally started making these for my kids on their birthdays. After a few adult friends commented, I made one for a long distance friend's 35th birthday that has since been passed around to all her other friends who hit that mark this year.

I know what you're thinking. "A decorative homemade birthday hat? Isn't that a little too cutesy and corny for my hunk of man (or lady) love?"

Sure, but your servicemember isn't relying on you to be macho. He's relying on you to be you. Nothing says "I love you" like taking the time to add this personal touch. Let's be honest, you will be the only one to send a customized birthday hat.

How to make a customized birthday hat

Birthday hat making is insanely easy, or I wouldn't be doing it. The whole process takes about 15 minutes.

1. Start by gathering your supplies


What you'll need:

-- A cardboard birthday hat

-- Some scissors

-- A few numbers print outs -- I find mine here and re-size them to be 2 inches tall before printing.

-- Some scrap fabric to wrap over the hat. If you are buying fabric for the project you will use well under 1/4 yard.

-- A piece of felt that matches your fabric.

-- A hot glue gun and some extra glue sticks.

-- Some do-dads: I chose to use a few star buttons and a blue pom-pom (not pictured above but you'll see it below).

2. Take apart your hat.


Find the little tab on the back of the hat and pull it apart.

3. Remove the elastic string.


Slip that little elastic string out of both sides of the hat and put it aside. We'll be putting it back on later.

4. Cut out your fabric.


With the right side of the fabric facing down, lay your hat right side up against the fabric. Hold it there while you cut the fabric out around it, leaving 1/2 to 1 full inch around the edge so that you can fold it over and glue it. No need to measure or trace first -- this is a highly unscientific process. Just eyeball it and cut away.

This is what you'll end up with:


Make sure the colored side of your hat is facing up -- we need the neutral part of the hat facing the fabric so that the pattern doesn't show through on the finished product.

5. Hot glue the fabric onto the hat.


This doesn't have to be pretty or particularly neat since no one is going to see it. Just fold the fabric over the edge of the hat and glue it on.

This is what you'll end up with when you're done:


6. Fold and glue the hat back into a hat shape.


Twist the hat back around so that it looks like, well, a hat. Holding it in place with one hand, hot glue it together with the other.

You'll end up with this:


7. Cut out your numbers.


This is always the part that makes me the most nervous. Great, right?

Place your number on top of your felt and start trimming. You could pin it there or you could do what I do which is just hold it on with one hand while cutting with the other.

Fact: it is impossible to take a photo of yourself holding and cutting. That would require me to have three hands. Alas, I only have two.

Be careful as you trim around the felt not to tear it in the skinny places. Felt really likes to tear.


8. Place your numbers on your hat.


Stick the numbers on your hat and figure out where they look best so when you are ready to glue them on you have a plan.

One of the reasons I like to use felt is that clings nicely to the hat while I get ready to glue it. I also tend to use polka-dot fabric for hats because it allows me to line up the numbers so they look evenly spaced.

9. Glue away, baby.


And when you're done you'll end up with this:


You can pause to pick the wayward glue off later.

10. Add some bling.


And how could we forget a pom-pom for the top!?


11. Reattach the string.


Find that little tab, ready your string, slip it back in and glue it in place.

Remember what I said about cutting and photographing? Same thing goes for string gluing.

12. Admire your finished product.


Ta-da! A birthday hat that says "I love you," and "I spent a lot of time making something special for your birthday care package" at the exact same time.

Bonus! You didn't actually spend very much time at all. Sneaky.


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