How-to · Math and Paper Folding

The Paper Hat meets the Shrinking Newspaper

Paper Hat
Friday’s Wall Street Journal, D1 Arena Hat, decorated, protecting the Hollyhocks

The size of the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Scrantonian, the Daily Record and all other newspapers have shrunk, not only in breadth, but also, more notably, in width. An unintended consequence of this is that unadulterated newspapers are no longer suitable for making paper hats.

McCall's Giant Golden Make-It Book, copyright 1953, page 35
McCall’s Giant Golden Make-It Book, copyright 1953, page 35

As a kid I made lots of paper hats out of newspapers. It was just one of those things that I knew how to do. In my twenties, while painting a ceiling, I thought it would useful to protect my hair, so I picked up newspaper, got ready to do some folding and realized that I had absolutely no idea whatsoever on how to make a paper hat. It was some years before I got around to figuring it out again. I actually wrote up a set of directions on how to make this sort of head wear. Then something unexpected happened. The proportions of newspapers changed, rendering both newspapers and my set of instructions completely useless for creating fashion. Nothing, it appears, is sacred.

Cut 4 inches off the height of a newspaper
Cut 4 inches off the height of a newspaper

It took me some time to regroup after this setback. First, I had to look into what was the former size of typical newspapers, which I discovered was 15″ x 22.75,” then I had convert these proportions of yore to use with current newspapers. which are inconveniently sized at 12″ x 22.75.” It turns out that if I take just four inches off the height of the New York Times (or its competitors)  I can be back in the hat business. For the newspaper pictured above I cut 3 inches off the top and 1 inch off the bottom so as to preserve Lisa Hanawalt’s cute cat drawing (this is, after all, a post for the internet).

 How to Make a Paper Hat out of Newspaper by Paula Beardell Krieg
How to Make a Paper Hat out of Newspaper 2014

Did you get that? I had to convert the proportions…see how math keep popping up in the paper arts? Now comes the fun part, the real reason I wanted to do this post right now. I get to show you how to make a drawing that not only shows you how I converted the proportions without doing any computations, but this drawing will give you the tools you need to use any size paper whatsoever. This drawing can also be used if you live in a part of the world which doesn’t measure in inches, which is like everywhere but here. Here’s the drawing:

Drawing to use to determine the right proportions to make a paper hat
Drawing to use to determine the right proportions to make a paper hat

Here’s a drawing of a newspaper, which is of course red all over. The original size newspaper  that worked so well was 15″ x 22.75″ so I’ve drawn a proportional representation of this size.  The inches measurement doesn’t matter, you can just think of the little squares in the drawing as units. So if your newspaper is 40 cm wide, just rename the widths on the drawing as 5, 10, 15, 20 etc and do the same for the height. The diagonal line will define all the sizes that will work for the hat. In the case of the newspapers I am using, I note that they are 12 inches wide, and I see that the corresponding height measurement is just above the 18. Get it? If your paper is 11 units high, then the corresponding width should be about 7.okay?  I think it is so cool to be able to draw a picture that provides me with an endless number of  possibilities. I think there’s a saying about that: a picture is worth a thousand equations.

Paper Hat with swirls


Oh, don’t forget to decorate your hat. I recommend thick markers.

5 thoughts on “The Paper Hat meets the Shrinking Newspaper

  1. Hi Paula. Cathy Cutler (now Prince) from Mo’town. I’m not sure if you know there will be a 40th reunion on Friday, Oct 3. There is a FB page, Morristown 1974 Reunion. Love your illustrations. I’m a librarian so I appreciate the bookmaking skills! Hope to see you, Cathy


  2. My dad used to fold what he called a pressman’s hat which he claimed the pressmen at the newspaper used to wear to “keep the ink out of their hair” It started in a similar way to your hat, without the cut. but went on to end up in a square configuration, so it looked like a square pillbox hat. I just found the instructions here —>


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