MidwestMermaidArt DIY: How to Attach Your Graduation Cap Decoration

Hi all!

As you may or may not know, I have an Etsy shop called MidwestMermaidArt where I sell custom made graduation caps as well as other types of art from time to time.  Right now is PRIME graduation cap decorating season, and you probably wouldn't believe me if I told you how many orders I took on this semester!  I come home from work and...work on graduation caps.  Every single day.  But I love creating and being able to have a successful side business doing so!

I'm making this post both an instructional tool for my clients who need to attach my graduation cap decoration themselves, and also as a freebie for those who are decorating their own graduation caps.  I have no problem giving away my tips and tricks, because I know there isn't enough time in the world for me to decorate everyone's caps anyways!  If I know the best way to do something, why not share it?

I'll start by saying that the best way to decorate your graduation cap is to...
I mean, you caaaaaan do it, but I would strongly advise against it.  I've decorated more than 50 caps at this point and still wouldn't trust myself to decorate directly onto the surface of a cap.  Trust me, it's a risky move and you'll thank yourself later if you do it a different way!  

I always decorate onto a thin piece of cardboard (much like you would find on the inside of a new calendar or backing a new poster).  I measure the piece of cardboard to perfectly fit the cap, and then use an Exacto knife to make sure I am cutting a button hole that fits over the button on the cap.  (Spoiler Alert:  The button is rarely directly in the middle of the cap.  Some cap-making companies are better at placing the button in the middle than others.  I might provide more direction about this part of the process eventually!)

There are so many things I could give advice on in terms of choosing your theme, decorating caps, etc, many of which you can find if you follow my MidwestMermaidArt Instagram account.  This post is simply about one topic:


Tools you will need:
- Tacky Glue (any craft store)
- a paintbrush (I like to use one with flat bristles)
- a linen dish towel (not terrycloth, it will leave fuzzies)
- 8-10 binder clips

Have all your supplies in front of you before you begin!  Set your cardboard graduation cap decoration off to the side, ready to be attached.

I use Tacky Glue to make a pattern like this on the top of the cap.  It doesn't necessarily have to look exactly like this, but make sure you at least have a decent amount of glue around the edges and around the button.

Use your paintbrush to spread out the glue, making sure you have an even coating over the surface of the cap.  Use your brush to smooth out the glue specifically around the edges and around the button.  The reason I do this step is to avoid glue seeping out around the edges.

During this step, pay very close attention to which corner of your cap is supposed to face the front when you are wearing it. Hint: look at the fabric part of the cap that fits on your head.   Generally there is one pointy tip (indicating the front) and then some elastic OR at least a less pointy tip (indicating the back).  Before you put your decorated piece on top of the cap, make sure you're putting it on in the right direction!  Then press it onto the cap with your hands and pop the button through the cut hole. Check out the cap from the front and back and slide it around according to how it fits best!

Once the cap is set perfectly in position, I take my linen dish towel and wrap it around the sides on the front of the cap.  I then take the binder clips and place them most importantly at each corner, but then around the sides if there are spots that it might lift.  I use a towel because if I do not, it tends to leave marks where the binder clips are.  The towel protects this from happening.  I like to use this type of towel because if I use a terrycloth one, sometimes glue seeps out the sides of the cap and fuzzies from the terrycloth will get stuck.  You can improvise on what type of towel you use, I'm sure you could even put folded up paper towel under each binder clip.   Once your clips are on, it's time to leave the wrapped up cap in a safe space for at least an hour!  You can be the judge of when it seems dry enough for the sides of the decoration not to lift off the cap.

To me, a cap looks finished when it has a gem or some kind of other embellishment covering the button.  It's also very helpful because if you're decorating onto cardboard, it's pretty thick.  Your button may no longer be fully exposed enough for you to fit your tassel on.  If you attach a gem, you'll be sure that your tassel will be able to slide on and off.

Place the cap off to the side on a completely horizontal surface.  If your cap is on an angle, the gem could slide right off.  This can take a while to dry, so just let it be!  I like to give it all day to dry before I start messing with the cap again.  

Another additional step:  If the cap is black, I like to color any visible sides of the cardboard with a black marker.  This isn't necessary, but I think it finishes it off nicely!

And you're done!  Congrats, grad!


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