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Hat Spinning

Hat spinning seems to be a bit of a speciality act. Very few modern performers seem to include it in their repertoire and there is next to nothing in print about it. I think it's about time to set this to rights and bring hat spinning to the world at large!

Image courtesy of Brian Dube, Inc. / Karl-Heinz Ziethen

Hat spinning is a skill that has interested me for a while. I have vague memories from my childhood of seeing someone on TV using a stick to manipulate a hat. The idea has floated across my mind several times in the last few years but it was only as I started to work on that I began my search in earnest.

I'm still very much a beginner at hat spinning, but I'm getting the hang of it. It's not easy to learn a skill when you can't find any information about it, let alone anyone who actually does it! The following pages should give you some idea of my experience, and I will keep them updated as I progress.

What is hat spinning?

Basically it boils down to "Keeping a hat spinning in the air by hitting it with a stick" (Much in the same way that juggling boils down to "Throwing things and catching them again")

The photo above (Used with kind permission from Brian Dube) shows 3 performers hat spinning. The hat is kept spinning in a vertical plane by hitting the brim with the stick.

By varying the spot where you hit the hat, you can vary the speed of the spin, the direction and the height to which the hat goes, and that's just for starters. Body moves, multiple hats and multiple people are all possibilities.

What hats are appropriate for spinning?
My spinning hat and stick

From the limited amount of literature available on the subject it sounds like a large felt hat is the preferred type. However I've had a degree of success with a variety of styles including sun hats, my really battered and soft Dube top hat, a cheap sombrero from a tourist shop and my Nils Poll bowler.

When you're looking for a hat, the key things to look for are weight, durability and size.

Get the lightest hat you can find. The Nils Poll bowlers are far too heavy and just make the trick harder than is necessary. Bearing in mind that you're going to spend a lot of time hitting this hat with a stick you don't want to kill your wrists too much too early!

Durability is obviously important, you want something that is well constructed and isn't going to disintegrate when you hit it. The Sombrero was a poor choice for me because of this. Being made of a straw like substance it fell apart after about an hour of trying. Go for something soft and flexible instead.

Size. I don't mean hat sizes here. This hat isn't going to spend an awful lot of time on your head! However, the wider the brim is, the easier it will be to control. (Although this is obviously only true to a point!) A hat that is about 12 - 18" in diameter is probably about right.

So to sum that lot up, you want something soft, light and durable with a wide brim.

I got my hat from a charity shop for about 2, it's a one piece wool felt hat with a wide brim. It's near enough round and seems to work perfectly.

What about the stick?

The stick is a matter of personal preference. Some writers suggest long thin flexible sticks, some seen to prefer shorter, more solid sticks. I've tried a number of different sticks, including a bamboo chopstick which I just happened to have lying around.

However, a devilstick handstick seems to be giving me good results at the moment. It's a little bit long, but as it's covered in silicon tubing it's nice and grippy and gives me a good firm amount of control over the hat.

I intend to experiment a bit more with sticks in the future, and will of course let you all know how I get on.

How to spin a hat...

This section was getting a bit long, so I've given the hat spinning tricks their own pages.

  • The Basic Spin
  • Fancy stops
  • Fancy Finishes - Coming soon
  • Body Moves - Coming soon
  • Flourishes - Coming soon
  • Multiple hats - Coming soon
Where can I go for further information?

At the moment, nowhere!

Well, I say nowhere. There are very few references to hat spinning in print, very little on the internet and even less available on video. As I find more information about hat spinning, I'll add the details here, but to start you off the following link takes you to the discussion I started on rec.juggling<>

I'm indebted to the posters who contributed to this thread, as without them I wouldn't have gotten this far. Most of the information on these pages is derived from the sources that they provided.

Online Hat Spinning Tutorial

One of the resources mentioned in the newsgroup thread I mentioned just now, is an article that appeared in the "Juggler's Bulletin" - Thanks to Roger Montandon, and the scanner in my office, it's been reproduced here

Credits and special thanks

Thanks to Raphael Lasar for coming up with several very useful leads including a couple of out of print publications that contained sections about hat spinning.

Last edited by: lp - 2004-03-16 21:08:28

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