Monday, February 23, 2015

Fun with My First Felt Hat

Me in my Funky Felted Hat
Just about the only good thing about this frigidly cold winter has been that I get to wear the very warm and very funky hat that I made for myself last fall.  I had been wanting to wet felt a hat for myself for a long time, but I wasn't sure how to go about it.  After reading a couple of books, lots of blogs and watching several online tutorials, I came up with a way that worked for me.  To make a long story short, I needle felted on a rudimentary homemade foam hat form, then wet felted on a ball.  Then, I did my Zazzy Peacock thing and needle-felted a fun piece to decorate my new hat -- including a peacock motif, swirls, leopard print, and all the colors in my winter wardrobe.  I love it!

My homemade foam hat form

Here's how it happened:  First I tried to go straight to wet felting on a ball, but that didn't exactly work out.  Using that method, you're supposed to lay the wool roving out on a ball and then somehow magically stretch pantyhose over all that loose wool without messing it up.  Then, voila, you wet felt on the ball.  But as you've probably surmised by now, I completely messed up the wool trying to get the pantyhose on.  Granted, the tutorials warn that it's a two person job and to go very slowly.  I was just one impatient person, and it was a no-go for me.
Layers of wool laid vertically on foam hat form

Then I read about needle-felting on a hat form.  I knew I wanted to wet felt the hat, but since  I prefer needle-felting, I thought I could at least do the pre-felting with a needle and then wet felt once the wool was holding together.  

You can buy hat forms, but that gets very expensive.  Most suggestions for making your own foam hat form involved using spray insulation foam, which is economical, but it sounded complicated and messy.  So I decided to try to carve a form from a block of foam.  For me, this was an inexpensive option because I happened to have two 16" foam blocks from two cube seats that my kids had outgrown.  I used my electric carving knife (yes, the one we use to carve the turkey) to do the job.  The form is rudimentary, and there were little bits of foam just about everywhere, but it worked!  (If you're making your own, remember to size up to allow for lots of shrinkage during the wet felting process.)

Horizontal layer of wool fibers
I laid out the first layer of wool vertically, then horizontally, then vertically, etc., lightly needle-felting the wool in place between each layer.  Most tutorials recommend three layers, but I somehow ended up doing four or five, which is why my hat is extra thick and warm and cozy.  To create the rolled edge, I created a rope of wool (using needle and wet felting); then after laying down the last vertical layer of wool, I turned the hat inside out, and folded the loose ends of wool over the rope along the bottom edge of the hat; then I needle felted it all together.

Ball secured to canister with duct tape

Once I was confident that the wool was holding together and that the layers were even throughout, I transferred the pre-felted hat to a ball for wet felting.  With the ball secured to a canister, I rubbed the wool with hot soapy (using olive oil soap) water for a while.  When it seemed strong enough, I took the hat off the ball and threw it on my counters for a while.  Wow, that really got it firmly felted and fast! I then did some final shaping directly on my head.  

When it was dry, I shaved it very carefully with an electric razor to achieve a smoother finish.  Then it was time to create my personal fascinator.  I needle-felted it separately rather than directly on to the hat.  This gave it a more sculptural quality with more dimension.  Also, I initially thought I would just pin in on so that I could swap it out  at some point, but I loved it so much that I just needle-felted on to the hat. 

By the way, my rolled edge didn't exactly come out even, and I made it worse by trying to create a scalloped edge.  What was I thinking?  At some point, I'll fix that -- the beauty of needle-felting is that you can always continue to add wool -- for more detail or to correct imperfections.  In the meantime, I have been getting lots of use out of this hat during what has been the coldest winter I can ever remember.  It is warm and fuzzy and very me, and I love it.  I think there is more hat-making in my future!
My unique Zazzy Peacock felted wool hat with its colorful peacock heart, swirls, and animal print