If you ever washed a wool sweater in hot water by mistake, you were in the process of making felt. The hot water shrank the fibres, and the soap helped them slide together to create a tight mat. The same technique is used to make felt hats. Hot water and soap are worked into the wool batting, and the wet felt is then moulded over a hat form, retaining its shape as it dries.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Rubber gloves
- Hot (almost boiling) water (several quarts or as needed)
- Dish detergent
- Bubble wrap
- Bamboo shade or placemats
- Thick rubber band
- Shaping dome (ball, bowl or bucket)
- Hat form
- Fabric shears
- Steam iron
- Spray starch
- Terrycloth towel
- Needle and thread
Separate the batting into four layers and stack with the edges even and the fibres alternating horizontally and vertically. Fill in any thin spots.
Lay the batting on bubble wrap. Pour hot water onto the batting. Add a few drops of soap. Exact amounts of water and soap aren't important.
Rub and pound the fibre to incorporate the water and soap, working to the edges. Continue adding hot water, about a cup at a time, until saturated.
Lay the batting on the bamboo. Smooth out any wrinkles, then roll the bamboo and wool tightly to press out more air and water and push the fibres together. Unroll. Smooth and add more hot water and soap.
Center the felt over a shaping dome. Gently stretch it around the shape, straightening and pushing the bulk out to the edges. Add hot water and soap and continue rubbing.
Put the wet felt on the hat shaper and smooth out the fabric. Rub along the edge where the crown meets the brim. Add more hot water and soap and continue rubbing until you have the desired shape and the felt is smooth.
Remove the felt and cut off the excess along the brim. Rinse with cold water to remove the soap.
Place the hat back on the shaper. Wrap a rubber band between the crown and brim. Use the handle of the scissors to crease the cutting line around the brim. Absorb any remaining water with a towel. Rub the cutting line again.
Let the hat dry almost completely.
Starch and iron the hat with a steam iron. Cut off the excess felt around the brim.
Remove the rubber band. If the felt is too fuzzy, shave with a razor.
Bind the cut edge. Wrap a ribbon around the crown to finish the hat.
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