Friday, October 15, 2010

Mission Accomplished! Wet Felting 3D Hats

In the game of life it's a good idea to have a few early losses, which relieves you of the pressure of trying to maintain an undefeated season.
~Bill Vaughan

No wonder the coolest felt hats come from Turkey!

As mentioned in a previous blog, I became interested in felting in Istanbul and always had an idea to make hats and slippers. I'd heard it was easy, but didn't know where to get the carded wool needed for felting.

The hat I broke down and bought since I couldn't figure out how to make one of my own.
It was the last thing I bought myself in Istanbul., and I ran between one Cocoon shop in the Arasta Bazaar and another, comparing hats till I found the one I wanted.

Back in Canada, I had the carded wool, bought a book on felting but still, didn't have a really clear idea of how to felt on a 3d form. I gleaned youtube and felters' blogs for demonstrations and pieced together an idea of how to do it. I asked my teacher so many questions on 3D felting my classmates asked me what I was up to. "I'm going to make a 3D felted hat." I told them confidently. Perhaps they believed me, perhaps they didn't. Remember, we did felting the week after knitting when confidence in my skills were at an all time low!

Expanding foam sealant and my thrift shop hat, which I wet down and formed into the shape I wanted.

Even though the ladies at Birkland Brothers Wool in Vancouver told me I could felt a hat on a balloon, I was nervous about popping my form, so I went the route of kicking around ideas with my Dad during coffee one morning. With a rough plan in my head, I visited the thrift shop and the home improvement centre. I got a stiff hat my size from the thrift store, and some expanding foam sealant from Rona. When I came home, filled my hat with the stuff and watched what happened over the next 24 hours as it dried.

Foam sealant gets sprayed in the hat, and left overnight to dry completely. As far as I know, you can't save the hat, so don't use a good one!

I didn't really know how this stuff works, and the damn stuff kept expanding, until it became a huge puff ball of styrofoam like consistency. If I had to do it again, I would probably do it in stages rather than all at once as it took a long time for the inside to dry its a sealant, so it effectively sealed itself from drying on the inside. The result was, any time I cut into it to shape it with my exacto knife, I hit the inner core of expanding ooze. Eventually the whole thing dried and I was able to shape it with an exacto into the shape I wanted. The good news is, I now have a hat form that fits my head exactly and I can use it pretty much forever.


Next, I got my my supplies together: a plastic garbage bag to protect the table, my hat form, some soapy water, some dish soap, and some old pantyhose.

The felting begins!
The soap really makes your hands dry, so it's good to have a good hand moisturizer on hand.
(Pun intended!)

I covered the form in dish soap first (makes the wool stick to the form) I started with the sky blue wool, and started layering my form with three layers- vertically, horizontally and then vertically again.
Taking the blue hat off the form, discovering how badly felted it was. Boo.

Truthfully, this first time around I didn't do a good job of layering. I left the slivers way too thick and it had a hard time finding the fibres laying in the opposite direction. I decided after wetting it that it probably needed another layer as well. Guess what? You can't add another layer once the felting process has begun. The wet fibres have already started to tighten and won't accept any new wool. Oh well, you've got to make mistakes to learn!

As you can see, the top layer didn't mesh at all.

I massaged the hat form for several minutes, kneaded it all in a bamboo mat, being careful to change the direction of the hat so it didn't stretch in one particular way, and shocked it in hot, then cold water (as directed in my earlier blog.) But nothing was going to save this hat. Except maybe needly felting the whole thing, but I will most likely cut this one up for needle felting designs on to other felt things later on.

The beginning of the green hat. This one is almost perfect! But I put it on with it's ragged edges and I looked like the pea kid from Green Giant canned pea commercials!

So since I had all of this stuff out, I decided to try again, this time using green wool, and spending a lot more time laying the wool carefully in thin strips all over the form. I also did four layers instead of three. I used short pieces for the vertical direction and long winding pieces for the horizontal, tucking the pieces up to hold it's shape. I snapped the pantyhose over the top to help it keep everything in place and I began the process all over again. (I think the pantyhose would probably be useful if there was a design being felted simultaneously. I'm not at that stage yet, so I could take the panty hose of once the whole thing had been moistened and work the wool with my fingers.

Ta-Da! My new hat!

I felted up a dark blue rim separately and sewed it onto the hat. I also needle felted a design onto the surface of the hat. At first I looked like a mushroom with the dots so I changed them into olives. Which looks a little less shroomy.

I took this picture and realised the hats actually match the leaves on the ground!
Welcome fall!
I'm inspired! It's a lot of work to produce these little hats so I don't think I'd go into full production anytime soon.
Next felting experiment: Slippers!



  1. You have done very nice hand work in fact no one can image from a distance that these mushrooms are not real i also try it today.

  2. Thanks! If you do, please let me know how it goes for you! I think getting the felt even is the most difficult part for me. ; )

  3. Cute! You have made me aware of felt. I saw some felt Christmas tree decorations the other day.

  4. And today I saw gift bags made of felt.

  5. Felting is pretty easy! If you like fibres at all, i suggest giving it a go! : )

  6. No - fibres/fabrics scare me!

  7. Lol! They scared me too! They still do! (Hence the reason I took this course! I'm dreading the sewing machine!)

  8. Well, you're a brave person. I don't think I got over the trauma of the dreadful sewing projects in Home Ec in high school.

  9. That hat form is an awesome idea! I'll be making one of those for sure! Thanks for sharing.

  10. The form is a great idea! I still have it and have used it twice since then. I still haven't mastered felting though. I think my problem is that the felt I was using was soft Merino wool and it's too soft. But my cousin has two angorra goats and I forced her to have the wool carded so hopefully I'll have some more success with mohair. xx Good luck!

  11. I tried felting over a glass vase and it worked OK. It slipped around a bit on the glass and I had trouble getting the felt hard. What I don't understand is what you do with the pantyhose. doreen

  12. Great tutorial - congratulations. Going out today to thrift shop and hardware for the goodies. Thank you