Friday, February 21, 2014

The Making of a Wet Felted Hat

I love this hat and fortunately, I love my aunt, who I made it for even more. Making this sort of hat is a small act of insanity. There is no measuring the hours. I had to stop calculating somewhere after 3 days. Wet felting is a process I truly love and the clock just stands still while I am doing it, but how does one calculate the price of that? So, for now, I make these hats when the mood strikes and only for people I love. Thought you might like to see how this hat came into being.
I start with Merino wool roving. This is unspun wool where the fibres are combed into the same direction. I use merino because it is super soft against the face. Much of that said three days it takes to make this hat goes into fretting about the colour combination. Yup, that's just the way I am.
I make a template. I used bubble wrap, but I have used 2 pieces of oil cloth, sewn together. Has to be waterproof and bendable. I lay out four layers of whisper thin pieces of wool. The outside of the hat will be burgundy and the inside is black. I love the way some of the black will felt through to the outside.
This particular batte (the laid out wool) was humungous because I wanted to have enough felt to make pleats and a wide brim. Moving it to the kitchen counter did not go completely smoothly, but felting is very forgiving.
Did I mention that you need to make two wool battes. The second one is laid on top of the first with the template in between. Then you begin to wet it down with warm, soapy water.
This is what it looks like in its prefelt stage. Basically, I have gently rubbed both sides for about an hour at which point it is safe to remove the template. Then with one palm on the inside and one on the outside you make endless circles around each part of the hat body. Book a trip to the masseuse. I haven't done that yet, but dream of it daily. Then the hat gets kneaded like dough and eventually thrown against the counter 150 times. Great for anger management. The soap is rinsed out under hot water. At this point the hat has shrunk a whole lot. Now to block the hat.
As you can see, plenty of room for folds.
Once I'm happy with the general shape, I tie it off and let it dry for a couple of days. Wet wool likes to stay wet. All those pleats are then sewn with invisible stitches into place. I find with wet felting that it is better to let the hat tell you which way to proceed than to try to stick too closely to a plan. I trimmed the brim, wired it and covered the edge with velvet ribbon. Then comes the flower. I had planned to make a flat, petaled flower, but this hat just screamed rose, so I listened. As of today it is on its way to Montreal to live on one of my favorite heads anywhere. Hope you love it, Isa and I hope it matches your lipstick. (inside story)