It’s good to bend rules now and again (Part 1)!

It’s good to bend rules now and again (Part 1)!

I placed my annual order of goodies from DHG Italy in June.  I just love the process of opening the big box and checking off all the colourful goodies housed within.  Anyway, as I am creating some pieces for upcoming exhibitions, I included some industrial felt in the order which, according to the DHG website the industrial felt is made of  90% wool (Australian and South American) and 10% polyester.  – my plan was to use it to cover the canvas frames and mount my pieces on these.  I’m pleased with the way these have worked out so happy days!  I bought the industrial felt in two colours – black and a dark blue 2mm thickness. In the end I mounted all the pieces on the black felt and I had the blue felt left over.   So I thought I would experiment with it.    I wanted to see if I could make a hat with it.

Now, I have wet felted many a hat in my day, laying down the fibres around a resist and I really enjoy this whole process.  That said, I will readily admit here, I am not a milliner.  So the only ‘proper’ equipment I had to  work on was a hat mould which I bought from Hat Shapers last year.  The mould is sturdy and plastic and well priced.  It is designed for shaping and blocking felt hats.  One disadvantage is that hats cannot be pinned while shaping.  But I like a challenge so I gathered up other bits and pieces from the garage including a piece of MDF (to act as a base), a hammer and some lightweight nails to pin the felt in place.

The first task was to measure the mould adding in an allowance for pinning to the base and cut the felt.

When I found that the mould needed to be secured to the base as it was moving around – it was time to search out the Blu tack.  I placed tiny bits around the base and it worked a treat!

Next I submerged the felt in warm water.  It became quite malleable and a lot softer once it was wetted so I was pretty pleased with this.


I wrung the felt to take the excess water out of it and started working it on the mould. The first task was to stretch the felt over the crown.  I was a little nervous doing this as I thought that it might tear when  I put pressure on it.  My fears were needless as it took on the shape of the crown very easily.  I secured the crown initially with elastic and then with a piece of bias binding tying it tightly around the base of the crown:

Next, it was time to tackle the rim.  I thought this could be a bit problematic, given the amount of excess material (visible in the photo).  It was time to reach for the steam iron (steam on maximum!) and get to work.  As I steamed and stretched the felt, I ‘pinned’ it to the MDF base with the small nails.  Miraculously my own (thumb) nail is still intact, given the hammer size:

I had a little visitor who decided upon investigation that there really was nothing of interest (the dog biscuits are kept in the kitchen).  So having popped his head around the corner, he went back to sleep.

I continued steaming, stretching and pinning the felt to the base.  I was a little concerned that I might be stretching the felt too thin for it to work as a hat as there appeared to be a good bit of excess around the base.  As this was purely an experiment I decided to keep going.  I left the final shape to dry, adjusting the nails where there was too much slack in the felt:

Once dry, I decided to add a stiffener.  I used Hi-Tack Fabric Stiffener diluted 50/50 with water.  I used a large household paintbrush to apply the liquid and shot steam onto the hat to help it permeate the felt.  I let this dry and repeated the process:

Once dry, I cut the hat off the base using a craft blade.  I felt that this would give a cleaner edge than using my scissors:

The fact that I was cutting into one of the returns on the hard plastic mould helped this process and soon the hat was free of the mould:


I found that the brim needed to be stabilized and I did not want to lose any of the depth by turning under a hem.  So I decided to cut out a length of trim from the felt, fold it in half and sew it around the rim.  Doing this made the brim a lot sturdier.  I also cut out and secured a length of felt around the base of the crown:

Result:  to be perfectly honest, I did not expect it to turn out as well as it did.  The felt is sturdy.  It is not as soft as I would achieve with merino wool but having said that it is not so hard that it would be an irritation to wear.  Adding the binding to the brim stabilized it.  All in all, I feel that it was a success.

Sincere thanks to my daughter Katie who took time out from her ‘day job’ (Climate Scientist) to model this for me.

Following this make, I decided to check out the industrial felt on the DHG site more fully.  The site states that “This felt can be used as a traditional felt (cut, sewn, glued) but also by exploiting its thermoformability.”   By the sound of things what I have achieved with it is not listed among the recommendations.  But the word ‘thermoformability’ caught my eye. mmmmmm … I wonder what it means.   It was time to put the thinking cap back on.    The results of my next experiment will be posted on 18th September.

25 thoughts on “It’s good to bend rules now and again (Part 1)!

  1. Well how exciting! I think the hat looks spectacular and modelled by your gorgeous daughter! You did a seriously fantastic job! Very well done to you!

    1. Thank you Carol. It was fun to experiment with this material. So many possibilities. 🙂

  2. Thank you so much. She loved getting the opportunity to dress up for a change. It’s been such a long time for her. 🙂

  3. Great post. Do you think if you had used the 3mm, you could eliminated the stiffener? I have used designer felt for lots of items but never a hat. I think you have already “exploited the thermoformablilty” by using steam to create you hat. It’s beautiful.

    1. Thanks Kathryn. Working with the 3mm might have helped – there was a lot of pulling to smooth out the excess felt when it came to the brim.

      I will fully cover the thermoformability in my September post when I will be making a different style of hat.

  4. First, I’ve got some serious DHG envy – with Brexit, I can no longer order from them and it’s a pity 🙁

    Second, Katie is beautiful and she models very well! Maybe this climate scientist can think of a part-time job 😉

    Finally: love, love, love the hat. It looks fantastic. Ok, I’ll say it: I’ve also got Hat Envy now!

    1. Thanks a million Leonor. I ended up giving World of Wool a miss post Brexit as it got too complicated to order from them so I know exactly how you feel.

      Sometimes I look at ‘herself’ and wonder why the good looks missed a generation LOL! She is very popular on photographic shoots, particular the ‘film noir’ ones.

      Thank you also regarding the hat. I’m glad to say that it has found a home with one of K’s pals. A happy giveaway 🙂

  5. wow. I am so surprised at how it shaped to the crown so readily. the crown looks shorter on the finished hat than it did on the hat shaper. did you shorten it? It turned out fabulous and your daughter looks amassing in it. Did she sneak away with it after the photo shoot? I wonder how the hat would have been without the stiffener.

    1. Thanks Ann. I think it might just be the angle of the shot – it still fits the Hatshaper snugly. I felt that it was too floppy without the stiffener. In the next post I will show you how to fix a different style of hat without using stiffener.

      She’s not a ‘hat’ person – I like her honesty and I like to see these things used if possible. She showed the photo to a friend of hers who immediately claimed it. I am very happy to give it to her as I know she will wear it.

  6. What a wonderful experiment, I too am surprised it worked so well. Not that you aren’t a good hat maker but that the shape held so well with an “unknown” felt. I look forward to part 2 to see what else you do with this industrial felt. It seems that it could have many applications. Your daughter is gorgeous and I’m glad that the hat found a good home!

    1. Thanks Ruth. I don’t think anyone is more surprised than myself. I really did not expect success with it – I thought the felt would rip with all the pressure I put on it. But it did not let me down.

      Part 2 will be good fun, I promise. Another hat – with a vintage twist to fit in with Lynn’s challenge. 😉

  7. What a beautiful hat – thank you for sharing the process with us and showing a photo of your sweet dog.
    Your daughter has stunning good looks and although she’s not a hat person it looked fab on her.

  8. Thanks Lynn. the project was a bit like a mystery tour – you never know where you will end up lol.

    thank you for your comments on Katie. I’m glad to say she doesn’t take herself too seriously. 10 minutes before the shoot she was in rollers. Corrie would have been proud of her appearance!

  9. Stunning all round….the model and hat.
    It looks like it was a fun modelling session including the prepping for it! I can imagine lots of giggling, tummy clutching etc 🤪

    You’ve certainly tested the felt’s thermoformability with the steam & from your comments I must not miss your next post.

    I’m so surprised that the 2mm felt did not develop ‘holes’ with the manipulating to get the shape so perfect. As I’ve not come across it before, I have questions – Is it a fully felted felt? Could it be wire-brushed and additional wool fibres added to further felt it? You needed to stiffen your hat brim, so how much drape ability does it have? What is it normally used for? Etc etc.

    I certainly sympathise with your ‘what if’ thinking, but…. it then sends us down yet more rabbit holes!

    1. Thanks Antje. Yes she certainly enjoys the whole ‘getting ready’ process and all that entails. I suppose when the day job involved you being ‘out standing in your own field’ (every pun intended) complete with rain gear and heavy boots, she welcomes moments when she can doll herself up.

      Yes, I half expected it to develop holes as there was a lot of pulling and stretching going on but it did not tear at all. that said, there was a fair bit of excess created in the process. Had I thought about it, I should have weighed the felt before and after. A few calculations could possibly have worked out an average for the final thickness (all the pulling meant that it averaged at >2mm.

      Yes it is a fully felted felt but I am now intrigued by the concept of wire brushing it and adding to it as an experiment (I feel a rabbit hole coming into view). I have seen it used in bags and in very fancy cushion covers. By the way DHG have quite the array of colours available (tempted ….lol).

      Part 2 will give an indication of other possibilities …. 🙂

  10. Well that’s decided me not to get rid of the steamer I bought for use in felt making.
    You have done so well with the industrial felt and you’ve shown us the steps you’ve taken really clearly. I am really looking forward to the next episode.
    I bought the steamer over a year ago – sorry must be nearer 3 years ago, (that’s the lockdowns removing years from my life/memory) and still haven’t used it. I was going to sell it on, but …. I love hat making and this post has shown that you can do it as well with flat felt as with a ready-made millinary hood. That’s another thing to add to the to do list – might even try my own felt. I wonder if you can use nuno felt – as in muslin sandwiched between two layers of fibres – for extra strength. Off down the rabbit hole again!
    Love the hat, dog and daughter!

    1. Thanks Ann. I am so pleased that your steamer has potentially now found its ‘forever home’. I had to dig out my son’s old steam iron for this project. I have one of these new-fangled ‘intelligent’ irons that will not burn fabric – it works out the necessary temperature so that the more delicate fabrics are now safe in my hands. That said it won’t shoot out steam without gauging needs so no amount of shouting at it or name calling works!

      The nuno felt sounds like a worthwhile experiment. At least with your own felt you will be able to choose your colours which will open up so many possibilities. Let us know how it goes because we might all be following you down that particular rabbit hole – what a party we would have!!!

    1. Thank you Marilyn. I really should have added that my husband Enda was responsible for the shots.

  11. Made better reading than any detective novel- I’m impressed. You will have started a new trend!👏👏👏👏

    1. Thanks so much Janice. Now that you have put that thought into my head, the hat would suit a heroine from a film noire detective story. I wonder what the narrator’s first three sentences might be ….. all ideas welcome 🙂

Leave a Reply to KathrynCancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.