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.