Sunday, November 02, 2008

Felted Hat

Last week my brother and I experimented with the art of felting. We started by buying bundles of wool fibers from a store in the area. Most of the wool was of different sheep varieties but we also choose llama wool because of the nice brown color and cheaper price. There were many colors to choose from but we choose earth tones for making camouflage gear. We bought a total of 28 ounces of wool for about $40.

We took some of the white wool and dyed it using black walnut husks and osage orange saw dust. 

Pictured below are the wool fibers after dying. The yellows are from the osage orange dye. The orange and brown are from the black walnut dye. We were hoping that these would come out black and I'm not sure why one batch was orange and the other brown.

We decided to make hats. We referenced four different felting books from the local library. Each had a slightly different technique for felting a hat. The main concept was to pat, press, rub, agitate, massage, knead and throw the wool until it was felted. An important point was that the wool shrinks about 40% as from start to finish. Therefore we had to start with a hat 40% bigger than our head.

Below you can see one half of my hat laid out. Notice how it was 40% bigger than my head.

After laying out the wool I poured warm soapy water on it and pressed it down to tangle the wool fibers, starting the felting process. I left a 2 inch fringe of fibers dry so I could splice the matching hat piece to it.

Here you can see my hat with both pieces spliced together on the left and my brother starting his hat on the right.

After more rubbing and pressing the hat became felted enough that I could pick it up. Notice it is still very large.

After more kneading and throwing it hard against the table several times, the hat shrank quite a bit and I was reading to put it on my mold. We both constructed head molds from foam insulation prior to starting the hats. Once on the mold I pushed the fibers together more to shrink the hat to the desired size.

The final product is a totally customized, stitchless, wool hat. Because I made it myself, the camo pattern is exactly what I wanted and it fits my head perfectly. It took at most 6 ounces of wool to make putting the cost at around $8.

After successfully completing my first hat, I decided to challenge myself further. I made a reversible hat with a striped pattern. The first challenge was to get the stripes to line up at the splice line. The second challenge was to make the reverse side have different colors. Lining up the stripes at the splice line on the reverse side at the same time was very difficult. The splicing didn't work out so great on one part and I had to stitch it up.

Here is the same hat inside out (reversed).

On the list of future projects are quivers, bow socks, mittens, socks, boots, and perhaps other clothes. My dream project is to make a stitchless hooded sweatshirt, but the splicing would be very hard, not to mention making matching sleeves.