Yes, we did it again. Yesterday my wonderful and distracting-in-the-best-way Mother and I returned to the fiber studio to felt, when I should have been reading Rene Girard and preparing for summer research back on campus (which starts in little over one week! Eep!). We experimented a bit more boldly this time, creating our own patterns instead of copying those out of a book, which were proven to work. And though our hats may not have turned out exactly how we originally envisioned them, they ended up being rather more exciting than we anticipated. Aren’t they wonderful?
This time, Mama’s hat went through a miner’s-helmet stage, and mine through a few minutes of looking like something some sort of flower-pot sprite would wear. I kind of liked it. All it needed was a great big flower on top…something fluffy. Maybe a peony. The temptation to leave it this way was quite strong. But I didn’t, and am so happy with the result I ended up with! It makes me feel rather like a strange and wonderful combination of Huck Finn, the Artful Dodger of Oliver Twist (this seems to be a recurring theme…), and Estragon of Beckett’s Waiting For Godot. It’s a brilliant feeling. I can safely say that this hat is my new absolute-favorite possession. Besides my glasses – I’m still really a fan of them too. And my Tolkien books, of course. But that last exception is rather obvious.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve never really successfully made a hat before. I blame it entirely on the method. My previous attempts at hat-felting have all been done by wrapping wool around a small beach ball. The majority of the felting is done with the ball inside the cocoon of wool. One cuts a slit in the wool once the felt is firm, pulls the ball out, and finishes the hat that way, shaping it to the style and fit preferred. However, as you can probably imagine, it is incredibly difficult to wrap an even layer of wool around a slippery beach ball. Gravity takes over, and, well, there are always holes.
This week my mother and I ditched the 3-D form, and used a flat resist instead. With this method, one cuts a pattern, or resist, out of plastic or some other reasonably stiff, water-proof material. The size of this is dependent on the circumference of one’s head, the shrinkage percentage of the type of wool one is using, and some reasonably accurate mental math. The shape of the resist is dependent on the type of hat one wants. For both my hats, I used a bell-shaped resist, though I modified the bottom edge to widen out more for this second hat, since I wanted more of a brim.
Once the resist is measured and cut out, one lays their wool out over it, covers it with a piece of silk gauze to hold the fibers down (old curtains work well), wets it, carefully turns the whole thing over, and does the same on the reverse side, being careful to fold the edges over so the resist is entirely encased. Then felt away! When the wool is felted enough to stay in one piece, one cuts the bottom open, pulls out the resist, and begins the real fun. Shaping the hat is the best part, in my opinion – it’s so much fun to see a piece of soggy half-fabric turn into something solid and oh-so-awesome under one’s hands. There’s always a moment (or two, or three) when I step back and look at my creation and panic–it invariably passes through the felt version of an awkward-teenager phase before it starts looking, you know, like an actual hat that someone could put on their actual head and wear in public without looking like, well, a flower-pot sprite.
But the final product is always worth it. Wouldn’t you agree?