Saturday, January 26, 2008

On Becoming a Mad Hatter

I will never again look at a felted wool hat without realizing how much work went into making it (if it’s not mass produced). For years I have admired the beautiful hats made by my friend Karen. For years she has been offering to teach me how to make them. I finally got around to Felting 101 today.

Karen had gotten out books and hats to give me the background for this new adventure. I looked at two whole walls of hat forms in her workroom, mostly brought back from flea markets in Europe. She started off by reassuring me there are no problems in felting that cannot be resolved. Then she showed me a couple of cases where mistakes had actually turned into something interesting and unusual.

But Karen wisely decided to teach me the basics today instead of just jumping in and making a hat. I picked colors I liked from her bins of scrap wool and then started putting them together in what would become a purse/pouch/whatever bag to carry things in.

It’s a multi-step process to assemble the fibers and then felt them so they stick together and shrink so they lock in place. Warm water performs the same function the dryer does on a wool sweater. After felting and rolling and squeezing and throwing my little colorful collection of fibers, it finally took shape.

When I suggested adding a button with a loop, Karen immediately pulled out her spinning wheel and spun some yarn I could use to make the loop.

So now that I have an idea of what I am getting myself into, my homework is to choose fibers for a hat. Karen is going to New York this week and will buy whatever I choose at The Yarntree. I will probably make a beret as my first hat. I hope it has one of those little curls on top like this one has.

Maybe some day I will graduate to use one of those cool hat forms and make a classy Fedora or something with a big brim. As with so many craft projects, the choices are infinite!


Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

Really cool! The hats are fabulous, too.

Did you know the Mongolians (like Chinggis Khan, for instance) made their gers (yurts) out of felt? They called themselves the "people of the felt."


p.s. I love hats, you know ... wink wink

8:10 AM  
Blogger Pauline said...

Love hats! I used to wear them all the time when they were part of the Sunday church outfit. I have a beautiful green handmade fleece hat with a charming twist of blue in the shape of a rose attached and I wear it all fall and again in the spring when the wind is chilly but not howling. Can't wait to see what you produce when you get to make your hat!

8:11 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Reya -- You would love Karen. She is a real artist. She is also a retired physics teacher of many years, who is as happy to be out of the public school system as I am to be out of the Federal government.

I'm trying to get her to teach a course at someplace like CHAW or the Torpedo Factory because hat-making is fun and doesn't require a lot of expensive equipment.

Interesting about the Mongolian felt-makers. I can imagine this craft going back many years as people in cold places struggled to be warm.

Pauline -- I can just picture you in your jaunty hat with the rose. Things like felting and quilting are virtually lost arts on the current generation, who much prefer to buy everything.

If and when I do make my hat, you are guaranteed to see it!

8:33 AM  
Blogger Ruth D~ said...

My word, you're into everything! Looks like fun!

11:16 AM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Beauty! Not many people can pll of looking great in a hat...I can't! I think you'd look good in a tam or beret.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Kellyann Brown said...

Love those hat forms! Don't tell Martha Stewart, she'll start collecting them!

6:30 PM  
Blogger GEWELS said...

I also adore hats- unfortunately, My head is so big (no comments from the peanut gallery please) that finding hats to fit my head is a bit of a problem. Perhaps a custome made one would be in order....don't you think?

8:46 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Everyone should order one of Karen's hats while they are still affordable! Check out her website.

9:48 PM  

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