Want to felt your own cozy hat? Then I have good news for you! We have our hat felting retreat coming up, and it’s the perfect way to get introduced to the art of millinery. You’ll make your own classic-style hat with wool roving using the wet felting technique. Don’t worry, it’s easier than it sounds! This is a wonderful craft and we’re excited to offer this retreat, which will be happening September 24–26, 2021 at the Nome Schoolhouse. You can see all the details and register for your spot here.
I’ve always been fascinated by the art of hatmaking. As part of my studies of the fiber arts and the many types of wool, I’ve done a lot of reading about the history of millinery. In the late 19th century, most hats were made from fur, but wool was a cheaper alternative. And once steam power became popular, hatmakers were able to produce hats on a large scale. Handmade wool hats faded a bit in popularity, but now we are seeing an exciting resurgence of wool-felted hats.
They have a vintage feel, like the fedoras and cloche hats that have that fun 20s and 30s vibe. And the best part is that the wet felting technique allows you to mold these wool hats to whatever shape you like, so you can let your creativity shine!
As you learn in my Needle Felting Academy, wool fibers have small spikes or scales along them. When we stab our felting needles into wool, the barbs on the needle catch the fibers and tangle them together. Wet felting is a similar idea, but it uses water to loosen up those scales and get them to catch on each other. As you progressively wet and wring the wool, it gets packed down into felt. However, it will end up with a more flexible, coarser feel than your needle-felted project. This may not be ideal for your cute animal sculptures, but it’s perfect for hats!
The wool gets molded into the right shape, then pressed into a firm form. What’s neat about this process is that the water and steam do a lot of the work, so wet felting is basically controlling how your wool shrinks!
And yes, hatmakers have used wet felting for centuries. Now that mass-produced hats are the norm, milliners are really pleased that there is renewed interest in hand-felted hats. If you’d like to join this tradition, please click here to learn more about Ellen Sakornbut’s hat felting retreat and make your own vintage-style hat!