How to Make a Wet Felted Bonnet for a Newborn Baby
Can you use commercial sewing patterns for felting?
I designed this tutorial to test the feasibility of making a newborn bonnet using a commercial sewing pattern. As someone who has spent many years constructing garments from sewing patterns, I understand that to make well-fitting garments or hats, you first need to start with a good basic pattern. Since wet felting is not an exact science, it can sometimes be very difficult to do this. The end result relies on having an accurate template, understanding how much shrinkage will affect the outcome, or having a mannequin or hat block which has a beautiful shape you can use to mold the item.
Too often, I see wet felted garments being made which do not fit well! The purist in me still wants to see wet felted garments being made without seams. This is yet another project which explores how commercial sewing patterns can be used in conjunction with felting.
What You'll Need
- 100 grams Botany Lap Waste: This is available from World of World. It's usually a mix of fibers, most of which are merino wool roving with oddments that are great for embellishing the surface of any of your projects.
- : Cut out the paper pattern pieces for view E size L and put them underneath a piece of underfloor layment foam. This way, it can be easily traced and cut out to create a template. Simplicity bonnet pattern No. 2908
- Olive Oil Soap: You'll need this grated and diluted in hot water.
- Bubble Wrap
- Heavy-Duty Bamboo Window Blind
- Old towel: This is to soak up any excess water.
- A Small Doll, Ball or Balloon: You'll need one of these to shape the bonnet with a circumference of about 15 1/2 inches.
- Warm, Soapy Water: You can use the olive oil soap for this. Simply grate it and dilute it with warm water.
- Tumble Dryer: This is useful, but not essential.
- Pair of sharp scissors
- Needle and thread
1. Make the Template
Cut out the paper using Simplicity 2908 View E onto a piece of underfloor layment foam.
- Use size L for a newborn infant. There is no need to include an allowance for shrinkage if you are making the bonnet for a newborn.
Cut out the individual template pieces.
- You may exclude the ties if you would prefer to have two long, straight ties.
2. Make the Flowers
Cover the surface of the flower templates with two thin layers of wool. Add a little embellishment to the surface to create interest.
3. Make the Leaves
Cover the surface of the four leaves with two thin layers of green wool roving.
4. Wet the Surface of the Leaves and Flowers
Flatten the wet surface of the wool by pressing down on it with your fingers. Rub gently on the wool or, alternatively, cover it with bubble wrap and rub gently.
5. Cover and Wet the Surface
If you don't want to use your fingers, you may use a piece of bubble wrap, curtain netting, or floor underlayment foam to help press the surface down. Wet and rub gently, but not enough to felt the fibers.
6. Neaten the Edges
Trim the flowers and the leaves using a pair of scissors.
7. Complete the Leaves
Add a few thin, twisted slithers of fiber to the surface of the leaves to create veins. Tuck the loose ends behind the flower or trim them down.
8. Make the Hat Band
Cover the hat band using two even layers of fiber as shown above. The layers should not be too thick.
9. Wet the Surface
Wet the surface of the band with hot, soapy water.
10. Smooth Down the Wet Surface
Neaten the edges by turning the fibers back over the top layer. Don't fold them around the template.
11. Complete the Second Layer
Lay a thin second layer over the first layer without encroaching on the edges. Keep the layers thin.
12. Wet the Second Layer of the Brim
Smooth the surface using hot soapy water, and set it aside.
13. Cover the Brim
Cover the brim with a contrasting color to complement the hat hand and flowers.
14. Wet the Hat Band
Wet the band with hot soapy water. The ends of the brim should have fiber overlapping the edges. These will be used to attach the bonnet ties to the hat at a later stage.
15. Add a Second Layer of Fiber
Add a second layer of fiber to the brim. The layers should be slightly thicker than those which are used to create the leaves, flowers, and hat band.
16. Complete the Hat Brim
Neaten the one curved edge of the hat brim. Rub it gently at first. Use your fingers or cover it with bubble wrap and rub well. Avoid touching the loose fibers on the sides and the inner edge. These loose fibers will be used to attach the brim and the back to one another.
17. Hat Band, Flowers, and Leaves
Place the bonnet right-side up on your surface. Center the hat band on the brim, and then add the flowers and leaves.
- Handle the pieces gently, as they will still be delicate at this stage.
- Don't put the flowers too close to the loose fibers at the sides.
I decided to make two long ties rather than the wider one I drew from the Simplicity paper pattern.
18. Make the Hat Ties
Create two ties from wool roving as shown above. The length and width can be decided by your preference. You may even choose to trim and shorten them at a later stage!
19. Neaten the Edges
Use the sheet of bubble wrap to create a neat edge for the ties. Simply fold it over the wet wool and rub it gently to make a straight edge.
20. Loose Fibers!
Remember to keep some loose fibers on each end of the ties so you can use them to attach to the bonnet brim.
21. Make the Back Section of the Hat
Cover the back template with two layers of fiber. Add a few decorative fibers to the surface. This layer should match the thickness of the brim without the band and flowers.
22. Wet the Back
Wet the surface with hot soapy water.
23. Rub the Center Area of the Template
Disregard the loose edges, as these will be trimmed off. Ensure that the two layers are even and without any thin spots.
24. Cover With Bubble wrap
Cover it with bubble wrap and wet the surface if you find it easier to flatten the fibers this way.
25. Neaten the Base of the Back Piece
Turn up the bottom edge of the bonnet as shown above. Doing this will produce a nice neat edge at the nape of the neck.
26. Gently Remove the Template
Gently remove the template without disturbing the folded edge.
27. Put the Template Back
Place the template back onto the exact spot from which it was removed. The folded edge is now covered by the template instead of the template being between the fold.
28. Trim the Back Section
Cut the loose fibers from the edges of the back section.
29. Tack the Brim to the Back
Starting at the lower ends of the bonnet, tack the front and back of the bonnet together and ease the brim around the top of the back piece.
- The two pieces will still be quite fragile at this stage, so please handle them with care.
Turn the hat inside out very carefully. Put the bonnet onto a ball, balloon, or doll. Add a little hot soapy water to the 'seam' to smooth down the join and rub it until it's smooth. Leave the stitches in for now.
30. Neaten the Inside
Add a fine layer of wool to the inside of the hat. Check the inside of the bonnet for any thin spots and fill them with a little additional wool if necessary.
- Keep in mind that the bonnet is for a newborn baby. We still want to maintain the strength of the fabric but keep it as thin as possible.
31. Smooth the Inside
Use hot, soapy water to the inside of the hat, paying special attention to the join in the seam line. Rub gently at first, and then add a little more pressure.
32. Turn the Bonnet Right-Side Out
Rub the outside of the hat until all of the elements have fused together: the hat ties, the flowers, the leaves, and the seams.
33. Felting the Bonnet Ties
Roll the ties inside the bamboo blind for quick results. Then, roll the bonnet in the bamboo blind, being careful to maintain its shape.
34. Two Minutes in the Tumble Dryer
Wrap the bonnet and the ties into a small parcel using a little cling film to ensure that all the elements of the bonnet stay together. Tumble dry it for two minutes. Then, tumble it for another two minutes and remove the plastic. Rinse the bonnet under hot and then cold water, squeezing the bundle as you do so.
- Drop the bonnet onto a firm surface a few times.
- Squeeze out any excess water with a towel.
- Shape the bonnet over a doll, balloonm or ball.
© 2018 Sally Gulbrandsen