How to Make a Wet Felted Hippy Boho Dreadlock Festival Hat
About This Tutorial
This wet felting tutorial has, for simplicity, been divided into four sections!
- Section 1: How to draw and cut out the hat template
- Section 2: How to prepare the dreadlocks
- Section 3: How to prepare the bun for inclusion in the hat
- Section 4: How to make the hat and assemble the different elements
This is a time-consuming project. I suggest that you take your time preparing all the elements in the order shown above. The dreadlocks alone will take you several hours, but they can be done while you are watching television or listening to the radio.
What You'll Need
- 250 Grams Felting Wool: Jacob’s fleece and a mix of Merino wool roving were used in this example.
- Merino Wool Roving: You'll need this for the inside of the bun.
- Hat Template (see below)
- Grated Olive Oil Soap: Make sure to dilute this with warm water. This is much kinder to the hands than dishwashing liquid.
- Curtain Netting
- A large Heavy Duty Bamboo Window Blind
- : This item is essential if you want to create a hat which not only fits well but also provides a realistic guide when determining how long the dreads need to hang. Polystrene Mannequin Head
- Old Hand Towel: You'll use this to soak up any excess water.
- A Tumble Dryer (very useful but not essential)
- Sharp Scissors
- Elastic Bands
- Needle and Thread
Section 1: Draw and Cut out the Template
- Draw the template onto a piece of underfloor layment. Templates made from underfloor layment foam can be used repeatedly and will come to no harm when used in a tumble dryer. Alternatively, you may use bubble wrap, but I find the foam much easier to work with.
- Draw the template as shown, but make it 5 cm shorter than I did. Please see my caution (Section 4, step 28).
Section 2: Prepare the Dreadlocks
The dreadlocks should be made from wool roving. I used commercially-prepared Jacobs fleece, but you can use any felting wool of your choice.
1. Split the roving into one continuous length to create the dreadlocks.
Use two fingers to stretch the wool roving to the required thickness as shown in the image above.
- The width should be about as wide as the nail on your thumbnail.
- Tip: The dreadlocks can be cut to the required length after felting when the hat is being assembled.
- The length of each dreadlock should be tailored to suit your personal taste, though varying lengths may give the hat a more natural look.
2. Wet a Section of Wool
3. Rub the Wool Gently
4. Rub the Wool a Little Harder
5. Rub the Dreadlock at an Angle
6. Continue Rubbing Until the Wool Narrows
7. Rinse Under Hot and Cold Water
8. You will need approximately 50-60 double-length dreads to complete the hat.
Rinse the dreads until the water runs clear of soap suds. You will feel them shrink and tighten beneath your fingers.
9. Hang them on a hanger and allow to dry near a radiator or outdoors.
Section 3: Prepare the Bun
- Select some oddments of wool roving for the felted ball. They will be used to create a bun at the top of the hat. Compress them into a tight ball about the size of an open hand (see above).
2. Cover the Oddments
Cover the oddments of wool roving with merino wool or Jacobs fleece as shown in the photos.
3. Make Sure Everything Matches
The outer layer should match the hat and the dreadlocks.
4. Wet the Bun
Wet the bun with hot, soapy water. Roll it gently on a flat surface covered with a tea towel or something similar.
5. Put the Bun Away
Put the bun into a pair of cut-off stockings. Knot the end and lay the bun aside to put inside the tumble dryer (along with the hat) when the initial prep has been done. This will help you save on electricity costs.
Section 4: Make the Hat
- Lay an even layer of Merino wool roving down around the edges of the template.
2. Cover the Template
Completely cover the template using the merino wool roving.
3. Cover the Fibers
Cover the fibers with the curtain netting. Then, wet the wool with hot, soapy water.
4. Rub the Surface
Rub the surface of the curtain netting. Press the soapy water down and out towards the edges of the template. Rub it until it's smooth.
5. Remove the Netting
Gently lift the netting from the surface of the wet wool.
6. Turn the Template Over
Fold the wet fibers over the edge of the template and smooth it with soapy water.
7. Cover the Second Side
Cover the template using merino wool roving.
8. Cover the Fibers
Cover the fibers with the curtain netting. Wet them with hot, soapy water and smooth the fibers as before.
9. Remove the Netting
Gently remove the netting. Then, turn the template over.
10. Neaten the Wool
Neaten the wool on the edges of the template. Fold over any loose fibers to complete the first layer.
11. Finish off the Edges
Fold over the edges and smooth them down using a little hot, soapy water.
12. Cover the Layer
Layer one is now complete and ready to cover with a final layer of Jacobs Fleece.
13. Cover With a Thick Even Layer of Jacobs Fleece
Cover the layer with a thick, even layer of Jacobs fleece that was commercially turned into wool roving. This wool was not chosen for its great felting properties! In my experience, it is neither quick or easy wool to felt. I chose it for its aesthetic appeal! I wanted a particular look for this hat, and Jacobs fleece was my choice.
You may use merino wool in any color of your choice. It is very easy to felt.
- Merino wool can be opened out in exactly the same way, using your fingers as shown.
- Apply a fairly thick layer of wool roving over the first layer.
- Ensure that it is an even layer with no gaps between the rows. Gaps in the rows will cause thin spots or even holes.
14. Cover the Wool
Cover the wool with curtain netting and then wet it with hot, soapy water.
15. Rub the Fibers
Press the water down and out towards the edges of the template. Smooth the fibers down using the water.
16. Remove the Netting
Lift the curtain netting gently from the wet fibers.
17. Turn the Template Over
Turn the template over. Then, fold over the loose wool on the edges.
18. Neaten the Edges
Fold the loose fibers over the edges of the template. Smooth them down using hot, soapy water.
19. Add Fibers to the Second Side
Fill in the gaps with a thick layer of Jacobs fleece.
20. Cover With the Curtain Netting
Cover with the curtain netting. Wet it with hot, soapy water.
21. Rub and Remove the Curtain Netting
After you rub and remove the curtain netting, neaten the edges.
22. Layer 2 Is Nearly Complete!
Smooth the layer carefully and check for any thin spots. If you find any, fill them in and wet the fibers with hot, soapy water.
23. Roll the Project
Place the project between two sheets of bubble wrap or one folded sheet of bubble wrap. Then, place the project onto the bamboo blind with a towel below to catch any excess water. Roll the project in the blind with the bubble wrap still covering the wool.
24. Roll Gently at First!
Roll the project very gently on the towel-covered table. It should be lightly rolled or gently rubbed in order to prevent any displacement of the fibers, at least in the beginning.
25. Change Directions!
Keep changing the direction you roll the project. Remove the bubble wrap after a little while and continue rolling the hat until the fibers no longer move.
26. Turn the Project Inside the Bamboo Blind
As the fibers start to tighten, roll a little harder. Once you begin to feel the fibers tighten, press harder down onto the wool.
27. Do a Pinch Test!
Do a pinch test by pinching the wool with two fingers. If the fibers no longer move, you are ready to move onto the next step.
28. Put the Hat and the Bun Into the Tumble Dryer
The tumble dryer will speed up the felting process. If you don't have access to one, continue rolling the hat in the blind and rolling the ball until it is tightly felted.
Remove the template and remove the stocking from the bun when it becomes obvious that the project has shrunk. You will start to see the template buckle, and the felt ball may even start attaching itself to the stocking.
- If it does get stuck, simply pull it off gently.
If you took my advice to cut the template 5cm shorter at the start of this tutorial, please do not cut off any from the lower half of the hat at this stage. Wait until you trim the edges of the hat to see if it is necessary for you to do any cutting at all! Felting is not an exact science, and different wools behave differently.
29. A Note on Shrinkage!
The shrinkage was not as much as I had anticipated, so I cut 5cm from the bottom of the project before proceeding because it was too long.
As this was a prototype I was unable to estimate how much shrinkage would take place throughout this project. I knew that by adding a bun to the hat that I would require more length than a normal hat, so I overestimated this amount.
- In my eyes, it is always better to have a little more room to play with rather than having too little at the end. :)
The tumble dryer will produce a much firmer felt. No heat is necessary. It is the thumping in the tumble dryer which helps the felting process. My own tumble dryer works only on a low or high heat, so I use it on a low heat.
31. Create the Bun
Now, you're going to create the bun on the inside of the hat. Arrange the firm felt ball inside the top of the hat, centering it using the mannequin's head. Use an elastic band to secure the felt inside the top of the hat as shown above.
32. Fold up Excess Felt
Turn the edges of the hat up slightly as shown.
33. Trim the Edges
Trim the edges with a sharp pair of scissors. Heal the cut edges by rubbing it with hot soapy water and then rinsing it with cold water. The bun and the hat will fuse together and should now be attached to the inside of the hat.
- You may need to secure it with a few blind stitches when you start to assemble the hat, but I think this unlikely. However, it may be safer to do so.
34. Twist and Turn
Twist and tie half of the dreads together at the middle point, using a section of one dreadlock to do so.
35. Add More Ties
Tie another two pieces on each side of the center. Finally, tie the dreadlocks at the nape of the neck, and secure them with a ribbon or section of a spare dreadlock.
36. Make a Plait
Make a plait using three dreadlocks. Attach it loosely to the bun after removing the elastic band. Then, attach the other half of the dreadlocks to the plait. Tie it tightly around the bun.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Your comments are welcomed, and if you have any queries regarding this tutorial, please feel free to contact me.
Wet Felted Dreadlock Hat
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Sally Gulbrandsen