How to Make a Wet Felted Hippy Boho Dreadlock Festival Hat

Updated on April 9, 2018
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Sally Gulbrandsen Feltmaker: Her tutorials & techniques are as individual as she is — unique, experimental and always interesting.

Wet Felted Boho Chemo Hat
Wet Felted Boho Chemo Hat | Source

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
  • Bubble-wrap
  • A large Heavy Duty Bamboo Window Blind
  • Polystrene Mannequin Head: 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.
  • 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

Template made from underfloor layment foam.
Template made from underfloor layment foam. | Source

Section 1: Draw and Cut out the Template

  1. 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.
  2. Draw the template as shown, but make it 5 cm shorter than I did. Please see my caution (Section 4, step 28).

Stretching the fibers to the width required to make the finished dreadlocks.
Stretching the fibers to the width required to make the finished dreadlocks. | Source

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

Wet a small section of a tea towel with hot soapy water.
Wet a small section of a tea towel with hot soapy water. | Source

3. Rub the Wool Gently

Rub a small section of the wool roving gently at first on the wet area of the tea towel.
Rub a small section of the wool roving gently at first on the wet area of the tea towel. | Source

4. Rub the Wool a Little Harder

Rub a little harder and you will start to feel the dreadlock hardening up.
Rub a little harder and you will start to feel the dreadlock hardening up. | Source

5. Rub the Dreadlock at an Angle

Hold the dreadlock firmly with one hand and rub using your fingers at the angle shown in this image.
Hold the dreadlock firmly with one hand and rub using your fingers at the angle shown in this image. | Source

6. Continue Rubbing Until the Wool Narrows

Rub more firmly and the dreadlock will narrow and become firmer under your fingers.
Rub more firmly and the dreadlock will narrow and become firmer under your fingers. | Source

7. Rinse Under Hot and Cold Water

Completed dreadlocks when dry.
Completed dreadlocks when dry. | Source

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.

Compress the oddments of wool roving into a tight ball about the size of an open hand.
Compress the oddments of wool roving into a tight ball about the size of an open hand. | Source

Section 3: Prepare the Bun

  1. 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).

Wrap the oddments of wool roving with the same color roving as the hat and dreadlocks.
Wrap the oddments of wool roving with the same color roving as the hat and dreadlocks. | Source

2. Cover the Oddments

Cover the oddments of wool roving with merino wool or Jacobs fleece as shown in the photos.

The merino wool oddments covered with a layer of Jacobs fleece.  Wet with soapy water and roll gently on a towel covered flat surface until smooth.
The merino wool oddments covered with a layer of Jacobs fleece. Wet with soapy water and roll gently on a towel covered flat surface until smooth. | Source

3. Make Sure Everything Matches

The outer layer should match the hat and the dreadlocks.

Rubbing the wet ball on a towel.
Rubbing the wet ball on a towel. | Source

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.

The wet ball ready to be put inside a pair of cut off tights before putting inside a tumble dryer.
The wet ball ready to be put inside a pair of cut off tights before putting inside a tumble dryer. | Source
The felt ball inside the foot of a cut off pair of tights.  Knot the tights with a slip knot.  Put aside until the hat is partially felted..
The felt ball inside the foot of a cut off pair of tights. Knot the tights with a slip knot. Put aside until the hat is partially felted.. | Source

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.

Begin by putting down a layer of brown Merino wool as shown.
Begin by putting down a layer of brown Merino wool as shown. | Source

Section 4: Make the Hat

  1. Lay an even layer of Merino wool roving down around the edges of the template.

The template covered in an even layer of Merino wool roving.
The template covered in an even layer of Merino wool roving. | Source

2. Cover the Template

Completely cover the template using the merino wool roving.

Wetting the fibers
Wetting the fibers | Source

3. Cover the Fibers

Cover the fibers with the curtain netting. Then, wet the wool with hot, soapy water.

Rubbing and smoothing down the wool fibers under the curtain netting..
Rubbing and smoothing down the wool fibers under the curtain netting.. | Source

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.

Removing the curtain netting.
Removing the curtain netting. | Source

5. Remove the Netting

Gently lift the netting from the surface of the wet wool.

The woolen fibers turned over the edges of the template.
The woolen fibers turned over the edges of the template. | Source

6. Turn the Template Over

Fold the wet fibers over the edge of the template and smooth it with soapy water.

Cover the template with a layer of Merino wool roving.
Cover the template with a layer of Merino wool roving. | Source

7. Cover the Second Side

Cover the template using merino wool roving.

Wetting the Fibers
Wetting the Fibers | Source

8. Cover the Fibers

Cover the fibers with the curtain netting. Wet them with hot, soapy water and smooth the fibers as before.

Remove the curtain netting.
Remove the curtain netting. | Source

9. Remove the Netting

Gently remove the netting. Then, turn the template over.

The project being turned over.
The project being turned over. | Source

10. Neaten the Wool

Neaten the wool on the edges of the template. Fold over any loose fibers to complete the first layer.

The edges being turned over using a little soapy water.
The edges being turned over using a little soapy water. | Source

11. Finish off the Edges

Fold over the edges and smooth them down using a little hot, soapy water.

The 1st layer is now complete.
The 1st layer is now complete. | Source

12. Cover the Layer

Layer one is now complete and ready to cover with a final layer of Jacobs Fleece.

Jacobs fleece covering the 1st layer of Merino wool.
Jacobs fleece covering the 1st layer of Merino wool. | Source

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.

Wetting with hot soapy water.
Wetting with hot soapy water. | Source

14. Cover the Wool

Cover the wool with curtain netting and then wet it with hot, soapy water.

Rubbing the surface of the curtain netting.
Rubbing the surface of the curtain netting. | Source

15. Rub the Fibers

Press the water down and out towards the edges of the template. Smooth the fibers down using the water.

The curtain netting being lifted off the wet fibers.
The curtain netting being lifted off the wet fibers. | Source

16. Remove the Netting

Lift the curtain netting gently from the wet fibers.

The turned over template.
The turned over template. | Source

17. Turn the Template Over

Turn the template over. Then, fold over the loose wool on the edges.

The fibers turned over the edges of the template.
The fibers turned over the edges of the template. | Source

18. Neaten the Edges

Fold the loose fibers over the edges of the template. Smooth them down using hot, soapy water.

A thick layer of Jacobs fleece.
A thick layer of Jacobs fleece. | Source

19. Add Fibers to the Second Side

Fill in the gaps with a thick layer of Jacobs fleece.

Wetting the fibers with hot soapy water.
Wetting the fibers with hot soapy water. | Source

20. Cover With the Curtain Netting

Cover with the curtain netting. Wet it with hot, soapy water.

Turning the fibers over the edge of the template using hot soapy water.
Turning the fibers over the edge of the template using hot soapy water. | Source

21. Rub and Remove the Curtain Netting

After you rub and remove the curtain netting, neaten the edges.

2 layers, complete on both sides of the template.
2 layers, complete on both sides of the template. | Source

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.

The rolled up project
The rolled up project | Source

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.

Changing the direction in which you roll the project.  Keep on turning it inside the bamboo blind.
Changing the direction in which you roll the project. Keep on turning it inside the bamboo blind. | Source

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.

Rubbing a little harder.
Rubbing a little harder. | Source

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.

The pinch test being performed.
The pinch test being performed. | Source

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.

The template being cut from the hat and the stocking removed from the bun
The template being cut from the hat and the stocking removed from the bun | Source

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.

A Caution!

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.

5 cm removed from the bottom of the hat.
5 cm removed from the bottom of the hat. | Source

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.

5 cm was cut from the bottom of the hat before inserting the bun into the hat cavity.
5 cm was cut from the bottom of the hat before inserting the bun into the hat cavity. | Source

30. Prototype!

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.

Soap well and massage well until the hat shrinks to the shape of the mannequins head.
Soap well and massage well until the hat shrinks to the shape of the mannequins head. | Source

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.

Shaping the hat to just above the eyebrows and  to the nape of the neck.
Shaping the hat to just above the eyebrows and to the nape of the neck. | Source

32. Fold up Excess Felt

Turn the edges of the hat up slightly as shown.

The hat ready to be assembled.
The hat ready to be assembled. | Source

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.

The inside of the hat showing the bun felted to the hat.
The inside of the hat showing the bun felted to the hat. | Source
Twist and tie half of the dreads together at the middle point using a section of one Dreadlock
Twist and tie half of the dreads together at the middle point using a section of one Dreadlock | Source

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.

Wet Felted Hippy Boho Dreaklock Hat
Wet Felted Hippy Boho Dreaklock Hat | Source

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.

Make a plait using 3 dreadlocks.   Attach it loosely to the bun after removing the elastic band and then attach the other half of the dreadlocks to the plait.  Tie tightly around the bun.
Make a plait using 3 dreadlocks. Attach it loosely to the bun after removing the elastic band and then attach the other half of the dreadlocks to the plait. Tie tightly around the bun. | Source

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.

The completed wet felted Chemo/Boho Hat.
The completed wet felted Chemo/Boho Hat. | Source

You're Finished!

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

    Comments

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      • sallybea profile image
        Author

        Sally Gulbrandsen 2 months ago from Norfolk

        It is my pleasure and I am so pleased you like the hat. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

      • agusfanani profile image

        agusfanani 2 months ago from Indonesia

        That's a very clear, easy to follow tutorial and the hat is very beautiful too. Thank you for the tutorial and sharing this amazing idea.

      • sallybea profile image
        Author

        Sally Gulbrandsen 4 months ago from Norfolk

        Hi Devika,

        I am glad I have been able to inspire you. My advice would be to start with a small project first. That will give you the opportunity to learn how wool behaves when you apply water, heat, and friction to it. It is an amazing art form and as you well know I am totally hooked:) Thanks for stopping by to comment.

      • DDE profile image

        Devika Primić 4 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

        I like it! Something I would have never thought of doing. Now that you shared this wonderful hub it makes me want to start something new. Beautifully presented!

      • sallybea profile image
        Author

        Sally Gulbrandsen 4 months ago from Norfolk

        Thank you, so glad you like it:)

      • Larry Rankin profile image

        Larry Rankin 4 months ago from Oklahoma

        Very cool hat!

      • sallybea profile image
        Author

        Sally Gulbrandsen 4 months ago from Norfolk

        Thank you Mary. I am sure the Carnival in Brazil would be the perfect place to wear this hat. I had a lot of fun making it:)

      • Blond Logic profile image

        Mary Wickison 4 months ago from Brazil

        This is so cute. Our Carnival in Brazil would be a perfect place to wear this. It's all about fun.

        Excellent step by step instructions.

      • sallybea profile image
        Author

        Sally Gulbrandsen 4 months ago from Norfolk

        Hi Mary,

        There is always a first time but if you ever do, I suggest that you tackle a simple project first, something like a piece of flat felt or a little pair of booties. You will soon get the hang of it:) Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 4 months ago from Ontario, Canada

        I enjoy reading about your creative projects and this one looks really cute. I wish I can make one but I haven't handled felt at all.

      • sallybea profile image
        Author

        Sally Gulbrandsen 4 months ago from Norfolk

        You are very welcome Heidi, it is always a pleasure to hear from you. Have a Happy Weekend too!

      • heidithorne profile image

        Heidi Thorne 4 months ago from Chicago Area

        Super cute way to get the dreadlock look! Thanks, as always, for sharing your creativity and talents with us. Happy Weekend!

      • sallybea profile image
        Author

        Sally Gulbrandsen 4 months ago from Norfolk

        I think you are saying that it is pretty! I take that as a compliment Billy and thank you for nearly always being the first to comment even though I know I you will never attempt felting. Have a great weekend Billy.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

        The title had me confused, other than dreadlock. This is so very clever. My mind is completely boggled trying to imagine me attempting something like this. :) The end result would not be pretty. :)

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