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How to Make Wet Felted Dreadlocks for a Chemo Hat

Updated on August 1, 2017
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Sally Gulbrandsen Feltmaker: Her tutorials & techniques are as individual as she is — unique, experimental and always interesting.

Dreads Hat

Wet Felted Dreads Hat
Wet Felted Dreads Hat | Source

Side View Dreads Hat

Side view of the wet felted dreads hat
Side view of the wet felted dreads hat | Source

Wet Felted Dreadlocks Hat

Rear view of the chemo dreads hat

Rear view of the chemo dreads hat
Rear view of the chemo dreads hat | Source

More about this Project

This project can only be described as a labor of love. There is no doubt that it is a time-consuming one, but I promise your patience and creativity will be well rewarded.

It is my hope that many of these hats will grace the heads of children and adults throughout the world, especially those who have recently lost their hair due to cancer. This hat was designed to bring some fun into their lives.

For newborn photographers everywhere the hat will make a great prop. Adjust the size of the dreads and the thickness accordingly when contemplating making one for a newborn child.

It is my hope that those who follow this tutorial will be inspired to share their own thoughts as they follow through the process of making this hat for an adult or child who is undergoing chemotherapy.


Front view of the dreads hat

Front view
Front view | Source

A bar of Olive Oil Soap

A bar of Olive Oil Soap
A bar of Olive Oil Soap | Source
Grated Olive Oil Soap
Grated Olive Oil Soap | Source

Items Required to Complete This Project:-

A QUANTITY PENCIL WOOL ROVING

The amount required will vary and depend on how many dreads you intend to make, also how long you want the dreads to be worn. Around 300 grams of wool pencil roving makes for a good starting point. Select colors according which the intended recipient will enjoy. Fun rainbow colors work well, as does brown or hite pencil roving which can be dyed after the dreads have been felted. Try using natural dyes such as tea or coffee for making brown dreads.

GRATED OLIVE OIL SOAP

Grated Olive oil soap should be dissolved and diluted in very hot water. Olive Oil Soap is kind to the hands and gentle on the wool. Alternatively, you may wish to use Dish Washing Liquid diluted in hot water if no olive oil soap is available to you.

A LARGE BAMBOO CURTAIN BLIND

A large recycled Bamboo curtain blind will provide a very good surface for rolling the dreads on. These can be used over and over again for a variety of other felting projects too. This is one of my favorite felting tools. However, an absorbent hand towel makes a good substitute should you not have one to hand. An absorbent cotton towel should be placed under the bamboo blind to absorb any excess soapy water.

A CROCHET BEANIE HAT WHICH HAS LARGE GAPS BETWEEN THE STITCHES

Make one similar to the one pictured shown below or purchase a ready-made hat from e-Bay or Amazon. Choose a Beenie which has a loose weave preferably hand crafted using thick wool and a double crochet stitch. It should have good size holes through which the dreads can be threaded. You may wish to use a recycled crochet hat crocheted in the size required for the intended recipient.

A STYROFOAM or POLYSTYRENE MANNEQUIN HEAD

Polystyrene Mannequin heads serve as a means to help you gauge the length of the required dreads needed, useful if you do not have a human the right size to measure them against. These come in a variety of sizes and can be used over and over again for a variety of felt making projects. These are useful for displaying hats or can also be used as Hat 'Shapers'. These can be purchased very reasonably from Amazon or E-Bay.

Dreaded Dreadlocks!

If you lost your hair, due to cancer treatment, would you consider wearing this Dreadlock hat.

See results

A bundle of wool pencil roving

Pencil Roving
Pencil Roving | Source

Close-up of a bundle of Wool Pencil Roving

Pencil Wool Roving.
Pencil Wool Roving. | Source

Pull off 2 equal lengths of the Pencil Roving from the bundle

The length of the roving should be twice the length of 1 dreadlock as you will be making double ended dreads with this Tutorial.

You will need 2 lengths which are the same size and thickness to make one double ended dread. Please see images below.

Align the two pieces side by side to get the right thickness of one dread.

The completed dread which, when completed is folded and looped through the stitches of the beanie hat and the two pointed ends will be drawn through the loop and tightened up against the crochet stitches of the Beenie. Please see the images below.

2 Lengths of Pencil Roving aligned side by side before soaking

Align the two pieces of pencil roving, wet in hot soapy water and roll.  Two ended dread, folded makes two lengths.
Align the two pieces of pencil roving, wet in hot soapy water and roll. Two ended dread, folded makes two lengths. | Source

Getting the length right!

The length of the dreads is a matter of personal preference. Please see the images below. I sometimes fold the roving in unequal lengths when threading them through. I stagger the lengths of the dreads to give the head of hair a more realistic and natural line.

Place the alligned lengths of pencil roving into the hot soapy water

With the two pieces aligned put into the hot soapy water and leave for a minute or soak through.
With the two pieces aligned put into the hot soapy water and leave for a minute or soak through. | Source

Soak in lengths in the bowl of hot soapy water

Let the roving absorb the hot soapy water.
Let the roving absorb the hot soapy water. | Source

Submerge the 2 lengths into the hot soapy water

When submerging the fibers beneath the water, ensure that the pieces can be removed still aligned. The thickness of the double ended dread will be maintained if you do this. Once wet through, remove the fibers carefully from the hot water and slide your fingers down the full length of the fibers. The two lengths have become one. Let the excess soapy water fall back down into the bowl of water so that it can be used again.

Squeeze out the excess soapy water with your fingers..

Remove any excess water by running your fingers down the length of the piece of roving and letting the water fall back in the bowl.
Remove any excess water by running your fingers down the length of the piece of roving and letting the water fall back in the bowl. | Source

The excess soapy water has now been squeezed from the roving.

The roving ready to be rolled on the bamboo curtain
The roving ready to be rolled on the bamboo curtain | Source

Begin rolling the wet fibers beneath your fingers

Begin rolling the dread into a cylindrical shape.  Press lightly at first.
Begin rolling the dread into a cylindrical shape. Press lightly at first. | Source

Dunk the dread back into the soapy water.

Do this 3 times after the initial rolling. It helps to firm up the inner fibers inside the dread. They should feel firm when they are finished but as they dry they will soften and become light in weight.

Dunking the fibers back into the hot soapy water

Dunk the length into hot soapy water and roll again.  Do this two or three times until the fibers have knitted firmly together.
Dunk the length into hot soapy water and roll again. Do this two or three times until the fibers have knitted firmly together. | Source

Removing the dreads from the hot soapy water to roll again

Remove from the hot soapy water and roll again.
Remove from the hot soapy water and roll again. | Source

Getting ready to roll

Getting ready to roll for the second time
Getting ready to roll for the second time | Source

Save time by rolling a few dreads at a time

Save time by rolling the dreads a few at a time. Some people use the tumble dryer as an assistant but I prefer in this instant not to as they are likely to stick to one another if you are not careful.

Two or more Dreads can be rolled at a time.

Save time and energy by rolling more than one length at a time.
Save time and energy by rolling more than one length at a time. | Source

A completed dread (still wet)

A completed dreadlock (wet)
A completed dreadlock (wet) | Source

Rinse in diluted vinegar water.

Rinse well in hot and then cold water. Give a final rinse in diluted vinegar water and leave to dry before assembling the hat below.

Making or buying a Beenie or use a recycled Beenie!

To complete this project you will need a Beenie Cap which is the base for this chemo hat. If making, use double knit wool and a large crochet hook. Use a large stitch such as double crochet which will give you the right size gaps through which the dreads can be threaded.

Use a recycled hat if desired. Remember that not much of it will be seen beneath the dreads. A matching or contrasting color Beenie does. however work well. Getting the color right will only enhance the final look.

Crochet a Beenie Hat

Beenie hat made using double knit wool and a large crochet hook.
Beenie hat made using double knit wool and a large crochet hook. | Source

Inserting the dreads into the crochet stitch gaps

Start at the center front of the hat and weave in the double ended dreads, One dread forms two lengths once knotted against the cap.
Start at the center front of the hat and weave in the double ended dreads, One dread forms two lengths once knotted against the cap. | Source

Pulling the dreads through the crochet holes

Adding the double sided dreads by inserting them into the holes made by crochet stitches.
Adding the double sided dreads by inserting them into the holes made by crochet stitches. | Source

The dreads pulled tight

Pulling the ends of the dreads and making the ends firm against the crochet stitches.
Pulling the ends of the dreads and making the ends firm against the crochet stitches. | Source

Attaching the dreads to the Beenie

I found it easy to work the dreads into the hat when off the Mannequin head. However, I did frequently put it on the head to check my placement of the Dreads.

Placement of the Dreads is key to the success of this hat

The polystyrene mannequin is very useful to ensure the dreads look realistic on the head.
The polystyrene mannequin is very useful to ensure the dreads look realistic on the head. | Source

Taking care of your dreads

Don't wash your dreads in a washing machine and don't use a tumble dryer as the dreads will attach themselves to one another.

They can either be removed from the hat and soaked and rinsed and then inserted back into the washed cap. They might need another quick roll before you put them back in order to maintain the look.

Beads, threads or feathers can be twisted or pulled onto the dreads for a more trendy look.

Remember that a smaller version can be used as a prop for a baby photo shoot.

Have fun creating your Dread hat and please share your thoughts on this hat.




© 2016 Sally Gulbrandsen

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    • sallybea profile image
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      Sally Gulbrandsen 7 weeks ago from Norfolk

      I think the children would love the dreadlock hats. If you do create some chemo hats I would love to see some of your photos, with the children wearing them if possible and with their parents' permission of course:) Don't forget that these look wonderful on adults too. Thank you for stopping by to comment,

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 7 weeks ago from Ohio

      What a wonderful idea! I have not ever tried felting, but this hat looks easy enough that I could try, lol. I could make some and donate to the local hospital or chemo unit. I think the kids would love these. :)

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 months ago from Norfolk

      You are welcome techygran. This is definitely do-able. The hard part for me is letting it go once it is made:) I feel like that about most of my projects!

      It is definitely a labour of love.

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 2 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      I can see where this is truly a labour of love to make, but what a lot of fun for the wearer! Your directions and photos make the project seem so do-able! I am sharing this. Thank you!

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 8 months ago from Norfolk

      Kali Dragonslayer

      I used 60 but felt that 70 might be better. Apologies if you did not get this but apparently HubPages had a problem with their comments.

    • Kali Dragonslayer profile image

      Kali Dragonslayer 8 months ago

      about how many double end dreads did you use for this hat? i am going to make one for my friend who will be getting chemo for breast cancer soon :) thank you!!!

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 18 months ago from Norfolk

      Hello Donna,

      Thanks so much for the feedback. Glad to have you pass on the tutorial to your friends. If we can help those who are undergoing chemo that would great. I know that my own sister found it so hard to find suitable chemo hats. She said the hats were either too scratchy or hot and in the end resorted to going without one. She looked gorgeous and she did her make up in a way which was spectacular. She was and is still such an inspiration to me.

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 18 months ago from Norfolk

      Ms Dora

      That is a lovely thing to say about my artistry. I confess I love the way it turned out and as sad as I will be to part with it, my intention is to sell it on an e-Bay charity auction to raise funds for my favorite cancer charity. I hope ultimately one adult or child will wear it with love and laughter in their hearts.

      I love the sound of a salt and pepper dread hat, something for me to think on. Who knows, there could be a second dread hat in the pipe-line.

      I value your continue feedback, thank you so much MsDora.

      Sally.

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 18 months ago from USA

      Sally - I love this project! Such a wonderful way to help people going through chemo. I particularly like the way you attach the dreads to your crocheted cap - so easy! I know a lot of people who knit chemo caps and many of them also wet felt. I'm definitely passing your tutorial on to them. Thanks for another great project!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 18 months ago from The Caribbean

      Sally, I would wear the hat without needing it. Mine would have to be all dark brown dreads, or salt and pepper (resembling black and graying). It is indeed a labor of love and many who need it, as well as those who don't, will find it beautiful. You're an exceptional artist.

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 18 months ago from Norfolk

      FlourishAnyway

      Glad you like it. On a more serious note, If I suffered hair loss from chemo I would love to wear this dread hat:)

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 18 months ago from USA

      What a humorous photo prop! Very cute!

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 18 months ago from Norfolk

      Billy that really means a lot to me. Thank you so much.

      You get it! My job is done:)

      Sally

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 18 months ago from Olympia, WA

      This is such a loving idea...really, Sally, this product and the message behind it really touched my heart. Well done, my friend.

      bill

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 18 months ago from Norfolk

      Thank you very much Devika. I appreciate your continued valued support thanks too for the tweet:)

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 18 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Hello sallybea you are talented and you show such creative ideas here. Your great thinking show how good you are at what you do. I Tweeted!