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How to Use a Plastic 'Hat Shaper' to Make a Wet Felted Top Hat

Updated on December 09, 2016
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Sally Gulbrandsen Feltmaker. Her tutorials & techniques are as individual as she is, unique, experimental and always interesting

A Giant Top Hat

A giant 'Mad Hatters Tea Party' hat
A giant 'Mad Hatters Tea Party' hat | Source

Hat Shapers, Hand Carders & Wool

  • Plastic Hat Shapers are the most affordable plastic hat blocks available today. They come in around 40 classic designs and with a little adaptation they can be used to create something even more spectacular. This giant sized top hat really does pack a punch and the wearer would find not find themselves out of place if they wore it to a music festival or a Mad Hatter's tea party.
  • The hat was made entirely from merino waste yarn which was purchased from Amazon. This is such an exciting way to buy wool roving. No two batches are ever the same. It gives one the perfect opportunity to go wild with color and texture.
  • Hand carders were used to blend the waste roving together to form a thick batt. The surface was embellished with oddments of dyed wool curls. It is these which give the Top hat its rich color and texture.
  • Learning how to use Wool Carders can take a while to get used to. Patience and practice are required! A soft and delicate touch is needed to achieve the best results but hand carders are essential tools to have if you want to learn how to blend your own colours for spinning, weaving or wet felting.
  • A further layer of wool fibres were applied as a final layer to increase the thickness of the wool but this step may be deemed unnecessary if the wool batt or carded wool was made is made having good depth.

Assorted Ends/Waste from Wool Tops/Roving

Materials Needed

  • 1 plastic top hat shaper
  • 1 polystyrene hat shaper (Useful for extending the height of the hat)
  • A plastic collar cut from a recycled plastic waste paper basket
  • A bamboo blind
  • A pair of hand carders made for wool
  • A quantity of waste wool roving
  • Dyed Teeswater curls or similar for embellishing the surface of the hat
  • A hat template made from bubble wrap or floor underlay. Please see image below.
  • Hot soapy water, dishwashing liquid or olive oil soap
  • Bubble wrap
  • Pinking scissors

Instructions

Step 1—Buy the Size Right Size Hat Shaper!

  • A large Hat Shaper was used for this project.
  • Choose one to fit the head size of the person who will be wearing the hat.
  • The hat will be shrunk down to the size of the Hat Shaper which is being used for the project.

Black Plastic Hat Shaper

A hard plastic hat shaper
A hard plastic hat shaper | Source

Step 2—Extend the Height of the 'Hat Shaper'

Add a plastic collar which can be cut from a plastic waste paper basket. This will make it easy to increase the height of the hat and width of the top section of the hat.

Step 3—The Collar Cut From a Plastic Waste Paper Basket

An adaptation I made from a plastic waste paper basket.
An adaptation I made from a plastic waste paper basket. | Source

Step 4—A Polystyrene Hat Block

  • The polystyrene hat block which comes in useful when you want to retain the correct height of the hat when the sides are being shrunk down.
  • The initial shaping which takes place with the collar on will be unaffected by the removal of the collar when the correct shape has been achieved.
  • The Polystyrene hat block is easily removed because it is the same size as the hat shaper.

Step 5—The Polystyrene Hat Block Balancing on The Hat Shaper

The polystyrene hat block balanced on the hat shaper.  This was used inside the waste-paper bin sleeve to increase the height of the hat.
The polystyrene hat block balanced on the hat shaper. This was used inside the waste-paper bin sleeve to increase the height of the hat. | Source

Step 6—Draw the Hat Template

Cut the template from bubble wrap or floor underlay.
Cut the template from bubble wrap or floor underlay. | Source

Hand Decorated Wool Carders

Hand painted wool carders
Hand painted wool carders | Source

Metal Teeth on the Hand Carders

The surface of the hand carders.
The surface of the hand carders. | Source

Step 7—Blend the Wool Roving Waste Fibres

Add different colours of wool roving to the teeth on the hand carders
Add different colours of wool roving to the teeth on the hand carders | Source

Step 8—Gently Comb the Fibers to Blend the Colors Together

Comb the fibres starting at the bottom of the left hand carder and gradually work up the carder.
Comb the fibres starting at the bottom of the left hand carder and gradually work up the carder. | Source

Learn How to Use Hand Carders

Step 9—Cover the Template in Blended Waste Yarn

Create a thick layer of wool roving on the top of each hat template and cover with embellishment.
Create a thick layer of wool roving on the top of each hat template and cover with embellishment. | Source

Step 10—Remember to Keep the Right Side Facing Down on the Template

  • Keep the right side face down on the template.

Step 11—Laying Down the Fibres

This tutorial assumes that the reader understands the basics of putting down fibers onto a template. One thick layer and one thin layer were used here to get the right thickness. Add texture in the form of curls. Wet the layers with hot soapy water. Rub and roll inside a bamboo mat. Finally, the project is partially felted in a tumble dryer so that partial shrinkage can take place before shaping the hat on the hat shapers.

Step 12—The Template Covered in a Thick Layer of Wet Carded Fibres

2 Templates sandwiched together with the wrong sides facing upwards.
2 Templates sandwiched together with the wrong sides facing upwards. | Source

Step 13—Cover the Template With Another Fine Layer of Wool Roving

Cover both side of the Template in a 2nd layer of fine fibres.
Cover both side of the Template in a 2nd layer of fine fibres. | Source

Step 14—Layer 1 Completely Covered in a Fine Layer of Wool Waste

The 1st layer on  both sides completely covered with wool roving.  This side will become the inside of the hat.
The 1st layer on both sides completely covered with wool roving. This side will become the inside of the hat. | Source

Step 15—Roll Again Inside a Bamboo Blind

Roll inside a bamboo blind until the surface fibres cannot be pinched between the fingers.
Roll inside a bamboo blind until the surface fibres cannot be pinched between the fingers. | Source

Step 16—Perform the 'Pinch Test'

Perform the pinch test.
Perform the pinch test. | Source

Step 17—Put the Project Into a Hot Tumble Dryer for About 5 Minutes

Tumble for 5 minutes in the tumble dryer.
Tumble for 5 minutes in the tumble dryer. | Source

Step 18—Remove the Template

Cut right across the bottom edge and remove the template.
Cut right across the bottom edge and remove the template. | Source

Step 19—Turn the Hat Inside Out

The project with the inside turned out.
The project with the inside turned out. | Source

Texture on the Surface of the Hat

Some great textures on the surface of the project.
Some great textures on the surface of the project. | Source

Step 20—Place a Large Saucer Inside the Plastic Collar

  • Tape the collar with plastic tape and place a large saucer inside the space made by the collar.
  • This saucer will keep the collar rigid and in place while you are shrinking down the fibers.

The Plastic Collar

Step 21—Pull the Hat Over the Collar and the Hat Shaper

The hat covering the Hat Shaper and Collar
The hat covering the Hat Shaper and Collar | Source

Step 22—Begin by Shaping and Shrinking the Top of the Hat

  • Fold the excess felt around the shaper to keep it out of the way.
  • Add dishwashing liquid to a folded piece of bubble wrap and begin rubbing the top surface of the hat.
  • As the fibers start to shrink work on creating a fold around the top edge of the hat using the plastic collar edge as your guide.
  • Shrink the sides of the project around the collar using the folded bubble wrap.
  • Once the hat has taken on the cone shape of the collar remove it and put in its place the polystyrene hat block.
  • Continue shrinking the fibers until the desired shape is achieved.
  • Rub the brim until it feels very firm.
  • Rinse under the tap using hot and then cold water.
  • Continue working on the hat until you are happy with the shape and the firmness of the felt.
  • Rinse the hat using a warm vinegar rinse.
  • If the top of the hat requires further folding and adjusting of its shape, remove the polystyrene hat block and leave the top section hollow and make any adjustments.
  • Any excess felt should be now be cut off and retained for use as a hat band.
  • Any leftover pieces can be used to either cover a very large button or cut 3 circles to make a decorative piece with which to conceal the join in the hat band.
  • Towel dry the hat and then leave it in a warm place to dry.
  • A cake rack can be used so that air can circulate freely around the hat.
  • Finally, make the decorative pin and sew the hat band on.

Step 23—The Project Inside the Kitchen Sink

The Project placed inside the kitchen sink where hot and cold running water are available.
The Project placed inside the kitchen sink where hot and cold running water are available. | Source

Step 24—Shrinkage Almost Complete

Any excess can be cut off.
Any excess can be cut off. | Source

Step 25—Extend the Hat Brim Beyond the Hat Shaper Brim if Desired

Cut the brim to the desired size.  In this case I extended the width as I felt the existing brim on the Hat Shaper was a little narrow for the size hat.
Cut the brim to the desired size. In this case I extended the width as I felt the existing brim on the Hat Shaper was a little narrow for the size hat. | Source

Step 26—The Hat Band Made From the Excess Felt Saved From the Bottom of the Project

Cut a hat band from the bottom of the hat,
Cut a hat band from the bottom of the hat, | Source

Step 27—Concentric Circles Conceal the Join in the Hat Band

3 Circles of felt cut with a pair of pinking scissors and sewn onto the hat band.
3 Circles of felt cut with a pair of pinking scissors and sewn onto the hat band. | Source

The Back View of the Top Hat

A side and back view of the wet felted top hat
A side and back view of the wet felted top hat | Source

Hat Shapers

How likely are you to use Hat Shapers for hat making?

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© 2016 Sally Gulbrandsen

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    • sallybea profile image
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      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 months ago from Norfolk

      Martie Coetser

      Thank you so much for the share and the comment. I do know from old that South Africans love to do crafts so that means a lot to me.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 2 months ago from South Africa

      Wow, Sally, you have become a master in felting. I just love all your creations. I am sharing this all over the show.

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 months ago from Norfolk

      SweetiePie

      I am glad you find my techniques helpful.

      I love Boy George myself and he certainly has style when it comes to wearing hats, especially big ones. I would have loved to have used him as my model as I intended this hat to be worn by a male. I am still working on a male model so expect some of these images to be replaced by a gorgeous hunk of a man when he comes knocking at my door:)

      Thanks for a great comment.

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 3 months ago from Southern California, USA

      Your techniques are very helpful for people who want to learn this craft. What caught my eye is how much the doll in the hat in the first picture looks like Boy George circa 1983. I could literally hear the doll singing "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me". I was big boy George fan, by the way.

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 months ago from Norfolk

      Thank you Devika, you are too kind! I hope you are well and looking forward to the festive season.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I Tweeted and like your creative ideas!

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 months ago from Norfolk

      craftybegonia

      You are right, it is an amazing creative process. I still find it fascinating to think that one can make felt from just a few fibres and turn them into 3d items, many of which are wearable. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and to comment.

    • craftybegonia profile image

      craftybegonia 3 months ago from Southwestern, United States

      That is so very clever! I love felting and felted items. I believe it is such a wonderful craft.

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 months ago from Norfolk

      It has taken a while to get this far MsDora and I have not had much time to think about a lesson by lesson curriculum though I do have plans going forward, perhaps a felting book or two! Thanks for stopping by to comment MsDora, you are valued and appreciated.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 months ago from The Caribbean

      Sally, have you started compiling your lesson by lesson curriculum? You're on a roll with these wet felt projects. This hat rocks!

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 months ago from Norfolk

      Larry Rankin

      So nice to know that you liked this project, thank you for taking the time to comment.

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 months ago from Norfolk

      purl3agony

      Hi Donna, glad you liked it. Hat shapers are definitely more affordable than wooden hat blocks, not as tactile perhaps but they are extremely functional.

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 3 months ago from USA

      Interesting technique and a great tutorial! I can see how using a hat shaper would help create a lot of different looks and styles. Thanks for sharing this great project!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 3 months ago from Oklahoma

      Great crafting project!

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 months ago from Norfolk

      Thanks, Billy I am glad you like it. It certainly packs a punch and I am sure that there is someone out there who would love it. I will probably try to sell it on my shop page.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I saw this on Facebook and thought it was adorable. I could sell quite a few of them to former students of mine. :) Well done, Sally!

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