How to Use a Plastic 'Hat Shaper' to Make a Wet Felted Top Hat
A Giant Top Hat
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
- 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
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
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
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
Step 6—Draw the Hat Template
Hand Decorated Wool Carders
Metal Teeth on the Hand Carders
Step 7—Blend the Wool Roving Waste Fibres
Step 8—Gently Comb the Fibers to Blend the Colors Together
Learn How to Use Hand Carders
Step 9—Cover the Template in Blended Waste Yarn
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
Step 13—Cover the Template With Another Fine Layer of Wool Roving
Step 14—Layer 1 Completely Covered in a Fine Layer of Wool Waste
Step 15—Roll Again Inside a Bamboo Blind
Step 16—Perform the 'Pinch Test'
Step 17—Put the Project Into a Hot Tumble Dryer for About 5 Minutes
Step 18—Remove the Template
Step 19—Turn the Hat Inside Out
Texture on the Surface of the Hat
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
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
Step 24—Shrinkage Almost Complete
Step 25—Extend the Hat Brim Beyond the Hat Shaper Brim if Desired
Step 26—The Hat Band Made From the Excess Felt Saved From the Bottom of the Project
Step 27—Concentric Circles Conceal the Join in the Hat Band
The Back View of the Top Hat
Mad Hatters Tea Party Hat
How likely are you to use Hat Shapers for hat making?
Questions & Answers
How do you get the brim to stiffen and keep its shape when making a wet felted hat?
I never stiffen my brims but some people use something like wallpaper glue. I prefer to full until the brim keeps its shape.Helpful 4
Where can I buy a hat shaper like yours in the UK please?
You can try e-Bay or Amazon. I currently have 2 of my own hat shapers from e-bay, but not a Top Hat.Helpful 3
© 2016 Sally Gulbrandsen