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How to Use a Resist Shape to Make a Wet-Felted Hat

Sally Gulbrandsen Feltmaker: Her tutorials and techniques are as individual as she is—unique, experimental and always interesting.

Wet-felted hat made using a resist template, complete with matching flowers.

Wet-felted hat made using a resist template, complete with matching flowers.

Wet Felting With a Resist

Felting with a resist will produce a seamless hollow shape which can be used to make hats, decorative vessels, pods, pots, vases, cat caves, bird houses, bags, purses, mitts, booties and slippers. In this tutorial, we'll learn how to make a lovely brimmed hat.

Items Required to Make this Project

  • A quantity merino wool roving in three complimentary colors
  • Olive oil soap or dishwashing liquid
  • Hot water and a squeeze bottle
  • Bubble-wrap, floor underlay or a sheet of thick plastic
  • Pattern for making the resist template
  • Hat block or polystyrene head
  • A dessert bowl for tracing a circular pattern for the flowers
  • A polystyrene head or a hat block on which to mold the hat
  • Sushi mat for rolling the felt flowers in
  • Piece of curtain netting

Quick Overview of the Method

Trace the pattern out onto the sheet of thick plastic, floor underlay or bubble-wrap as shown here. Remember that simple shapes usually work best. The pattern shown here does include for about 30% for shrinkage which takes place during the felting process.

  • Lay the template down onto a large piece of bubble-wrap
  • Begin by laying down a layer of fibers onto the template
  • Cover with curtain netting
  • Dampen with hot soapy water and smooth
  • Press the water towards the edges of the pattern until the fibers are flattened down except for the fluffy edges.
  • Remove the curtain netting gently and turn the template over.
  • Turn in the loose fibers to give a neat edge
  • Continue adding the next layer of fibers in the just same way
  • Cover with curtain netting
  • Wet with hot soapy water and press the water down and out towards the edges
  • Smooth out and rub the surface gently.
  • Remove the curtain netting and once again turn over the edges as shown to give a neat edge.
  • Repeat - until you have completed three layers of wool, covering the template on both sides as shown below. Remember to place each layer at 90 degrees to the previous layer to the best results.
  • Once the template has been completely covered with three layers of fibers, cover it with bubble-wrap and rub both sides until the fibers cannot be moved beneath your fingers.
  • Roll up the project in a piece of bubble-wrap and then place the roll into a small towel as shown. It makes it easier to roll the wet bubble-wrap. Alternatively the bubble-wrap roll can be tied up or sealed with elastic bands.
  • Begin rolling the project with long even strokes for a minute or two.
  • Turn the project inside the towel so that the rolling direction is changed each time, inside the bubble-wrap and put the project into the small towel roll again.
  • Repeat this until it becomes clear that the wool has shrunk around the template
  • It is now time to remove the template from the wool covered fibers
  • Using a large pair of scissors, cut into the bottom of the hat as shown below.
  • Remove the template.
  • Place the project into a bowl of very hot water for a minute and then plunge it into cold water
  • Repeat this several times
  • Rinse until the water runs clear under hot and then cold running water
  • Now begin dropping the hat down onto a hard surface, I use a marble worktop to do this.
  • The fibers will begin to tighten and shrink under your fingers
  • Continue shrinking and shaping the hat as shown.
  • Hit the hat against the surface of the table. Pay special attention to the cut edge. The cut edges will tighten and no longer look freshly cut. In areas where you want the hat to tighten more, simply hit these against the table.
  • A hat block or polystyrene head can be used to mold the hat over.
  • Wet the hat in hot water, squeeze and shape over the hat form. Add folds or pleats if you would like pleats them or keep on molding and shrinking the fibers if you would like to make a cloche hat. Turn over the edges if required and then make a few simple flowers or a band for decoration as described at the bottom of this page.

To explore these steps in more detail, continue reading the photo tutorial below.

1. Make the Hat Template Pattern

Hat template

Hat template

2. Cut the Resist Template From Thick Plastic Sheeting

Resist template made from thick plastic sheeting

Resist template made from thick plastic sheeting

3. Gather Your Supplies

Items required to make the hat and flowers for this wet felting tutorial.

Items required to make the hat and flowers for this wet felting tutorial.

4. Add the First Layer of Wool Roving

Wool fibers placed down on the resist template

Wool fibers placed down on the resist template

5. Cover With Curtain Netting and Wet With Hot Soapy Water

Wetting the merino wool fibers with hot soapy water.

Wetting the merino wool fibers with hot soapy water.

6. Smooth the Wool Fibers, Pressing the Water Down and Out Toward the Edges

Smooth the fibers out and then remove the curtain netting.

Smooth the fibers out and then remove the curtain netting.

7. Remove the Curtain Netting

Remove the netting

Remove the netting

8. Turn the Resist Template Over

Turn the netting over and then fold the fibers around the edges of the resist template

Turn the netting over and then fold the fibers around the edges of the resist template

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9. Fold the Merino Wool Fibers Over the Edges

Fold the wool fibers over the edges of the resist template

Fold the wool fibers over the edges of the resist template

10. Cover the Second Side of the Resist Template With an Even Layer of Fibers

Covered resist template with a layer of fibers.

Covered resist template with a layer of fibers.

11. Cover With Curtain Netting and Wet With Hot Soapy Water

Damping down the merino wool fibers with hot soapy water

Damping down the merino wool fibers with hot soapy water

12. Smooth Down the Wet Merino Wool Fibers

Force the hot soapy water outwards towards the edges and then rub gently until smooth

Force the hot soapy water outwards towards the edges and then rub gently until smooth

13. Remove the Curtain Netting

Remove the curtain netting and then turn over the project.

Remove the curtain netting and then turn over the project.

14. Turn the Project Over to the Other Side

Turn over and then fold over the loose fibers

Turn over and then fold over the loose fibers

15. Neaten the Edges

Fold over the loose fibers, giving the project a neat edge.

Fold over the loose fibers, giving the project a neat edge.

Both sides have now been covered in a single layer of merino wool fibers

Both sides have now been covered in a single layer of merino wool fibers

16. Cover Layer Two With Wool Fibers

Layer 2, covered with one layer of wool fibers.

Layer 2, covered with one layer of wool fibers.

17. Cover With Curtain Netting

Cover with curtain netting and wet with hot soapy water. Smooth and remove netting, turn over.

Cover with curtain netting and wet with hot soapy water. Smooth and remove netting, turn over.

18. Wet With Hot Soapy Water

Wet with hot soapy water

Wet with hot soapy water

19. Smooth Out Towards the Edges

Smooth the water out to the edges

Smooth the water out to the edges

20. Remove the Curtain Netting

Remove the curtain netting

Remove the curtain netting

21. Turn Over

Layer 2, being turned to the other side.

Layer 2, being turned to the other side.

22. Neaten the Edges

Fold the loose edges over.

Fold the loose edges over.

Turn the edges over and cover the second side of layer two with wool fibers.

Turn the edges over and cover the second side of layer two with wool fibers.

23. Cover the Second Side of Layer Two With Fibers

Cover the second of Layer 2 with merino wool fibers

Cover the second of Layer 2 with merino wool fibers

24. Cover With Curtain Netting and Wet With Hot Soapy Water

Cover with curtain netting and wet with hot soapy water.

Cover with curtain netting and wet with hot soapy water.

25. Smooth Down the Fibers

Rub the wet fibers, smooth and remove the netting.

Rub the wet fibers, smooth and remove the netting.

26. Remove the Curtain Netting

Remove the netting carefully and turn over

Remove the netting carefully and turn over

27. Neaten the Fibers

Layer 2 completely covered with edges ready to be turned over

Layer 2 completely covered with edges ready to be turned over

Layer 2 completely covered with two layers of wool

Layer 2 completely covered with two layers of wool

28. Add Layer Three

Layer 3 with one side of the template covered with merino wool fibers.

Layer 3 with one side of the template covered with merino wool fibers.

29. Add Hot Soapy Water

Layer three has been covered with curtain netting, wet with hot soapy water and smoothed and rubbed gently

Layer three has been covered with curtain netting, wet with hot soapy water and smoothed and rubbed gently

30. Smooth the Wet Fibers Down and Rub Gently

Smooth the wet fibers down and rub gently.

Smooth the wet fibers down and rub gently.

31. Remove the Curtain Netting

Remove the curtain netting

Remove the curtain netting

Layer three where the first side has had the curtain netting removed.

Layer three where the first side has had the curtain netting removed.

32. Neaten the Edges

Turn over the edges of the first side of Layer 3

Turn over the edges of the first side of Layer 3

33. Add Layer Three to the Other Side

The second layer of layer three has now been covered completely with fibers.

The second layer of layer three has now been covered completely with fibers.

34. Wet With Hot Soapy Water

Wet with hot soapy water

Wet with hot soapy water

35. Cover With Curtain Netting

Cover with curtain netting, wet with hot soapy water and smooth out he wool fibers.

Cover with curtain netting, wet with hot soapy water and smooth out he wool fibers.

36. Remove the Curtain Netting

Curtain netting being removed

Curtain netting being removed

37. Neaten the Edges

The three layers have now been completed

The three layers have now been completed

38. Place the Project on Bubble Wrap and Rub Well on Both Sides

Place on bubble-wrap, cover with bubble-wrap and rub well

Place on bubble-wrap, cover with bubble-wrap and rub well

39. Perform the Pinch Test

Using two fingers pinch the fibers to make sure that they no longer move under your fingers  This is known as the 'pinch test'

Using two fingers pinch the fibers to make sure that they no longer move under your fingers This is known as the 'pinch test'

40. Cut the Bottom of the Project Open With Scissors

Cut open the bottom of the project.with a pair of scissors

Cut open the bottom of the project.with a pair of scissors

41. Remove the Template

The template is shown here, slightly folded because the fibers have shrunk

The template is shown here, slightly folded because the fibers have shrunk

The template hasnow been removed

The template hasnow been removed

42. Place the Project in a Bowl of Hot Water

The project teeped inside a bowl of very hot water