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Make a Felt Hat Using Wet Felting, Needle Felting & Hat on a Ball Techniques

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

Wet felted hat with a felt flower

Wet felted hat with a felt flower

Combine Three Felting Techniques in One Hat

In this tutorial I incorporated three simple methods to make the felting process easier for beginners. These methods are needle felting, wet felting and hat on a ball techniques.

Used together they can help speed up the whole process of felt making without compromising on the beauty of the finished product.

Rubbing and rolling the wool can be tedious at times so the use of a tumble dryer takes away the effort required to make felt.

The first step is to make a hat block using a plastic-lined metal wastepaper bin and a spray can of Big Gap Insulating Foam Sealant. The foam expands rapidly and when dry it can even be cut or shaped with a sharp knife if necessary.

The complete hat last is not a thing of great beauty but I can attest to the fact that it functions perfectly and is still working very well even after many hours of use!

A Word of Warning!

This product it is highly flammable, remember to use it outside and never near an open flame. Shut off all pilot lights and sources of ignition.

Contains isocyanate which is extremely sticky and difficult to remove: Do not breathe fumes or get on skin.

Spray contents carefully. Use in well-ventilated areas, cover all skin and wear gloves, safety glasses or goggles and protective clothing

Supplies

  • Handcrafted hat block (You can make one by using Insulating Foam Sealant sprayed into a metal wastepaper basket and shaped to the desired shape and size.)
  • Metal wastepaper basket
  • Cling wrap
  • Oven spray
  • Sharp knife
  • A quantity of merino wool roving
  • Gertie Ball (I purchase these balls from Amazon). They are perfect for using in the tumble dryer. They have a soft and squishy texture with a nice surface for the fibers to cling onto. They also come with a little tube which allows for easy inflation and deflation. These balls can be used over and over again.
  • Hot soapy water (dishwashing liquid or olive oil soap grated in hot water
  • Wooden-handled needle felting toil
  • Tights or stockings

How to Make the Polystyrene Hat Block

  • Line a metal wastepaper similar to the one shown below. I used some plastic sandwich wrap to line the sides and then sprayed it lightly with cooking spray.
  • Spray the foam into the basket until it is three-quarters full. The foam will continue to expand for a while after you have filled the basket. By the time it has fully expanded it should reach the top of the basket.
  • Leave it to stand in a well-ventilated area, preferably outside and under cover until it is completely dry.
  • Remove the polystyrene block from the basket and peel off the plastic.
  • The block can be shaped and carved to the desired shape with a long sharp carving knife if desired.
Hand crafted hat block made in a metal waste paper basket using Big Gap Filler Insulating Foam Sealant

Hand crafted hat block made in a metal waste paper basket using Big Gap Filler Insulating Foam Sealant

A Note on the Expanding Capabilities of This Foam

As can be seen in the image above, the foam expands far more than one might expect. In this case. it was useful as I was able to turn the hat block upside down and benefit from its ice-cream shape. In fact, it made it easier as I had a good base to work with.

Hat block clearly showing that it was molded in a waste paper basket and then carved to form a cloche type hat block.  I found that by inserting it upside down in the waste paper basket it gives me a nice stand from which to work

Hat block clearly showing that it was molded in a waste paper basket and then carved to form a cloche type hat block. I found that by inserting it upside down in the waste paper basket it gives me a nice stand from which to work

Start at the Lower Edge

Begin by adding slivers of wool roving to the lowest edge of the hat block.

Put down the wool roving starting at the bottom of the mold, working around and upwards

Put down the wool roving starting at the bottom of the mold, working around and upwards

Pull Off a Long Strip of of Wool Roving

Wrap this piece of wool roving around the hat block and then fold the previously placed fibres over the long piece to neaten the edge.

Insert a thin cord of split roving to firm the bottom edge; then cover with the down hanging fibers

Insert a thin cord of split roving to firm the bottom edge; then cover with the down hanging fibers

Needle felting the wool roving onto the foam block

Needle felting the wool roving onto the foam block

Gradually add the layers of merino wool

Gradually add the layers of merino wool

First layer completed but still to be needle felted

First layer completed but still to be needle felted

Read More From Feltmagnet

Fold up the fibers over the piece of roving

Fold up the fibers over the piece of roving

Neaten and firm the edge

Neaten and firm the edge

Needle felt the loose fibres onto the hat block adding the layers one by one. Use whichever color pleases the eye.

Needle felt the loose fibres onto the hat block adding the layers one by one. Use whichever color pleases the eye.

Needle felting the fibres to the block

Needle felting the fibres to the block

Cover layer one completely with the design

Cover layer one completely with the design

Enclose the project in a pair of cut-off tights

Enclose the project in a pair of cut-off tights

Pour hot soapy water over the project

Pour hot soapy water over the project

Rub fibres with hot soapy water using a piece of bubblewrap

Rub fibres with hot soapy water using a piece of bubblewrap

Check to make sure that the fibers have not felted to the tights.

Check to make sure that the fibers have not felted to the tights.

Remove the tights

Remove the tights

Tights completely removed

Tights completely removed

Peel the Project Off the Hat Block

Sometimes the felt can attach itself to the hat block, especially if it is needle felted in too securely.

The idea is not to felt the wool in so deep that you have to tug the wool away from the hat block.

Remove the project from the hat block

Remove the project from the hat block

Hat removed from the hat block

Hat removed from the hat block

Shaping the Hat

You have three choices here.

  1. Wet the hat in very hot water and wring out and then shape the hat to fit by putting it back onto the same last or onto a different shape hat block or even a bowl or even your own head.
  2. If it is on the large side you can add folds and even turn up the edges up to form a brim. Felt is very malleable and can be shaped and shrunk to whatever shape you desire.
  3. Alternatively, you can wet the project and put a Gertie Ball into the cavity and tie it up into a pair of tights and shrink it down again in the tumble dryer so that it forms a skull type hat as is shown above.
You can shape the hat with a Gertie Ball

You can shape the hat with a Gertie Ball

Hint

The easiest way to put your project into the tights is to pull the tights over a chair and then push the felt covered ball into the cavity. Remove it and then tie knots in the tights. I use this method when there is no available pair of hands to assist me.

Insert the felt covered ball into the stocking. Use the back of a chair in place of that extra pair of hands is there is not another pair available to help.

Insert the felt covered ball into the stocking. Use the back of a chair in place of that extra pair of hands is there is not another pair available to help.

Stocking covering the ball. Poor image again but it shows the project being totally immersed in the stocking.

Stocking covering the ball. Poor image again but it shows the project being totally immersed in the stocking.

Stocking covered project ready to be tied up before popping into the tumble dryer.

Stocking covered project ready to be tied up before popping into the tumble dryer.

All tied up and ready for the tumble dryer

All tied up and ready for the tumble dryer

Hat showing shrinkage with the stocking removed

Hat showing shrinkage with the stocking removed

Completed hat along with matching felt flower and hat band.  Still a little wet from shaping.

Completed hat along with matching felt flower and hat band. Still a little wet from shaping.

Completed hat still wet but showing the side view with matching flower and hat band

Completed hat still wet but showing the side view with matching flower and hat band

What I Learned From This Project

  • There were a few things I learned from my having combined these three processes. It may take longer to lay out the fibres, but it can be done in your spare time!
  • It really does allow for a less haphazard design on the felt though sometimes the conventional way throws up a few nice surprises! The felting process done this way is really quick in the tumble dryer.
  • Though the tumble dryer makes short work of the felting process it may not be the most eco-friendly method but it sure saves your neck from all that rubbing and rolling!
  • It is possible to overwork the felt in a tumble dryer and it can sometimes leave you with a much denser felt.
  • It seems then that there really is no right or wrong way to make felt. It is such a forgiving process!
  • My best advice to you is to find a method which works for you.
  • How you get to your end result really does not really matter at all.
  • Experiment a lot and have lots of fun doing it!

The end result was a hat which fitted beautifully and I was well pleased with the result. I hope you will be too!

Red felted hat made with commercial polystyrene hat block

Red felted hat made with commercial polystyrene hat block

A Project for the Children

My favorite felting video of all time appears below. Make a hat on a ball—a simple method for children and adults alike.

Make a Hat on a Ball

© 2013 Sally Gulbrandsen

Comments

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on January 09, 2013:

Thank you so much. Felt is a wonderful medium to work with and once you acquire the basic skills the creative possibilities are endless. The internet is a wonderful resource for learning and sharing. Felting is one of those things which I have taught myself from others willing to share their ideas on the internet. So glad you enjoyed it and thank you for your follow. Best wishes, Sally

Georgina Crawford from Dartmoor on January 09, 2013:

I really enjoyed this article (rating up and sharing etc). I've often thought of using needle felt in my landscape painting work, and your tutorial has given me so many ideas. Following you.

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on January 08, 2013:

Thank you so much Natashalh, so glad you enjoyed it. So glad you stopped by, perhaps you will feel inspired to start felting.

Natasha from Hawaii on January 08, 2013:

Wow - what a great tutorial and beautiful results! I felted a hat once, but I knitted it and then put it in the washing machine on hot. Your hat looks way better. Pinning!

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on January 08, 2013:

Thank you so much, I enjoyed sharing it with you.

Faythe Payne from USA on January 08, 2013:

Absolutely awesome.... voting up and everything else..

Comfort Babatola from Bonaire, GA, USA on January 08, 2013:

Extraordinary work of art!

You gave a clear picture of how to 'create' a felt/wool hat. I love the story, the instruction, and the well sequenced images!

This definitely deserve a HOTD award (just saying)! I Enjoyed reading your hub, and will gladly share. Voted Up, useful, and beautiful!