Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How To Make a Felted Hat - A Tutorial for Combined Needle and Wet Felting Techniques

Felted Hat Tutorial: Combining Needle and Wet Felting

There are many, many ways to create a felted wool hat. This method is one that I've used dozens of times over with excellent results. If you are experimenting with the wonderful craft of feltmaking, from one feltmaker to another, I personally suggest you try several methods for making 3D objects like hats to find what you prefer and enjoy most.

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There is no "right way" only the best way for you that gets the quality results you want. Now let's get our hands deep into the wool and make a hat!


4-6 ounces wool roving
Dense foam hat form (see tip below)
Multiple needle felting tool
Medium gauge felting needles
Large plastic bag to fit over hat form
Hot water and dish soap
Mannequin head or head-sized ball


Looking for a foam hat form for felting? You can either make your own or purchase one online. I made my own set of two different size hat forms several years ago using round bolster pillows and sheet foam. Both have held up extremely well over the years and been used many times. If you are interested, check out this forum post on Craftster and scroll to the second entry for instructions to make your own felting hat forms. You can also buy one on fiber supply sites like Mielke's Fiber Arts.


Step 1
Before you start needle felting on your form directly, cover it with a plastic bag. This makes it easier to remove your felted hat and protects the form from wear.
foam hat felting form and needle felting tool

Step 2
Starting on top, lay crisscrossing horizontal and vertical layers of wool. Then use your felting tool to needle felt the layers together and lightly embed them into the form keeping them in place. Continue adding wool layers on top and around the sides. I recommend at least four layers of wool all over (more for a thicker hat). As in the photo below, you'll probably have a woolly mess at first, but continue to add layers and needle felt all over the hat form surface until you compact the fibers into a smooth texture. Mold the wool with your felting tool. (Please note the wool color varies on this photo because I was actually making a different hat than the example shown in the rest of the tutorial.)

Step 3
Once the wool layers are compact and nicely needle felted as seen in the photo below, you'll need to remove the hat from the foam hat form. This is where the plastic bag covering comes in handy. The felted wool will be at least lightly embedded in the foam so you'll need to use the plastic bag between the two to gently pry it off the form. Start at the bottom and work your way up the form removing it from the top last. Then gently remove the plastic bag from the interior of the needle felted wool hat. The plastic may break up or tear, but do your best to get all of it off the felted wool without distorting the shape of your newly made hat. 

Step 4
Now that the basic needle felted hat shape is formed, you will wet felt it to complete forming your hat. Using hot water, carefully wet your entire needle felted hat shape. I recommend gently pouring water over it in your sink until it is thoroughly wet. Then add a couple squirts of dish washing liquid to it and begin working the form with your hands to finish felting the fibers. Gently rub the interior and exterior hat sides between your hands and watch it shrink further as it felts. It is up to you how much you want to felt it shrinking and shaping it as you go. Continue to add hot water and soap as needed.

Step 5
When you are satisfied with the final wet felting results, rinse the hat in lukewarm water to remove any soap residue. Then wrap the felted hat in a towel or a few towels and press as much water out of it as possible. Do not twist the hat, but simply press it to remove water to avoid misshaping it. Once the hat has most of the water removed and is only damp, mold it into shape and place it over a mannequin head or ball to dry. That way it will keep its shape as it dries. 

Check out more examples of my felted hats at my Flickr photo gallery and get inspired!

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