Yesterday afternoon I was just able to grab an hour and a half to try out a felt hat as an experiment with the Icelandic wool. Some of you have been asking how coarse the wool is and is it suitable for wearables, in her book ‘Uniquely Felt’ American fibre artist Christine White classifies Icelandic wool in the medium and long wool section with a Bradford Count of 46-52s and a micron count of 32-28. To my mind this makes it perfect for creating sculptural felt hats ideally suited to a colder climate. For my experiment yesterday (still to be rinsed and shaped again this morning) I decided not to use any merino on the inside, this would probably make the lining softer but to be honest when I tried the hat on yesterday evening it felt great, not a bit scratchy!
I slightly altered a bag resist that I already had to use as a template and then spent some time studying books by Chad Alice Hagen, Christine White and Lizzie Houghton to determine exactly how much wool to use. Because I really am a beginner when it comes to hats (unlike my friend Dawn Edwards!) it did amaze me how little wool I needed to use to create a beautifully strong but flexible hat, just 80g in total for this model. The raspberry coloured Icelandic is a very rich colour and I was lucky to find a matching piece of scrim in my stash that I had made in a week long batik course with Alex Meldrum at the Grennan Mill Craft School in Thomastown. I didn’t want to embellish the wool too much but did want to see how a little bit of fabric would add or detract from the final look of the hat. The whole project was really quick and simple to get to this stage although I am going to alter the template slightly this morning and have another go with some different colours.
I love the way the wool is still soft and flexible but appears to hold the structure well. This is the first time that I have used my hat block (it has been sitting gathering dust in my studio) and it did make the shaping into these rings pretty easy, I am not sure however how well I would be able to create other shapes, time will tell!
I also like the surface texture of the hat as shown in the detailed picture, the scrim felted in to the wool very well and there is a very nice tactile feel to the whole thing. I may shave inside the band where the wool will come in contact with my head although the jury is still out on this but otherwise I think I will leave the outside surface ‘au natural’! If any of you are interested in trying out some Icelandic wool it is now available from my new Etsy shop. I hope to prepare some felting kits before the weekend and will let you know as soon as these come on stream. Off now to rinse and finish the hat, more tomorrow!