My new felt hat and a couple of book recommendations if you are interested in hats!

Inspired by fellow Feltmakers Ireland member Sharon Wells, I decided to have another go at making myself a soft but structured felt hat that actually fits my very small head.  Sharon posted about making the origami hat from Christine White’s book Uniquely Felt on Feltcreative and since this project has always been on my ‘to do’ list and I had a pile of prefelt waiting to be used I decided the time had come to just give it a go!  In addition to Uniquely Felt the books that I would recommend for anyone wanting a bit more info about felting hats are ‘Fabulous Felt Hats’ by Chad Alice Hagen, ‘Filtning, Nunofilt & Nalefiltflor’ by Grete Lottrup and ‘Felting Fashion’ by Lizzie Houghton.  While Chad Alice’s book is the only one totally dedicated to hats all of them to my mind have helped me work out the various steps necessary to create stylish headgear that actually fits and is wearable. 

Laying out the prefelt shapes

Like Sharon I decided to work with a square resist 47cm wide.  One of my friends actually has my copy of Uniquely Felt so I just had to estimate how much wool I would need for each side, excluding the prefelt I used a total of 84g short fibred merino for the hat but have no idea if that is a lot or a little!  I laid out the wool extremely finely on both sides of the resist and then laid my prefelt shapes randomly on top making sure to overlap the edges in some places.  Because I originally intended having a brim that would turn back to reveal hand dyed silk fibres from the bottom of the other side, I chose not to position any prefelt overlapping the fourth edge as I was afraid I would forget exactly where the silk was once I started working the felt!

Due to my golf club commitments over the last few days (and I STILL have another golfing engagment tomorrow) I had to felt the hat over several different sessions and this afternoon I was able to finish fulling and shaping it over one of my cooking bowls.  Unfortunately, although I do have a hat block it is just too huge for my own head but the bowl worked perfectly so nothing ventured nothing gained. 

Blocked and drying

 It did take a long time to shrink this hat enough to fit my head so the next one that I make (and there will be another one!) will have a wedge shaped template, not a square.  The other outcome with fulling as much as I did is that the clarity of the prefelt gets muted and the silk almost disappears into the wool, not a problem but definitely something to consider.  In the end I decided that I liked the brim folded inside of the hat instead of outside as initially intended, it would of course be possible to wear it both ways anyway!  If you are interested in seeing any more views of the hat in progress I have uploaded them to Flickr and as soon as the hat is dry I might ask Alan to take a picture of me wearing it!  Tomorrow is another day and I hope to crystalise plans for my American workshops and spend some time answering emails and generally catching up with things.

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Unblocked felt hat, an experiment with colour, style and texture

I loved the two felt hats that I made recently with Icelandic wool but I really wanted to wear them myself and unfortunately my head is just too small for hats shaped on my hat block!  At the brilliant ‘Pick up your Needles’ workshop on Saturday Irene had a simple but fun crochet hat that I thought could translate very well into felt.  It was really comfortable to wear and I asked her if she would mind me using the design as a starting point for creating a new felt hat, this time not blocked and small enough for me to wear as well! 

Silk and cotton mix fabric felted with Icelandic wool

Silk and cotton mix fabric felted with Icelandic wool

One of the most exciting colours of Icelandic wool that I am stocking in my Etsy shop is a great red (I have always found to date that a decent red is one of the most difficult colours to order batts or roving in) and for the hat I teamed this red with a nice rich deep violet (or purple if you prefer).  I also wanted to play around a bit more incorporating different fabric and fibre into the wool, this time I used silk twists (kind of like hand dyed throwsters waste) and some deep purple crinkly fabric with a surface print in gold.  This silk and cotton mix fabric was actually from an expensive skirt that I bought a couple of years ago and only wore once, now that I have no spare cash for buying clothes I am recycling everything I can to incorporate into my felt where appropriate!  The template for the hat was a simple rectangle and I prepared a few felted cords to jazz up the corners at the top.  One of the design features of this model is it’s simplicity, working a rectangle shape around a resist means that even inexperienced felters could make a successful hat at their first attempt, I feel another workshop in the making!  After weighing the wool I divided the total amount (60g) by four and laid out the first layer on each side.  At this stage I positioned the cords at opposite corners and added a little more soap in these areas to help keep them in place.  After laying the second layer I then added my silk twists and crinkly fabric, checked that I was happy with the design and continued to felt as usual.  Surprisingly enough, I actually found that this hat took longer to make that the ‘Raspberry Ripple’.  The big advantage however is in the easy of process, the fun design and the fact that I just continued to full until I was happy with the overall size in relation to my head. 

The finished felt hat!

I definitely think that this design has possibilities and will now try and make it in a different colour combination with possibly some minor alterations to the shape.  The fact that a hat block is not necessary to shape the hat is also an advantage and I like the way that it sits jauntily on my head!  Unfortunately the sun was very strong today and not the best for taking pictures (although great for everything else!) so I hope to take some more of the hat on Thursday and also get some better images of the wool to put up on Etsy.

Success from disaster! My fulled (felted) jumper saga, South East Textile Group …..

I had a very enjoyable time yesterday at the monthly get together of the South East Textile Group.  We meet on the last Saturday of every month at the Demanse Yard in Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny for inspiration, textile related tutorials and workshops, good food and a bit of fun!  Stephanie was teaching members how to needle felt a doll so making my apologies (needle felting really aggravates my back and I am NOT a doll person!) I settled in for a relaxing session of wet felting.  I felted a selection of glamorous flowers using some sparkly merino for the top layer and now just need to sew pins onto the backs and upload them to my Etsy shop.  I also felted three new rings and showed everyone how you can also use them as a ‘clasp’ with a scarf, really multi functional and fun items.  After a great lunch in the cafe I gathered a twisted stick and felted a flower onto the branch, part of my experimental work before I submit my proposal for ‘Sculpture in Context’ which is taking place at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin this September. 

When I arrived home from Castlecomer I was faced with my previously beautiful cerise mohair and wool jumper after I had made a mistake with the controls of my washing machine.  Previously I had washed this soft and beautiful jumper on a 30 degree wool wash but for some alsolutely crazy reason this time I had a rush of blood to my head and lumped it in at an active 40 degrees, disaster!  Although it was not totally ‘fulled’ it was getting there so nothing ventured nothing gained, I decided to bung it in on a 90 degree wash and take my chances with the resultant fabric.  Happily it worked a treat (obviously I would have preferred not to have shrunk it but once the process had started there was no going back) and this morning I cut up the jumper into various useful sections.  The piece that I am most pleased about is the neck, it now makes a really beautiful and warm headband with the addition of a crochet and felt green and pink corsage!  The sleeves are now fingerless mittens awaiting some embellishment and the body looks like it may be redesigned into a soft and comfortable cowl!

Felt hat, group photo from Annette’s first workshop, blogs …..

I have had some really busy days in a row (what’s new) and another five days of madness to follow before I can settle down to a couple of exhibition proposals that I need to get written before the middle of April.  Last week I participated in two different workshops relating to blogging and social media one of which was organised by my friend Cathy, the director of ArtL!nks.  I know that I have mentioned ArtL!nks before but if you live anywhere in counties Carlow, Wexford, Waterford, Wicklow or Kilkenny I urge you yet again to register as a practitioner, the service is brilliant, the support on offer is great and everything is FREE or in the case of workshops heavily subsidised!  The intermediate blogging course was brilliantly facilitated as usual by Ken McGuire and hopefully I now have discovered even more ways to have fun whilst blogging!  Now off my hobbyhorse and on with the felting …..

Working the hat inside out once the resist was removed

Working the hat inside out once the resist was removed

Continuing on with my felt hat, once the ‘envelope’ of fibres started to curl up and I could feel everything coming together nicely I cut open the bottom edge of the package and removed the resist.  After this it was just like working and fulling a vessel, sealing the cut edges, working the section where the fibres had encircled the resist, shaping and shrinking.

Clare modelling my hat!

Clare modelling my hat!

I now need to just full it a little more on my head in order to get a perfect fit.  Probably I am either a week too late or nearly a year too early because it strikes me now that it would have been perfect for our local St. Patrick’s Day parade, ah well, there is always next year! 

Happy felters at the end of Annette Quentin-Stoll's first workshop!

Happy felters at the end of Annette Quentin-Stoll's first workshop!

The completed tactile felt play mat

Felt attachments on my tactile play mat

Felt attachments on my tactile play mat

We started the felting process by gently wetting and working the fibres around the edges of the various components before wetting out the whole piece and rolling, rubbing and working the felt as normal.  The biggest difference in the way that Annette works compared to how all of us had learnt was that she lays out all her fibre and works everything on a towel instead of a piece of bubble wrap or a bamboo blind.  This is one of the most interesting aspects of any workshop, seeing how every visiting tutor preferrs to work and then adapting aspects of their practice to suit your own.  I did start all my work on my towel but then changed to work with the bamboo blind as soon as my fibres were holding together well.  Because I had no chair at Alan’s house (a long story!) I worked the piece for a couple more hours on Wednesday evening, pulling at the sides to get a sharp edge, rolling and throwing, here is the result. 

Finished at last!

Finished at last!

Putting what we had learnt on day one to the test everyone had the oportunity of making either a felt bag or a hat incorporating bumps, tubes, points or flowers.  Obviously I decided to go down the hat route, a great opportunity to have a successful experience after all my previous failed attempts!!  Green being one of my favourite colours I planned out a simple beanie style with loads of felt dreadlocks emerging from the top of the crown.  Here is an image of the hat being laid out, more details to follow in my next post. 

Adding dreadlocks when laying out my hat

Adding dreadlocks when laying out my hat

Experiments in felt, success and disaster!

Yesterday afternoon I called over to Carmen’s house to see how her new studio is progressing.  Her partner Peter has spent the last couple of weeks working almost full time on this shed conversion and I must say that the results look great!  This was a modern barn with open sides and no concrete floor, now it is a beautiful cladded building with 4 huge windows, a wooden stable style door, shelving, electricity, water and plenty of wall and display space.  Peter is now making metal topped tables and then Carmen is all set to go, the only thing that will be left to do is landscape the outside a little bit!  Anyway, I toured the studio and then we had a great lunch of fish soup followed by fresh fish and veg.  I had said to Carmen that I would help with some organising and tidying up in the studio but since Peter was working on the tables we decided to experiment a little with some more felted jewellery.  I showed Carmen how I made the blue felt rings and then I tried making a ring by felting around a large glass mosaic bead.  this actually worked out very well although you do need a big hand for the ring to look totally in proportion!  When I got home I decided to use the same method of trapping the glass but this time surrounding a marble.  This ring also worked well but again I would like to have a little less wool surrounding the glass and therefore end up with a slightly smaller ring.  I am going to take some pictures later today and hope to get them online tomorrow or even this evening.  Let me know if any of you have and ideas, maybe I just need to start with a smaller marble to get a finer end result.

My felting disaster is another thing altogether!  Carmen got a new book for her birthday and one of the projects was felting around a ball.  Now I know that many of you have done this before using Beth Beede’s method but I have always prefered starting any of my 3 dimensional work using a flat resist.  Anyway, I decided to give the ball method a go and try to make the fruit bowl as demonstrated in the book.  I didn’t have any elastic bandage to wrap around the wool wrapped ball so decided to go for Beth’s method of using cut off tights, a VERY difficult manouver if you are working by yourself.  My colour scheme was a big success, shades of red and maroon with some orange highlights, red muslin (felted in beautifully) and some gorgeous silk in shades of maroon and wine.  My bowl decided that it would like to become a hat and after I had shaped it on my hat block I realised (as this was actually the first time that I had used the block) that it would be HUGE on my head.  Now I am back to the stage of having a fruit bowl or deciding whether to cut up the felt or punch into it and create some jewellery.  Ah well, another day another hat, I really need a lesson in how to make a proper and comfortable but most importantly wearable hat!!