Exploring the world of fiber, one draft at a time

My posting can be as frequent or infrequent as my spinning, so be as patient as that fiber, sitting in my stash.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

A General Fiber Update

My latest pride and joy is a felted hat that I made at a guild meeting Sept 29th. I have got to figure out how to do pictures on a blog, this project is something I'd love to show off.

Jenny is the lady that taught the class. She raises llamas, and uses llama fiber carded with a little bit of angora, and then dyed in the batts. I picked out a lovely pastel green/grey color. She has a large bell shape cut out of a piece of posterboard. Half of the batts are laid in a crisscross pattern on the table and the bell shape is put on top. You have to be sure to have the batts pulled out enough to go beyond the bell shape. Then you start with the warm soapy water in a squirt bottle, and wet the fiber under the bell. Rub and press all that fiber (rubbing on the cardboard) until it is smooth and no bubbles. Then you start pulling a layer at a time to the front, wetting and rubbing that, until the front is covered with what was outside the edge of the bell. It is important to really get the edges smooth and pulled tight against the cardboard. Once the fiber was holding somewhat together on both sides, we laid the second half of the batts (there were 8 batts in all, I am guessing about 4 oz of fiber) on the table and laid the fiber covered bell on top of those, putting what was the front, now down on the batts. Repeat the process of wetting, and smoothing, and shaping the extra around the edges and over the top. Then some serious rubbing starts on both sides of the bell. We used a square of plastic canvas to rub on the fiber to help speed up the felting process. This took a long time, but was seriously persued by all the class members.

Once it appeared the fiber was going to really hold its own in the bell shape, we took scissors and cut along the bottom of the bell, to open the bell up and remove the cardboard. Now we could put our hands inside the bell, and even turn it inside out. More soapy water, more rubbing, as we smooth out the rough spots of the bell.

At this point most of us took a lunch break :)

The next step was to shape the hat. Jenny had the most enviable collection of hat molds, bowlers, regular oval shapes in various sizes, and even a stetson shape. In fact, my husband made his into a brown stetson (He was using sheep's wool for his fiber) and my daughter also decided on the stetson shape, and ended up with an awesome purple stetson! I chose the oval shape.

First step is to take some of the width out of the bell just above what will be the brim (the brim is that bottom of the bell, all flared out) This is accomplished by squeezing and wringing the hat in that area, sort of a bread dough kneading action, round and round. You keep sitting the hat down on the form, to check, and once the fit is snug you can stop this type of squeezing. The next step is to felt the fiber to the hat form, and this is accomplished by rubbing and rubbing on the fiber on the form. We used fingers, small round plastic canvas shapes, even a meat tenderizer mallet to do the rubbing. The hat could be taken off the form, flipped inside out, and that part rubbed and felted to smooth it up. This step again was very time consuming, but the felt did not dry out, and remained malleable throughout the whole process. The final step of shaping,was to rub and smooth the brim, so it was good and felted also.

Once this was complete and it seemed the hat was as felted as it could be, it was removed from the form and rinsed well to remove all the soap. Then it was squeezed out dry in a towel. It was returned to the hat form, and steamed pressed with an iron on a very low setting. This did not completely dry out the hat, but really firmed up the felt, smoothed the surface, and in general gave it a very finished look. We trimmed the brim, by measuring around it with a ruler and cutting evenly with scissors.

By now, class was over, and it was time to go enjoy a lovely dinner at a resturant on the Ohio River. The hats were drying in the back seat of the car, although it took until the next day for the hat to feel completely dry.

This last weekend I finished the hat with some hand spun tussah silk (2 ply, a thicker 10 WPI yarn) With a large eyed needle, I did a blanket stitch around the rim of the hat. The using the same yarn, I just picked up the thread and laid a single crochet on top of that blanket stitch. It made a lovely finish for the edge of the hat. I also knitted a hat band from the same yarn, using a simple lace chevron pattern. Very simple and looks very elegant on the hat. I have had so many compliments on this when I show it off!


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