Hat on a Bucket Instructions




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Since a number seem to be interested in my latest"invention", I will share the basic method. I found myself frustrated with the "hat on a ball" method when I wanted I wide brimmed hat. It was just too difficult and time consuming to get it to stretch out enough. Frustration and I do not get along well together!! I dug out a round, tapered bucket-like container that holds about 1 1/2 - 2 gallons. A small plastic trash can will work, or a 5qt. ice cream container from the Schwanns man...if he delivers in your neck of the woods. I suspend this container upside down over a gallon glass jar or something that raises the bucket up off the work surface a couple of inches for ease of working.

I then coat the bucket lightly with a thin coat of dish detergent or soap gel. This enables the first layer of wool fiber to adhere to the bucket. Subsequent layers will adhere to the previous layer. Since I use my Outback Fibers merino roving, I draw it out a little before I apply it. This thins it out and makes the layers finer.

I cover the top of the container first. Next I pull off pieces long enough to go from the top (really the bottom of the container, but it is upside down) to the lip. After this first layer evenly coats the bucket, I make a second layer, this time going around the bucket, starting at the top and spiralling gradually down. Alternate your layers until you have four or five layers total. This will depend on how fine your fiber is and how finely you make your layers, and also, how thick you want your hat. Design work can either be applied first, directly to the lightly-soaped bucket, or last, on top of the final layer of fiber.

Now take the cut-off tops from several pairs of large pantyhose and get a second pair of hands to help you stretch them over the entire bucket being very careful to shift the fiber as little as possible. Pour very hot water over this until it is well wetted down. Now either rub gently with your hands, or use your finish sander (without paper) to begin the felting process. With my merino, I find that applying the sander to each area twice for a few seconds each is sufficient to felt it to the stage where I can remove the pantyhose. Five to ten minutes of rubbing with your hands should create an initial skin on the felt.

Remove the hose and rub or sand again directly on the surface. I then carefully remove the "pouch" and turn it the other way out and return it to the bucket. Add a little more soap and water if necessary at this point and replace hose if deemed necessary. Rub this side until felt passes the pinch test, and it should be ready to full either in the blind (which I prefer) or on the washboard.

If I am planning a very wide brimmed hat, I stretch the brim portion out a little in between each turn of rolling in the blind. Stretch hard -- if your fiber is well felted, it should not pull apart. I roll a few times then change the direction of the hat in the blind to ensure all parts get evenly fulled. Rinse well and leave 15 minutes or more in a final rinse of vinegar water.

At this point I squeeze out much of the water and toss it in the microwave for 45 seconds to heat it back up. It is easier to shape and stretch when it is hot.

Stretch the crown over whatever you are using for a hat block -- (proper block, plastic or metal bowl etc.) and then work out the brim with the aid of a hot steam iron. I generally tie a string around the base of the crown to help hold the shape before working the brim. For a rolled brim, I have made up "sausages" from bias cut fabric sewn into a tube and filled with rice, sawdust, whatever. Sew it into a circle the size of your average crown circumference. You can then pull this down over the crown and stretch the brim up around it. Allow to completely dry. For a wide, flat brim, it will take a little time and some stretching to work it out flat. If mine has been too well fulled, I sometimes have to give up and settle for a rolled brim. I usually put something on the flat brim to weight it down while it dries. Stiffeners can be added if needed, but a well-fulled brim will hold its shape once dry. Trim the edges of the brim if uneven, and finish with grosgrain ribbon, bias fabric or some form of decorative hand stitching such as blanket stitch.

 Jill Gully


Jill is available for teaching Outback Felting Workshops to a group or privately. Please call or email for more information.

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