Happy Halloween 🎃, wet felting a pumpkin hat

With Halloween approaching a work colleague asked me to make a pumpkin hat for her five year old daughter. She had intended incrochet a hat, but due to some problems with my hands over the summer I am not that keen on crocheting anything other than very small items at the moment, so I suggested wet felting a pumpkin hat.

I had thought to make a beret but was conscious that if I made the hole too big, or it stretched when I was shaping the inside it would be difficult to adjust to fit. So I decided to go for this:

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This gave me a rim a the bottom that could have elastic inserted into it if the hat was too big.

I used a combination of needle felting and wet felting to make the stalk, leaves and tendrils:

To help shape the hat and to get the neck to be the right size I used a small blow up football, which could be deflated and removed easily.

The stalk was needle felted on to the pumpkin hat using and the leaves needle felted to the tendrils. To make the leaves nice and crinkled I first dried them in cups and then them with hairspray.

As a first experiment in vegetable hat wear I am happy, I still think a beret would have been the best option, but I suspect the little girl will be happy.

For reference I used pumpkin coloured fibres from world of wool, 100grams, some left over bits of green and some botany waste for the second, inside layer, of the hat. It did use quite a lot of fibre but it’s a big hat!

 

The Islay Sheep

One of the ideas of taking a local fleece was to try and show that it’s possible to take the undervalued wool of island sheep and create something that adds value to it without having to send it to the mainland to be processed by a factory that adds value for them but not for the people on the island.

Small scale crafting will never make you rich in monetary terms, but it can give you a great deal of satisfaction. It can also showcase that what local farmers produce can be used to produce a quality product with a bit of imagination and some hard work.

My idea was to make a hat from a local fleece, that I had cleaned, hand carded, dyed, felted and designed myself. I am no artist! I am a strictly stick figure artist. Wet felting, crochet, dress making gives me an outlet for all those frustrated artistic feelings that I can not express through pen, paint and pencil.

Hares are one my favourite animals, elegant and full of the joys of spring. I could not draw a hare so I used a template created from a picture found on line, there are always solutions! I made a square of pre felt, pinned on the template and cut out my hare.

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The hat was made in the usual way, and the moon was added using by adding needle felting undyed wool and the hare needle felted onto the hat.

I am happy with what I produced, it needs tidying up, a little more needle felting to secure the stray fibres of the moon, the rim needs to be trimmed and a label added. I would love to keep it, but the idea was to make the fleece pay for itself. So I will need to try and sell it.

If I don’t sell it I will at the very least have a hat I can wear, that I made from start to finish.

The Pink Top hat and other adventures

The idea this weekend was to make a pink top hat. Having purchased a cheap top hat from Amazon I wanted to try and use some of my Islay fleece to make a top hat.

05C9514F-4937-4B06-B4F5-A605716173DDI used three layers of fleece, and two layers of purple Merino and then some of hand carded Islay fleece.

The top hate started out looking like this

Bull clips curtesy of my daughters stationary kit. It ended up looking like this ..

It’s a tad big, but the idea was always to try and use local fleece and experiment with blocking and shaping. So I am happy.

Having indilged my whimsical side I decided today to be far more practical and make a hat and scarf set to sell, on the basis that bright pink is not to everyone’s taste, I played it safe and went with black and greys, the flower on the hat was added by needle felting.

The pictures outside were taken in between rain showers and with a stiff breeze,  to the amusement of the local sheep and a bemused looking tourist.

The hats that went wrong and the one that I love.

 

I love my weekends because that’s the time I can make a mess in the kitchen and hopefully end up with something I am happy with.

I woke up early on Saturday and was rewarded by one of nature’s gifts

 

 

What I wanted to do was make a hat. I love hats, I wear them whenever I can, much to my daughter chagrin. I did my internet research, was inspired by beautiful hats and embarked on my weekend adventure. Mistakes were made, one hat almost ended up in my draw of felt bits to cut and use in other projects and right now my arms feel like jelly, if your upper arms need a work out .. make a HAT!

To make a hat.

Ingredients

  • Wool, I used a selection of Merino wool tops, carded batts and my own carded Islay wool
  • Olive oil Soap or any other soap that you like using
  • Hot water
  • Bubble-wrap
  • Some sort of head shaped item .. a hat block is desirable, it is not necessary if you are just making one to two hats
  • Mat for rolling your hat in, I have a blind that I removed the ironmongery from – far cheaper than a wet felting mat
  • Piece of curtain netting – I got a cheap mosquito net and have been cutting it up to fit my projects
  • An assortment of bowls
  • A Resist to make the hat around (more about that further down the page)
  • TIME!!!! – this will not take an hour, set aside about half a day at least.

I also have a special wet felting rolling pin, with ridges that comes in useful.

Method

I decided to make my hat using the resist method. You can use any thin plastic that you can cut to make a resist. I personally like laminating sheets as you can see through to the layer underneath. Useful if you want to repeat a pattern on both sides.

The basic pattern looks like this. The tape around being the circumstance of you’d head divided by two.

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  • Lay the template down onto a large piece of bubble-wrap
  • Begin by laying the fibres around the edge so they overlap the edge, fill in the middle. If you plan for your hat to have turned up edge you can put your pattern down first and then cover with the first layer of fibres as I have done so below, here you can also see the advantage of laminating sheets as you can see the pattern underneath and ensue that front and back are similar.

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  • Cover with curtain netting
  • Dampen with hot soapy water and smooth
  • Press the water towards the edges of the pattern until the fibers are flattened down except for those bits that overhang.
  • Remove the netting gently and turn the template over .. be brave!
  • Turn in the loose fibers to give a neat edge
  • Add the next layer of fibers in the same way
  • Cover with netting
  • Wet with hot soapy water and press the water down and out towards the edges
  • Rub the surface gently, smoothing out from the middle
  • Remove the netting, smooth the fibres over the edgeto make it neat!
  • Repeat – until you have three layers of wool, covering the template on both sides. If you are using merino tops place each layer of fibres at 90 degrees to each other. Because I used my own carded wool it was more like chunks 🙂 as can be seen below.
  • Once the template has been completely covered with three layers of fibers, use your preferred method to felt your fibres. I like to use some bubble wrap or my hands over the netting.
  • Once you have done the pinch test and are happy that it’s no longer moving. Place a piece of bubble wrap over the hat and roll the entire thing up in the bamboo mat.
  • Roll the hat as you would any piece of flat wet felting.
  • Turn the project so that the rolling direction is changed each time. Repeat until it’s clear the hat has shrunk and the resist is becoming crumpled.
  • Using a large pair of scissors, cut into the bottom of the hat and carefully remove the resist.
  • Place the hat into a bowl of very hot water (I used just boiled water from the kettle and used a pair of barbecue tonge to lift it out)  for a minute and then straight into cold water. You should repeat this several times. Keep the cold tap running and fill up the bowl afresh each time.
  • Rinse until the water runs clear under hot and then cold running water
  • Now is the time to be aggressive, bang the hat against a hard surface, I used the draining board. Remember to bang all sides and both ends of the hat
  • Hit the hat against the surface of the table. Especially the cut edge, as these will tighten and no longer look freshly cut (of course if you are anything like me you will probably end up having to cut bits of the bottom anyway) In areas where you want the hat to shrink more, simply hit these against the table.
  • Its now time to mold the hat over whatever you are using, this is the bit where you have to experiment. If you are having problems shrinking the hat further you can microwave it for around 30-50 seconds to warm it up, I poured boiling hot water over mine and rubbed it aggressively with bubble wrap.

I ended up making three hats.

The first one used a resist that was too long and curved outwards at the bottom,  because I had put the pattern at the bottom I was reluctant to cut it off. It sat abandoned for a few hours whilst I made a second. I then microwaved it and turned up the bottom, folding it inwards and pulling the excess to the back. I cut off the excess sewed it up, smoothed it out so you can not see the stitches, added a flower, I already had, to cover the mistake. It’s far too thick .. it will be very warm!

The pins are still in the flower on the pictures as I am waiting for it to dry until I sew it on.

The second hat was a better length, but I put the design to close to the edge and so could not turn it up or under without obliterating the design, so I made a brim, not an easy task. The hat was stuck over a bowl and the crown stuffed with newspaper as I wrestled it into shape. Lots of very hot water, steam from the iron and frustration.

Its a bit wonky but it looks good on.

Sunday morning arrives and I am determined to try again. Inspired by the colours of the sunrise on Saturday , remembering to place my design away from the edge.

This time I was finished by 12:30 and that included making a flower. I am pleased with the result. I still have lessons to learn, it was still a bit long, but this time I was able to fold the excess under to create a stiffer brim.

I still have to sew on the flower so excuse the pins

Happy hat making. Any tips leave them in the comments!

For my next adventure in hat making I have ordered a cheap top hat from amazon. 😊

The messy bit, cleaning the fleece

Storm Ali arrived today, the winds did not reach the advertised 80mph but it still packed a punch. The local flock of sheep, normally along the shores delicately picking at the tasty seaweed, decided that the village was safer and they gathered on the grass at the side of the road for their afternoon nibble. The local distillery closed up shop due to flying roof tiles and a few bins escaped from their moorings, but otherwise we got off lightly.

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Having spent a few days wrapped up in an old sheet, whilst we entertained visitors, the fleece was unwrapped, with a back ground of wailing wind, and divided into chunks that could easily be washed in a bucket.

Ideally I would have done this outside, in the sunshine, but it’s autumn in the Hebrides and 70mph winds and whispy bits of sheeps fleece are a less than ideal mix.

I did a lots of online research before starting and discounted several methods as being unnecessary fussy or involving equipment or space that I do not have.

I was lucky enough to have a fleece that did not contain a great deal of lanolin, the grease that makes the sheeps coat waterproof, however it did have quite a lot of vegetable matter.

Before washing it looked like this

To clean it I used the the equipment below.

1. Washing up liquid, I tried to be environmentally conscious, but it didn’t cut it when removing lanolin, so I reverted to fairy liquid

2. Very hot water, it’s not hot water alone or with soap that felts wool, but agitation

3. A bucket or any other container that will hold your fleece, which for ease of handling you can place in a cheap laundary bag

4. A timer, so you don’t forget your fleece.

The method is simple, if time consuming.

Fill the bucket with hot water, hot enough that you would not want to leave your hands in it.

Add your choice of washing agent, until the water has that slightly glassy look, scoop off any bubbles you want the soap not the bubbles.

Carefully lower the wool, in a laundary bag, into the water. DO NOT swirl it around! You want the absolute minimum of movement to help prevent the wool felting into an ugly useless mess.

Leave it for 30mins, but check the water is not cooling down. Remove the laundary bag carefully and let it drip into the bucket.

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Empty the bucket outside, not down the drain (lanolin is a fat it will coagulate in your drains) repeat the first wash.

If the water from the second bucket looks relatively clear when you throw it out you can now rinse the wool. DO NOT rinse it in cold water, a change in temperature encourages felting. Rinse in the same temperature that you washed it in.

I then removed the fleece from the laundary bag and left it on a sheet on a  drying rack. I have a dehumidifier that we use to keep the utility room free from damp and I left that on. It helped to dry out the fleece over night rather than over several days

Once the fleece was dry I picked it, removing any vegetable matter that was left and gently teased out the ends using an old curry comb.

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I am really happy with the outcome, it’s soft, clean and relatively untangled.  There is one other essential piece of kit ..

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Something good to read! There is a lot of sitting around.

My new carders will arrive this week, weather permitting, so I will be busy washing and drying for the rest of this week so I can start carding the fleece next week.

 

The sheeps fleece

 

6C0E05B1-7769-4147-A46B-125CF4654646I live on the Isle of Islay, famous for its Whisky, and also home to farmers who are struggling to make a living from the high quality product they produce, Sheep.

Many of the Cathedrals and castles of the middle ages were built upon the back of the profits from the wool trade.  The Lord Speaker in the House of Lords sits on a ceremonial Woolsack representing the importance of wool to the economy of Britain during the ore industrial era.  Now, however, sheep farmers make their main profit from meat, with wool being, in the more remote areas of the UK, representing a loss to the farmer.

Sheep have to be shorn, to avoid overheating in the summer and flystrike. The cost of shearing a sheep on Islay is around £1:40 – £2:00 per sheep. The value of the fleece is 15p – that’s right 15p. For the farmers on the neighbouring Island Jura the value is even less. If you keep Jacobs there is no value, unless as bedding for the pigs.

When a student offered me a fleece for 15p I initially said no, I love my clean carded colourful wools for felting why would I even consider buying a dirty smelly fleece. Then I gave it some thought. The fact that a beautiful natural commodity like wool represents a cost to the farmer and not a profit seems almost criminal. So we came to an arrangement, one fleece for £1:00 and a piece of homemade cake.

On Friday I took ownership of one fleece, in a black plastic sack. The deal concluded in my classroom, one piece of cake outstanding!

Because I have guests visiting at the moment I am having to resist my desire to start washing and carding but I have unwrapped it and cut off any really offending smelly bits.

This fleece started its life on a farm outside Portnahaven, at the far southerly tip of Islay. I want to record it’s progress to something of value and see if I can add some local value to this wonderful local resource. This blog will record its progress as well as mine as I learn new skills, make mistakes and hopefully get something at the end that can show just how wonderful Wool is.