A little while back I was looking into ways to do something for the animal shelter Operation Kindness where we adopted the extraordinary Aejaz from six(!) years ago. I then came across their benefit event and auction Canines, Cats & Cabernet and knew I wanted to make a hat to donate for the auction.
I decided on a version of my Evelyn Tilt Hat pattern, this time in brown. Fast forward a bit and suddenly I realized in the midst of Halloween costume crafting that it was going to be due! Thankfully I finished it in time and also thought it would be a good opportunity to document my blocking process for felt hats.
This is what works for me; blocking hats is a bit of an organic process so take and use whatever is helpful for you.
The hat with knitting finished, pre-felting. I like to put this into a mesh laundry wash bag for the fulling process to help catch the shedded fibers. To felt the hat, place your washing machine on the hottest setting with the highest amount of agitation. Keep checking on the hat until it’s felted to your liking. I also like to take mine out when checking it and run it under ice-cold water to “shock” it into felting more/denser. Once it’s felted satisfactorily I let it run in the spin cycle briefly to just make sure it’s not sopping wet. You still want it damp though so don’t let it run too long.
Next, take the hat and place it on your chosen blocking surface. I recommend these Styrofoam heads/wig stands available inexpensively at most beauty supply stores (unless you just happen to have a real wooden milliners hat block, you lucky thing). Run your hands from top down along all the sides, smoothing the fibers down into place. Keep doing this as you work, it creates a smoother surface texture.
Then grab the bottom sides and pull it down snugly over the form. Repeat around all bottom sides, stretching it over the head block.
Start forming the hat into your desired shape, or it’s desired shape. Each hat will be slightly different and want to “do its own thing”. Just keep working with it. I flip up the shortest brim edge for the back. I’m also not above trying on a damp hat over a plastic bag on my head, no really.
To hold the edge of the sides in from where the brim flares out I tie a string around it. You could also use large wide rubber bands, a strip of cloth, anything that will hold the hat down in place.
Keep working the strand down into the place where you’d like it and pin it.
Add pins where ever the hat needs support. I pin through both layers in the folded up back as well as under the brim into the Styrofoam to hold up the front brim away from the head.
Now let it dry, preferably under a fan, until it is completely dry. Once it is, try on your new creation and start dreaming up what trimmings you’d like to add to it. If for some reason the hat isn’t quite the shape you would like it, no worries. You can always re-block it! Either dampen the inside of the hat with a wet sponge, or generously steam it with a steam iron and repeat the process. Felt if very malleable when wet, don’t be afraid to really work, stretch and pull it into submission.
The finished hat! I trimmed mine with a feather plume, thin black grosgrain ribbon and a silver button. I also like to give my felted hats a little shave before adding decorations, which I’ve posted about before.
The back view, with the flipped up brim. Mine stays in place just fine once dry but if you feel your hat could use a little extra structure/stiffness you can spray the inside with a fabric stiffener.
I was quite pleased with how this one turned out and almost sad to part with it, but I know it’s going to a great cause and hopefully a happy new home. :-)
Pattern: Evelyn Tilt Hat by pieKnits
Yarn: Lion Brand Fishermen’s Wool in Nature’s Brown
Needles: US 11 (8.0 mmm), US 13 (9.0 mm)