In June, I ran a Hat Workshop and invited Roxanne to write a blogspot for me, recording her impressions as a first-time felter. Here is what she thought in her own words and pictures.
Thank you Roxanne!
A beautiful blue bowler hat with a soft floral trim, made by me for me.
My first felt encounter
Having never felted before, I didn’t have any particular expectations but rather a curious case of creative excitement for the workshop I was about to attend. As I made my way to the workshop the optimist in me whispered, ‘Sure it will be fun to felt and sure you are going to have a great time with the ladies’ but as I got closer to St Margaret’s House, the question begged to be asked: What was felting really about? And even more so the fashionista wondered whether I would be able to create something to my own personal style so I could wear it? Today, I was surely going to learn something new, I thought.
And so I set off on the first, fine summer’s day in Scotland, felt tools in the bag and a smile on my face.
When I arrived, I passed three women on their way to get some coffee. I figured they were attending the same workshop because they directed me to where I needed to be and very kindly offered me some coffee. I declined (politely) as I was on a mission to get to the workshop on time.
If anything, be punctual.
At the workshop, Heather was all ready and prepared. Her work stations all set out with all sorts of inspirational felt books and materials to match. The room seemed like a real palette of shades. How exciting.
Today I was going to be the artist.
I then unpacked my materials at my station, laid out all my tools and like a real freshman, I had a notepad on hand ready for Heather’s instruction. Whilst I waited for the workshop to begin I saw some hat designs the other women brought with them and I compared the styles in an attempt to finalise the image I had in my mind. When I saw a picture of the famous vintage bowler hat I knew that my hat would resemble just that: a classic, bold but feminine style.
Perfectly elegant for those windy and wet days that await in Edinburgh.
Once we were all settled, Heather didn’t wait a minute longer and got us going with the mechanics of the hat. We measured our heads horizontally and vertically, cut out a template and then created the resist (I would describe this as the skeleton of the hat we removed later). Heather’s voice accompanied us right along as she demonstrated and explained every step. On the side I quickly made notes of her in-between remarks: “Remember to allow space for shrinkage”. This was especially helpful because I always seemed to have a problem with my head size and the hat sizes available in stores. Blush.
And so we were ready to start felting...
I loved how Heather explained that we should use fabric in our design that “tears nicely”. For a moment I was so mesmerised by the beautiful demonstration of tearing soft silk, so graceful and lovely it was to watch.... Apparently the space in the fibres allows the wool (which we use later) to hook itself through. Heather was making strips so that the silk can integrate even more with the wool. At this stage all my creative juices juggled ideas from the colour silks I would use, the imagery of how the fabrics bond and the wonder of how all this will make up a hat at the end!?
Once we placed the silk on the resist I jumped in to my favourite part- selecting the colours of wool I would use. Amongst the lovely array of merino wool colours I short listed my options and pulled out a few shades of blue that went nicely with my floral strips of silk. Recently I have really been enjoying the tranquil, cool but calm look and feel of duck egg blue so I chose the shade closest to this and complemented it with a ravishing royal blue.
Now I was ready to shade my canvas.
Through a process of clutching about three thick strands of wool, I think I may have stood for about an hour clutching and pulling pieces of mesmerising merino sheep wool. Bit by bit. Piece by piece. Following Heather’s advice: ‘Think about it as paint’, I focused my attention on pulling and placing the wool exactly how she did and laid my pieces on both sides of the resist. Pulling and placing, pulling and placing...
So gentle, so therapeutic.
But then the hard work started. Once the wool and water clung together around both sides of the resist, we had to start drying it through a vigorous process of rolling and pressing of exactly the right weight on the resist. This was no joke. I saw the girl next to me finishing hers off (she was like a machine) and I thought to myself if I don’t get a move on I am going to be here all day. I better just press and roll. Standing up, sitting down, I was determined to get it dry. But my lovely teacher was right by my side and encouraged me to ‘relax, sit down and do it from there’, systematically one roll at a time.
Ok so I struggle with a bit of patience- but how amazing is it to see this wool and water come together to make a hat!!!
The last part did require a bit of work but in the end nothing was more rewarding than seeing the finished product: A beautiful blue bowler hat with a soft floral trim, made by me for me. Heather was quite happy with how I had done and I was very chuffed and grateful for the experience. Now I can truly say that appreciate the art of felt making.