I'm trying to get into hat making, and I was wondering, which felt is the best to practise hat making on? I know beaver is the best, but I'm abit on a budget.
Attaching a picture on what I will be doing more or less.
Thank you in advance for your answers! :)
Hi Emilis, Note the answer to another query today. The Hatter Course was in planning but lockdown has stalled all. As you see on hat style in your photo there is no wire supporting the brim and hence the reason for a quality felt which is usually a combo of several natural furs and wool. Unfortunately the basic capeline does cost more than usual felts and this explains why mens customised hats can fetch a retail price of up to $1,000 with minimal trim. Check out the blocks here Best Wishes, Elaine https://www.hatblocksaustralia.com.au/index.php/open-crowns
Thank you for your answer!
A few questions:
1) What is the Hatter course?
2) Could you please specify on the felts that I need to get? Which ones are the best for practising and are budget friendly?
3) I've seen Nick Fouquet doing the 'sanding' process after drying shaping and drying that hat's body with a trimmer (video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B55vfVp4nI0&t=371s , from 4:39). He's ofcourse using high quality beaver fur felt, but my question is, can I do the same sanding process on a lower quality wool fur felt, to get that smooth skin finish?
Will be waiting for an answer!
Re Hatters Course We are engaging an experienced maker of mens hats = a "Hatter" to teach on Hat Academy due to requests from many members. I have been a "milliner" in Australia for over 50 yrs but I am not a Hatter. The process as you have seen on You Tube is different plus blocks they use. Unsure where you live but in each country there are suppliers for the felts you need & most regular millinery supplies do not stock such. Some hatters will sell you a few so maybe source such. When we have the male hats course /hatters course available once lock down passes, the supply house will offer these correct felts but not cheap! . To buy from a manufacturer requires you buy in 50 lots. Importation is not straight forward currently so we need to sit it out until normality returns in our world. Like anything in this trade if you use shoddy components you get 2nd class results. With wool =too limp & that is why milliners wire the brims. Hope this helps - Cheers,Elaine
Thank you for your answers Elaine!
Talking about sanding the surface of the hat (with a trimmer machine or sand paper), my question is, Can you do it on any felt, to get the skin-like texture?
Sanding is done by Hatters because they use a lot of Beaver mix felts.Sanding works best with beaver because you general don't need stiffener when working with that felt. With other felts you can sand up the chalk stiffener with thinner felts.
If your learning, go with rabbit felt & wool felt. Stay away from sanding, just use your brushes.
Wool felt is the most affordable but if your learning it will shrink a bit & be frustrating plus it will have that nappy wool texture.
Otherwise rabbit felt is awesome. You can get it in 'Mens' Weight' so its thicker.
Thank you for your answer Victoria!
What did you meant by "With other felts you can sand up the chalk stiffener with thinner felts. "?
And when you said to stay away from sanding and 'use your brushes', which brushes were you talking about?
Hello again Emilis,
Typing late at night made my sentence all garbled. Sorry.
If you sand thinner felts that have been stiffened your sanding down to the inside of the felt where most of the stiffener resides. From experience, the felt tends to look 'chalky.' You can remove the 'chalk' with a tad of rubbing alcohol...but it's more work.
The two brushes you should have in your arsenal, horsehair & nylon brushes. After all of your work blocking your hat, the horsehair is for cleaning & getting your felt fibres all going in the same direction; the nylon brush (like the ones you get in the hardware store) brushes out pin marks & rope lines.
I hope this helps.
I make fedoras and have tried to get a stiff brim without wiring on rabbit and wool felt but I haven't found it possible without stiffening under the brim which ruins the appearance. Even on a narrow rim sprayed with strong hair spray there is some flopping. As Elaine and Victoria said the felts used for the hat in your picture, and those with very flat brims are heavy and very stiff as they are factory stiffened ( in the shops the whole hat is often very hard). These felts are often machine steam stretched too as they are arguably too hard to work by hand.
Wool felts will give you good practice on blocking but a rabbit felt is so much easier to steam and block. If you want a stiff flat brim I also suggest you wire it either overwelt or under welt ( seam on top or under the brim) . The All About Felt Course here is really good for techniques including rolled edges on felts. Then wait for the Hatters Course which I will also be signing up for. Good luck.
In regards of stiffening the brim, you said that it ruins the apperance... but in which way? I've read other people saying that some stiffener doesn't leave any marks.
In regards to wiring the hat, is the any special wire that I need to use?
Thank you in advance!
the felt and straw stiffener I use leaves a clear residue as does diluted PVA. I haven’t found one that doesn’t but if you know of one please let me know as that would be so welcome.
I’ve found that brim wire is too floppy and won’t give an even flat brim. millinery wire ( White Or black cotton covered 18 or 20 gauge ) is a good bet but to be honest I don’t wire brims on fedoras that much. Sorry if that’s not much help.
Spray white residue with cheap hair spray but make sure you have shaken can well. The alcohol content seems to work :) Many are using the Shellac based (powder) stiffener mixed with alcohol or Metho and is quick dry but do in open air as you do for solvent based stiffener. Google to source from a supplier. As it is slightly yellow no go on pale colours.
Bever felt is one of the better felts but is hard to find nowadays and would be very expensive. In the Uk I have never come across bever felt.
The cheaper felt is wool and with wool felt the animal isn’t killed.
Fur felts are more expensive and the animal usually rabbit is killed.
See this website for more information