How I felt hats

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Step by Step Felting a Hat

I will try to intelligently take you through the process of one of the ways I use to felt an alpaca fleece hat. Some of the materials I use are a small sized beach ball (called the resist); a stand for the beach ball which could be a large glass jar; or a large empty coffee can or one gallon empty can; a large pair of tights or pantyhose with the legs cut off leaving enough room at the cut ends to tie the top of the legs together; saran wrap; towels; dish soap; needle punch tool; wash board or anything that can bring friction to the felt; tweezers to pluck out the grass left in the fleece; hat forms; fleece; wool; yarns; and a tray to work in and not spill. 

Be prepared to spend at least four hours on this project.  You can break it up by doing the hat to the point of drying, take a break while it dries, then do the finish work which is plucking, applying the inner liner, applying the outer band and then a flower, button or embellishment of some kind.


This is a batt of alpaca fiber. I have chosen to make a Black Fedora style hat in a medium size. I have measured out 4 ounces of fleece to use on this hat. Fiber is removed from the batt in very thin layers and laid over the base in consecutive layers changing the direction of the fiber each time a new layer is applied.

This is my glass jar (full of misc. stuff) with the beach ball sitting on it. A small amount of fleece is arranged on the ball.

After layering the fleece, there may be some areas along the bottom that are too long. They need to be carefully pulled (feathered) off right above where the ball sits on the can. If you don't do this your hat will be felted closed.

As I pulled the long pieces off, I opened them up and layed them in places that may have looked thin to me. That way, I used all the fleece in the initial 4 oz. weight.

Here are the tights ready to go on the ball covered in fleece. It takes 2 people to do this and it is tricky. Take the panty hose and stretch out between the two of you and place on the top of the fleece covered ball and bring down while trying not to disturb the layers.

Believe it or not, a future hat is under there. Turn the ball over to see it. You are looking at the fleece to make sure there isn't too much over the center of the ball.

This is what the fleece should look like before you close the tights using a rubber band. Make sure the fleece does not touch in the middle.

I put the ball in about 1 inch of hot soapy water. I use approximately twice as much dish soap as I would in a sink full of water. Make sure to wet the ball of fleece all the way around and through.

Traditionally you are supposed to bounce this ball on the floor or patio. I bounce it on the wash-board over the sink and/or in the sink rolling it around and pressing into the ball as I go. Right now, all we want to do is get the fleece to come together and hold (called fulling), enough to take it off the ball without coming apart. As soon as I see fleece coming through the panty hose this part of it is done

I have removed the rubber band and peeled the panty hose part of the way back to expose the fulled fleece around the ball. After making sure the fleece will hold together, remove the panty hose completely. The next thing will be to put your hand under the fleece and push the ball out. I call this process "birthing the ball".

Keep the soapy water on the fleece and remove the ball.

Take the fulled fleece to the tray and put it on top of the washboard. Turn the brim under about 2 inches all the way around what will be the hat band.

Try to make an even line around the brim when you turn the edge under.

With your hand under the area you will work on for support, take the needle felting tool and drag it over the edge of the turned under felt and continue onto the underside of the hat to fuse the fleece to it. In the picture above, to the right of the tool is the unfelted area and to the left is where the needes have felted the 2 surfaces together.

Now the brim is basically one piece with a nice rolled edge. The next process will take place on the washboard. When using the washboard, the felting or shrinking happens when friction causes the hat to shrink. Whatever part of the hat that needs to be shrunk should be drawn over the washboard ridges. If you need to shrink the band area, draw the band area over the ridges of the washboard. This takes practice and patience. Continued on to "Felt a hat" page 2