Heads Up! Top Down! – Two Felted Hats

With Christmas looming in the not-to-distant future, I’ve been focused on getting all my presents done. I finished the Fish Hat, I’ve knitted up others to be sent and to be given. Yesterday I finished the second of two hats to be felted and given to Auntie Am (who is younger than me, BTW!).

Years ago I gave Am a knitted and felted hat – that hat has seen Africa, Europe, and Asia – and it is getting quite worn out. She asked for another hat. And so she is getting two. The fact is, I have forgotten a pattern I made up in my head when I was totally into felting knitted hats. This time, I decided it would not be a bad idea to record what I did in pattern form.

My personal preference for felting is handspun yarn that I know will felt – commercial yarns can be more difficult. Finn-Lincoln is a very nice combination. The Lincoln has a quality of luster, and the Finn gives a nice hand. When I make yarn for felting, I ply it rather loosely, as well as spin it loosely. The looseness gives the yarn a better opportunity to felt. The biggest problem with handspun yarn for felting is that it needs to be watched very, very carefully, or else it can become Lilliputian in size.

That said, Am wanted “something in blue.” I had two skeins of Lamb’s Pride Worsted, from Brown Sheep, in “Blue Boy” and “Tahiti Teal.”

Pre-Felted "Heads Up!" in Tahiti Teal
Pre-Felted "Top Down!" in Blue Boy

The recommended needle size for Lamb’s Pride is a US 8; I used 9s as I knit very loosely. I think I could have used 10s or 11s easily enough, but didn’t want to experiment with a present due in a few days!

Designing the Hats

My typical felted hat has a sloping crown which moves into the body, and then expands outward to a brim which will eventually curl up. Both of these hats work on that premise in design, but with different length brims. Heads Up! is started on the outside, working in from the brim. The brim is wider than Top Down! which is knit from the center out, moves into the body, which is knit straight, from a sloping crown, and then into a very narrow brim. Pre- and post- felted, each hat looks rather bell-shaped, and not particularly attractive. On the head, though, they work out quite nicely.

Felting the Hats

I just throw them into the washing machine, hot water, a towel or two, and laundry soap. I washed mine on the heavy cycle a couple of times. They don’t look like much other than soppy rags before I move them into the dryer. As my washer spins things out to the point of being nearly dry, I let that happen. This way, the drying time in the dryer is less, and I can control the felting a lot more. The wetter the hat, the more it will felt, and the more it might shrink. The ones here were in the dryer about 20 minutes with the towels. Again, in the dryer, I used the heavy duty setting to get a lot of heat. More friction, more felting, more shrinking. Mine was at a minimum, although for other projects I have been known to throw them into the washer and dryer more than 5 times!  I have also used my wash tub and wash board, and a plunger, but machines make hard work a lot easier.

Key things to remember are to watch the project as it felts, and to remove it from the dryer while it is still damp-to-very damp, but not soggy. Once you are happy with it, take it out, and shape it on some form.

Shaping and Drying the Hats

I have an old ball I use, one that the dogs outgrew. It’s pretty disgusting, so I put a plastic bag over it to cut down on the ick factor. You could do the same with any plastic ball, or a balloon. Shaping the hat and letting it dry is important because that gives it a memorized form.

Heads Up! Drying on the Ball. Notice the Plastic Bag???

Since I only have one plastic ball, I put both hats on it, with the teal one on the ball, and the blue one on top of it.  Both dried fairly quickly.

The Hats Sans Heads

Until I can see Am at our family gathering, I won’t have any pictures of what they look like on a head.  Nonetheless, here are some pictures of the hats individually on the ball.  The blue one – Top Down! – has a small crown.  The teal one – Heads Up! – looks like it has a small crown, but really, it will flair out when worn.

Top Down! on Ball
Heads Up! on Ball

And in comparison, here is an image of both hats, now dried, side by side so you can see what they look like flat as well as in size and shape.

Top Down! on Top of Heads Up!

I’ll get some pictures of Am in her hats to post later.  For now, you can get this pattern directly here, or by clicking on the “Patterns” or “Patterns for Free” page to the right.

Merry Christmas!

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