Mad Hatter

The Tale Of The Mad Hatter

So in my last post I mentioned that my husband had booked me onto a wet felted hat workshop. Last week we travelled up to Cheshire and I spent the day with Alison Rose from Rose Creations whilst my husband took my son to the Outlet Centre for a spot of retail therapy – think I got the better deal…

So thinking about the style of hat I wanted to create had me thinking about the ‘Mad Hatter’ from the Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” where the cheeky rabbit was famously featured.

However, contrary to believe the phrase “mad as a hatter,” used to describe someone who’s prone to unpredictable behaviour, didn’t originate with Carroll.  So where did it originate?.

The expression is actually linked to the hat-making industry and mercury poisoning. In the 18th & 19th centuries, a toxic substance, mercury nitrate, was used as part of the process of turning the fur of small animals, such as rabbits, into felt for hats. I can confirm that I only used soap and water in my workshop and no small animals where harmed in the process either….

Workplace safety back in the day were lax and exposure to mercury caused employees to develop a variety of physical and mental ailments, including tremors (dubbed “hatter’s shakes”), speech problems, emotional instability and hallucinations, not the best working environment and glad to report that the use of mercury in hat making was banned for use in the early 1940’s.

Fitted and Felted

We spent the first hour  measuring my head so we would get a good fit, preparing the template and choosing the wool which of course was my favourite colour – purple. Several hours later and after a lot of felting, fulling and shaping I had a hat to take home and dry.

Process and Practice

The process is long but enjoyable as you see the shape appearing. I shall make another hat in a different style as the more I practice the more I will learn about this great craft.

Hope you like it:

 

 

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