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.
As we enter the last few days of December and into the winter months for many it is a time to relax and look forward to the warmer months with promises of holidays.
For the crafting community it is a time to plot and plan the magic that we are going to create for the following year. The new calendar is out and already filled with dates of trade shows to attend, craft shows to prepare for and courses to attend to expand our own learning.
To ensure that there is also some pleasure mixed with the planning I always try and book myself onto a few workshops in the early months of the year, this means I learn something new or pick up a twist on an existing skill and meet new like minded people. This year I have had a great christmas gift to attend a course on making a wet felted hat!. This is something I have wanted to do for a long time and now is my opportunity to be creative and make a mess in somebody else’s house – perfect….
I will give you an update when we virtually meet again in 2019 when hopefully it will be a happy and healthy new year for all of us.
Over the last few years I have had a growing interest in felting and taken more interest in where our wool is coming from. At country shows one of my favourite areas besides the Poultry is the sheep and the breed to recently catch my eye has been the Leicester Longwool.
This breed is now listed on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust as Vulnerable along with the Lincoln Longwool. They are just so chic looking with their coat of curly hair that a lot of ladies would be pleased to have!.The breed produces a natural and white wool in colour but is also know to dye easily and great for felting projects.
Is it just me or do some sheep just give an aura of being chilled? The Leicester Longwool is known to have a docile nature and they always look to be calm and collected as they saunter around waiting for their twice yearly haircut.
Any way enough musing I am of to order some wool to add to my needlefelted sheep collection, might even make it a christmas hat..