Friday, 1 August 2014

Adventures with Thermofelt

Before I start to rant about the hat and the material, I think we should just all enjoy/envy this glorious photo of my friend and volunteer model, Dee, doing her accidental best to look like Kate Middleton.

Actually, Kate has something to do with the creation of this hat. Shortly after I did a photoshoot and post about 1960s pillboxes, Kate, William and George landed in New Zealand. My husband came into the craft room and said " wearing a red pillbox hat!" Princess Princessia is her name in this house now, and she was indeed wearing a red pillbox hat, and I was quite impressed with him for noticing, and for thoughtfully keeping me informed of the hat-wearing of important celebrities! So, having this burgundy/red felt to work with, I thought I'd play with a pillbox shape.

At least, it started as a more-or-less pillbox shape, but it ends up with a softer feel. This has to do with my material, which is no ordinary felt. It is a wool felt with 10% thermoplastic fibres in the mix. Thermoplastics are a big buzz material in Australian millinery at the moment, although the term is causing a lot of confusion, because it represents a range of products. I'll bring out my inner engineer here and state that thermoplastics are just a class of plastic, whose pertinent characteristic is that they can be deformed and shaped with heat (as opposed to charring and burning).

So the fun thing about thermofelt over plain wool felt is that when you deform it with heat (as you do in the blocking process) the plastic fibres are very good at keeping that new shape unless heated again. It is thinner than regular millinery felts, so I don't find that it keeps as crisp a shape. You can, however, smoosh it, flatten it, sit on it, pack it in a suitcase, and then remove it and plump it up back to form. I think that is pretty awesome, especially from that packing-it-away perspective. Hats can take up a lot of room at home (especially if you have, ahem, many), and when it comes to travelling, most of us don't take a suitcase and a hatbox wherever we go.

From an environmental perspective, although I'm keen to play with new materials, plastics naturally make me a bit edgy. Some of the materials, like Worbla, which I made a flower from at IMF2014, have the benefit that you can take all your cut out scraps and heat and squish them back together to keep using, a like you do with gingerbread dough after cutting out your shapes. With the felt, it's not so easy. What I've done instead to soothe my spirit is make this (and the other thermofelt hat I made, but sold at the market before taking any photos) a zero-waste design. The felt comes in squares, and I used one complete square, with no cutting at all, to make this hat, leaving no waste, for at least the length of the hat's lifetime.

This hat is currently at The Blackheath Hub, but don't forget that if you like any of the hats in my online shop, you can enter my competition to win one of them!

Thank you to everyone who has shared my competition around so far, and I'm really enjoying the entries that are coming in! So much fun!


  1. its a very cute hat and very princess Kate

    retro rover

  2. She really does look like Kate, wow. Had you not said as much, I would have still noticed it instantly. What a striking, sophisticated crimson topper, dear Tanith. Stop-you-in-your-tracks gorgeous work!

    ♥ Jessica


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