This file is a collection of various messages having the common theme of making a felt hat on a ball.
This method of working was originally developed by Beth Beede in 1975 and she has written about it in two sources. Beth showed this method of making a felt hat in Beverly Gordon's book, FELTMAKING, published by Watson-Guptll, New York, 1980. In 1998, she wrote an article about this method for Issue 24 of the North American Felters' Network. She has taught it to hundreds of people and many of her students are now teaching it as well.
      The information below is primarily from the feltmaker's list. I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, most of the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter. The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors. Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the orignator(s).
Pat Spark, Manager of the Feltmaker's List.

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*Sue Bowen, Nov. 1997
(These are rough notes based on a class I took with Beth Beede at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. The section on cords and felt balls was provided in her two-day class, which was full so I couldn't attend but she dropped a few hints and I took it from there. These instructions will *not* make a broad-brimmed hat, just a narrow-brimmed one.)  Use carded wool, such as Merino carded at a mill. Tear wool into thin strips approximately 3" wide by 1/8" thick. Save extra thin strips to be used to hold decorations in place. (Note: One source of Merino wool, pre-carded, is: Marr Haven, 772 39th St., Allegan, MI., 49010 and their email address is: mhyarn@aol.com)

To Build a Hat: Use a Gertie ball (though a plastic ball will work) approximately 10-12" across. Place in a bowl to use as a base. The basic hat requires 3 layers of wool. A reversable hat is made by using different colors for the first and third layers. If you want a small brim (a larger brim needs a different form), make sure to continue laying the wool down to the edge of the table.

First layer: Lay strips of wool over the ball by beginning in the center. Lay one long strip over the center of the ball and have it extend down past the ball to the table on both sides. If the strip is too short, use another piece and lay it end-to-end. Have both ends overlap slightly and have each end slightly feathered so there are no bumps on the edges. Next, lay another strip across the first to form a cross. Then fill in the quarters of the cross, one at a time, with the ends touching the table.
Second layer: Tear off a square piece of wool and lay it in the center of the ball. Next, lay the wool strip in a circle around the square. If the wool begins to buckle, tear it in two pieces before it does and begin to lay a new piece. Use larger pieces as you work in a spiral down the ball.
Third layer: Lay the wool down in quarters like the first layer.

To Make a Flap, Pocket, or Thick Cord: To begin, make a flap by laying a 5" by 8" (approximately) piece of cotton or other smooth material on the finished, built form. If making a flap or thick cord, lay strips of wool in the piece of cloth so that there is a 1" thick margin hanging over the edge and another 1" thick margin of wool blending with the wool on the form. Lay the first layer width-wise, the second length-wise, and the third width-wise again for a total of three layers. If making a pocket, fold the cotton fabric over length-wise and cover three sides with only the fourth edge showing. Allow a 1" width of cotton showing on the fourth edge. If making a thick cord, such as a base for the cord with a felt ball on the end, make the basic flap and be prepared to work the flap into a cord after the felting on the ball is finished.
To Felt a Lock of Wool as an Ornament: Select a lock of wool which will felt. Spread and separate the cut end until it is completely fluffed. Lay it on the wool on the form. Then lay a square layer of wool over the fluffed edge. Or lay three extremely thin layers ofwool across the end, over the end, and across it again. You can also felt yarn and colored wool into place in the similar way.
To Put on Fiber Glitter (eyelash): Spread the glitter carefully and evenly over the form. Then cover with an extremely thin layer of stretched-out wool. Do this until the glitter is completely covered.
To Cover the Form: Have a friend help you in doing this. Take 3 pantyhose bottom with the legs cut off. Stretch the first one out to form a square and keep stretching until the center is un-creased. Gently lower the hose over the form, taking care not to disturb the wool, and let the hose wrap around the form. Flip the form upside-down and repeat this to cover the form in the opposite direction. Turn the form side-ways to cover the form from side-to-side.

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To Begin Felting: Take a dish pan and fill with one gallon of hot water. Add 1 Tablespoon of Ivory. Mix. Roll the covered ball in the hot water until the wool is soapy wet. Knead the ball for around 1 minute (120 kneading rolls) . Then low dribble the ball on the table or counter for approximately 3 minutes.
To Begin Shaping (Fulling) the Felt: Peel off the first and second layer of pantyhose carefully. Check the wool around the edges at the underside of the ball to see if it is firm anddoes not pull apart. If the wool has begun forming into felt, remove the last layer of hose and begin to evenly stretch the wool around the bottom opening. The idea is to stretch the wool as little as possible while removing it from the ball. If the wool is still loose and fuzzy, put the hose back on and repeat the dribbling for another minute. Continue checking until the wool felts. Once the felt is off the ball, it will look like a large bag. Work the felt in the direction you want it to shrink. Be sure to work the edges first, then the body. Wet the felt periodically to add more soap and water. Work the felt by pinching, pounding, and rubbing on a wash board until hard, not puffy. Test the hat as you work it on a plastic form. Try it on the check the actual fit. Work until felt is hard, then trim with scissors in front of a mirror. Steam over a kettle to retain the form and then shave to reduce the nap.
To Finish Flaps and Pockets: Work flaps and pockets along with the body of the hat. Once the entire hat is stiff, remove the cotton fabric and work the flap or pocket separately. Remember to put fingers inside the pocket as you work it. To stiffen a flap or a pocket so it stands straight, grab the center between both thumbs and index fingers and pull to stretch the flap. To build a wavy flap, trim off any excess and stretch the top edge of the flap.
To Make Cords with Ball Ends:
This gives the effect of a jester's cap. Lay the wool as if constructing a long, thin flap. Once the wool is partially felted, remove the cotton fabric, roll and squeeze the flap into a round tube, and wrap wool around the end of the cord as if wrapping yarn around a ball. Wet the new wool and work it around the end of the cord, then go back to working the cord. This looks best if the balls are done with a contrasting color.
For a Cloche: Work the edges to stiffen them slightly, then stretch them and turn them up to form the 2" (or more) brim. Then work the entire mass to form a half oval, stretching the edges where needed to fit and working the rest to shrink to conform to the head.
For a Beret: Lay the wool flat with the opening in the middle. Work the edges until hard, not puffy. Then work the rest of the hat.
For a Low, Extremely Thin-brimmed Hat: Pick up the wool and turn the sides up (for a Robin Hood style) or tuck them back up and inside the hat (for a asymetrical pillbox style). Then work the edges until they are firm and stiff. Try the hat on for fit, then stretch edges or keep working them accordingly. Once the edges are finished, work the rest of the hat until the body is as stiff as the edges. Check for shape and fit periodically. If the brim on the pillbox style is shorter than the height of your head, the crown will be formed by the the extra felt conforming to the head.
For a "Peasant Hat": Turn the edges of the round mass of wool outward and flat and work the brim on a flat surface until stiff. Then work the body of the hat until firm and stiff.

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*Nancy Langford, Nov. 1997
Thanks. I found making a hat this way very interesting, having done many  in a similar manner. I had to laugh when I read about "dribble the ball for 3 minutes." I'll have to try it. Maybe my daughter can bring it to basketball practice and do it for me. Just one addition from me. I don't have any problem making a large-brim over a ball. When I put the ball on a base, I use a large bowl, a mixing bowl about the size to make a cake mix in. That way the layout is still big at the bottom.
*Shannon Good, Nov. 1997
I think the biggest advantage of felting a hat on a ball, is the time-lessening factor. Having done both ways, I find I can do a hat much quicker on the ball, and get onto the part I really love, embellishment, in a lot shorter time. The disadvantage is that you can't get as long of a piece to use at the bottom, for the brim... however, if you have read Nancy's post, she is wrapping wool around a bowl at the base of her ball to get around that problem. I have been thinking of other ways to get around the problem as well, and I'm thinking of fabricating a mold out of closed cell foam for doing brimmed hats.
*Susan Kreuger, Nov. 1997
Sorry to keep beating the dead horse, but I'm still puzzling over Nancy's: "Yes, Shannon, I do wrap the wool not only over the ball but around the bowl which the ball is on, which is the same width as the fat part of the ball. Once you put the panty-hose on the ball, you remove the bowl, but it is looser at that part and once you take your wet hood off the ball." My question is, once you remove the bowl, what is underneath that excess wool to keep it all together while you start the process of getting the layers to start to hold to one another? Or is it OK, just a bit looser as you say.  I,too, have tried the ball once & was not successful & mostly use the template but have to battle the bulge of the seams. You have encouraged me to try, try again!
*Nancy Langford, May 1998
I think for a beginner it is easier to layer your wool over a basketball that is sitting on a mixing bowl. After laying-out the wool in 3-4 layers, pull the top part of the pantyhose over the whole thing, being careful not to undo the layers. I tie off the legs and cut them off. I turn ball over and add another pair. Fill up sink w/warm water, about 3" or so. I squeeze ivory dishsoap over ball, approx 1/8 cup or LESS. Then I roll the ball in sink to saturate. After it is saturated, I rub by hand over the pantyhose till all feels smooth. Then I let the water out and use the washboard for about 5 min, rolling the ball in all directions. (I've heard of people bouncing the ball at that point, but haven't tried that!) Then I carefully remove all pantyhose and work on the washboard in the directions it needs shrinking, usually needing it mostly in the width, as with the ball method it isn't as easy to have a big brim. After shrinking it into a cone shape, I STRETCH it after rinsing out soap over a hat block and shape from there. If you don't have a brim block, you can use the table to shape the bottom.
*Pat Spark, May 1998
Nancy, does this mean that you don't knead and dribble the ball?   If you leave it on the larger bowl, it sounds like you probably work it on the bowl until its ready for fulling.
*Nancy Langford, May 1998
Pat - once I take the dipped-pantihose covered ball out of the sink after wetting it down, I roll it on the washboard for about 5-10 min. then remove the 2-pr.of pantyhose and continue to full into a cone-shape without the ball. I take 2 hat blocks, one on top of the other and pull the rinsed hood over the 2 blocks. Having the block underneath gives me the stretching room to become a lg. brim. I add my hatters-knot 1" from the bottom of the top hat block and secure tight. Then I lift the rest of the hood up from the bottom up to the knot. Remove bottom block and then I insert my block into my brim piece, which looks like a childs potty and stretch it to fit over the brim.. Then I iron it in place for about 10 min, remove knot and trim. If I'm making a cap, usually w/cuff, I just don't add the brim part.

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*Debbie Nelson, Nov. 1997
I have not been too active on the list lately but thought I would address the questions regarding where one can find the gertie balls. (The collapsible balls used for doing the Felt Hat on a Ball.) The box states: Made In Taiwan exclusively for Small World Toys, P.O. Box 3620, Culver City, California 90231. I just called information and they say the phone number is: (310) 645-9680.  
*Pat Spark, May, 1998
I just called the above number and they come in 7, 9, 12, 13, 14  and 20 inch diameters. (Tell them you are a consumer to get information on the closest store to you.  They will give you the item numbers for the product to ask for.)  I asked for the 13 inch Ultra Gertie (01011 ) and the 20 inch Mondo Gertie (01015).  They directed me to Leaping Lizards at  953 NW Wall Street , Bend, Oregon   1-541-382-8326 .    

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*Question from Rose Kramer, May 21, 2001: Is there any other way of securing the whole thing together at the end other than panty hose? I never seem to have that extra pair of hands around to help me and it is very difficult to do by myself. I did see in a book that someone used bandages??
*Sharon, May 21, 2001. I had the same problem as you did: trying to get the pantyhose around the ball without anyone else around to help. I solved this by getting a big mixing bowl, the kind that is wide and kind of flattened out, not high with straight sides. I stretched the panty hose over the bowl and laid out the wool over the panty hose, and then put the ball on top. Then you can gently release the pantyhose from around the edges of the bowl and bring wool and panty hose up around the ball. It is sort of a backwards way of doing it, but it works.
*Candy Hoeschen, May 21, 2001. I haven't tried the 'hat on a ball' but here's what I do to stuff a log of wool into a nylon stocking without 4 extra hands: cut the end out of a pint or quart plastic cottage cheese, yogurt, or sour cream carton, so you have an open tube. Stretch the pantyhose over the outside of the carton, then stuff the wool log into the carton - the pantyhose will smoothly feed off the outside of the carton and cover the log of wool. To apply the same principle to the 'hat on a ball', find a ring/cuff a little larger than the ball -  maybe a wok ring, heavy plastic big ice cream carton, or super-sized metal can that held cookies or popcorn (cut off the bottom)? Something to stretch and hold the pantyhose top open while you insert the wool-covered ball.
*Ruth Walker, May  22, 2001. I always like it when someone comes home just when I need them to help me stretch those hose over the ball. But here are 2 or 3 solutions I've come up with because "they" are never home when I need them! Get the pantyhose wet first. They have a lot more stretch when they are wet. Use two pair. On the first pair, cut off the waistband entirely. This allows you to stretch out the edge much further. Use the second pair over that to hold it all in place. Put the ball with its wool on a sturdy bowl and put the bowl on a low stool. It is so much easier to come down at the ball from directly overhead. There is one other advantage I have, and that is all my wool is wet before it goes onto the ball. This cuts down on the apparent volume that I have to put the pantyhose over.
*Susan Murphy, May 22, 2001. Hey Ruth I have a similar technique .. I bought a quilting hoop, it is about an eighteen inches across, removed all the hardware on the outside hoop, Then slathered carpenters glue on the inside of the top hoop,clamped the two together with duct tape, which is still on it i feel it give it more stability, I do love duct tape, then let it dry. Like Ruth, I put the ball with its wool on a sturdy bowl and put the bowl on a low stool. It is so much easier to come down at the ball from directly overhead. I also wet the hose then, I pull the panty hose over the hoop and center it on the hoop. The hose top is then centered over the crotch (can I write that?) I then center the crotch on the top of the ball with the open  panty top facing me.Center the crotch on the top of the ball and push the hoop/hose straight down . By this time my chest is on top of the ball and I push the front side of the hoop at an angle towards the floor. Now, my chest is holding the ball, hose and hoop in place and I grab the panty top and pull it over the hoop to the bottom of the ball and then use the hoop to pull the backside down. Sounds complicated but it works for me.. If some would like pictures I will do my best to have pics made and Iwill email to you privately.
*Joyce King, May 23, 2001. I have been doing a lot of just lurking lately, but this morning I had an epiphany regarding this dilemma. I live alone all the time, so I never have an extra pair of hands. While I don't make hats, I do make vessels, and have the same problem. I was making small vessels molded over large glasses using the haphazard pantyhose method (actually I was using kneesocks), when...thank goodness because I am not too neat in the kitchen...one of those Saran plastic covers with elastic caught my eye. I was thinking that I needed to get the panty hose off before it was too late and stuck to the piece, so I replaced it with the plastic cover. It then occurred to me that this might be a partial solution. Had to come to work, so I haven't had a chance to try it out from scratch yet, but thought I would pass it on.

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Copyright 1998
Last Updated: May 23, 2001