This file is a collection of various messages having the common theme of stiffening felt,collected from the feltmaker's list. I have done a limited amount of editing. 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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ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS POSTED TO THE FELTMAKERS' LIST ABOUT STIFFENING FELT
* Siki McIver, Nov. 25, 1996.
Since the subject has come up I have a question (some day I hope to have some answers for you all). I'm wondering what might be out there that would permanently stiffen felt hopefully without changing the nature of it too much. Among other things I'm interested in the idea of making felt boxes (and has anyone out there done that?). If you know of such stiffeners could you tell me where I might buy it and what how it affects the wool.
* Pat Spark, Nov. 1996.
Siki asks about good stiffeners. I am also interested in this. All that I have tried are a problem. (see below)
hide glue: washes out
milliner's varnish: seems to leave a white residue on the handmade felt
acrylic medium: leaves a residue on the felt
* Sue Pufpaff, Nov. 25, 1996
When I was making my angels for the ornament exchange, I used the stiffener which my mother uses to stiffen crocheted snow flakes. Its called Fabric Stiffener and Draping Liquid and can be gotten in any craft or fabric store. It worked on the angel wings great and there was no big mess involved in using it. There are different brands and the one which I used was "Aleene's"
* Jill Gully, Nov. 26, 1996
When the stiffener dried, did it leave any visible color change or after effects? Would it be suitable for slightly stiffening the brim of a hat if one got it too soft or flexible?
* Sue Pufpaff, Nov. 26, 1996
The Fabric Stiffener left no color change. In the case of the angel wings, I had intentionally left the felt very soft and therefore some of the surface design was very 3-D and the stiff did not even interfere with the 3-D effect. I'm not sure if it would be suitable for stiffening the brim of a hat because it does break down with rough handling. I hope this helps.
* Lesley Blythe-Lord, Nov. 27, 1996
The traditional stiffener in the hat trade was/is Shellac which is extracted from the female Shellac insect which also produces a red, madder, dye. Shellac is also used to make French Polish, varnish and we used to use it to fill in pin holes in screen printing. It comes in flakes and is turned into a liquid by soaking the flakes in methylated spirit. The hatters used to use it to stiffen the brims.
* Pat Spark, Nov. 27, 1996
I first learned about using hide glue while I was in Hungary at the International Felter's Camp in 1988. The master hatmakers use it to stiffen their hats. I have not worn my Hungarian hats in the rain, so I don't know if their version of the glue is water soluble or not.
However, several years ago, my daughter made a great Halloween witch's mask out of her handmade felt. We stiffened it with hide glue and let it dry on a ice hockey goalie mask to retain its shape. It looked great on her. Well, it rained heavily that night. Not only did the mask get very soft, the hide glue burned her eyes when it dripped off the dissolving mask. (The felt was fine, it didn't dissolve, just the glue came out of it.)
Anyway, since that night, I've been reluctant to use it on my hat brims. I just full them very hard and sometimes use rows of stitching to help them remain stiff. I also use a stiffer fleece in my brimmed hats (romney or gotland), so that helps the brims as well.
Perhaps I should give the hide glue another chance. I would probably be great for sculptures or other items which won't actually be in the rain.
* Linda McDonald, Nov. 27, 1996
Years ago Iused a dilute of elmers glue to stiffen fabric. It worked pretty well. might be worth a try on felt.
* Siki McIver, Nov. 27, 1996
Has anyone tried a hat stiffener called Rexoloid (sp?) I met a former hat maker on my island and she said she used that. She said the base was acrylic and rather than paint it on she suggested soaking the hat in it, letting it dry out, wetting it again and shaping it.
I'm doing some hats with peaks and points and things and while I can easily restore their shape myself if they get a little soft or bent over time that's not exactly a good selling point - if they have to come back to me whenever someone sits on their hat or the like.
The hatmaker also suggested using a fabric stiffener such as something called "batik" (don't know if that is the spelling but it has nothing to do with resist dyeing with wax). She said this is something that people making wedding gowns use. Anyone heard of this stuff??
* Shannon Good, Nov. 29, 1996
I've had good luck stiffening my felt with thinned out acrylic medium. I think you could use hide glue (rabbit skin) the same way. Since I am also a painter, I have a lot of it around, and I tried it to see how it would work. I have had a little bit of residue show up on black felt if it's not thinned enough, like flaking, if the stiff part is bent too much/too often. but all in all it seems to work pretty well....
* Siki McIver, Nov. 29, 1996
That sounds interesting Shannon. Any ballpark figure on the ratio of water to acrylic medium??? I'd rather try that first as I think the rexoloid is only available in the states and sending for liquids across the border is a rather expensive venture up here. I'm not really familiar with acrylic medium but I pressume a craft supply store or art supply store would know what I'm asking for???
* Nancy Langford, Nov. 30, 1996
I once bought "hide glue" which looks like a crystal-like brown sugar from a stained-glass supply store. They use it to chip-away glass. I painted it on a hat, before I had perfected how to make a hat stiff enough
About 3 years ago, and ruined the hat. Then I made a felt-bowl over a rock. I dipped the bottom of the bowl in the glue, which is prepared by melting about 1-2 tsp. with 2 cups of water on the stove. This worked really well
* Barb Brecher, May 14, 1998
Does anyone know what to use to stiffen a felted vessel, bowl etc. I know I once read about dipping the final piece in a solution and letting the piece dry in the form you want it. It then becomes stiff. I would like to try some larger sculptural pieces and this would be one way to go..
* Pat Spark, May 14, 1998
You can water down acrylic medium and paint it on. You will need to experiment with the solution so as not to make the felt surface look milky. People also talk about using watered down PVA. I don't really know what this is. Some sort of glue. I have also used hideglue. This is like rabbit skin glue. It comes in crystal form. You melt some crystals in water in the top half of a double boiler. The liquid will look like weak tea. Then you paint it on the inside of the felt. It is how the traditional hats in Hungary are stiffened. They sand the surface after it is dry so that a nap is raised again and the look of felt has returned. (Using real sandpaper, fine grit.)
* Ruth Walker, May 15, 1998
PVA glue looks and smells like Elmer's Glue. Some felters in the U.K. use it. However, it can wash out, so don't wear it in the rain!
* Shelby Cefaratti , May 15, 1998
I have used Aleene's Fabric Stiffener on felt pieces with much success. It is basically watered down white glue. The one problem with it is, it doesn't seem to be very permanent. If the item gets wet, the glue dissolves. I am going to start using the half acrylic medium - half water solution. Does anyone have any ideas on the long term effects of these stiffening solutions? I am worried that the items may 'yellow' after a while.
* Ruth Walker, May 15, 1998
Has anyone tried the stuff that Nancy Ballesteros uses to make silk "paper"? She tried lots of different acrylic stiffeners before she settled on the 2 she uses; one is called Jo Sonja.
* Barb Brecher, May 15, 1998
I have seen hide glue in liquid form. If I use it for stiffening felt do I dilute it, heat it or what??? Anyone know?
* Pat Spark, May 15, 1998
I would assume that it would need to be diluted, since the consistency wanted is as liquid as tea water.
* Thomas Doi, May 15, 1998
This glue question/answer is terrific and very helpful. Only problem is not knowing what sort of store to look for these things in (remember all the talk about where to get the Gertie ball? We need to know sources for the supplies mentioned) --hardware? Art? Crafts? Mail order only? If so, what suppliers? I.e., I have seen hide clue in a liquid form at Sears but crystals to heat on a stove? Also, people have been talking about hat wires--I saw these in the Lacis catalogue in different gauges and in black and/or white. 1) what is a good gauge to use for these felted hats and do they only come in black and white? 2) Are there other sources that carry it? Without wanting anyone to advertise for suppliers, are there some that are better than others in any way, do they specialize, etc? This seems like such a particular area of working with wool that a lot of folks dabble but few really carry much equipment. I wonder if those of you with some experience would be able to comment?
* Pat Spark, May 15, 1998
Here is information from my sources list:
Cline Glass; 1135 SE Grand Ave., Portland, OR 97214 1-800-452-0189. This company carries Hide Glue. Stained glass artists use it for Glue Chipped Glass, but it is the same type of glue we use as a brim stiffener.
I haven't tried to get any from them for several years. But it would be worth a try. Or try calling your local Stained Glass Suppliers.
* Deborah, May 15, 1998
Hide glue should be available from woodworking suppliers.
* Lesley Riley, June 11, 1998
In one of my felt books it said that using varnish to stiffen felt would be the best thing to retain the color and texture of the felt. And while I have not used anything else yet, I do like the end result of the varnish.....except for the smell. Has anyone else used varnish? What I want to know is, does the smell go away? Does anyone have anything else they like using?
* Dawn Nicholson, March 23, 1999
Machine embroidery will add strength to felt. Close stitching could help the brim of the hat (crown too) to keep its shape and be stiffer. A jacket, especially the elbows and collars., also slippers and bags, wall hangings and rugs too can be made not only stronger by the the stitching, but colours and shapes defined. The long, straight stitch is easiest, although zigzag or other decorative stitches look great especially in a contrasting coloured thread (not necessary to cover all the felt with stitches - smaller areas spaced look attractive). I have tried hand quilting but it is too slow for me although I have seen beautiful work done by other felters in woolen yarn.
PVA glue (woodworkers glue) diluted with water stiffens hats quite well. Dip the whole felted article in the solution. Need the brim stiffer, then add more PVA and paint it on with a brush.
* Roz Spier, April 29, 1999
I use acrylic medium diluted with water. I bought the one that doesn't shine, and mix it with more or less water depending on how much stiffening I want. You can use it as a dip---put in your piece and squeeze the solution through it or you can paint it on with a brush. You can figure out which makes most sense for any given piece. I experinment on samples. Usually it doesn't change anything, but on one piece it did darken the color which I did not want, so I ddid not use it.
I have not done this on wearables, only on "art" pieces.
* Chris Smith, April 30, 1999
Someone told me today to try Bondcrete and water in a ratio of 1-1., and use a stencil brush to work it into the felt, so it doesn't stay on top on the felt and discolour it. I have not tried this, and if you do, please try it on a sample first, As before today I had only ever heard of Bondcrete as a sealer for concrete floors or as an adhesive to add tiles to concrete floors. I must stress I have not tried this. but it did sound fascinating.
* Deb O-Hanlon, May 18, 1999
I want to revisit a topic: stiffeners. I want to make a Tri-Corner hat, and am going to try a stiffener for the brims, so they stand up in Spring marching weather. I remember Bondcrete was mentioned, but what are other options, and in what ratios?
* Sue Pufpaff, May 19, 1999
I just did a hat class and in the process of teaching, I remembered a tip Ewa showed us when I took one of her workshops. After you have the hat the size desired and to stiffen the brim before adding any stiffeners, beat it with a wooden mallet or meat tenderizer, And I do mean BEAT IT!!!!! This is also covered in the "Felt, New Dimensions" book. It is a way to stiffen the felt without changing the size of the item. It does work. I made a hat with a 5 plus inch brim and the brim stands out nicely with no added stiffening. This is not to say adding a stiffening will be a useless extra step, but the beating does make for a felt with great strength. I do the same thing for wings on some of my flying creatures.
* Dawn Nicholson, May 19, 1999
For your tri-cornered hat, Deb, perhaps you may like to use firm plastic cord or wire such as cotton-covered millinery wire, tie wire (gauge?) Or strip the plastic from an electric cable, the wire strands are useful for strengthening felt leaves or flower petals. The wire could be used as a feature decorated with hand/machine embroidery, or covered with tape, braid or thin felt strip.
My favorite hats I wear when bush walking or working in the rain have wired (tie wire encased in grosgrain / petersham ribbon) brims which keep the rain off my face, but the wire does go out of shape when bumped.
* Lynn, June 30, 1999.
A few days ago someone posted a question regarding stiffeners. I haven't seen an answer and I need to know too. (I apologize if I missed it.) I have gone to the FAQ site but could not find anything.
I got one of Vansanto's hat blocks and think I'd have better results if I used something to help the hat keep its shape. One friend suggested soaking the felt in liquid starch before shaping to the block. Being in Seattle I'd worry about the rain dissolving the starch, and making the hat a soft mess on the head. Would starch work and last through rain?
I checked out "Feltwork" by Victoria Brown from my local weaver's guild. Stiffeners are mentioned but no specifics given. Brand names of products and suppliers would be greatly appreciated, as well as tips.
* Layne Goldsmith, June 30, 1999
Stiffeners for felt. I've used the lacquer based products that are sold for re-blocking your 10 gallon felt hat after cleaning and have reasonable results (not on hats, but on 3-dimensional felted forms).
However, the best, least toxic stiffener that I have used is a product sold by Golden Artists Colors called GAC 400. It is from their professional products line and therefore may not be available over-the-counter. They do have a toll free number for product info. This is water based and hassle free. Paint it on. More=stiffer. May be too stiff for wearable hats, but works well for free-standing work.
In Bolivia and Peru a cooked masa starch is used and the hats that I have from there, hanging in my Seattle studio, are as stiff as when they were collected in the arid altiplano. So, try starch for a test. This summer would be as good as almost any winter.
* Susan Murphy, July 1, 1999.
A good stiffener is Gelatin Sizing used for millinery. It is nonhazardous and water soluble. I have very good results with this and can be bought from my friend Sandra Leko at "Hats By Leko." 1-800-817-HATS.
* Joyce Jackson, March 13, 2001. Their are several millinery felt stiffeners on the market via millinery supply firms, but I have found this to work very well....when the hat is still wet and ready to be put on the form for drying I make a 50/50 solution with liquid starch and water. I put the hat in the solution, get it thoroughly soaked and then squeeze out all the excess liquid. I then put the hat on it's mold to dry. With the hat being wet to begin with and the 50/50 solution I find this works very well. If you still want it firmer you can always wet it and use an higher % of starch. The starch does not make the hat to stiff and if the texture was soft to begin it will still be soft...
* Wendy Dreyer, March 13, 2001. Isn't starch water soluble? Will a hat stiffened with it, then soaked by rain, sag?
*Joyce Jackson, March 13, 2001. All felt stiffeners are water soluble unless you are using a millinery felt sizing and it is similar to a lacquer that make the hat hard....The hat would have to be really drenched by rain to sag... if that is a real problem possibly a light coat of water repellent would help in this situation . I have not tried it on hats but worth experimentation.
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page updated: March 13, 2001