Finishing the hat

For most people, a major national music festival is an opportunity to listen to some great music festival, watch amazing live artists and catch up with friends.  This was, initially, my plan for the Easter weekend in Canberra, but as I started browsing the National Folk Festival’s website something else caught my eye.


The Community arts projects!  I could have a go at weaving, Batik, tye dye, puppet making, wet felting, needle felting, making jewellery.  How would I have time to fit in seeing some concerts, perhaps do some singing of my own and my volunteering spots? Well I’d find a way somehow.

Friday I had light volunteering duties so I headed around the festival and tried to sign up for Batik.  Unfortunately there were not enough volunteers to cover that so I couldn’t have a go, but never mind, there was still plenty of other stuff to do.  I signed up for needle felting on Monday morning and then wandered outside and joined the weaving without a loom: weaving a bag group.  (Don’t worry, I paid afterwards.)


Melanie let me sit in and we were using warp thread wrapped around a piece of cardboard.  I should have done as the kids did and cut notches in to hold my warp threads as my knot tying doesn’t seem sufficient to hold the tension yet, but I got going with my multi-coloured wool, weaving in a circle and overlapping the ends of the threads when I came to the ends.  I’ve got to tidy up the ends and add a handle, maybe a button…


but you get the idea.

I signed up for another weaving class to make a hat.  I’ve had a go at hand weaving before, but not since school and Melanie was an excellent tutor, explaining the steps we needed to take and helping us out when things went a bit awry.

The hat was made on a circular card template (notches cut this time) and I manged to snap a thread early on, but recovered it.  Since I’ve tied it too tight there is no wearing it on my head, but it’ll make a good busking bowl.


Melanie also has a lovely portable mini loom which folds down and I really want one, but that will have to wait until after I find a job, house, pay off things, buy food…

So my weaving by hand is alright but if you’d like to see how things should be done properly head on over to Melanie’s site:

So as I walked away from the bag making workshop on the Friday I went into speak to the women of the Canberra Region Feltmakers as they had made some cool stuff and I didn’t know how it worked.  They then took me to the outside table and gave me my own demonstration – pictures below – and I signed up for that class that very afternoon.

First she laid out the wool fibres in three layers - horizontal, vertical, horizontal and worked that together on a textured mat.  The fibres have to be dampened with warm water and a little detergent to get the fibres bonding together.

First she laid out the wool fibres in three layers – horizontal, vertical, horizontal and worked that together on a textured mat. The fibres have to be dampened with warm water and a little detergent to get the fibres bonding together.

Here's some they made earlier

Here’s some they made earlier

More free form this time - making a flower.

More free form this time – making a flower.

More fibres are added in a pattern and worked onto the existing felt.  The first bit can't be fully felted or the top layer won't take.

More fibres are added in a pattern and worked onto the existing felt. The first bit can’t be fully felted or the top layer won’t take.

Finished demonstration

Finished demonstration


So I gave it a go myself, deciding to make a flower.

We started off with Merino wool in a pack which the ladies gave us.  I had planned on going for a black flower with flame petals, but no black in my colour pack, so settled on my favourite, red.

I laid it out on a bubble wrap sheet, got all the fibres roughly where I wanted to put them and dampened them down.  At first you have to work them quite gently so they don’t move, then roll it and you can get really rough towards the end, throwing it around, scrunching it up.  I imagine you can get a lot of frustration out wet felting.

What you begin with...

What you begin with…

First bit done

First bit done

Added some yellow embellishments

Added some yellow embellishments

Damp and ready to work

Damp and ready to work

Nearly done

Nearly done

Ta da

Ta da

In situe with a  kirby grip stuck in.

In situe with a kirby grip stuck in.


The ladies of the Canberra Region Felt Makers were, like Melanie, excellent tutors, explaining each step, giving encouragement and outlining the reasoning and process behind what we were doing. They run workshops and you can find the here:

And here:


My final tutor for making stuff at the festival was Marg, who was working for the Alice Springs Beanie Festival Roadshow.  And it is as marvelous as its name suggests. Unfortunately I was running out of battery and so didn’t get to take a picture of the vast array of beanie hats on display that have been made by Indigenous ladies and visitors to the Roadshow, but you can get the idea by visiting their website.


I had no idea that there was a festival for hats, but I love the idea. I’d seen needle felting on Kirstie’s Homemade Home and thought eventually I’d give it a go and here was the opportunity.

Basically you take wool fibres or yarn, place them on a background that’s on top of some sort of mat and stab them together using mega sharp needles.  The flatter you can get the overall piece, the better, as the fibres are holding together well.


Marg gave us a safety talk, let us pick a hat pack from the suitcase – a long bit and a circle – and let us get on with it.  I think this was a good approach for me as I know if I’d been interrupted then I’d stab myself and since I’m allergic to plasters that’s not a great option for me.


I chose a green/turquoise set and decided that for my first attempt I would be inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, all swirls and circles.  The first part I managed ended up being a bit like this…

IMG_1702So that fitted with my theme.  It kept developing and as it went on I decided I would not finish the hat.  Well, not fully.  I couldn’t think of a design to go on the top bit and I couldn’t just let it stay as it was – I didn’t like the tie dye design.  So I would in fact make a sort  of head wrap thing.

If I’d thought of that sooner I’d have cut the long section in half but, hey ho.

The swirls were beggining to look like waves, but that didn’t seem quite right either, so I adapted it to become a peacock of sorts.

IMG_1703 IMG_1701 IMG_1700

I finished off the edges with a blanket stitch and Marg was going to show me how to do a crochet stitch around the edge but I ran out of time.  So it’s done, but it’s not quite a hat.

So thanks to the Community arts people at the National Folk Festival.  I think this was a bargain and a great way to spend my time.  Each class was $10AUS, included the materials and the tutor’s time and each one has given me ideas to go away and play with when I get home and have to stay in and make things to save money.

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