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by Kate George
Bodacious Betty
11/25/2013

 

 

This all started when my husband said he wanted a top hat for Christmas. My youngest daughter then went on a internet search for a top hat for her dad. I’m sorry, but I don’t have $65 – $100+ to blow on an item that is NEVER going to get worn. But my daughter REALLY wants to give her dad a top hat. So I started looking into how top hats are made. Which led me to felting – both needle and wet, that transformed into a combination of the two. Then I invented dryer felting because I’m lazy. Ask me about it someday!

In my research on the creation of top hats I discovered I was going to have to have a hat block. Hat blocks are made of balsa wood and are Vry, vry expensive. More than the top hat by about four times. Then I discovered plastic hat blocks, which were far less money but still more than I wanted to spend. How many top hats am I ever going to make? Three? Maybe. It still didn’t seem worth it.

While I was wondering around the internet I came across this video tutorial on how to make your own hat block. Now Victor Osborne used hats from the thrift store to make his molds from spray foam insulation. I wasn’t going to be able to find a top hat to use but what is a top hat? Pretty much a upside down bucket, right? So I tried making a hat block in a bucket and one in a bowl. Big fail. The foam at the bottom never hardened. I only have one photo of that big mess, thank goodness. After I poked a bunch of holes in the press n seal I lined the bucket with it finally hardened – but it doesn’t much resemble a hat block:

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I supposed I can trim it down and use it for something.

From that debacle I surmised the the material I used needed to be breathable. I took fabric and made molds by soaking the fabric in a mixture of one part white craft glue and two parts water. I draped one in a bowl that I lined with press n seal and one over my plastic bucket. They dried in a couple of hours and were very stiff. Yay! Nailed it. So now I had forms to make my hat blocks from!

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I crossed my fingers, grabbed my spray foam:

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And filled  the fabric with foam. This time it dried and I got a cloche shaped hat block, which, after I trimmed it down and shaped it some looks like this:111_9112

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is my top hat block form with the foam hardening (and overflowing the top) in it.

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I will peel the white fabric away, trim the bottom (which is facing up at the moment), Trim the sides down if it isn’t quite the right size for the hat (It’s a little bit big so I can trim the sides away and make it oval instead of round, Like Prince William’s top hat.)

And proof they work! Here is a felt had drying on the cloche hat block. I’ll put up another post when I have a few hats finished.

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Oh and the financials? I used four cans of spray insulation in my process. They cost $3 each. So for three hat blocks (I’m curing a third now) I spent $12. The felt for the hats and the Christmas ornaments from the  other day, around $25. We’ll see what I get when I’m done. If the hats come out well then I’ve saved a bunch of moola and had some fun making felt hats and ornaments. If not? Well it’s not like the top hat was ever really going to be worn, so if it doesn’t come out well it still makes an okay gift. Win, win all around.

 

Speaking of financials, I haven’t monetized this blog by allowing advertising. If you like my writing, and also like being able to read blogs without wading through ads consider clicking the “books” tab at the top of the page and buying a book or two. Thanks!

 

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

sue davis August 25, 2017 at 12:43 pm

wow is all i can say I thought you had to use wood, Im knew at hat blocking for felt hats, but I make hats

Reply

Katie Pfenn February 2, 2017 at 6:52 pm

Thank you so much! I teach high school advanced crafts and one of my students wants to make hats. So I bought a book, since I’ve never done it before. I knew I needed to make a hat block on the cheap. Your blog made my life so much easier! Now I know I can make a ton of different shaped hat blocks from this.
Thank you!!!
Maybe one day I’ll have the whole class make hats!

Reply

Kate February 2, 2017 at 9:15 pm

Hi Katie,

Feel free to ask questions! I’ll do my best to answer for your student!

Kate

Reply

Tricia June 12, 2016 at 1:30 pm

Hi, thank you for this! One question: why did you line the bowl with press n seal? I get soaking the fabric in glue and water to make it stiff, just not the press n seal part. Wouldn’t that make the fabric stick to the bowl, and why would you want that?
Many thanks!

Reply

brownam06 August 4, 2014 at 1:47 am

Hat blocks are so outta budget for me at the moment…. I just knew there had to be a simplified way of making one!!!! Thankyou

Reply

daniel May 7, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Great advice! I’ve recently become fascinated in making felt hats and ran into the problem of finding cheap blocks. Instead of buying styrofoam from a craft store, I went to local rent to own electronic stores and asked for their thrown away packing foam (very strong and clean). I then glued them together with white glue and then shaped it to my size. And finally, I wrapped it in water/heat resistant tape. Works great and cost me about 3 dollars top make.

Reply

Mary April 2, 2015 at 1:54 pm

Where do u get heat/water resistant tape?

Reply

Kate April 2, 2015 at 2:05 pm

Hi Mary,

It depends on what you are using it for. I didn’t use tape for making hat blocks…

Reply

Mary April 3, 2015 at 8:30 am

Ok thanks!

Reply

davo April 2, 2014 at 12:45 am

clever as…. 🙂

cheers…

davo

Reply

Momma March 18, 2014 at 10:59 pm

Sweet!! Thanks so much for the “cheap hat block” making advice! 😉

Reply

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