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:
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!
I crossed my fingers, grabbed my spray foam:
Here is my top hat block form with the foam hardening (and overflowing the top) in it.
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.
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.
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