First of all, needle felting is not an exact science. I'm sure I could never duplicate this exact hat again, even if I tried. If you decide to make a needle felted hat, yours will be unique! Go ahead, try something new!
Susan's Needle Felted Hat
I purchased a foam hat form. You can get one online - search 'hat forms for needle felting' or you can make your own out of bolster pillow forms. Since the bolster pillow forms require cutting, I purchased the form. The forms are reusable, but I'd suggest putting a plastic bag over the form before you start, otherwise bits of felt will stick to the form and that color will attach to the next hat you make.
You will also need felting needles and a multi-needle felting tool. I purchased a tool online that holds 12 needles. A good investment, as I think the felting process would take forever if you only had 4 or 6 needles in your needle holder. The medium size needles worked well for my project.
Finally, you will need wool roving. I used about 4 ounces for my hat. Many yarn stores have this available in a plethora of colors. You can mix colors if you like. I used a solid color for the hat and embellished with a colorful yarn.
Beginning with the top of the form, I laid fibers out across the form in small tufts. I overlapped the fibers slightly to make a smooth layer. Then I laid out the next layer of fibers in the opposite direction. I created 4 or 5 layers of fibers. I overlapped and went over the edges and down the sides a couple of inches.
Now it was time to start the needle felting part! I took my felting tool and started poking the fibers in an up and down motion. Gently. I learned that you can't poke the needles in too deep or your form will become damaged and the hat will be harder to remove from the form. I needled the whole area where I had laid down the fibers.
I gently rolled my felted fibers off the form, turned it over, and put it back on the form inside out. I felted the fibers again. This helped lock the fibers in place and made the hat stronger. I was ready to start the sides. I laid fibers around, then up and down, then around the hat. I alternated until I had 4 or 5 layers. I took my felting tool and started felting the layers. Gently, gently!
I rolled my hat off the form. Pulling it off without rolling it can stretch the hat or make it misshapen. I turned the hat inside out and put it back on the form. I continued to add layers of fiber and felt with the needle felting tool. I turned my hat inside out every once in awhile and put the hat back on the form. I checked for thin spots by holding the hat up to the light. It's easy to see where more fiber is needed.
I continued adding fibers and needle felting until my hat was the desired shape, length, and thickness. I took a little extra care at the end of the process to make sure the brim part was even.
When the hat was completed, I removed it from the form by gently rolling it off. Next I put the hat in hot, soapy water for 5 or 10 minutes while I rubbed it a bit with my hands. I rinsed it, squeezed out the excess water, and put it on a bowl to dry. You can put this back on your hat form if you like, but I used a bowl that I knew fit the size of my head and found it easy to manipulate the shaping and brim with the bowl.
When the hat had dried, I took a multi-colored thick/thin wool yarn and needle felted my swirly design on the hat and the edge of the brim. Voila! It's a hat!
Total time was probably 3 or 4 hours to lay fibers and felt. I took lots of breaks, as the needle felting is tiring to do continuously.
Have fun, make a hat today!