Hey Everybody, I’m Chaos and I am a terrible Hatter.
Well, alright, I’m not a terrible hatter. I’d have to probably have made a hat to count as one to begin with. This is all probably very confusing, so I’ll start over from the beginning.
As you all probably saw a couple of weeks ago, there was a new costume that got shown off at the Steampunk Symposium in Cincinnati, Ohio. By the way, if you’re in Ohio and can make it, it’s a blast. Lots of nice people and great steampunk music. Anyway, one of the bigger pieces that we were working on for the Laika costume was the huge hat.
See? Big Hat.
So, the first thing I realized when we started was that we needed a big hat. Well, Yami realized we needed a big hat for the wig and I added on that we needed it larger for the bits that went inside. (Yes, the ears are supposed to move. More on that in another post) Going online, we found there weren’t a lot of designs for hats that we could use. A lot of them were just way too small for what we wanted. Yami decided to find some tutorials online so we could just make a hat. I found out that this is actually VERY difficult, especially when you start off making a hat block.
For those that don’t know. A hat block is what you make a hat around. It’s usually made out of a sturdy material in the shape that you want to make your hat into. We decided we were going to make a felt hat, as felt is easy to work with and we found some good tutorials on how to do it. If you wanna take a look at them, they are:
We also got assistance from the 1:6 warrior message boards on different ways you can make hat blocks before we decided on our method.
Speaking of method, we decided to go with using Styrofoam and wood filler to make our hat block.
Nice big foam cylinders
Our first problem was that we really didn’t have a good way of cutting down the two cylinders for the size hat we wanted. It needed to be big, but not quite as big as the cylinders we had. Which meant we needed to find some way of drawing the circle we wanted on top of it and cutting it down. This proved to be a lot tougher than we thought. The trick with tying string to a thumbtack had the problem of the string not being the exact length we needed and having a hard time making a perfect circle. So then we moved to trying to print out a guide circle to trace.
Should be easy, right?
Of course, both guide circles had the wrong radius when we printed. Yami is still not sure why, but I believe that her image editing software is posessed and was mocking us. Eventually, we managed to make a series of small marks in a circle by measuring from the center outwards at several points and then just making a dotted line to cut around. This worked pretty well and then we just needed to glue the cut-down cylinders together to make a hat block. Easy as pie. Next, we started covering the glued Styrofoam in wood filler.
The tutorials mentioned using a putty knife to just smooth. When I was making the box, I ended up using a paint brush. DO NOT DO THIS! That took a large amount of time and I’m sure it would have ended up a lot smoother. Also check to see how much wood filler you’re using, because you can run into the situation I had where I needed to go out and buy more.
At this point I ran out of wood filler.
Having gotten more wood filler, I start on the bottom. You should also check that the wood filler you get is the same color.
So far so good! Had a few setbacks, but we were confident this would work. The next step was painting over the entire thing with a sealant so that it’ll be better perserved. Also, the reason why we didn’t just paint sealant onto the Styrofoam was because it’ll dissolve it and that makes for a very poor hat box.
Now here’s where things actually went bad. We needed to now work with the felt. And how do you get the felt to mold to the hat block? Why, you boil a lot of hot water and dunk it in.
You’re only supposed to put it in there for a short time, but the stuff still gets REALLY hot. Then, you take the still-hot felt and stretch it over the hat block.
We covered ours in plastic wrap to help protect it.
So….Ideally, we would stretch it over the block real tight and pin it. That would make the felt take on that shape and we’d just have to add a brim once it was set. And that’s not what happened at all. We pulled the felt tight and used several different methods, but all the results were the same.
Method 1: The Side Pull
Method 2: Twist Pull
We even tried bracing it against the table and I put all my weight on it, but that was a bit embarassing to see. Anyway, after all was said and done, the felt looked like this.
Looks promising, right?
WRONG! Collapses the instant it’s not on the hat block.
Now, it’s more likely that we simply messed up. We tried this for several hours in an evening and every time the felt would just not stay. Later on, we looked into other possibilities and found that it could have been the felt itself. See, when we got the felt, we got it from Wal-Mart and apparently synthetic felt doesn’t stiffen and take on shapes like what we were trying to do. So maybe this all could have worked, but so many things happened in making it that we, ultimately, had to go with another idea so the costume would be ready for the convention. That and I wanted to set the block on fire, so another attempt was not in the cards at the time.
And that’s our adventures into making our own hat. It was…interesting, and I may try it again, but to anyone that makes hats for a living, I salute you. It is not an easy feat.