Bronze Age Felt Hat

Bronze Age Hat

Bronze Age hats appear in a few different distinctive forms mainly from Danish burials and are made of either woven wool, non-woven (felt) fabric or animal hide, such as the lamb and tail hat worn by Emmer-Erfscheidenveen man.

Felt is a non-woven fabric that is created by disturbing wool fibres with warmth, moisture and friction that matts, condenses and presses the fibres together giving a fluffy rather than a visibly woven surface. This ancient process of making felt is known as "wet felting" and the final finishing is called  "fulling".

Many cultures have legends as to the origins of felt making particularly the nomadic peoples of Central Asia, where rugs, tents and clothing are still made of felt.

Examples of Bronze Age hats:

  • Trindhoj man’s hat - made from concentric rows of knotted cords
  • Guldhoej man’s hat - excavated in 1891
  • Muldbjerg man’s hat - very similar to Trindhoj man’s hat

Materials & Tools:

  • 100grams natural-coloured wool rovings
  • Water (hot and cold) and two bowls / sinks
  • Liquid soap
  • Craft sprayer
  • Hat block (shallow flowerpot or styrene foam shaped mold)
  • Old tights/pantyhose and scissors
  • Measure (optional)
  • Bubblewrap and gaffer tape (optional)
  • PVA glue and paint brush (optional)
  • Rubber gloves (optional)
  • Allow about 2 hours to complete and 1-3 days to dry

Step 1: Hat Block (mold)

First measure the head of the intended wearer and create a hat block or mold - this can be accomplished with an upside down (shallow) flower pot, or styrene foam block that is cut and shaped to size. Here I use a flower pot, covered in bubblewrap and secured with gaffer tape, with a small dome at the top to form the desired shape.

Mix some liquid soap with hot water in a craft sprayer and spray the hat block/mold ready for step 2.

stage 1
stage 2

Step 2: Wet Felting

Separate the wool rovings (a long and narrow bundle of fibre) into individual strips and thin out slightly. Place the first roving over the hat block/mold and trim the ends so that it overlaps by at least 3-5cm. Gently pressing the wool into the warm soapy water that was applied during step 1.

Add the second wool roving in the same direction as the first and press the wool into the soapy water and trim as necessary. Repeat this process with more rovings placed in the same direction until the hat block/mold is completely covered.

Step 3: Wool Rovings

Turn the hat block/mold 90°. Place a new layer of wool roving over the first - it is very important this next layer is at right-angles to the first, otherwise the wool will not bind correctly. Add more wool rovings in this direction until the second layer is complete.

If more layers are required for a thicker felt, turn the hat block/mold 90° again and repeat the above until the desired thickness is achieved.

stage 3

stage 4

Step 4: Soapy Water

Once the entire hat block/mold is covered and the basic shape can be seen, spray the entire hat with warm soapy water - enough to wet it, but do not saturate it at this point.

Step 5: Tights and Pantyhose

It is important not to move any of the wool rovings, as they must remain in the 90° layering in order to bind sufficiently. During the next stages, the hat shape is maintained with the support of tights/pantyhose.

Stretch the tights/pantyhose and encase over the wool rovings, without disturbing the wool layers below and pull right down over the entire hat block/mold. It is easier to do this with the help of another pair of hands.

Either cut and remove the legs from the the tights/pantyhose, or simply tie-off. Depending on the thickness (denier) of the tights/pantyhose, a second or third pair may be required, so they do not split during the next stage.

stage 5

stag 6

Step 6: Friction and Heat

Spray hot soapy water over the tights/pantyhose and start to vigorously rub the entire hat in all directions. Add more soapy water as necessary. Rubber gloves can be worn as this process can take over 60 minutes and can leave sore fingers.

After at least 45-60 minutes of rubbing, prepare one bowl of hot water and one bowl of cold water. The water can be boiling, however take great care when placing your hands in this water (rubber gloves advised) and ensure the hat block/mold can withstand boiling water.

Place the hat in the hot water for a few minutes and ensure it is thoroughly soaked. Then place it into cold water for another 2-3 minutes (repeat this 2-3 times more).

Carefully start to peel off the tights/pantyhose (the felt may stick to these, so be gentle when removing). If the wool does not appear to have fully bound into felt, then simply replace the tights/pantyhose and repeat step 6.

Step 7: More Friction and Heat

Now carefully turn the hat inside out and replace over the hat block/mold; then repeat Step 6 until all the wool rovings have transformed into felt.

Step 8: Trim and Fulling

Once the wool has bound into felt over the entire hat, rinse the hat so that all soap is removed. Place the hat back over the hat block/mold and leave to dry for 1-3 days (this will ensure the hat retains its shape while drying).

Once dry, trim the bottom of the hat as required, with scissors.

If the hat does not maintain the desired (dome) shape once dry, you can paint the inside of the hat with a 40:60 mix of PVA glue and water, then place back over the hat block/mold and leave to dry for 1-3 days


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