Softening a hat

Discussion in 'Hats' started by TogE, Aug 22, 2008.

  1. TogE

    TogE New in Town

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    Denmark
    Hi, I am new here.

    I have 2 felt hats and they are both a bit stiff.

    One of them is a "Bailey Gangster" and it is really hard. The brim is almost like cardboard, but on top it is a little softer.

    The other one is a S&S Hats Low Rider. It is softer, but it is stil a bit hard.

    Is there any way to make the hats soft?
    I once saw a hat, and it was very soft and easy to "change the shape" on.
    Can i make mine as soft, or is that impossible?

    I hope you can help me!

    TogE
     
  2. kaosharper1

    kaosharper1 One Too Many

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    Location:
    Pasadena, CA
    Water and handling will soften it over time. If you want to shape the brim putting cold water on the part you want to shape will work. The same with the crown, but don't over do it. Also be sure to use cold water. Hot water will make the felt shrink. You can also use steam, but I think that's trickier and has more of a chance to shrink the felt thought many here use steam often.
     
  3. TogE

    TogE New in Town

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    Location:
    Denmark
    Thank you for the tips.

    I read somewhere, that you could beat the hat up, and that would make it softer. If that is so, should i just hit it with a fist?
    I guess you can call me a hat-newbie, but i really want to know :)
     
  4. kaosharper1

    kaosharper1 One Too Many

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    Location:
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    I wouldn't do that. It would probably crack. Soften it with a little water.
     
  5. Stiff hats tend to be the result of hat stiffener which is a type of shellac. Pretty much just like the shellac used as a furniture finnish. It was mostly used for cowboy hats but makers has been using it for dress hats / fedoras to hold their shape too.


    Shellac disolves in ALCOHOL so if you could soak it and rinse it in alcohol such as denatured or wood type it would probably soften up.

    But over time with wearing and handling the shellac shatters and it will loosen up too.

    Take a trip to the local hardware store and read the backs of some shellac cans or look up furniture finishing online to get some more lowdown on alcohol and shellac.
     
  6. indycop

    indycop I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
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    Location:
    Jacksonville, Florida
    Try taking it in your hands and "working" it. You can put your fingers in the crown and your thumb around the brim and squeeze it like you are trying to curl the brim. That will help soften it up. You don't have to crush the crown but you can squeeze it to soften it up too. I have balled a couple of stiff hats up before to soften them, they just pop back into shape. :)
     
  7. TogE

    TogE New in Town

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    8
    Location:
    Denmark
    Does anyone have some experience with the alcohol?
    What do you normally do? because i would be sad if i ruin one of the hats:(
     
  8. Colby Jack

    Colby Jack Call Me a Cab

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    Location:
    North Florida
    Orrrrr...you could throw it in the back of your truck...leave it there for a few months, so it looks like a wadded up, wet rat....and then take it to Mike Moore to restore and make it look showroom new!:D lol :eusa_clap
    Oh...Welcome TogE!
     
  9. Feraud

    Feraud Bartender

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    17,196
    Location:
    Hardlucksville, NY
    Wearing and handling a hat will soften it up.
     
  10. bolthead

    bolthead My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    3,901
    Location:
    Pennsylvania, United States
    Is this a trick question? :beer:
     
  11. Colby Jack

    Colby Jack Call Me a Cab

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    Good point Bolt!lol
     
  12. indycop

    indycop I'll Lock Up

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    Location:
    Jacksonville, Florida
    SHEESH!! Ya do somethin one time and ya hear about it forever....:rolleyes: lol lol lol
     
  13. Colby Jack

    Colby Jack Call Me a Cab

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    Sorry IC...been cooped up all weekend during the rains...Got a little cabin fever...:D lol
     
  14. warbird

    warbird One Too Many

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    1,171
    Location:
    Northern Virginia
    The Bailey Gangster and the S&S hats are both all wool if I recall. I certainly would not put water, steam or alcohol on it. They may loosen up over time, its hard to say with wool, but I wouldn't get them wet on purpose. That's asking for trouble.
     
  15. If they are wool then just wear them, don't bother trying to soften them. Chances are as wool they won't re- shape well at all, just lose their shape.
     
  16. TogE

    TogE New in Town

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    8
    Location:
    Denmark
    Yep, they are both 100% wool.

    I have tried steaming both when i shaped the brims and it worked very well.
    I also changed the "bumps" in the side of the crown with cold water, and it worked out fine.

    I may sound stupid now, but i thought wool was the most common material when it comes to hats?
     
  17. Wool is the least expensive choice and as such the more common material for hats BUT the better hats and the majority of what you'll read about here are made of FUR FELT. FUR FELT tends to be a better material, more costly to make and a longer life material. Fur can be from Rabbit, Nutria, and Beaver. Beaver tends to be the highlighted material of choice. Even more exotic fur has been used in the past.

    Up at the top of this hat section are some threads that show as "Sticky" and these will have some more of what is normally noted as FAQ's -Frequently Asked Questions.

    Wool will give a serviceable life but does't hold up like fur felt usually. Many members have a wool hat or two in their collection, and they tend to be an early acquisition. Wear them and enjoy them, when the time comes to replace them or get something to fit your wardrobe, you may wish to look at a fur felt hat.
     
  18. Lefty

    Lefty I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
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    Location:
    O-HI-O
    Though it's off-topic, here's my favorite fact about wool hats - their manufacture once involved urine. In an excerpt from an old work on hat making that is included in Debbie Henderson's Hat Talk, the writer describes the boiling of wool in the felt making process. He writes that the wool should be boiled in 3 parts water to one part urine. I assume that the urine was added for a cheap form of acidity, but I'm no chemist.

    I've opened the door for potty jokes.
    Have at it. :p


    (Another crazy, but off-topic, factoid from the same source: felt was once made from almost anything that would walk by a felter's door, and many things that did not. Dog, cat, every kind of rodent, and monkey were sources for felt at one time or another.)
     
  19. TogE

    TogE New in Town

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    Denmark
    Boy, did i learn a thing or two about hats :)

    Thank you for all the answers, they have helped me a lot.

    I have another question, but it is a bit off topic: When i wear my hat, it fits best when my head pushes the "bottom" of the crown a little bit up. Is that normal, or am i wearing it in a wrong way?
     
  20. The measurements for too high or too low are from your ears and eyebrows.

    Most will say that the edge of the hat should be about and inch or so above your ears where they meet your head. Now you have more leeway tilted front and back or side to side. First place it square and flat so it is about an inch above your ears (or so) and then look in the mirror. Play with a more forward down over the eyes and then back on your heada bit. Try tilting down one side: left and right. If it is too square it seems mechanical if you have a little tilt it will seem more lively and realistic.

    I have a couple of hats wear the top of the crown in the center of the bash just kisses the top of my head. It happens.
     

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