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Sunrise Hat Company felt (nutria) and hatters’ tools

Messages
15,848
Location
Central California
Rick at The Phoenix Hat Company recently completed a custom build for me using a Sunrise 100% nutria 220g western weight hat body. The felt arrived from Sunrise feeling very stiff/firm and very much like Winchester’s 100% beaver western felts. It felt just like my earlier Sunrise nutria in Almond that David at VS made into a hat for me. The last two 220g western felts I’ve received feel considerably less stiff and give me hope!

Back to this hat: I wanted it to approximate vintage western beaver felt and had Rick pounce it thin! It lost approximately half of its thickness. Rick did his usual outstanding job. However, this felt just didn’t have what it’s takes to duplicate the vintage qualities I was after. It’s fairly thin and wonderfully smooth with a truly an outstanding hand, but the limitations of the felt could not be completely overcome. It’s certainly not claylike and copious amounts of steam was required to shape it. It’s very much a modern western weight felt...bummer. It’s at least as good, if not better, as any of the Winchester 100% beaver westerns I’ve seen, but it’s nowhere near vintage.

Rick also ran into a mottling problem as he pounced it to approximately half its original thickness. The mottling doesn’t bother me and is only really visible in in certain lighting and angles of view. If I had been content with a stiff western there wouldn’t have been any mottling, but I kept encouraging Rick to take it farther to see if he could make a silk purse out of a modern sow’s ear. The problem isn’t the hatter or the skills or the tools: this modern felt is like Winchester’s beaver in that you just can’t get there from here.

I think Rick wrongly sees this as a failure on his part, but I’m the one who insisted on pushing the limits. The build quality is excellent, and the felt’s shortcomings are not Rick’s fault. It’s also not bad or flawed felt: it just has its limitations. If you’re happy with modern Winchester western beaver felt you should be happy with these Sunrise Nutria felts. I’m hoping that the newer less stiff felts will get me closer to what I’m after (I hope to know by Christmas!).


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Messages
11,463
Location
Southern California
That's a sharp hat Brent, and I think it really suits you! Great "crown height" to "brim width" ratio, great snakeskin band, and I actually like the mottling you spoke of--kinda' looks like marble and I think it give the hat a distinctive look.
 
Messages
15,848
Location
Central California
That's a sharp hat Brent, and I think it really suits you! Great "crown height" to "brim width" ratio, great snakeskin band, and I actually like the mottling you spoke of--kinda' looks like marble and I think it give the hat a distinctive look.


Thanks, Al. The mottling doesn’t bother me either, and it has the added bonus that I’m not worried about protecting a pristine light colored hat. I think this hat will age very well.
 
Messages
15,848
Location
Central California
My 220g Sunrise hat body in natural has been transformed into my favorite western hat my The Gannon Hat Co. The hat body started off drastically different from my first two 220g felts. This natural colored felt was drastically less stiff than the other hat bodies I received that were also 220g western felts. I’m glad that I was able to experience the felts before they were made into hats. The hatter can only do so much and many of the attributes of the finished hat depend on how the hat body is made by the felter. This natural hat turned out as I hoped it would and while the felt is dense and definitely not dress-weight it is easily molded and gives way (indents and springs back) when poked. It’s also doesn’t sound like cardboard when you thump it.

This is not the “molds like clay” felt like some vintage hats, but it’s soft and creases with minimal pressure. It took a bit of steam to get it to hold a crease, but it also easily pops back to open crown without leaving any crease marks. I asked Michael Gannon to pounce the crown thinner than most western hats and asked that he split the difference between typical westerns and fedoras. He came through brilliantly. Michael did mention that there was a faint line on the crown where the “as-felted” brim break was, but it’s either under the ribbon or I’m not seeing it. The brim is more substantial, but it too is soft and lacks the harshness I’ve come to associate with Winchester’s western felts (50/50 and 100% beaver). For my uses and for my preferences, this is what western felt should be like. It’s not the equal of say Stetson’s 1940s Clear Beaver, but it’s much closer to that end of the spectrum than anything I’ve seen from Winchester. This isn’t a dig on Winchester as they make western felt the way the majority of the current market seems to want it: stiff! That’s fine, but it’s not what I want.

The problem: how do you know what kind of felt you are going to get? This is listed exactly the same as my first two Sunrise nutria felts, except for color, but it’s VERY different. I suggest you call Sunrise and get the felt you’re after. That said, some will prefer the stiffer felt. The first two 220g western hat bodies were very much like Winchester’s western 100% beaver felt, and I’m definitely keeping those two hats.

I have another of these 220g western felts, this one is in sage, that I’m also having Gannon make into a hat for me. The Sage felt was very similar to the natural felt so I have high hopes. I’m also still waiting on my first 150g dress-weight nutria from Sunrise to be made into a fedora...I’m hearing good things about the felt from the hatter!

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The felt really does look that different depending on lighting. It’s a great color and I couldn’t be more pleased with the hat: Michael Gannon is an extremely talented hatter.

https://gannonhatcompany.com/
 

RossRYoung

Practically Family
Messages
758
Appreciate the thorough review, Brent. I still have yet to do a custom, but that lasted example has me VERY tempted as it is spectacular. Gannon hit a home run, love the ribbon too.
 

Rmccamey

I'll Lock Up
Messages
4,036
Location
Central Texas
Do you think the western weight or the dress weight might work best for a bowler? It would need to be a light finished hat, generally speaking, but the stiffness of the felt would be less of an issue because shellac would be added to build the stiff felt.

My 220g Sunrise hat body in natural has been transformed into my favorite western hat my The Gannon Hat Co. The hat body started off drastically different from my first two 220g felts. This natural colored felt was drastically less stiff than the other hat bodies I received that were also 220g western felts. I’m glad that I was able to experience the felts before they were made into hats. The hatter can only do so much and many of the attributes of the finished hat depend on how the hat body is made by the felter. This natural hat turned out as I hoped it would and while the felt is dense and definitely not dress-weight it is easily molded and gives way (indents and springs back) when poked. It’s also doesn’t sound like cardboard when you thump it.

This is not the “molds like clay” felt like some vintage hats, but it’s soft and creases with minimal pressure. It took a bit of steam to get it to hold a crease, but it also easily pops back to open crown without leaving any crease marks. I asked Michael Gannon to pounce the crown thinner than most western hats and asked that he split the difference between typical westerns and fedoras. He came through brilliantly. Michael did mention that there was a faint line on the crown where the “as-felted” brim break was, but it’s either under the ribbon or I’m not seeing it. The brim is more substantial, but it too is soft and lacks the harshness I’ve come to associate with Winchester’s western felts (50/50 and 100% beaver). For my uses and for my preferences, this is what western felt should be like. It’s not the equal of say Stetson’s 1940s Clear Beaver, but it’s much closer to that end of the spectrum than anything I’ve seen from Winchester. This isn’t a dig on Winchester as they make western felt the way the majority of the current market seems to want it: stiff! That’s fine, but it’s not what I want.

The problem: how do you know what kind of felt you are going to get? This is listed exactly the same as my first two Sunrise nutria felts, except for color, but it’s VERY different. I suggest you call Sunrise and get the felt you’re after. That said, some will prefer the stiffer felt. The first two 220g western hat bodies were very much like Winchester’s western 100% beaver felt, and I’m definitely keeping those two hats.

I have another of these 220g western felts, this one is in sage, that I’m also having Gannon make into a hat for me. The Sage felt was very similar to the natural felt so I have high hopes. I’m also still waiting on my first 150g dress-weight nutria from Sunrise to be made into a fedora...I’m hearing good things about the felt from the hatter!

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The felt really does look that different depending on lighting. It’s a great color and I couldn’t be more pleased with the hat: Michael Gannon is an extremely talented hatter.

https://gannonhatcompany.com/
 
Messages
15,848
Location
Central California
Do you think the western weight or the dress weight might work best for a bowler? It would need to be a light finished hat, generally speaking, but the stiffness of the felt would be less of an issue because shellac would be added to build the stiff felt.


I think that the lighter and thinner felt is the way to go with a derby. The acute bends and tight D’Orsay curl should come out better with a thin, dense, and compliant felt. I think the western felt would give you softer more rounded lines and that isn’t what I like when I’m looking for in a derby. That’s all guess work from me.
 

belfastboy

I'll Lock Up
Messages
8,576
Location
vancouver, canada
I think that the lighter and thinner felt is the way to go with a derby. The acute bends and tight D’Orsay curl should come out better with a thin, dense, and compliant felt. I think the western felt would give you softer more rounded lines and that isn’t what I like when I’m looking for in a derby. That’s all guess work from me.
I concur with Brent that the dress weight nutria would make a derby. The felt has a soft hand but the crown blocked nicely and while soft still has structure. The felt is thick as it is 150gram and would hold the curl well....structure but not board stiff unless shellacked
 
Messages
15,630
Location
Nederland
My 220g Sunrise hat body in natural has been transformed into my favorite western hat my The Gannon Hat Co. The hat body started off drastically different from my first two 220g felts. This natural colored felt was drastically less stiff than the other hat bodies I received that were also 220g western felts. I’m glad that I was able to experience the felts before they were made into hats. The hatter can only do so much and many of the attributes of the finished hat depend on how the hat body is made by the felter. This natural hat turned out as I hoped it would and while the felt is dense and definitely not dress-weight it is easily molded and gives way (indents and springs back) when poked. It’s also doesn’t sound like cardboard when you thump it.

This is not the “molds like clay” felt like some vintage hats, but it’s soft and creases with minimal pressure. It took a bit of steam to get it to hold a crease, but it also easily pops back to open crown without leaving any crease marks. I asked Michael Gannon to pounce the crown thinner than most western hats and asked that he split the difference between typical westerns and fedoras. He came through brilliantly. Michael did mention that there was a faint line on the crown where the “as-felted” brim break was, but it’s either under the ribbon or I’m not seeing it. The brim is more substantial, but it too is soft and lacks the harshness I’ve come to associate with Winchester’s western felts (50/50 and 100% beaver). For my uses and for my preferences, this is what western felt should be like. It’s not the equal of say Stetson’s 1940s Clear Beaver, but it’s much closer to that end of the spectrum than anything I’ve seen from Winchester. This isn’t a dig on Winchester as they make western felt the way the majority of the current market seems to want it: stiff! That’s fine, but it’s not what I want.

The problem: how do you know what kind of felt you are going to get? This is listed exactly the same as my first two Sunrise nutria felts, except for color, but it’s VERY different. I suggest you call Sunrise and get the felt you’re after. That said, some will prefer the stiffer felt. The first two 220g western hat bodies were very much like Winchester’s western 100% beaver felt, and I’m definitely keeping those two hats.

I have another of these 220g western felts, this one is in sage, that I’m also having Gannon make into a hat for me. The Sage felt was very similar to the natural felt so I have high hopes. I’m also still waiting on my first 150g dress-weight nutria from Sunrise to be made into a fedora...I’m hearing good things about the felt from the hatter!

View attachment 301221 View attachment 301222 View attachment 301223 View attachment 301224 View attachment 301225 View attachment 301227 View attachment 301228 View attachment 301230 View attachment 301232 View attachment 301233
The felt really does look that different depending on lighting. It’s a great color and I couldn’t be more pleased with the hat: Michael Gannon is an extremely talented hatter.

https://gannonhatcompany.com/
Good write up, Brent. Glad this hat worked out for you; looks wonderful. With my hat-size I easily forget how difficult it can be for larger sized loungers to get the hats they want.
 
Messages
15,848
Location
Central California
I wanted to order another 220g western felt from Sunrise and sent an email to them to make sure I was going to get a hat body like the natural I posted above (I was looking at the slate color). I immediately got a response, and this has been my experience every time: exceptional customer service. Here’s what I learned:

All the felts vary a bit in stiffness, but the natural color is the only felt that is soft and lacking in all the stiffeners. My sage felt is still with Gannon but as a hat body it was definitely softer than my earlier felts in almond and pewter. I’m now thinking that the Sage might turn out to be something between the stiffer first two hats and the wonderfully soft and malleable natural. All of this is to say that I placed an order for another natural hat body.

An aside: Sunrise has felt swatches back in stock for $15. I was also told that they are expecting a shipment of felts, including missing colors, next week.

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Messages
15,848
Location
Central California
I also got mine today. Mine is natural which is also lighter than pictured on the site. It is fairly flexible for a western. The crown is decently thin but the brim is fairly thick. The texture isnt as smooth as I was hoping though the crown texture isn't bad. Inside the crown reveals much coarser fur than I was expecting.
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How’s your build going? I’ll doff my hat to anyone willing to have a go at making their own hat.
 
Messages
15,848
Location
Central California
Looking at the 150g dress felts I found Sunrise’s comments on stiffening interesting:

100% Coypu Fur Pre-Pounced
Will yield ~3.25" brim with a ~5" tall crown.
Please keep in mind that these photos, while color calibrated, may appear differently from screen to screen. They are taken in direct but natural light.

Pewter, Black, and Playa are a bit stiffer than the other colors. The other colors are totally un-stiffened. We welcome feedback on which stiffness you prefer.”


Odd that some colors are pre-stiffened and others are not.
 
Messages
15,848
Location
Central California
Thanks for the heads up on the swatch card. Ordered mine. I am eyeing dress weight Midnight Blue and Gunmetal hat bodies.


They did receive some colors and updated their site; however, they still don’t show gunmetal in stock for the 150g felts.

I ordered another 220g in natural and a 150g in midnight blue. That will make seven of these 100% nutria Sunrise felts for me, and I should be done for a while. I might just hold onto the 220g natural unless I get some inspiration on what to do with it. I just worry that these felts won’t be around forever and I don’t want to look back and regret not buying more. But who’s knows, they might be around for years to come.
 
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Gobi

One of the Regulars
Messages
163
How’s your build going? I’ll doff my hat to anyone willing to have a go at making their own hat.

I'm still waiting on my block so I haven't been able to do anything yet. I ordered the block back in October. Tracking shows it's getting close so it shouldn't be long now. It must have sat in customs for quite a while. I went ahead and ordered a 220g in Honey. I'd order a few more and try out their dress weight but I have some other expensive projects going on right now, it was about all I could do to shell out for that one.
I'll post on here once I get going on those.
 
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