September 15 – Felt Hat Day

Posted on September 15, 2014

Many of us wear hats a lot less than most people in history did. Felt was a common material for men's hats worn in fall and winter, back in the day, and today is a typical “it's getting to be fall” sort of day for men to get their felt hats out of the closet, dust them off, and begin to wear them again.

Today we are urged to commemorate this once-crucial accessory by wearing a felt hat.

What is felt?

Have you ever seen a felt tree? Or maybe a felt bush?

The answer, of course, is “no.” Because felt isn't a material made from a particular plant, but instead is a textile that is made by matting and pressing together fibers. Felt can be thick or thin, soft or tough—but its edges do not unravel, which makes it an easy-to-use fabric.

Felt can be made of wool (which of course comes from the shearing of sheep) or from other animal fibers. Felt can also be made from synthetic (artificial) fibers such as acrylic. Plant fibers such as cotton cannot be made into felt.

You can make felt by washing animal fibers such as wool, mohair, alpaca is warm, soapy water. The fibers swell up, and the scales on the protein fibers push outwards. Then you agitate the fiber in the warm, soapy water, causing the scales to grab onto one another and tangle with each other. Now we say that the fiber has been felted.

This felting technique also explains why plant fibers don't felt, because the plant fibers are made of cellulose and don't have scales. No scales to grab onto one another means no felt.

Some of the nomadic people in Central Asia felt animal fibers in order to make their yurts, clothing, and tourist items such as decorated slippers.

Felt hats include men's styles, women's styles, cowboy hats, and costume hats.


Also on this date:

Author/ illustrator Tomie de Paola's birthday

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