For the most part my research method for re-creating historic hats is to see a hat in a period painting and try to make a felt hat that looks like that. When looking at later period European art I see a great variety of hat shapes that can be achieved through the same wet felting method. Essentially a felt hood is made, a partially felted bell shape. Towards the end of the felting process the hood is stretched onto a form. The hat continues to be fulled (shrunk), molded, folded and trimmed until it is the desired shape. The hat then dries and can be worn.
One hat shape in particular shows up over and over. At first they may seem like several different hat shapes but I’d like to propose that it is all the same hat with slight variations in top and brim shape. I like to call these Robin Hood hats, because they look like what our modern culture expects a Robin Hood character to wear. I propose that what makes these hats the same is the brim folded up on one side and stretched out on the other. The hat can be worn with the brim in the front or back. It may have different sun or rain shedding abilities depending on which way its worn.
Here are a few examples of the hat in period artwork:
Luttrall Psalster, England, 14th century (I question the source of the last two as the style is different, but that’s what the info provided said.)
15th century Germany, Hans Thalhofer Alte Amatuer und Ringkunst
These three are from unknown sources. Please let me know if you can identify where/when or what they are from.
Perhaps these are also “the same” as a full brimmed hat that someone simply turned up one side for some reason. However let’s just assume that most of these were made that way to begin with, so that makes them different hats from the full brimmed hats. Some of the hats are completely round topped and it is possible to shape those directly onto the wearer’s head or use a head shape form. The pointier topped ones can be shaped on a pointier hat form or carefully poked into shape by hand. The brim is then turned up on one side while it is pulled out on the other. A variety of styles can then be achieved by cutting the brim to different lengths in the back or front. Some hats fold the brim to a point, while others allow it to round out a bit in the front, perhaps providing better sun protection. The two colored look is easy to create by laying different colored wool on the inside of the felt hood in the beginning of the process. It is also reasonable to assume that the shape of the hat conforms to the wearer’s habits, much like a leather shoe quickly molds to the wearer’s shape. The brim could be elongated by the wearer continually tugging it down to shield the face or turning it around to get out of the way. Some wearers may also change the shape later by re-wetting and reshaping their hat to crisp up the shape or change it to their own personal tastes, making it more or less pointy for example.
There is evidence of a fully formed felt hat industry in Western Europe by the 14th century. I believe that this style of hat would bridge the gap between home made hats and artisan created hats. I think this because it is an easy hat to create for beginners, but this style can also be varied and embellished as fashions begin to change. Each person only needs one or two hats like this, and it makes sense as a culture begins to rely more on specialized artisans that most people would buy their hats rather than make them. The shoe making industry would be a comparable example.
Here are some example of my hats I’ve made in this manor.
I do sell these hats. Check out my catalog or my Etsy shop for more information.