4 Tree-Inspired WIP Felted Hats for BeanieFest

4 Tree-Inspired WIP Felted Hats for BeanieFest

These four felted hats are supposed to be both technique and design 'warm up' hats for one fancy, tree-inspired, wizard hat that I want to make for this year's BeanieFest in Australia. Watch this very fun video to see BeanieFest in action! The second room shows the gallery room which is where the elaborate type of hats are found. Last year, there were 6000 hats at the festival! 

While I still have a bit of time (BeanieFest is in June), I need to get my completed hat done and in the post, sooner than later. This is because the hat needs to be mailed all the way to Alice Springs, which is in the center of Australia. As it can take two to three weeks for a package to go from the US to coastal Australia, I need to get cracking.

But, I haven't

Fortunately, patience is another amazing quality of wool because my four WIP (work-in-progress) hats have been sitting on my felting table for at least two weeks AND COUNTING.

In the past, I had a damp project that sat around for a long, long time; it became mildewed. But thankfully, these neglected babies have not become mildewed. Can you see them sitting in the lovely sunshine?


Four work-in-progress wet felted hats with Tree Themes for this year's Beanie Fest in Australia.


Touching the Wool

While I have been thinking and wondering about how to proceed with my tree theme (more on that below), I have not been Touching the Wool

Finally, I've started to work on the outer layer for ONE of the berets, which you can see furthermost from the camera. Now, I feel less 'blocked.' This partially because in touching the wool, I gain confidence as to what is attainable -  much more than I can with thinking about or sketching what I want to create. Laying out the fibers for a felted hat is almost always therapeutic.

Impasse Passed with a Beret

In addition, to working directly with the wool, certain styles of hats are less intimidating, more encouraging to make. For example, with wet felted hats with taller crowns (the technical term for the'stuff' that is above the brim), I need to spend quite a bit of time figuring out and draping AFTER I felt the hat. This hand-on thinking usually occurs with a damp hat on my head! In the end, I usually get figure out what a 'hat wants', but getting there is an intimidating. Whereas, felted berets are the more approachable hats to make. This is because there are fewer surprises as to how a beret 'sits' and fits on the head. In sum, I imagine them, and then they (usually) work out.

Can you see what I'm aiming for in the photo below? It's supposed to be five (abstracted) trees encircling the head like a floral crown (yet be worn  on top of the head like a beret).


Tree themed beret made of Merino wool and laid out on my feltmaking table.


Tree Inspiration

Part of my inspiration for this tree series of felted hats comes from a painter who I came across when I lived in San Francisco. Yes, I lived there for 13 years, through my 20s-30s.

During my time there, I visited many of the Bay Area's museums. One of them was The Oakland Art Museum, which has a wonderful collection of Arthur Mathews paintings (and furniture). Mathew and his wife, Lucia, worked at the beginning of the 20th century and were members of the California version of the Arts and Crafts Movement. (You can also read about Arthur and Lucia Mathews in an in-depth article)..

One of the many things that I love is how Arthur Mathews painted the iconic Monterey Cypress trees that grow in California. 

Two Arthur Mathew's paintings of Monterey Cypress Trees

But Why is there a Hat Theme?

As I mentioned above, the BeanieFest Exhibition, like many hat contests, has a theme for makers and milliners to be inspired by and fulfill. This year, the event's theme is 'A Head Full of Tunes.' Additionally, there are many sub-themes. You can see all of these sub-themes if you download their National Exhibition and Competition Forms. (Note: you don't need to be Australian to be part of the Beanie Fest. Last year, I emailed one of the organizers for further clarification on that question).

Here are a few of the sub-themes. Some of them are quite funny and can spark all sorts of ideas for hats! 

1. My Favourite Tune Prize
For a beanie that celebrates your favourite tune. The one that you turn to for inspiration in good times or bad. Let the tune inspire a sing it out loud fabulous beanie.

2. My Favourite Muso Prize
Celebrate your favourite musician or band, from Mozart to AC/DC. Maybe an album cover maybe a stage act. Bring your favourite singers alive in a beanie.

3. The Rehashed, Recovered Prize
For a beanie that brings back to life old musical items, instruments, records, cassettes, cables….recycle them into a fabulous head piece.

4. The Loudest Beanie Prize
A prize for the loudest beanie you can create, whether it be colour, texture or sound, something to blow the senses away.

5. The Meditation Beanie Prize
For a beanie full of peace and silence. A beanie to inspire contemplation and peace in this busy world.

6. Mrs Haggie’s Sounds of Nature Prize
For a beanie celebrating the sounds of Australian wild life and country.

In case you're wondering, 'muso' is Australian for a musician and 'beanie' is a ski hat, but the exhibition is not strict in how they interpret a hat's style.

Interestingly (and thankfully), applicants don't need to describe how their hat meets the theme, nor 'select' a sub-theme.

Whew. My hat will probably fit under 8., The Heart Felt Prize, which is (punningly) named for hats that are made from felt.

Not Just Trees

While there may be many songs about 'Trees', these lovely botanical forms are not solely my inspiration. For me, it's a specific song: the Beatles' 'The Long and Winding Road.'  While the song's lyrics don't mention trees, shouldn't a winding road go through a forest? I feel like it should.

So my design challenge is that I first need to complete my test on of various felting techniques that 'hint' at felted trees. Then, I need to get going on how the roads will attach to the hat and how they will wind through the trees. While I like the idea of including 'a door,' that is mentioned in the lyrics, it seems like a lot of elements to both artistically and technically balance. 

But, No Worry

Of course, as I don't need to 'state' which song, maybe my imagined 'road' and 'door' won't be included within my final exhibition hat. I like it when an exhibition' has a flexible theme. :)

Consequently, I just need to get going with Touching the Wool and not worry about the themes of the BeanieFest.


Have you ever struggled to fit your work into an external criterion? Please let me know, down below in the comments.



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