Stiffening felt has been a part of hat making for hundreds of years. You’ll find many interesting recipes and suggestions online--things you can use to achieve a stiff, form-retaining felt. Everything from hide glue, spray starch, hairspray and commercial stiffening sprays are options, but I’ll be showing you the steps to use simple school glue.
Supplies you’ll need:
-School glue/PVA glue.
-Paper towels, old towel
Ratio: 50% school glue and 50% water.
I found equal amounts of glue and water worked well for me. Adjust as needed.
You can find white glue inexpensively at office supply and craft stores. A gallon of the stuff runs about 12 dollars.
I also tried a “fabric stiffener”: it looked and acted like the school glue, but was more expensive. Although there are other stiffeners out there, the white school glue is inexpensive and does the job adequately.
Step One: Mix the glue and water until it thoroughly combines into a milky white liquid--just enough to cover the felt.
Step Two: Remove any protective paper on your felt, as this will just get in the way, and prevent the felt from drawing the liquid in evenly.
Step Three: Lower your felt into the tray and let it soak completely. Flip the piece over and make sure that all of the surfaces are well coated.
Note: Some felts will bleed color when you wet them. Red felt is a good example of this. If you plan to use the same glue mixture for multiple pieces, start with the lightest color and work your way to the darkest felt.
Step Four: Lift your felt out and let the extra glue drip back into the tray. Depending on the design, I’ve found using my thumb and forefinger to squeeze extra liquid out helps. You want it to feel damp, and not have liquid pool if you lay it flat.
Step Five: Carefully take the felt and blot it on some paper towels; this helps keeps the felt from taking on a shiny/glossy look due to excess glue sitting on the surface as the felt dries.
Step Six: Lay your felt onto a flat, non-textured surface with some wax paper underneath. Reposition the felt if it looks a little deformed--if you leave it askew, it will stay that way. Allow the felt to dry over the course of several hours; it will shrink slightly, but nothing too drastic. Don’t expect it to stiffen until it dries out completely.
I put my pieces outside in the sun for half a day, and they hardened up nicely. This also has the side benefit of helping reduce that smoky laser cut smell we all love so much.
Here’s a before and after with 3mm turquoise felt.
Note: If the felt gets wet, it will soften back up, so keep that in mind when planning the use of your stiffened felt.