Why have one color when you can have them all?
A wizard hat or a pixie hood is certainly a unique item to own and wear out to a convention, a festival, or even just to walk your dog around the neighborhood. But when those items are made out of such a wide sampling of bright colors they are impossible to miss! Making a rainbow hat though is not a simple process. This is especially true because I dye the hats myself. Here then is a short history of how I came to make rainbow hats, featuring some recent process photos of me actually adding the rainbow to a rainbow hat.
At the very beginning, when I first offered rainbow items for sale, I purchased my wool already dyed in rainbow colors. I didn't know how to dye myself yet and so buying it already done was the only way I could make the colorful things I really wanted to make. The problem is that really vibrant rainbow colors can be hard to find when looking for wool that has already been dyed. It can also get expensive to pay other people to do that dye work for you.
Eventually, out of sheer frustration with the slow and expensive color hunting I had to do whenever I wanted to make a rainbow item, I really decided to teach myself to dye. Up until that point I had resisted the idea of learning. What little I had read was intimidating, talking about chemical processes, the numerous kinds of dye you could buy, what dyes worked with what fibers, and a whole bunch of other details. Just like how I taught myself to do wet felting though I kept reading and experimenting as much as I could. In the end it simply was a matter of overcoming that intimidating and dunking the wool into the broth of dye to see what happened.
At first it was a mess. Colors were too strong or too weak. Things came out only partially dyed. Dye was spilled all over the place (thank goodness I had a black stovetop). Eventually though I began to understand how long things needed to sit in the dye, the temperatures they needed to be, how to use vinegar, and all the basics. Getting a white hat blank to become another color was no longer magical but practical. It was something I could do for myself.
The next step forward then was learning how to dye my hats with multiple colors. The biggest problem I had to overcome in learning this process was figuring out how to control the dye. Painting or dropping the dye directly onto the wool worked the best for the sort of layering I wanted to do, but working with liquid dye is like trying to take care of a big box of happy energetic puppies. Unless you are tightly controlling that dye the colors will go wherever they want. They will drip through the hat. They will mix. They will swirl. Drips and drops will fly everywhere. I had to learn how to keep everything in its place during the long steaming process, and more than one hat came out with big gooey blotches of brown where the different colors pooled together.
Using bottles (like in the pictures) helps. The dye though needs to be dispensed with tight control. And there is still some likelihood that something random will happen and the colors will mix all together in a way that ruins the rainbow colorway. Then I have to dump the hat into the black dye pot and start again from scratch.
But no one said that making such vibrant colors would ever be easy!
If you are interested in learning more about how to make a hat for yourself check out the tutorial section at my Etsy shop. The tutorials are PDFs that you can easily download after purchase. If you are making your hat for a specific event though give yourself plenty of time. It may take some time to gather all the materials you need, and practice is essential!
By next week I hope to post photos of the finished rainbow hat that I was making in this post. If you want to see how it all ended up come back and visit in a few days!