Wendy Allen

Hand-felted Accessories

Wendy Allen, a fiber artist based in Durham, North Carolina, meticulously crafts unique, hand-felted accessories from her home studio. Utilizing the time-honored method of wet felting, she produces stunning, individualized pieces.

Wendy has a background in costume and fashion design. She studied theater at UNC-Charlotte and further immersed herself in performing arts at The Naropa Institute. Even though she dabbled in fiber design and hat making during her college years, most of her knowledge in felt and millinery is self-taught.

Wendy began specializing in hand-felted hats in 2003. She produced designs and sold them to the SFMOMA Museum Store, Henri Bendel, and Le Bon Marche. She now sells her work primarily through fine craft shows throughout the U.S. Her costume design roots led her to launch a line, Moss Fete, which is sold at comic and pop culture events such as DragonCon, GenCon, and New York ComicCon.

 

Materials & Process

All of Wendy’s designs are made from Merino wool roving. Roving generally refers to wool fiber that has been processed (washed and combed) but not yet spun into yarn. Because Wendy mostly does production work rather than strictly one-of-a-kind pieces, she buys her roving already dyed so that her colors stay as consistent as possible.

The creation process involves a minimum of two layers of roving placed over various 3D resists. Colors and shapes can be artfully layered in a myriad of combinations. The item is then wet down with hot, soapy water and partially felted both internally and externally using a power sander fitted with vinyl. Depending on the design requirements, the item might be allowed to dry for further manipulations like pin-tucks or surface embellishments. The entire piece is then placed in a washing machine along with rubber balls to finalize the felting process. This stage requires vigilant monitoring to prevent over or under-felting, which could result in inaccurate sizing.

After washing, the hats are blocked, a process in which they are stretched over wooden forms designed to mirror the shape of the final product. Blocking is an essential step that requires a considerable amount of hand and upper-body strength. Other items that are flat in nature, are ironed and stretched before being left to dry.

Once the hat is dry, it is removed from the block, and any excess felt is trimmed away. Finally, the finishing work is done by adding binding and hat wire to the brim, a band on the inside of the hat, and any other details such as pin-tucks, buttons, feathers, ears, or a crown band.

Efforts are constantly being made towards environmental stewardship, with a particular focus on energy efficiency and material repurposing. Wendy says, “I was raised in a waste-not-want-not environment and have brought those values to my business.”

 

Wool Hat Care

Wendy’s wool hats can be worn in the wind, rain, and snow. To ensure the longevity of your hat, store it in an uncrushed state in the open air.

Cleaning involves either spot cleaning or soaking the hat in lukewarm water mixed with 2 tablespoons of mild shampoo for 30 minutes, followed by a gentle rinse under cold water. Do not agitate. Use an old terrycloth towel or bath towel to stuff the crown and massage the water out of the hat. Avoid wringing and tumble drying. After cleaning, reshape your slightly damp hat on your head while looking in a mirror, then leave it to dry upright on a clean, dry towel.

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