Beaver fur hats were popular and fashionable from about 1550 to 1850. Beaver fur is an ideal raw material for clothing because the texture is tight and supple with the ability to hold its shape under extreme weather conditions and wetness compared to other materials like wool. The beaver became extinct in Western Europe by the late 1500s as the felt hat industry grew and prospered behind the fur trade. North American fur trade became a new source for felt hats and continued to feed the fur fashion industry up until the 1800s when the beaver felt hat fashion trend began to experience a decline. These hats were eventually replaced by hats made from silk and wool.
Things You'll Need
- Beaver pelt
- Knife or tweezers
- Nitrate and mercury solution
- Sulfuric acid
- Beer grounds
- Wine sediments
- Square table
- Wood block
- Dyer's copper
- Stiffening solution
- Pot of boiling water
- Needle and thread
- Protective gloves
- Hat lining
Place the beaver pelt on one knee and pluck the coarse guard hairs from it using a large knife or tweezers, leaving only the beaver fur behind.
Put on protective gloves. Brush the fur with a solution of nitrate and mercury to help raise the scales on the fur shafts. Be cautious when using mercury since this is a hazardous chemical and avoid spilling the mercury solution onto your skin or any nearby objects.
Let the pelt dry. Once dry, cut or shave the wool from the fibers with a knife and place the fibers on a hurdle that comes equipped with a bow. A hurdle is a lightweight and portable fencing structure that is commonly used to hold or fold animal skins.
Take the bow above the hurdle and use it to create vibrations to separate the fibers.
Immerse the fibers in a boiling solution of diluted sulfuric acid, beer grounds and wine sediments repeatedly. Beer grounds are a type of grain that can typically be found at most specialty grocery or health food stores.
Put the fibers onto a wood block for molding. Mold the fibers to the desired shape and let it dry.
Place the hat in a dyer's copper filled with dye and boil it for approximately 1 hour. Take the hat out of the dyer's copper and allow it to cool. Repeat this process about 12 times or until the desired color of the hat is reached.
Brush stiffening solution on the underside of the hat and let the hat hang above a pot of boiling water to allow steam to make the hat pliable.
Iron and brush the hat to create a smooth and glossy texture. Turn the brim up slightly and use a need and thread to sew a ribbon around the brim.
Sew in a hat lining on the inside with a needle and thread to finish.
Tips & Warnings
- When working with chemicals, make sure you are in a well-ventilated room.
- Shaving the beaver pelt and dying it may require advanced experience and safety precautions. Consult a professional fur hat maker for these steps if you are unsure about them.
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