Making a felt
For the past 25 years, we have been able to closely study our hats as they return to the factory to be cleaned and blocked after years of use in many diverse climates. It’s from this close study that we have learned to formulate the raw product and refine our production techniques — always striving to deliver the best hat made.
Optimo sources the best possible felt hat bodies from Fepsa in Portugal – the finest felt producer in the world. When hat bodies arrive at Optimo they are stored in a climate-controlled cellar. When they are ready to be transformed into hats, the first step is blocking. A single hat body of the desired size is clamped, stretched and steamed as a block is gently pushed into the now pliable material. The amount of steam, stretch and time varies for different weights and types of felt, and can only be determined by experience.
The next step is “decatizing,” which slowly and gently “bakes” the hat bodies in a chamber of steam and circulating hot air. This is a secondary process to render the shape and size more exact and permanent.
After the decatizing operation, the blocked and decatized hat bodies, which we will now begin to call “hats,” are left on racks to settle for a couple of days before they enter the surface finishing room.
It is in the surface finishing room where much of the hatmaker’s art is performed. Most hats are finished smooth, requiring various pouncing (shaving) and polishing operations on both the crown and brims. Other exotic finishes are worked with different tools and machines to achieve special finishes.
Blocking, steaming and forming a hat body in the blocking machine.
Graham Thompson decatizing a hat body
A hat surface going through the finishing process.
Optimo’s small team of expert trimmers have decades of combined experience. Their trained eyes and skilled hands have made some of the most exquisitely formed bows and accurate edge sewing the hat world has ever known.
Trimming refers to several important steps in hat finishing, including installation of the sweatband, linings, ribbon and edge treatments.
Optimo’s small team of expert trimmers have decades of combined experience. Their trained eyes and skilled hands have made some of the most exquisitely formed bows and accurate edge sewing the hat world has ever known. The laser-sharp work from an experienced trimmer will clearly differ from the work of a less experienced one.
After trimming the brims are given their shape in a process called flanging. All hats undergo several procedures and are constantly scrutinized for flaws and inconsistencies before they are finally ready to meet the customers.
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