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Melissa Lewis-Barnes

Two Grey Hills

Navajo Nation


The process of handcrafting a hat from raw materials has several steps. I start the hat making process by using high quality beaver fur felt material to block. Blocking is heating the fur felt with steam so that it becomes soft and workable to mold it around a wooden block, thus creating the crown of the hat. The second step is to take the excess material that is not blocked and use that to create the brim of the hat. After hours of ironing and cooling the material will naturally stiffen. I will then move on to the next process of the finishing details. I will cut the brim so that it is even around the brim. Using sandpaper I will sand the hat until it has a velvet finish. The final steps include sewing a leather sweatband into the hat, and sewing a ribbon onto the edge of the brim. The last step is creasing the hat into shape by use of steam. Finally touches include hand-painting the brims/crown in vibrant designs, beading a hatband to match, beading the crown to create wearable art.