Since I started making hats, I've wanted to visit the factory where I source my felt. They are the last fur felt factory remaining in America. For years, we have had a great relationship via phone and email, but we decided it was time to get out there and shake hands. We know how our hat bodies are felted and made, but wanted to see it all first hand.
This family run factory opened in the mid 1960s and has stayed in the family. We drove a couple hours outside the airport to find this beautiful little town located in the south of America. The drive itself was beautiful and filled with lush green rolling hills, quite and calm lakes that led straight to their quaint small town square. It was great to be able to experience the quiet beauty of where our felts are made.
We won't get into the full nitty gritty details of each step and process in the factory, as so much goes into it all, but we will give you a brief overview.
These soft, silky furs are sourced all over the world. Belgium, Portugal, New York, Ukraine and more. The fur gets shipped from these locations to our factory in large bails.
From the bails, the fur gets sorted, blown and cleaned. Mixing the proper types and proportions of the fur, as well as making sure each piece is perfectly clean, is an extremely important first step in making a hat.
After the fur is blown, is gets weighed per each hat body and goes through a machine to turn it into a sheet and then blown again into a cone with extremely hot water and steam. This is where the fur begins to take shape into a hat body.
This is also known as the shrinking process. The shrinking process is how the fur becomes tightly knitted into a piece of felt. Through many steps, old machinery and hard working hands, the fur felt shrinks into a piece that becomes tightly felted, making it unbreakable. After the shrinking and felting, each piece is dyed to color specifications and gets a coating of shellack to allow the felt body to become more sturdy. The felts get pre-blocked, and sent into the drying room.
Once dried, the felts hit the stock shelves and are ready to ship to us!
It was great to get onto the factory floor and have a deeper understanding of how our felt is made and processed. It's an art in its own and a great honor to work with these fine people. It was great to sit and have a business meeting to discuss the future of the factory and the future of the relationship with Wellema Hats. We're looking forward to getting back to the south and visiting our factory next year.
The infamous water tower at the center of the factory.