Boiling hats is business as usual

[attach]4840[/attach]When Julie Sinden shrinks a load of laundry, she does it on purpose.

For the past six years she has been using her washer to create accessories for Julie Sinden Handmade, her line of hats, mittens and scarves.

“Boiled wool is knit very large, so probably three or four times as big as the end result, and then felted, which basically means that it is shrunk using hot water and agitation,” Sinden explains from her home studio near Logan Avenue and Gerrard Street East. “So my hats are knit all in one piece, extra large, and then they are felted in the washing machine.”

Sinden says she first learned the boiled wool process from a fellow student at Kootenay School of the Arts in British Columbia. After graduation she started off making purses and a select amount of hats. She quickly shifted her focus to the hats because they were a better sell.

“It’s kind of a combination of fashion and winter hats,” she says. “One of the great things about them is that they are a solid winter hat, like they are kind of a toque basically because they are this very dense, warm, boiled wool fabric, but they are keeping fashionable too.”

In addition to her boiled wool products, which are available at [url][/url] or at local stores like Nathalie Roze & Co., Sinden also has a burgeoning line of naturally dyed yarns and accessories.

Along with collecting wild flowers like Goldenrod and Queen Anne’s Lace to create the natural dyes, Sinden says she also buys dried Cochineal insects, which create a crimson-coloured dye.

“The bugs I get are like dried beetles basically and you … grind them up in a coffee grinder and boil them up and cook the yarn and scarves in there together with that,” she says.

Sinden says she hopes to continue expanding that side of the company and says she likes how her work continues to evolve. She says some of the biggest milestones over the past six years were when she was able to quit her job as a waitress in late 2006 and more recently when she was able to hire part-time staff. Another accomplishment, she says, was when she started teaching workshops on felting and natural dying at The Workroom on Queen Street West. She says it symbolized her expertise the niche trade.

“It’s great to have a job that is something that you like doing and that is all mine,” she says. “It’s my own business, I started it from scratch, by myself, so I guess my goal for now is continued success and for it to keep evolving.”