Many of the new millinery materials which have come onto the market over the last few years have been thermoplastics. There is a large variety of these heat-formable materials which work well for hat making, each with their own characteristics.
3 Kinds of Worbla Products
Worbla is a brand name for a line of thermoplastics. They carry 3 types of plastics…
There are also multiple products within each of those categories, so referring to the materials simply as ‘Worbla’ can be confusing.
Usually, when people talk about Worbla they are referring to Worbla’s Finest Art because this was the brand’s first product (before they developed an entire thermoplastic line).
Today, the brand’s standard sheet plastics are most commonly used, including Finest Art, Black Art, and Pearly Art.
Worbla Standard Sheet Plastics
Finest Art (above) was first introduced in 2014. It is easily distinguishable from other sheet plastics by its brown paper bag color. It activates at a temperature of 195 degrees Celsius and can be heated with a heat gun, water or steam.
When heated this Worbla product takes on the pliability of clay, so it can be sculpted and molded with detail. It is self-adhesive so there is no waste as you can heat scraps into each other to mold or re-press flat into sheets.
Finest Art can be painted but it does have a slight texture. This sheet plastic does not have any gauze reinforcement like Wonderflex® so it has more sculptural properties.
Black Art (below) and Pearly Art are similar products to Finest Art but are the black and white versions. They are slightly less adhesive and stretchy and have a finer texture, so they have a smoother surface for painting. Otherwise they heat and work in the same way as the Finest Art.
Working with Worbla
The tools and workspace setup needed are the same for all types of thermoplastics, including Worbla sheet plastics.
Here are some helpful tips for working with these materials.
All sheet plastics can be cut with scissors or a utility knife. You can also use a laser cutter for repeated or complicated shapes.
Using a heat gun is the easiest way to heat thermoplastics. A smaller nozzle heat gun is useful for working in smaller areas. Heat slowly, holding the heat gun a few inches from the material. Sheet plastics can tear when hot and stretched and they can also bubble and burn if overheated.
It is smart to protect your working surface with a Teflon sheet to avoid any scorching and provide a non-stick workspace. Wearing gloves is also recommended when working with some kinds of thermoplastics. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions for specific safety guidance.
To mount your finished Worbla pieces, use an awl to punch small holes to sew through. Apart from Fosshape®, you will need to make holes with a heated needle or an awl whenever you want to sew through thermoplastics.
Taking it Further
Thermoplastics like Worbla open the door to exciting creative hat making possibilities. They can be used to build an entire structure or for fine, unique details. These modern materials have many different applications so you can find tutorials for specific techniques online.
Learning to use thermoplastics for millinery will take practice but, with the ability to reheat and reuse, there is no waste!