Tips for Felt Sewing Projects

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Happy Friday, everyone!  I came down with a bad cold this week (yucky), so I am feeling behind today as we head into the weekend.  However, I really wanted to share a few beginner tips on sewing with felt for anyone who wants to tackle the Ice Cream projects I shared this week.  (There’s a lot of information in the instructions already – they’re 10 pages long -  but this is some more general info for beginners.)

Felt can be a really fun and forgiving material to work with, but I think it helps to know a few tricks of the trade.  I used to just march into the craft store and grab a big stack of the $.25 stuff and proceed with out a plan or pattern.  Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t.  It can be fun to experiment, but to get those really crisp, detailed projects you see, here are a few things I’ve found really helpful:

1)  Perfectly Cut Shapes. Good sewing always begins with good cutting.  If you’ve ever tried to cut a circle out of felt and ended up with a wonky, wobbly lump instead, you know that cutting felt can be frustrating.  The trick is to use freezer paper.  Trace your template onto freezer paper and iron it shiny side down onto your felt.  Then cut through the template and the felt at the same time.  This will give you that elusive, crisp edge.  The freezer paper peels right off, and you’re left with shapes that look like this:

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Many felt projects – especially when you’re dealing with tiny, felt food items – don’t have any seam allowances.  You are stitching the raw, cut edges of the felt to each other so tip #1 is really important.

2)  High Quality Felt. 100% Wool and wool blend felts can seem really expensive, and I totally get that there is a time and place for the cheap acrylic and eco-felt you find at the craft store.  So what’s the big deal about wool?

The 100% Wool I used for the ice cream projects is thick, smooth, and luxurious.  If you’ve ever cut a piece of acrylic felt and pulled on the edges a little bit, you can feel it start to tear and weaken in the middle.  100% Wool is sturdier, less fuzzy, and will hold it’s shape.  There is some heft and body to 100% Wool.

The other difference is that when you are sewing through acrylic and eco-felt, your needle and thread can create holes as the fibers tear away from each other.  There is a great, classic post and side by side comparison on acrylic vs. wool here.  When sewing with wool felt, you can remove stitches and they will not show.  If you’re doing detailed embroidery work, this can make a huge difference if you need to take out a mistake.

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3) Cardboard Inserts + Glue. The first time I purchased a Japanese felt food kit (these adorable cookies, below), I was a little bit surprised to see that they were using cardboard inserts and glue to create perfectly round shapes, domes for the macaroons, crisp slices of pie, etc.  Wait, isn’t this cheating?! No, it’s not cheating.  It’s just smart.  I really recommend learning to make a few basic shapes: a dome, a cylinder, etc.  The kits are nice because they contain everything you need and all of the shapes are pre-cut for you, so it’s not too hard to decipher the directions.

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4) Master the whip stitch. There is a lot of talk out there about the blanket stitch, and it can make for a nice decorative detail on felt applique projects.  (Although I have to be honest, it looks a little bit “country” to me.)  However, if you’re working on something small, I think the whip stitch is easier and more forgiving especially if you match your thread to your project.  When you are stitching around tiny curves, the blanket stitch can create awkward spacing issues where the thread is just not hugging the curve.  To master the whip stitch, focus on keeping your needle perpendicular to the felt and keep your spacing even.  Each time you move your needle to the side to create the next stitch, you are creating that nice diagonal line.

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I hope this is helpful and not too boring!  If you have tips of your own, please chime in.  I’d love to hear them.  Have a great weekend!  I’m hoping to feel well enough to get back to organizing around here.  Wish me luck…

Filed under Fabric & Sewing, I Made This, Tutorials & Downloads. Tagged with , , .

41 Responses

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  1. This was a very helpful post! Felt is huge here in Germany and it’s easy to find quality felt. Good color selection and freezer paper are still eluding me, but I think the color problem can be solved online.

    I’ve had some success using my tracing wheel to create outlines in felt. This usually only works well on the thin felt (~2mm) and is really only for larger, less-intricate shapes, but it can be a help!

  2. Great tips Kelly! Thanks. I love working with felt but have gotten so frustrated with it at times. I can’t wait to try out your tips.

  3. Take care, Kelly! First, the wisdom teeth and now the flu. Thanks for sharing the tutorials. The sweet treats are so cute. I can’t wait to get some sewing done. Good luck with the organizing but take care of your health first. You’ll do a better job when you’re back at 100%.

  4. betz White said

    Great tips! Love the freezer paper tip, especially!

  5. Thanks for the tips! I love that whipstitch tip especially—never knew that!!

  6. I so needed this …thanks so much… hope you are feeling better soon….I have just recently started to work with wools.

  7. Great post! I thought I was the only one that used a whipstich whenever I could. :)

    ~Kim

  8. great tips! inspires me to bust out the craft box :D

  9. Thank you for the freezer paper tip! Can’t wait to try it!

  10. Cupcakes for Clara said

    A great post – thank you!
    I am a long time lover of using freezer paper and felt together. I sew felt illustrations and sometimes the pieces are very teeny. So good quality 100% wool felt and freezer paper are my saviours.

  11. Fabulous post! So happy to see a sister-stitcher who appreciates the value of high quality wool felt. It really *does* make a difference : )

    Not to be spammy, but since someone above mentioned a lack of color selection in 100% wool felt, I’d like to mention that I have 96 colors available in my shop – feltonthefly.etsy.com. In fact, mention this lovely blog post and I’ll take 10% off your first purchase!

    Oh … and I agree – can’t say enough about freezer paper!

  12. Kelly said

    Hi Craftzine readers! Thank you so much for all of the kind words and feedback. If you give these tips a try, let me know. I’d love to see what you make! @Clara – I’m intrigued by your felt illustrations – wow, sounds amazing!

  13. Anne said

    I use clear packing tape and tape the template to the felt to cut it. the tape never touches the object I want cut out.

  14. Thanks for these tips Kelly! I have long wondered why I’d want to spend the extra money for wool felt. Now I see it’s sometimes a must.

  15. Great post! Thank you very much.

  16. beth said

    Kelly- where do you source your great wool felt from? SO hard to find great felt- so expensive! And how thick do you like it when you work with it- for, say, bags, messenger bags, etc.? Thank you—

  17. Thanks for these great tips. Some really good advice in here!

  18. Connie said

    Thanks for the good advice. I’ll remember these.

  19. Hi there. Very informative info on working with felt. I agree, the acrylic stuff is not very good – and also melts when you iron it! (this coming from someone who has scraped red gloop up off the worktable). I found you via Twitter via everything Etsy. Keep up the good work.

  20. Some great tutorials on here, I always make a mess of the cutting out so I usually buy my felt shapes from http://www.feltcutouts.co.uk as they do any shape you require.

  21. Renee said

    Great tips :) but I am even more of a beginner…what kind of needle and thread should you use? I believe I have the acrylic felt. Any help is appreciated, thanks!

  22. Debbie Head said

    Great tips…..I found this site on Pinterest.com and can really use the tips here. You are so right about the wool vs. acrylic felts. Thanks for your dedication.

  23. This was exactly what I was searching for! Thank you so much for the tips! What about sewing machine? It’s really difficult for me with felt…

  24. THis is a great post. I just got a sewing machine for Mothers day – I have NO sewing experience I find your blog so inspiring and helpful.

    I have been wanting to work with felt but I am confused about all the different qualities – but you really cleared it up.Thaks!

  25. Jill Basel said

    This post was really helpful until I got to the blanket stitch being ‘a little bit country.’ Not really sure what you meant by that but since I’m a little but country I found it rude. I have no clue how felt food could be ‘country’ as opposed to non-country.

  26. Kelly said

    I have already sent Jill a note, but I want to post this here in case anyone else was offended by my comment about the blanket stitch being country. I don’t believe in going back and re-writing posts, but please know it was not my intention to offend anyone. What I love about this community is that there is room for all sorts of styles!

  27. Ame said

    Kelly!! You are awesome awesome awesome! I just got a sewing/embroidery machine for my birthday (nothing extravagant, just a starter-guy, since it’s my first sewing machine EVER!) I want to dive in, but I really don’t even know where to start. You are helping out tremendously!
    Keep up the good work!
    And for the ‘rude’ comment…I am from Seattle (all of my
    family is still there) but I now live in the DEEP (yet
    beautiful) country in Arkansas. I didn’t find the comment to be rude at all. I think things can have a ‘country’ or
    ‘southern’ look to them, and it should be just fine to make a reference to that ‘style’ without ruffling any feathers

  28. Ame said

    Sorry about the crummy-looking message ^ My phone was messing up and I couldn’t see what I was typing ;-)

  29. Dinkar kushwaha said

    I am craft and design student from India and i m working on felt right now ,and your tips really helped me out…please tell me more about felt.

  30. This was helpful, thank you! Unfortunately the cheaper felt is all I’ve got at the moment, and yes I have experienced the holes-in-the-fabric you are talking about. Oh well, I’ll try to keep a light hand as I stitch!
    Have a great weekend,
    Gracie
    XOXO

  31. Sara said

    I won’t use felt made from merino wool as the production methods are very cruel to the sheep. I use a wool blend felt both in preference and because it is cheaper. Wool felt that is not merino is OK though. (For me).

  32. The very first time I bought a Japoneses sensed meals kit (these lovely biscuits, below), I was a little bit amazed to see that they were using paper places and stick to make completely circular forms, domes for the macaroons, sharp pieces of pie, etc.

  33. Kelly said

    @Sara – I had not heard that before, but thanks for sharing!

  34. Alisa said

    Very helpful! Thank you! :)

  35. Jennifer said

    I have seen that you’ve posted replies to two other people’s comments, but like the person above,(“Renee”)- I would like to know what type of needle and thread to use when working with felt, I realize I’m miles behind the rest of you, but I would really like to know and would be very appreciative if you posted some information on this, thank you. I’m keeping the other things you posted in mind for when I get that far, thanx.

  36. Jennifer said

    I understand that you are to use “floss” like for embroidery, but, is this also the best thing to use when stitching together thicker pieces of felt like around 3mm for when more strength is required like in stitching together pieces for handbags? And also, what type of needle would be best, is there a specific type or different types to use when working with felt?

  37. jennifer said

    I got your email responding to my post above, Thank you very much Kelly :) all of these tips are so helpful!

  38. patsy bethard said

    what can i do with 4 yards of felt. whated to make a quilt didnt realize could nt do that. what to do mickey mouse fabric really cute and expensive help

  39. Tina said

    I would also appreciate knowing what threads and needles you use please. I have cut out some letters out to make my little niece her name but am really struggling with what thread to use as i want it to be strong but not show. Also what stitch would you suggest as there are lots of awkward corners to go round. Any help would be much appreciated.

  40. Kelly said

    For some reason my responses to @jennifer and @Tina have not posted here, so I am updating the comments with a few more FAQ’s. I always try to respond to any questions over e-mail!

    - I like to use a single strand of DMC embroidery floss (the kind that is sold in the little loops at the craft store.) For felt projects, I cut a single strand and then double it up (threading both ends of the string through my needle like in this tutorial video and knotting it through a loop). Really, almost any needle will work, but I prefer to use a medium-length embroidery needle. You don’t want something so small it will drive you up the wall trying to thread it.

    In a pinch, I sometimes use regular sewing thread when I’ve run out of the correct color. Felt is so forgiving — have fun with it!

    For making something sturdy like a handbag — I would recommend sewing it on a machine using a straight stitch, mercerized cotton thread, and a standard sewing needle. Always do a test run first on a scrap piece.

  41. Kelly said

    @Tina asked me about trying to keep the thread from showing in her work. Here was my response:

    I think your best best is going to be DMC embroidery floss. Choose one that closely matches the colors of felt in your project. However, with felt, the thread IS going to show a little bit.

    Take a look at this post from Alicia

    She’s using embroidery floss which she separated into a single strand. She’s using blanket stitch which is very popular for these projects. As I mentioned in the post, I find whip stitch a little easier to master — especially for those corners you mentioned. You might try some corners on a scrap piece and see which stitch is easier for you.

    As for needles, I don’t have an exact size I recommend. I prefer embroidery needles that have an eye big enough for me to thread easily — but not so gigantic it’s going to leave holes in the work. I usually pick up a package of assorted embroidery needles which is why I have no idea what size they actually are! Pass your needle through a scrap piece of felt — did it go smoothly? Can you thread it? You’re good to go.