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:
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.
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.
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.
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…