Felt is a versatile material that can be sewn easily and is perfect for a variety of craft projects. This non-woven fabric has a unique texture and appearance, and since it’s non-fraying, it’s also quite friendly to beginners.
What to know about sewing felt? If you are hand sewing, the best way to sew felt is to use embroidery floss with a sharp needle to create a blanket stitch or basting stitch. If you are using a sewing machine, use polyester threads to sew a straight stitch or zigzag stitch, but make sure to use a longer stitch length.
In this article, we’ll show you the best way to sew felt fabric and the tools and materials you will need to get started. Read on to learn more!
What Is Felt?
Felt is a non-woven fabric that is traditionally made from wool fibers. Instead of being woven or knitted together using strands of threads, felt is made using loose fibers bonded together using heat and friction.
As a result, the fibers are permanently bonded together but in no particular pattern or order. If you investigate a piece of felt closely, you’ll see individual strands of fibers crisscrossing throughout the fabric, creating a unique texture and appearance.
Felt is a very easy material to work with, especially for making small craft projects. Its main advantage over woven or knit fabric is the fact that felt doesn’t fray after cutting.
Since the fibers are permanently bonded together, the individual strands of fibers will stay fixed after it’s cut, which means you don’t have to worry about serging edges or hemming the fabric.
Another reason felt is popular is because there’s no right side or wrong side to the fabric. Instead, the fabric is nearly identical on both sides in terms of texture and color. This means it is quite versatile in all kinds of patterns.
It’s also a relatively thick, structured fabric that’s still soft enough to sew, which also adds to its beginner-friendliness.
The fabric is highly durable and can withstand a lot of wear and tear, which makes it suitable for making craft toys and decorations around the home.
Types Of Felt
Traditional felt that’s made with heat and friction is made from 100% wool. The protein fibers are easy to manipulate, and this process only works with protein fibers due to the natural oil and enzymes that are present in the protein fibers.
However, since natural wool felt can be expensive, manufacturers have developed a type of felt made from acrylic wool, which does resemble the texture and appearance of natural wool felt but is not as soft. The felt fabric that you can find in most craft stores is acrylic felt.
Natural wool felt is superior in terms of texture and appearance. Since it’s softer, it’s also easier to sew. Natural wool felt will also age better as well, which is why a lot of artisans choose natural wool felt to make their creations.
Acrylic craft felt is much more affordable compared to wool felt. Although it is not as soft, it’s still a durable, beginner-friendly type of fabric that is suitable for small craft projects, like making toys and decors.
Note that craft felt will lose its softness the more it is washed, so it’s only suitable for making things that do not need to be cleaned very often, like toys and dolls. It also tends to pill more as it ages.
Despite its disadvantages, craft felt is still a more popular choice for most craft projects because it is very affordable and easy to work with. If you are looking for materials to start your first felt sewing project, we recommend working with craft felt.
Basic Materials and Tools For Felt Crafts
Before getting started on your sewing project, let’s first gather all of the materials that you will need.
Craft felt is sold as square sheets in various colors and sizes, ranging from 4″ by 4″ to 12″ by 12″. We recommend a pack with various colors that will give you options to create your designs without being limited by the colors available.
Each felt sheet is about 1 – 3 mm thick. The thicker it is, the more structure you will have, but you will need to use a bigger sewing needle to puncture through the thick felt sheet.
Felt is a thick and structured material, which means you will need a strong thread to accompany it.
If you are hand sewing and want to use a thick thread that can become a part of the design, we recommend using cotton embroidery floss. This type of thread is thick enough to complement thick felt sheets but is still quite easy to work with.
If you don’t want the thread to stand out against the background of the felt, you can also use an invisible thread. Invisible thread is made from durable nylon that’s still flexible enough to sew, but it won’t overwhelm your design.
If you are sewing felt with a sewing machine, then you can’t go wrong with a strong polyester thread. Quilting thread will also work well with felt since it’s designed to hold several layers of thick fabric together.
The key to sewing with any kind of thick fabric is a very sharp needle. The needle you use will need to have a sharp enough point to puncture the thick fabric.
The size of the needle you use will need to coordinate with the size of the thread that you use. If you are using embroidery floss, then make sure to use a medium-sized embroidery needle. If you are using invisible thread, then a smaller needle will do.
If you are working with a sewing machine, then an 80/12 universal needle will work well with most types of sewing machine threads.
Although felt is already a relatively structured type of fabric, we recommend adding a layer of fusible fleece if you are sewing two pieces of felt together.
Fusible fleece is a layer of interfacing that you can iron to the back of the felt to add a bit of structure to it. This layer will give your piece a bit more stability, which makes it much easier to sew.
Fusible fleece is also recommended for projects that require structure, like toys, bags, or wallets.
A fabric marker is useful in almost every sewing project, but especially when you are working with felt. You can use it to transfer your pattern to the felt before cutting it or to sketch out your design before cutting.
Make sure to use a marker with removable ink so that you can easily remove the pattern marks with heat or water when you finish the project.
There are various accessories that you can add to a felt craft project to add to its sophistication. Details like eyes and noses can be sewn to the felt using buttons. Other decorations for the piece can be added using lace or ribbons.
Depending on your design and how sophisticated you want it to look, having these accessories handy can be quite helpful.
It’s relatively easy to craft a simple bag or toy from felt, even without a pattern.
However, there are plenty of felt craft patterns that you can find online to help you explore new designs and techniques. If you have a pattern, the project will be much easier and less frustrating, and you are guaranteed a beautiful result without much trial and error.
Rotary Cutter/Fabric Scissors
The best way to cut felt is with sharp fabric scissors. Fabric scissors allow you to cut very fine details precisely, but they can be quite time-consuming.
If you have a thick piece of felt, you can also use a sharp rotary cutter as well.
How To Sew Felt
Although felt is an easy material to sew, you’ll have to choose the right stitch design to complement the fabric. Here are the best stitches that you can use to sew felt.
Running stitch (applique)
A running stitch is the most basic stitch that you can use to sew felt, and it’s the most common stitch type used for applique.
A running stitch just looks like a dashed line running all around the fabric. It is created by running your needle up and down the top and bottom of the fabric, so it’s quite simple. However, because it is so simple, it can be quick to unravel as well.
A backstitch (often called a basting stitch) is a more complicated version of the running stitch. It appears as one continuous line on the right side and multiple overlapping lines on the wrong side.
The stitch is created by sewing a running stitch and then going back to cover the gap between the two stitches to create a continuous line.
This stitch is also often used in applique, where you can’t see the wrong side of the fabric. You can also use it to embroider details on the finished toys, like eyes and mouths.
A blanket stitch creates the look that’s most associated with sewing felt. The stitch is highly decorative and often used with a contrasting thread color to create an edging that is wrapped all the way around the piece of felt, and it’s most often used to sew two layers of felt together.
To create a blanket stitch, you will need to continuously insert your needle from the back to the front while looping the needle through the live loop to create a finished edge.
The ladder stitch is a bit more complicated and is often used when you want to sew an invisible hem between two pieces of felt. The result is a super clean look that won’t show on the exposed fabric.
To create the ladder stitch, you will need to fold the hem of the two pieces of felt inwards. Then, sew a running stitch to the inside of the hem, alternating between the two pieces of fabric until you have created a ladder all the way around the hem.
Pull on the thread to tighten it, and the gap will close magically without showing the stitch at all!
If you are sewing felt fabric with a sewing machine, make sure to switch to a Teflon foot. Since the fabric is quite textured, a Teflon foot will have an easier time gliding across the fabric without sticking to it.
Using a straight stitch is an obvious choice when it comes to sewing felt with a sewing machine. Depending on the thickness of the felt, you will need to adjust the stitch length accordingly.
The result is a clean, straight line on both the right side and the wrong side of the fabric.
If you want to seal the edges of the felt while sewing two pieces of felt together, you can also use a zigzag stitch. Make sure to use a longer stitch length since the fabric is thicker and doesn’t fray.
How To Wash Felt
Although it is not necessary to prewash felt before sewing, you may want to do so, especially if you want to make toys for children. Washing it will get rid of any dirt and chemical residue on the fabric, making it safer to use.
Don’t wash felt in the washing machine and dryer. Natural wool felt is very prone to shrinking when it meets high heat, and craft felt is quite prone to pilling.
Instead, you should hand-wash it using cold water and a mild detergent, then let it air dry. If there are a lot of details, such as felt toys, then it’s better to dry clean the piece to preserve the fabric’s quality.
If you only need to clean dirt and fabric marker details from the fabric, then we recommend just using a clean cloth and water to dab on the fabric.
Don’t apply too much pressure or rub the fabric too hard because the fibers can react to friction and heat. Instead, just use a damp cloth to wipe down the fabric and let it air dry.
Gluing Vs. Sewing Felt: Which Is Better?
Another popular option to work with felt is to use glue instead of sewing.
Fabric glue is a great way to work with felt because most types of fabric glue are designed to be flexible while still relatively durable. Many types of fabric glue can also be washed, so you don’t have to worry about the toy falling apart when you need to wash it.
Fabric glue is also quite friendly to children as well, since there are no sharp needles that you need to wash out for. If you are doing classroom projects, then the better option is definitely fabric glue.
If you are using fabric glue with felt, then make sure to get fabric glue that dries clear for the best result. You should also check if the fabric glue is waterproof and washable.
While fabric glue is a great option for sewing layers of fabric, it may not be great for gluing details to the fabric. If you are using buttons and beads, then fabric glue may not perform well, especially if you are planning on washing it.
Sewing is still the more durable choice if you need to wash the fabric option. Sewing will also give you more options in terms of adding decorative stitches and even embroidery to the felt design. It’s also quite durable if you need to wash the felt.