This is part 4 of our how to make felt food series, I’m Andie a felt food addict and co-owner of American Felt and Craft. Please stop into our store sometime and take a look around. And as always if you have any questions I am just an email away and I’m happy to share my knowledge and a few of my favorite patterns with you!
Felt Food 101 – Lesson 4 Putting it all together:
Putting it all together
There are many ways to connect to pieces of felt, each has it’s advantages and disadvantages. Here I will discuss machine and hand stitching, stitches to use and gluing, you can also needle felt, felt food but I will touch on needle felting in another post.
Machine sewing vs. Hand Sewing
Some shapes and forms can really only be done with an old fashion needle and thread. Machine sewing is an option, for some pieces but you’ll need to remember to enlarge your pieces since the machine sewn version will be about 3/4 size. If you are concerned about all the fuzzies getting into your machine you can avoid this by putting a piece of paper under the seam line and one over it. I recommend regular scrap copy paper I have heard others use newsprint but I would be afraid of marking up my felt with inky fingers. You may also want to use the paper method if you have trouble holding your felt in place on the machine because it is acrylic since synthetics tend to slide. Also keep in mind that removing a seam from machine sewn felt can be extremely difficult if not impossible. I recommend simply cutting the seam out. Machine sewn pieces are also more likely to be flatter and you will require the use of more felt since the seams will diminish a sewn pieces’ size. With hand sewn pieces what you see is pretty much what you get there are usually very few surprises since you can easily see problems as soon as they arise and removing your stitching is very simple. Personally I believe that hand sewing is by far the best method for making felt food unless your making a lot of the same item.
Hand sewing stitches
When hand sewing it’s interesting to note that suprisingly few stitches are used in felt food construction here is a basic walk through and illustration thanks to our friends at The Popcorn Tree .
Overcast Stitch/ Whip Stitch(note: overcast stitch and the whip stitch are in fact the same stitch however whip stitching is done on two pieces of fabric to join them and overcast stitching is done on only one piece to prevent fraying. Most people use the terms interchangeably and we’re suckers for peer pressure so we’ll use the terms interchangeably too!)
Without a doubt this is the stitch I use most often when making felt food. It easily joins to pieces together without losing any fabric to seams and lays remarkably flat. Best of all with a matching thread it almost disappears into the finished piece.
Whip/ overcast stitching is very forgiving since the seam does have a bit more adjust-ability than other stitches. A word of caution; placing stitches too far apart on an item you intend to stuff will cause stuffing to fall out. The stitches should be about 1/16″ apart to prevent this. Many people will pull too tightly on the thread when sewing this way. There is no need to use more thread tension when stitching this way, pulling thread too firmly will not help avoid gaps and will create a rounded seam, or lip which may effect your finished piece.
This is the basic in out stitch taught to most of us as children and is used for connecting pieces which need to remain very firm and rigid. Sewing this way also helps when you want to prop of your piece since when turned inside out the pieces will not lay flat. Other than it’s simplicity the running stitches big advantage is how easily it can be removed. Ideally you want each stitch to be about 1/4″ in length or smaller.
Gathering and Basting Stitches.
These stitches are not used as often in felt food design but are very useful for making rounded or dome shapes. The only real difference between the gathering stitch and the running stitch is the tension in the thread. Gathering stitches are pulled tightly, the effect of this on felt is somewhat less impressive than it is on other fabrics due to the thickness of the felt. The gathering stitch and the basting stitch are also essentially the same but the basting stitch is most often temporary and since it will be removed large stitches are not only acceptable but actually easier to work with.
The Back Stitch
Back stitch is most often used as an outlining stitch, and is often used to create text or outlines on a felt piece. As the name suggests small stitches are made in a similar fashion to the running stitch but the needle returns to complete a stitch at the same time it creates a new one.
The Blanket stitch can be called a more decorative version of the overcast/ whip stitch. The biggest advantage to blanket stitching is that because of the obvious top seam it is very distracting and uneven stitching is not as noticeable. The blanket stitch is used to create a decorative edge and will hold felt together in much the same way as overcast stitching. This stitch is not subtle and is made to be shown off.
This stitch can be a problem since you will not only create a seam but a larger and more obvious one and the top line of the stitch holds the pieces a bit farther apart from each other than the whip stitch.
To create a blanket stictch you will need to start the same way you did with the overcast but instead of creating a second overcast stitch place your needle under the first stitch on from right to left. Continue on this way, making an overcast stitch and ducking underneath it until your project is complete.
French knots are used to create seeds or dots on a piece, they take a bit of practice but look stunning when completed. The key to this method is to not pull the thread too tightly at the end. The knot should gently “sit” on top of the fabric.
Satin stitching is used to fill in an area with thread this is rarely used for felt food but in some rare cases it is used to create text or shapes that are too small to be made of felt. Satin stitching couldn’t be any easier. since it is basically one wide running stitch repeated over and over again. The trick to sewing with a satin stitch is to first outline your shape with a back stitch so that your edges remain smooth, simply satin stitch over your outline and viola!
Sewing a knot
The holy grail of sewing! Most of us learned this in home ec. This knot is essential for sewing felt food since this know doesn’t require you to pull the thread and the knot is nearly invisible.
1. Begin by creating a loop where you intend to end your peice and pass your needle through that loop then pull thread through.
2. You should have a completed knot however this is not strong enough to hold long term.
3. Repeat step one on top of your original knot for added strength, many people pass the needle though the body of the knot and then create their second loop and then continue passing the needle though the loop and pulling. I personally do it this way and find it makes for a very tight knot.
Really you want to glue it? Are you sure you wouldn’t rather just put a few stitches in it or easier still needle felt it? No. OK then here goes, it seems that the easiest way to hold pieces of felt together is to glue them. However this can be tricky since most thin or water based glues like Elmer’s will just absorb into the felt this is especially true if you are working with wool or a high wool blended felt because of the loft. I really recommend not gluing your felt unless you absolutely have no choice since this will make the felt harder and more difficult to drape or sew. If you must glue you should avoid hot glue, since you will most likely have a noticeable ridge where the hot glue was laid down, and it can be a bit messy. Also when working with acrylics use of a high temp glue gun can be dangerous since acrylic is a plastic and will melt. In all instances I recommend using Beacon’s felt glue it will work on the thinnest acrylic without soaking through and I have seen it hold felt pom poms in place very nicely, it dries 100% clear and has no yucky fumes. It’s very similar to Elmer’s glue but thicker and not named Elmer’s.
If you are making something for a child I would recommend gluing and running a few stitches through for safety and if you are beading something for a child I would really recommend gluing since over time felts can shift making threads longer and making beads more easily broken off and swallowed. If you cannot find Beacon’s felt glue my second choice would be tacky glue, and my third choice would be quitting and having a glass of wine instead.
Unique glue situations (never thought you’d see those words together huh?)
If you only want to glue down a felt piece to hold it for stitching I recommend using a glue stick just make sure your glue stick is soft and be prepared for it to be all “felty” after use. THIS WILL NOT HOLD LONG TERM! In fact in some cases it may not hold at all. This is dependent on the humidity, your felt and how lucky you are. After gluing you will need to remove the felty part from your glue stick to avoid it being transferred onto your next glue stick project and you should try to wait for it to dry before attempting to sew or your needle may get gooky from passing through the glue stuck? sticked? stucked? felt.
Glues can also be used to accent a piece as in the case of American Felt and Craft’s Hot Fudge Glue.
You can also Needle Felt pieces together however that’s a long and detailed post for another day.
Last week: Needles Next week : Felt Food 101 Stuff it