Felt & Felting

Bug's Christmas Gifts

Back in early November, I had my idea for Bug's Christmas gift. He LOVES to draw, and I thought it was high time he had his own supplies. So, I got him a sketch book, a couple of "how to draw" books, and a nice set of pencils and erasers. 

I think he will really enjoy the drawing books. The first is The Boys' Guide to Drawing by Aaron Sautter. It has "aliens, warriors, robot and other cool stuff". The sketches get harder as you progress through the book. The other book is Drawing Dragons by Sandra Staple. It teaches you "how to create fantastic fire~breathing dragons" and such. This book is more complicated than the first, but the pictures are awe inspiring, and like the other book, the drawings become more complex as you make your way through the book. The Kohinoor Gioconda 24 Piewce Drawing Set includes pencils, erasers, chalk and charcoal. Lots to experiment with. And, of course, I included some Strathmore Drawing Paper.

Next, I needed something to put everything in. I thought of making him a messenger bag, but I must admit, I decided to buy one instead. I started looking at kid's bags but they were too small, and had designs on them that Bug would consider babyish. Finally, I hit some shops in town. The price tags were all very dear! Did I really want to spend $50.00 just on a bag? Then, I got lucky. I was in Aeropostale. I didn't see any bags, so I asked. The manager said there were a few in the back left over from a promotion. She brought out the bag, and it too was $50.00. (Must be the going rate for messenger bags this year :) As I was hemming and hawing, she did a price check, and it was reduced to $15.00! Well... YAY! So, I bought the bag.

It is really a cool bag. It has a distressed look about it, too. Just the kind of place to put all your treasured work. I did want to do SOMETHING to add a little panache and individualize it. I considered appliqueing something on it, than decided it would look more "grown up" to add a tag. After considering Bug's favorite things, I made a keychain to look like Kai, a Lego Ninjago. I also embroidered his initials on the back.

And here is the final result...


 

Although I think Bug will like his drawing supplies, I know he is going to LOVE Kai. Tomorrow I will share the pattern I made just in case you have a Ninjago lover in your life :)

Cardinal Applique Block

Several weeks ago a reader asked me for a applique block for a cardinal. I finally got it done :) Although we have cardinals in our backyard year round, they look their loveliest in the winter world. Here, we have a male cardinal perched in a tree. I'm sure he has his eye on his mate which is always close by. BTW... although it is very hard to see in this photo, his eye is made up of 4 black seed beads. In person, the light makes his eyes twinkle, just like a real cardinal :)

Our cardinal was designed to fit a 6" x 6" block, but can be enlarged or reduced to meet your needs. The pattern for the cardinal can be found HERE. Enjoy!

Blanket Stitching - Part 3 - Corners and Sewing 2 Pieces Together


When I first started blanket stitching, my corners were... how shall I put this... unique, interesting, inconsistent... in other words, a mess! Messy is okay for some projects, but I did want my corners to look better and to stay looking good after a project was finished. Time and trial brought me to the point where I was finally satisfied with my corners. Today I will be sharing how to blanket stitch corners and how to sew 2 pieces of felt together. I have a few tips that I hope will help you to improve your stitching :) Before you begin, make sure you have read Part 1 and Part 2, because I will not be re-teaching the techniques from the first two lessons:

Part 1 - Before You Stitch - can be found HERE
Part 2 - Blanket Stitching a Straight Line - can be found HERE

Introduction: Because blanket stitching is so important to appliqueing and work with felt, it warrants close examination. Here's what we will be learning:

USES

  • Stitching on the edge
  • Sewing 2 pieces of fabric together
  • Appliqueing one piece of fabric to another
  • Blanket stitching as embellishment
  • Button Holes

TECHNIQUES

  • Starting your first stitch
  • Getting your stitches even
  • Little boxes
  • Stopping
  • Perpendicular stitching
  • Corners and points
  • Curves
  • Adding floss when you run out
  • Joining last stitch to first stitch
  • Reinforcing a seam
  • Intentionally messy
  • Making your back side neat
  • Determining stitch size

Today we are going to practice stitching 2 pieces of felt together and learn how to:

  • Make a neat corners and points
  • Sew two pieces of felt together

In lesson 2 we talked about using a toothed tracing wheel and tracing paper to mark our felt for practice. Today, we are going to talk about using graphing paper. Graph paper is paper that has been divided into squares of equal size. You can use this to mark your practice felt while you are perfecting your stitch. (I'll show you how in a minute) Most graph paper comes 1/4" x 1/4".  But what if you want stitches that are closer together than 1/4" or even bigger than 1/4"? Luckily, there are some great, free resources on the net to help you. The site Incompetech has a graph paper generator. You just plug in how many squares you want per inch and print the page, and you are ready to go. Take a minute to check it out HERE. For today's lesson, print a page with 4 squares per inch. It should look like this:

Cut out a piece of graph paper 3" x 3". (That is 12 squares by 12 squares.) Refer to our tutorial on how to cut out felt found HERE, and using the graph paper as your pattern piece, cut out two pieces of felt.

Before stitching, staple or pin the 2 pieces together. I prefer to use staples because the thread does not get tangled in the pin point or head.

Cut out a piece of the pattern piece grid 1 block x 12 blocks.

We will be using the yellow felt as the front in this demonstration. Set your grid marker on the edge on the front piece of felt, and using a disappearing marker, make a dot at each grid line. You will use these dots as a stitching guide. Because the squares have the same width and depth, your stitches will make little boxes. If you want smaller stitches, simply create a grid with more boxes per inch. Not only will your stitches be closer together, the stitch length will be shorter.

Pick the middle of one side to begin. Using 3 strands of floss, knot the end of the floss. Separate the front piece from the back, and on the inside front piece, slide your needle through the felt into one of the dots. Pull the thread through so the knot is against the felt.

Insert the needle through the back piece of felt so it lines up with the front dot. Point the needle up so it is coming out the top between the two pieces of felt.

Turn the felt over so the front is facing you. As you pull the thread, the loop you just made will begin to pull the two pieces of felt together. Your needle and thread should be to the left of this loop. Continue to gently pull on the thread until the two pieces are together, and the loop is lying flat against the felt. The stitch should be perpendicular to the edge. Pull the stitch tight enough so the stitch lies flat, but not so tight that it puckers the felt.

Continue stitching as explained in Part 2 which can be found HERE. When stitching, it is very important that your needle goes straight through the 2 pieces of felt. The needle should enter the felt at a right angle.

If your needle is entering the felt at right angles, the stitches should be the same length on the front and back of your work.

If you enter the felt on an angle, the stitches on the back will be smaller than the stitches on the front. In projects where the back of your work will be visible, it is very important to keep your stitch length consistent. In the photos below, the last stitch is the result of a needle entering the felt on an angle. NOT what we want to do :)

Continue stitching to the corner. Sew a stitch in the corner dot. The next stitch will be put in diagonally, like the needle shown below.

From front to back, insert the needle through the same dot of your last stitch. It should come through the bottom of the last stitch on the back.

Gently pull on the thread like you would for any stitch, but you want the top loop to rest on the point.

When the stitch is in the proper place, firmly hold the stitch in place with your thumb and index finger.

From the back side, insert the needle into a wee bit of felt near the tip, then slide the needle under the thread, bringing it through to the front. You have just created a small knot on the corner, and anchored it to a small bit of felt. This part is very important. Without grabbing a little piece of felt, the stitch can slide off the corner with use.

Insert the needle back into the center dot. (This is the third time that dot is used.) Make sure the needle comes through the matching center point on the back. Pull the thread through like a normal stitch.

Your thread is now in position to continue stitching down the next side as usual.

When done right, you should have a little square in the corner, with a diagonal stitch in the middle. The front and back should look alike

Next time we will learn how to add new thread when you run out, and how to join the last stitch to the first stitch. Start practicing on your corners :)

 

Blanket Stitching - Part 2 - Blanket Stitching a Straight Line

Part 1 - Think Before You Stitch - can be found HERE
Part 3 - Corners and Sewing 2 Pieces Together - can be found HERE

I more or less taught myself to blanket stitch by looking and doing. It was after I had been using the blanket stitch for a while, that I went in search of “how to”. Yes, I know, a bit backward! Although my stitches looked the same, I did start and stop differently than the other methods I found, and along the way I had come up with a few tricks that worked for me. I am going to teach you my way of blanket stitching. If it doesn’t work for you, there are other tutorials out there, even quite a few on Youtube.com that might feel more “right”. Crafting is all about experimentation and finding techniques that work for you. So, if you find something you are more comfortable with, feelings won’t be hurt ;)

Because blanket stitching is so important to appliqueing and work with felt, I felt it warrants close examination. Here's what we will be learning:
 
USES

  • Stitching on the edge
  • Sewing 2 pieces of fabric together
  • Appliqueing one piece of fabric to another
  • Blanket stitching as embellishment
  • Button Holes

TECHNIQUES

  • Starting your first stitch
  • Getting your stitches even
  • Little boxes
  • Stopping
  • Perpendicular stitching
  • Corners and points
  • Curves
  • Adding floss when you run out
  • Joining last stitch to first stitch
  • Reinforcing a seam
  • Intentionally messy
  • Making your back side neat
  • Determining stitch size

 
Today we are going to practice stitching on the edge using the following techniques:

  • Starting your first stitch
  • Getting your stitches even
  • Making little boxes
  • Stopping

Preparation:
Cut a strip of good quality, light colored wool felt about 8” x 1 ½”. You can practice on both long edges.

Tip: If you don't already own a toothed tracing wheel and tracing paper, go out immediately and buy them. Seriously... if you are in your jammies, throw on an overcoat and find a late night craft and/or sewing shop, and buy them... NOW! Fortunately, they are not expensive, and they are beyond useful when learning various applique, embroidery and quilting stitches. This technique gave me the "feel" of stitch size and placement when learning the blanket stitch, and helped me to achieve "perfectish" stitches fast!


 
Start by placing a dark piece of tracing paper, waxy side down, near the top edge of the felt. Pushing hard, run the tracing wheel along a straight edge about 1/4" from the edge to mark your felt. Note: be careful. You can actually leave dents on the surface below the felt, so don't work on your good dining room table! Also, marking your fabric with tracing paper is used for practice only. The marks are meant to come out in the wash, and unless you have washable felt, the marks could remain permanent on a finished project. After practicing for a while, spacing will feel second nature and you won't need the practice dots any more.

If you don't have a tracing wheel and tracing paper, then draw a line 1/4" from the edge. This will help you make your vertical stitches the same height.

TIP: When working on a real project, you can usually use one of the disappearing markers on your felt, but I have found the marks won't fading away on their own, and I've always needed to remove the marks by GENTLY dabbing with a damp cloth. ALWAYS try this on a scrap piece of felt before marking and dabbing a project. Some felt will not hold up to dabbing, and the area will felt, ruining a project. 

STITCHING
 
Note: We will be working from left to right, so your first stitch should be placed at the left end of the top edge.

Using 3 strands of embroidery floss 18" - 24" long, knot the end. On the backside of your felt, insert your needle in the felt about 1/4" from the top edge where you want your first stitch to be. Slide the needle between the felt fibers, coming through the top edge of the felt. If you are in the center of the felt, you should not be able to see your needle through the front or back.

Pull the thread through so the knot is against the felt in the back. Turn the felt over. You will now be working from the front of the felt. (In a later lesson, we will learn how to hide your knot so the back is as neat as the front.) The thread is now attached to the felt through the top edge.

Place your needle through the felt in the second hole. (Make sure when you push your needle through the felt that you go through the felt directly and not on an angle. If you go on an angle the stitches in the back will be shorter. More about this later.) When your needle goes through the fabric, the thread attached to the felt should be to the left of the needle, and the thread attached to the needle should be to the right of the needle. This creates a big loop. (The top part of the loop is cut off in this photo.)

When pulling the needle through the felt, pull it towards yourself, which would be inside the big loop you made. The loop will be behind the thread that is attached to the felt.

Gently pull the thread straight up. The tension should be tight enough to close the loop but not so tight that it dents the edge. The edge should remain straight.

For the second stitch, skip one of the dots and go into the next dot.

Repeat like the first stitch going between the threads, with the attached thread in front of the loop.

If your spacing is correct, you should create a 3 sided box. (Although I usually make my boxes square, they can be rectangular. The most important thing is to keep them uniform.)  Use your index and middle finger on your left hand to hold the thread and control the tension gently pulling up after each stitch.

Continue stitching until you come near the edge. Check your stitches as you go along to make sure they are parallel to one another and at right angles to the edge and stitching line. If they do not line up, you are probably not pulling your thread straight up after each stitch, and your stitches are drifting. Note: don't be afraid to take out a stitch or two that you're not happy with. Although there is a charm to uneven stitches (which we will talk about later), in this exercise we are trying to perfect stitch size and tension.

When you get to the end, use your index and middle fingers on your left hand to maintain tension, and with your right hand, slide the needle from the back to the front, between the top edge of the felt and the horizontal thread on your last stitch.

Pull the thread through, maintaining the tension with your left hand until the knot is against the felt edge.

From the back side, slide your needle in between the felt fibers from near the top edge, and coming out at the hole for your last stitch. 

Tie off the thread and cut the thread. Later, I will show you how to hide the knot so the back of your work is nice and neat :)

By using the dots, your stitches should be fairly uniform. Keep practicing on straight edges until you get the hang of the placement and tension.

When you are feeling comfortable, practice with a straight line without the dots. And, of course, when you are ready, try blanket stitching along a straight edge without a line. Check your work often, and if you don't like a stitch, take it out!

Next time we will learn how to sew two pieces of felt together, and how to turn corners and points.

Part 1 can be found HERE.
Part 3 can be found HERE.


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Blanket Stitching - Part 1 - Think Before You Stitch!

Before we even pull out our needles and thread, let's talk a little bit about the purpose and structure of a blanket stitch.

Blanket stitches are often used to finish an edge. The stitch creates an interlocked thread that runs on the edge of the fabric.

Think of a serger sewing machine. Sergers overcast a seam's edge, preventing the seam from fraying, and giving the finished product a neater look. 

When using a blanket stitch on the edge of fabric, you help prevent the fabric from fraying and stretching.

 The sibling of the blanket stitch is the button hole stitch. They are both made in the same manner, but button hole stitches are placed very close together to stop a button hole from fraying and to give additional strength to the hole.

As an added bonus, blanket stitches are also beautiful, and besides protecting the edge of the fabric, the stitch can also be used to embellish a project, to applique one piece of fabric to another, or to actually sew two pieces together creating a seam.

The first step in blanket stitching, is to decide what type of thread to use. The type of thread depends on the fabric you will be blanket stitching and the purpose of the stitch. Blanket stitching can be done with yarn, 6 strand embroidery floss, pearl cotton, and many other threads. Basically, the thicker and heavier the fabric you are using, the thicker the thread and the larger the needle you will be using to blanket stitch. Makes sense, right? So, if you wish to sew a needle felted applique to a sweater, you might use yarn. Whereas, if you are turning under a hem on a fine linen handkerchief, you might use 1 or 2 strands of floss and a fine needle. When you are done, there should be a harmony between the fabric and your blanket stitches.

The next step is to decide how big to make your blanket stitches. Here again, the weight of the fabric you are working on plays an important role in stitch size. Rule of thumb, the thicker your fabric, the larger the stitches. 

Think of a blanket stitch as a 3 sided square. 2 perpendicular stitches make up the sides of the square. The interlocking thread that rests on the edge of the fabric makes up the top of the square, and the bottom of the square is left open. (These can also be rectangles, and when working on curves, the sides won't be perpendicular, but for starters, I found it easiest to try to make squares along a straight edge.)

Given this idea of squares, the heavier the fabric, the larger the squares. When sewing a blanket stitch on the edge of a bag with yarn, your perpendicular stitches might be 1/4", and the stitches would then be placed 1/4" apart.

Whereas, if you are sewing together the sleeves of a small doll, you would use 1 or 2 strands of floss and your stitches may be 1/16" with the stitches placed 1/16" apart.

As you get experienced with blanket stitching, you will begin to develop a "feel" for the size of your stitches and thread. Once you get started stitching, the most important thing is to be consistent. Later, we will talk about ways to help develop consistency.

Next time... Getting Started. We will learn how to start our thread. BTW... I found this to be the MOST confusing thing when I first started blanket stitching. I had to rethink this each and every time I got started :) We will also start blanket stitching along a straight line. So, next time... have your floss and felt handy :)

Part 2 - Blanket Stitching a Straight Line - can be found HERE

 

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