Felted fun: Cool crafts that show off the versatile material


Store-bought felt has long been a craft-closet staple, and no wonder: it's soft, sturdy, and inexpensive, doesn't fray, and comes in your pick of candy colors. Recently, however, more and more crafters have begun exploring the possibilities of felt by making it themselves.

The easiest way is to felt a wool sweater by shrinking it in the wash. But to really get back to basics, you can make felt from scratch, using just water, soap, and wool fibers. Here we offer seven projects that show off this versatile material.

Felting a sweater is a great way to get more life out of a favorite top that's outgrown or damaged. Use your felted sweater to make a sleeve for a hot to-go drink, or create one of our cozy bags.

For the tightest and strongest felt, use a sweater that's at least 90 percent wool. Wash it in hot water (along with a few pairs of jeans or towels for extra friction) and dry it on high heat.

Repeat, if necessary, until the fabric's weave is tight enough to be cut without fraying.

Roly-poly beads

If you can roll play dough into a ball, you can make a bead by wet-felting wool batting or roving. (Both are combed wool fibers available at yarn and craft stores, but roving comes in a thick cord.) It takes about 10 to 15 minutes for the fibers to slowly tangle and shrink into a solid, tight ball. For a quick project, use one ball as the star bead of your bracelet, and use more conventional baubles for the rest.

1. To start, pull out a small tuft of wool roving or batting, about the size of a dollar bill, and roll it tightly into a ball. Wrap it with thin layers of wool, crisscrossing each layer, until the ball is about the size of a Ping-Pong ball. (After felting, this ball will be about 1/2 inch wide.)

2. Mix a couple of drops of dish soap into 2 cups of very hot tap water. Use a spoon to dip the wool ball into the hot water, until it is saturated.

3. Wait a few seconds for the wool to cool, then, working over a sink or bowl, begin gently rolling the ball between the palms of your hands. Keep the pressure light: imagine the ball is a fragile egg. (If you press too hard, the surface will wrinkle.)

After a minute or two, the wool will start to form a skin. Start slowly increasing the pressure as you roll the ball, occasionally dipping it back into the hot, soapy water. You'll know the ball is completely felted when you pinch it and it has hardly any give. Rinse the ball in cold water, then squeeze it in a towel. Set it aside to dry.

To make a bracelet, use a sharp embroidery needle to thread wool balls and small beads onto beading cord (we used Stretch Magic).

Dressed-up vase

Slip a felt "dress" over an empty plastic bottle for a vase that will rival the beauty of any bouquet.

First, trace the outline of a wide-mouth, 20-ounce plastic bottle onto a piece of paper. Draw a vase shape around it that's at least 1 inch wider (or download our template for a 20-ounce bottle at FamilyFun.com/magazine).

Cut out the template, pin it to two stacked pieces of felt, then cut around it. Seal the side edges of the vase with fabric glue, leaving the top and bottom open. Decorate the vase by adding smaller felt shapes with glue. Lay it flat to dry, then slide the vase sleeve over the plastic bottle.

Book blankets

Give a favorite book the protection it deserves with these felt book covers. Customize your cover with a notebook pocket, faux button closure, or penholder.

To make a cover, open your chosen book and measure the width and height. Add one inch to each measurement and cut out a piece of felt with those dimensions. For the inside flaps, cut two additional pieces of felt the same height as the main piece and two-thirds the width of the closed book's front cover.

Lay an inside flap on top of each end of the main piece and pin the flaps and the main piece together. With embroidery thread, sew a running stitch about 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch from the edge around the entire border.

If you like, add one of these extras:

Notebook pocket: Before attaching the inside flaps, cut a piece of felt that's 1-1/2 inches wider and 1/2 inch shorter than your notepad. Sew it in the center of what will be the front cover of the book.

Faux button closure: Before attaching the inside flaps, cut a strap that's 1-1/2 inches wide and as long as the width of an inside flap. Sandwich the strap between the back flap and the cover and pin it in place, then sew around the entire edge of the cover, as noted above. With scissors, round the end of the strap and sew on a button. Affix a self-adhesive Velcro dot to the strap and the front of the cover.

Penholder: After the cover is finished and on the book, cut a 1-}-inch square out of felt. With the book closed, lay the square over a pen on the book's spine and pin it in place. Take the cover off the book, then sew on the square.

Scrubby soaps

These plush rocks are actually bars of soap covered with felted wool. Use one like a regular bar of soap; the wool coat will give a gentle, exfoliating scrub, and the felt will only get stronger with use.

Like the roly-poly beads, this project requires wool batting or roving, available at many yarn and craft stores and online.

1. Pull, don't cut, tufts of wool fiber from your batting or roving. Spread them out in several thin, crisscrossing layers about twice as large as your bar of soap. (Oval or round soaps work best.)

2. Wrap the bar with the wool layers so that it's entirely covered. Add a stripe in a contrasting color, if desired.

3. To keep the wool in place, put the wrapped bar in the toe of a pair of pantyhose.

4. Dip the wrapped bar into a bowl of hot water.

5. Gently pat the wool all over the bar. When suds start appearing, remove the bar from the hose.

6. Continue to gently pat and squeeze the wool over the bar. Dip it in the hot water when it gets too sudsy.

To see if the wool is completely felted, try the pinch test: if the fibers easily separate from the bar of soap, it's not done. When the felt feels solid, rinse the bar in cold water, squeeze it in a towel, and set it aside.

The wool will shrink up a bit more as it dries.

Felted sweater surprises

No tricks up this sleeve -- just slip it onto a paper cup to keep your drink hot while protecting your hands. It's reusable, so it's earth friendly.

To make one, simply cut a 2 1/2 -inch length from the end of a felted sweater's sleeve, then add a decorative felt shape with fabric glue or a needle and embroidery floss.

Swing bag

Our blue bag is a cinch to make, requiring only a little sewing. Save the sleeves to make cup cuffs, described above.

First, turn the felted sweater inside out. Cut off the sleeves and cut open the top shoulder seams. At the center of the back of the neck, mark a 1-{-inch width with chalk; this will be the strap. Use a paper plate or pot lid to draw curves from the mark to the edges of the sweater, as shown. Cut along the lines. Turn the sweater right side out, then overlap the strap ends about 1-{-inches and sew them together. Sew the bottom of the sweater closed and add a button to the strap for decoration.

Sleevie wonder bag

Depending on how long you choose to make the strap (formed from a sweater's sleeves), you can create a messenger bag or a short, under-the-arm purse.

Start by cutting off a felted sweater's sleeves and upper chest; leave the back intact. Fold the back panel flap over the front of the sweater. Trim and round the corners of the flap. Add a flower made from a sweater scrap, if desired (for instructions, go to FamilyFun.com/magazine). Use embroidery floss to whipstitch the bottom of the sweater closed.

Cut one sleeve open lengthwise along the seam, iron it flat, then cut a 4-inch-wide strip from the sleeve. Repeat for the second sleeve.

Overlap the ends of the strips about 1/2 inch and sew them together. Trim the strip to your desired strap length. Fold the strip in half lengthwise (creating a 2-inch-wide strap) and whipstitch the sides together. Sew the strap ends to the back of the bag.

Colorful coasters

These mod coasters will liven up your coffee table while handily heading off rings. To make the square, striped coasters, cut 9- by 12-inch sheets of adhesive-backed felt into strips of varying widths. Stick the felt strips, alternating the colors, onto a sheet of cork that's at least 9 by 12 inches. Tip: Rolled-up cork sheets can be flattened with an iron on low heat. Cut out six 4-inch squares or twelve 3-inch squares from the sheet.

To make two round coasters with wavy lines, first cut two 4-{-inch squares from two colors of adhesive-backed felt. Stack the squares paper side up and clamp three of the sides with binder clips. Draw wavy lines on the paper backing, then cut along the lines through both layers of felt. Press the strips in alternating colors onto two 4-inch cork rounds (sold as plant coasters). Trim the excess felt from the cork.


(c) 2010, FamilyFun

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