You can be the designer and turn your own ideas into felt hoop art! This tutorial will give you all the steps on how to create felt hoop art with a minimum of sewing and embroidery skills required.
Get Started Turning Your Designs into Felt Hoop Art
I love creating felt hoop art. It’s a great craft for beginners as there are few complicated skills involved and the projects can be completed fairly quickly. I decided to create some art to hang in my craft room using my new website logo, and to share a tutorial. The whole process is simple enough that you can follow along and create your own art using your own designs. The designs don’t need to be complicated or created on a computer. They can even be simple designs that you’ve sketched out on paper.
Let’s get started with our felt hoop art.
Materials to make your felt hoop art:
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Don’t be discouraged by the length of the materials list. Some of the items are optional. And you’ll mostly need small scraps of things and small bits of paint.
You will need:
- A design – This can be done on the computer, or by hand. See tips below in Step 1.
- 1 sheet of 8 1/2 x 11 inch Printable Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy Stabilizer (or more if you choose to use a bigger hoop)
- 1 wooden embroidery hoop – I’m using a 10 inch hoop. This works well with the width of the stabilizer for pattern designing. You can use a smaller hoop for a smaller piece of art. If you want a bigger hoop/piece of art, you might need to split your design onto multiple pieces of stabilizer.
- Scraps of wool, wool-blend, or acrylic felt in your design colours. I much prefer wool-blend felt to acrylic felt. The sizes required will depend on your design. There are many places to get wool blend felt. In Canada, I like to order from Canadian Felt Shop, and they can also be found on Etsy. In the US, I recommend Benzie Design.
- 1 sheet of acrylic felt to cover the back of the art – choose a colour that won’t look bad if it’s visible through your front fabric
- 1 piece of woven fabric larger than your embroider hoop. Use something heavier than quilting cotton. I like using linen or cotton-linen blends. I’m using an off-white linen for mine.
- Sharp scissors
- Printer, or if you don’t have one or prefer, a pencil/Sharpie/black pen to trace a hand drawn design
- Tacky Craft Glue
- Sewing needle
- Thread to match the backing felt
- Embroidery floss to coordinate with your felt colours, plus any others to add extra detail if desired. I really like the look of finishing the felt hoop art with stitching.
- Embroidery needle
- Some string to hang your hoop while you paint it, and a piece of tape
- Acrylic craft paint in your chosen colour to paint the hoop (or you can leave it natural)
- Craft varnish – I like gloss
- Small paint brush
- Ribbon to hang the art
Step 1 – Create your design for your felt hoop art
Create a design that you would like to turn into your felt hoop art. Simple is best. Each shape will be turned into one solid colour piece of felt. Don’t make too many small pieces because they will be difficult to work with as I learned with my tiniest swooshes. If you want to add more details or fine lines, they can be embroidered on after. Make sure the size of your design will fit inside your embroidery hoop.
You can create a design on a computer. I used the free version of Canva for my design, which happens to be my logo, but you can use more complicated design software as well.
Or you can create a design by hand on paper. Sketch it out until you are happy with it, and make sure it fits within your chosen embroidery hoop size.
I’ve listed some ideas for designs at the end of the blog post.
Step 2 – Transfer your design to the printable stabilizer
**A quick note about Sulky Stabilizer: If you have never worked with the stabilizer before, you’ll love it. You can precisely embroider right on top of marked stitch lines, and then soak your work in cool water to dissolve the stabilizer away. You can only do this with wool or wool-blend felt. However, we aren’t using this function of the Sulky stabilizer in this project.
I have yet to find a good way to trace and mark onto felt, so in our project, the stabilizer will serve as a pattern and help us to achieve neat cuts. It’s simple to achieve this by cutting out the stabilizer pattern pieces, adhering them to the felt, cutting them out neatly again, and then peeling off the stabilizer.
If you have created your design on the computer, you can print that design straight onto the Printable Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy. I did print a test version first on regular paper to make certain it would fit within my embroidery hoop. I also turned my design to black and white to save ink for the stabilizer version, and labelled the shapes with a letter to tell me what colour of felt they needed to be, since I felt I would get the swooshes mixed up. (A=Aqua, T=Turquoise, etc.) Follow your printer instructions and the stabilizer package directions to make sure you are printing on the correct side of the stabilizer.
If you have drawn your design by hand, you can trace your design onto the stabilizer since it is slightly see-through. To help make it easier, trace around your hand drawn design with a fine Sharpie or black pen to make the lines bolder. Then lay your stabilizer overtop, and trace with a pencil or black pen.
Step 3 – Cut and separate your pattern pieces
Once your design is on the stabilizer, either printed, or traced, you can carefully cut out the pieces. Rough cut around free floating parts, leaving a thin border around the shapes. At this stage, only cut carefully along the lines where parts of your design touch each other (ie. where my swooshes touch my M). Place your pieces in a Ziplock bag until you’re ready to use them so they don’t get lost.
Don’t throw away your stabilizer scraps. If you make a mistake or lose pieces, you can use the scraps to trace new pattern pieces. Or you can reuse them for another project.
Step 4 – Plan out placement and adhere pieces to the felt
Separate the pieces into groups for the different colours of felt you are going to use. I like to take all the pieces of a colour and lay them out on top of the felt, close together like a puzzle. Planning the layout in advance means I waste less felt.
Once they are laid out in a way to maximize the use of the felt, pull the backing off of each piece one by one and adhere it to the felt. Repeat with the rest of the pieces on the other colours of felt.
Step 5 – Cut out the felt pieces
Like you did before, first rough cut the pieces apart so each felt piece is separate with a little border of felt around the edges.
Then, with sharp and pointy scissors, carefully cut around the edges of each pattern piece. If a piece has a centre hole, like an ‘e’ or an ‘a’, I like to gently fold the piece so the hole is folded in half. Then carefully make a little snip into the fold of the hole. Then unfold it, stick your scissors into the little snip you made, and you can carefully cut out the felt from the inside of the hole.
Sometimes I needed to neaten up the edges of the felt or the inside of the holes to trim away little fuzzy bits. And if it was hard to tell where to cut because the printing was pale on the stabilizer, I referred to my design first.
Repeat the process until all your pieces are cut out. Leave the stabilizer on the felt pieces on for now.
To make sure I was keeping track of my pieces and which ones went where, I laid them out on top of my printed design.
Step 6 – Iron and put your woven fabric in the embroidery hoop
Next, iron the woven fabric you’re going to use in your embroidery hoop.
Remove any tags or stickers from the hoop. Loosen the screw on the outer ring and pull it off the inner ring. Lay your fabric over the inner ring with the right side facing you, and gently put the outer ring back over top. This will begin to stretch your fabric a little. Fuss with the fabric so that it is taut within the hoop. You don’t want it to be saggy and wrinkly. However, you also don’t want to overly stretch it or warp it in one direction. I like to pull the extra fabric gently and evenly around the whole circle. When it is taut and flat, screw the screw back in to fully tighten the outer ring. Adjust the fabric again if necessary by tugging from the outside edges – gently!
Step 7 – Carefully remove the stabilizer from each piece and lay them into position
This part is a bit fiddly. But you’ve got this!
Lay the embroidery hoop with the taut fabric beside your design with your cut out pieces on it. One by one, carefully pull off the stabilizer from a felt piece and lay it into position on the fabric in the hoop. Refer to your design so you know where to put it. You’re just laying them out for now and you can shift them around if everything is off centre. I had hoped that I would be able to lay the printed design under my fabric to use as a guide for placement, but even through my off-white linen I couldn’t see the design. So, we’re just going to have to eye-ball it.
Do be careful when pulling off the stabilizer – it’s possible to rip the felt, or distort the shape. But if you make a mistake, that’s ok. Simply trace another piece on your stabilizer scraps and try again. Pulling off the stabilizer often makes the felt look fuzzy around the edges. So if any parts are lacking definition or there are fuzzy fibres, give it the tiniest little haircut. Again, if you make a mistake and snip off a chunk, you can redo that piece.
Once you’ve got all your pieces laid out in the circle, judge the position and shift as necessary so that it’s centred properly, spaced out evenly, etc.
Step 8 – Carefully glue the pieces in place
Use the Tacky Glue to glue each shape into place, one by one. When gluing the pieces in place, less is more. Do not put big globs of glue because it will ooze out behind the pieces and make crispy bits when it’s dry. Tiny dots or smears will suffice. If you plan to stitch tiny embroidery floss stitches around the outside of the shapes like I did, try not to get the glue right up to the edges of the shapes since it’s difficult to stitch through dried glue. With my tiniest swooshes, a tiny dot of glue covers the whole back of the swoosh.
One by one, lift a felt piece. Place a few dots/smears of tacky glue and then carefully lower it back in place. If you bump other pieces, try to put them back in place. Repeat, piece by piece until all pieces are lightly glued down.
Let that set until dry. It doesn’t take very long if you didn’t use too much glue.
**Optional: If you would prefer not to stitch your shapes on after gluing, then feel free to use glue closer to the edges as you’ll want to make sure they’re fully secure.
Step 9 – Stitch around the shapes with coordinating floss
If you’ve decided to stitch around the outside of your felt shapes, the stitches are more decorative than necessary to hold your felt hoop art together because we’ve already used glue.
There are many possible ways to do decorative stitches.
The way I like to do it is a very tiny version of a whipstitch for applique. You can refer to the second method detailed HERE for photos and diagrams.
Cut a length of matching embroidery floss. Separate one strand of the floss from the length you cut (there are 6). Thread your needle with that strand and bring both ends together. Tie a knot at the end.
Come up with the needle from the back of the work just inside the edge of a felt shape. Bring your needle back down just outside the edge of the felt shape – your stitch will be very tiny. Then from the back, come up again inside the felt shape, about 1/4 inch away from your previous stitch. Bring your needle down just outside the felt again, and repeat until you have made it all the way around your shape or nearly run out of floss. Make a couple of tiny stitches at the back that will be hidden and tie a triple knot. Trim the excess floss. If more floss is needed to complete the shape, start again.
I knotted and started a new thread for each new shape rather than running the floss across the back between shapes. That’s so that I couldn’t see red or coloured thread lines behind my white fabric.
Some of my itty bitty shapes only have 3 or 4 stitches, and again they’re mostly decorative.
Repeat with all the colours of floss to stitch around all the other colours of felt. Here’s what mine looked like from the back when I was done.
Step 10 – Add any optional embroidery details
If you want to add any additional embroidered details, now is the time. For this design, I didn’t want to stray beyond representing my logo. You might have lines or writing that is part of your design that was too fine to do in felt shapes. Or you could add details like French knots. This article is a good starting point for learning other stitches.
Step 11 – Remove the fabric from the embroidery hoop and press
The fabric needs to be removed from the hoop so the hoop can be painted (if you wish to do so), so while you’re at it, give your fabric a little press with the iron. I stay away from the felt itself because I don’t want to cause any colours to run or melt anything (if I was using acrylic felt). I mainly press around the outside where the ring shape was creased into the fabric, and if I had created any little warped sections from my fingers while I was stitching. Set the fabric aside somewhere safe until you’re ready for it again.
Step 12 – Paint and varnish your embroidery hoop
Using a piece of string and piece of tape, hang your outer hoop from a table by looping the string around the metal clasp and taping the ends to the table. Place a drop cloth or newspaper underneath it to protect your floor. (The inner hoop will be completely enclosed in fabric and will not be visible and therefore doesn’t need to be painted).
I used some acrylic craft paint that I had kicking around, but you could also use interior paint samples as well. Take a small brush (I like a flat one) and a small glob of paint and paint all the sides of the outer hoop. Paint neatly around where the metal joins the wood, but I have found that if I accidentally get paint on it, I can scrape it off with a fingernail when it’s dry.
I find it helpful to start with both sides from the top and work downward, using my hand to hold it from the bottom of the hoop, twisting it on the string so I can see all sides. Paint downward on both sides until you can no longer hold it at the bottom of the circle, and then hold it by the metal clasp to finish the last part at the bottom. This way you’ll have a minimum of paint on your hands.
Let that dry and do more coats until it looks solid. I like to do 3 coats. It dries so quickly that you can do these in a morning.
Then, using a similar method, brush on 1 or 2 coats of acrylic varnish, letting it dry between each coat. I prefer gloss.
Step 13 – Stretch your fabric back into the hoop
Once your hoop is fully dry, remove it from the string. Carefully, place your fabric back in the hoop, centering the design. Again pull sections gently around the outside until it looks taut but not overly stretched or warped. When you’re happy with it, tighten the outer hoop some more and make any final little tugs.
Step 14 – Finish the back side of the felt hoop art
There are likely many ways to finish the back of hoop art. It doesn’t have to be pretty, or even particularly neat. I just like to have the raw edges of my fabric covered and my embroidery stitches hidden so no one can judge them when they’re a rat’s nest 🙂
Here’s my preferred way to finish the back of my felt hoop art:
Trim the excess fabric at the corners of the square. Make sure to leave some extra all the way around. My edges were maybe a little too close to the hoop. Leave more than an inch of fabric past the hoop all the way around. More won’t hurt anything.
Take your matching thread and cut a LONG length. Thread the needle, bring the thread ends together and knot it. Then take big loose stitches up and down through the extra fabric on the back of the hoop, all the way around the circle, pulling snug as you go. This will gather the fabric inward. I JUST made it back to the beginning with my thread and knotted it to keep it snug and in place. If you run out of thread, pull it snug, make a couple small stitches and knot it to keep the section you did stitch tight. Cut another length of thread and repeat the process for the rest of the way around the circle.
Then, take your piece of acrylic felt and lay it over top of the circle. It won’t cover the whole thing if you used a 10 inch hoop and that’s ok. I used a pencil to lightly draw the rest of a circle so it would fit inside the back of my hoop. Trim with scissors.
Because I had trimmed my excess fabric quite close, I thought that the felt might not cover the raw edges all the way around and I pulled and stretched the felt a bit until it seemed that it would cover. Cut another long length of matching thread, thread your needle and knot it. Come up from behind the fabric to begin. Make large whipstitches down through the edge of the felt circle and bring your needle back up through the fabric at the edge of the hoop, cinching the two together. Continue around the circle in that manner – down through the edge of the felt and up underneath the fabric. Again, it doesn’t have to be especially neat. Follow the first method HERE for photos and diagrams.
When you run out of thread, make a couple small stitches and knot it. Cut more thread and continue until you’ve made it all the way around the hoop and all the raw edges of the fabric are under the edges of the felt circle. If you can see some of the stitches from the gathering stitches around the circle, that’s ok. Since your work will likely be hanging with the back against a wall, I wouldn’t worry too much about how neat the back looks.
Step 15 – Hang or display your felt hoop art
You’ve made it! You’ve finished your felt hoop art. Now all that’s left is to display it.
If you’d like, you can loop some ribbon around the metal clasp, bringing both ends to the top and knot them, making a hanger as long as you like. Then you can hang it from the knot on a hook, peg, or nail.
However, I decided that I wanted to hang mine on the wall with a nail as part of a grouping of felt hoop art. This adorable trio representing knitting, painting and quilting, are FREE patterns available now. Click HERE to head over to that post and get your copy!
You might also like Organizing Embroidery Floss.
The possibilities are endless with your felt hoop art
You can dream up any number of designs that appeal to you and turn them into felt hoop art. Maybe you love a particular animal, flower, or food. Or you can do your initials or your child’s name in a blocky font. You can make felt hoop art designs for activities you’re interested in like I did with my crafty hobbies, or you could do emojis to represent your mood. The sky’s the limit!
You can draw these designs by hand, or on the computer, or use clip art available online or from free programs like Canva.
If you turn your own designs into felt hoop art using this tutorial, share your work on social media with the hashtag #MixMeasureMakeFeltHoopArtTutorial. Don’t forget to tag me @mixmeasuremake so I can see your fabulous work!
What kind of designs would you like to turn into felt hoop art? Do you have any questions about the process? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to get your three free patterns!
All the best,