I’m sharing my top materials for felt embroidery success, including how to use them, tips, and where to buy them. These tips support my new Blooming Along Basket pattern, but could also apply to any felt embroidery project.
Blooming Along Basket Pattern
The Blooming Along Basket is a new addition to my shop this week, which you can find here. The basket is designed as a thread catcher basket, which sits alongside you as you stitch, sew, quilt, or craft to collect threads and trimmings. But you can use the basket in a variety of ways.
Currently there are GIVEAWAYS to win a free copy of the pattern. Rules to enter can be found in the pattern release post.
The Blooming Along Basket is constructed primarily out of felt and embroidery floss. But there are a few other tools and materials for felt embroidery that are also required or useful. In this post, I’ll walk through each material used in the pattern to provide more information about how to use it, why I love using it, and where to buy it.
Materials For Felt Embroidery
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The first and most important of the materials for felt embroidery – and this pattern – is felt. Felt is used in two different ways in the basket. First, it is used to create the sides and base of the basket itself. And secondly, it is used to create flowers that are embroidered and appliquéd onto the basket with embroidery floss.
Why I Love Using Felt
Felt is one of my favourite materials to work with. It is fairly sturdy, and you don’t have to be super careful with it. It is both easy to cut and easy to sew. But I think my favourite thing about felt is that it doesn’t fray, so you never have to finish any raw edges. This not only makes it simple to cut out 2D shapes, but also makes it easier to create with for people who don’t sew/don’t have a sewing machine.
I also love the texture of felt, especially wool and wool-blend felts. Further, felt has some good structure and body so it can support itself, depending of course on the shape and size of the pieces you’re working with.
And finally, I love that it comes in some many beautiful colours. Because there are no patterns involved, the texture, colour and shape of the felt become the star of any project.
Kinds and Sizes of Felt
There are several different kinds of felt available:
This felt is either made from acrylic or polyester. Some kinds of synthetic felt are eco-friendly as they are made from recycled plastic.
Everyone is probably familiar with the rectangles of felt that are readily available at craft and dollar stores and are inexpensive. While synthetic felt provides good value, it often comes in a limited colour range (usually very bright colours). It also tends to be more shiny, which you may or may not prefer.
Synthetic felt is also often thinner, making it sometimes translucent, and it is more prone to pilling. If you launder it, it won’t shrink, but it can melt if you iron it.
Wool-blend felt is a blend of wool and rayon, at usually 20-35% wool. It is thicker, and cuts more easily than acrylic felt. The texture looks more natural and dull instead of shiny. Wool-blend felt is more durable and will pill less. If you launder it, it can shrink, but on the other hand, it won’t melt if you iron it.
It is more expensive than synthetic felt, and also more difficult to find, especially in big box stores.
100% wool felt is even more difficult to find and more expensive than wool-blend felt. It has many of the same qualities of wool-blend felt in that it’s more dense, more natural, and less prone to pilling. But it also shrinks when laundered.
There are other varieties of felt as well, including stiffened felt, but they aren’t relevant to this project.
Felt typically comes in 9 x 12″ squares, though you can also sometimes get it by the yard/metre. Wool felt often comes in smaller pieces. Some shops, including the Canadian Felt Shop, where I like to order my felt, will double the size of the piece if you order a quantity of 2. Therefore when ordering two 9 x 12″ sheets, you will receive a single 12 x 18″ instead. This size is more versatile for making larger items.
Felt Required For the Pattern
I highly recommend using wool-blend or wool felt to create the Blooming Along Basket. In fact, I would say do not use acrylic or synthetic felt for this project. Why? The quality, texture, durability and colour choices are far superior with wool-blend or wool felt. You’ll be able to iron the pieces and you’ll have less pilling. As well, if this is a gift you’re making for someone, or just something nice for yourself that you want to last, it makes sense to upgrade to wool-blend or wool felt. I can’t prevent you from using synthetic felt of course, but if you end up choosing wool or wool-blend felt, I’m convinced you’ll be happy with your choice.
I have never used 100% wool felt myself, and prefer to use wool-blend felt as it is more easily available and the price point is better.
The Blooming Along Basket pattern calls for the following felt:
- One 12 x 18″ sheet AND one 9 x 12″ sheet of the same colour for the body of the basket
- Scraps, or one 9 x 12″ sheet EACH of 3 different colours for the flowers
- Scraps, or one 9 x 12″ sheet of green for the leaves (or more than one green)
Below are examples for a basket similar to the one shown above.
You’ll need to pay attention when purchasing or ordering your felt to make sure you’re getting the sizes and quantities you need. Above, you can see one 12 x 18″ sheet and one 9 x 12″ sheet of Alluring Aqua (though the one pictured above was made with Baby Blue). Then there are scraps of the other colours (originally 9 x 12″ sheets). For the flowers, I used Old Gold, Bright Red, and Peacock. For the leaves, I decided to use two colours: Reet’s Relish and Grassy Meadows. (All colours are from Canadian Felt Shop.)
For more inspiration, tips, and tools for choosing your own colour scheme, read this post.
Those are quite large scraps that I’ve shown in the photo, but they don’t need to be. Even a 3″ square would be large enough to do all the leaves, or part of the flowers.
If you cannot find a 12 x 18″ sheet of felt for making the sides of the basket, you can make do with two 9 x 12″ sheets to replace the 12 x 18″ sheet (for a total of three 9 x 12″ sheets of the same colour). However, that means you will need to have seams at the front and back of your basket, instead of just at the back.
When I order from Canadian Felt Shop, I order a quantity of 3 to get the 12 x 18″ sheet AND one 9 x 12″ sheet in the same colour for the base of the basket.
Prepping Felt for the Blooming Along Basket
An important part of getting ready to work on the basket is preparing the felt before you begin. This is especially important because we are using stabilizer for our templates which dissolves in water.
After purchasing and/or receiving your felt, the first step is to soak and pre-shrink it. I like to do this a day or two in advance of when I want to start working with my felt.
You’ll need a large bowl and some old towels that you don’t care about. Choose a location where the floor or a large counter will not be damaged by damp towels.
Fill a large bowl with cold water and submerge one sheet of felt (or a couple sheets of the SAME colour) in the water. Make sure it’s getting saturated – it will likely have to be scrunched a bit to fit. Let it sit for 3-5 mins.
Then, remove the felt from the bowl and compress it gently to remove some extra water. Just lightly squeeze your hands together. Do NOT twist or wring the felt.
Then lay the wet felt out as flat as you can on folded old towels to begin drying. Some of the colour may run out of the felt, or certain colours of felt. That’s why it’s important that these are not your best towels.
Drain the water in the bowl and replace it to make sure there isn’t dye in the water, and repeat separately with each colour until you’re finished.
Once the felt sheets are partially dry, you can move them to a drying rack to speed up the remainder of the drying time.
When they are fully dry, you can finish preparing them for use by giving them a quick press with an iron on the wool setting. Then you’re all set to start making a basket – or whatever you like!
Other Felt Tips
While felt is a fairly sturdy material, if you cut skinny pieces it can be easy to rip off the ends of them, including when you remove the stabilizer. Take care to avoid that as much as possible. But if it happens, just make that piece over again by tracing a new template piece onto the stabilizer scraps. See my tips below.
As well, felt can get a little fuzzy around the edges or pill. Removing the stabilizer often pulls up the fibres slightly too. You can remove some of this fuzz by giving your pieces a little haircut with small, sharp scissors to trim off stray fibres.
Marking On Felt
It is very challenging to mark patterns and designs directly on felt. For some projects, such as my fall sunflower, or my pattern weights, I like to trace a template onto felt with a black Sharpie (or metallic for dark felt). Then I can just neatly cut the Sharpie lines off with scissors. And this works ok because I’m only cutting out simple, larger shapes and there are no stitching lines needed.
For marking more intricate designs, as well as for smaller pieces and stitching lines, I absolutely love using printable stabilizer that dissolves away in water. I first learned about it when I started making elaborate felt 12 Days of Christmas ornaments by Larissa Holland of MmmCrafts. I will share more about stabilizer in a moment.
Where to Buy Wool or Wool-Blend Felt
You may luck out and find wool or wool-blend felt in stock at one of your local craft stores, though the colour and size selection is typically limited. To get the widest choice and size flexibility, I prefer ordering my felt online.
Sometimes, it is difficult to find affordable Canadian shipping. That’s part of why I love ordering from Canadian Felt Shop, but also because they have such lovely felt in so many beautiful colours. They will ship worldwide, and you can also order through Etsy.
The Felt Store is another Canadian store that primarily seems to sell wool and wool-blend felt by the yard, and there are several other shops on Etsy that sell wool and wool-blend felt.
Once you find a shop you love, you’ll probably keep ordering from them as you’ll know their quality and their colours.
I love the felt so much from Canadian Felt Shop that I splurged on swatch cards, and the colours are all so beautiful that it’s made it even more difficult to choose!
Another one of the most important materials for felt embroidery is embroidery floss.
Why I Love Working With Embroidery Floss
I like working with embroidery floss because it is easy to stitch with and comes in so many beautiful colours. The floss separates into 6 different strands, and after cutting a length, you can remove as many or as few strands as you want to work with.
Selecting the number of strands makes floss so versatile for doing thin detail work, or making thicker, bolder designs.
Kinds of Embroidery Floss
DMC is one of the most well-known and widely available brands of embroidery floss, and is made from mercerized cotton. Within their line, they also have some special thicknesses, metallics, and other textures.
There are many other brands of embroidery floss and special varieties, but I have little experience with them so I can’t make any other recommendations. I would caution you however from substituting less expensive floss that is thicker and rougher. You will not get the same kinds of results.
While there may be some premium embroidery floss brands out there, DMC is widely available, high quality, and has a lovely shine to it. I highly recommend it for the Blooming Along Basket.
Embroidery Floss Required for the Blooming Along Basket
For the Blooming Along Basket, you will need one skein of floss to match each of the colours of felt you plan to use. This includes the body of the basket, the flower colours, and the leaves. You will need matching floss to be able to appliqué the pieces with less visible stitches. But we will also use contrasting floss to add decorative stitching by selecting one of the other flower or leaf colours.
Embroidery Floss Tips
I like to keep a list of floss colours (which are numbers, rather than names) that I’ve matched to my felt colours. The little labels on the floss skeins tend to fall off, and that’s problematic when you need to get more. Now I’ve upgraded to felt swatch cards from the Canadian Felt Shop, so I’ve penciled the numbers near their felt match. But you could make a paper list, or a list on your phone.
I find organized floss so much easier to work with to avoid tangles, wasting it, and unnecessary frustration. I recently organized my floss in an inexpensive organizer with cardboard bobbins, which you can read about here. It’s not necessary if you’re just starting out, but you won’t regret it if you organize your stash.
Where To Buy
Embroidery floss is widely available at local craft stores and sewing shops, as well as online. You might find the biggest selection at big box craft stores, and of course matching floss to felt is easier to do in person than online where colours differ on your screen. I like to purchase my floss at Michaels where they have a very large selection.
To colour match, I trim little triangles off the corners of my felt, tape them to a paper and take it with me to the floss aisle.
Another one of the integral materials of felt embroidery for this pattern is printable stabilizer sheets that dissolve in water. They will help you to achieve great results with less effort.
Kinds and Sizes of Stabilizer
I really like using printable Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy Stabilizer sheets. This is so far the only brand I’ve used, and I got hooked on it when learning to make all the Twelve Days of Christmas ornaments by Larissa Holland of MmmCrafts. She’s a master at felt embroidery and she recommends this product.
This stabilizer comes in a pack of twelve 8.5 x 11″ sheets and they can be put through your printer to print designs straight onto them. After stitching, the stabilizer dissolves away in water.
You can also get the Sticky Fabri-Solvy in other larger sizes, and it is also marketed as Sulky Stick’n Stitch with pale blue packaging. But the biggest benefit of the 8.5 x 11″ sheets is that you can put it in your printer tray and print designs on it.
Another brand is Pellon Print-Stitch-Dissolve. I have not used it, but I would like to try it out to see how it compares. As far as I can tell, it works in a similar way. It does seem to be more affordable than the Sulky, but the reviews on Amazon are not great. If I end up trying it, I’ll edit this post with my opinions.If anybody has a review of Pellon stabilizer to share though, leave a comment below.
But if you can find it, I highly recommend the Sulky stabilizer as I really recommend this product.
Why I Love Using Stabilizer for Felt Embroidery
I’m not going to lie – my hand stitching and finishing skills are not the best. I struggle with neatness and making consistent stitches. Using stabilizer to provide clear stitching lines and segments makes the process more enjoyable and less stressful for me. I can achieve a neater finished result that makes me proud of my work. And I don’t feel like I need to agonize about whether anything needs redoing.
In addition, stabilizer takes the stress out of marking on felt. It makes for a very easy method to cut out elaborate and sometimes tiny shapes.
And finally, it’s kind of magical. I like watching the stabilizer dissolve because it’s so cool. And then it leaves neat stitching behind. It will be your little secret how you got your stitching so neat!
How to Use Stabilizer for the Blooming Along Basket
If you’ve purchased the Blooming Along Basket pattern, please read all directions specific to the pattern. The directions below are simplified as an example.
The first step in using the stabilizer is printing the templates from the pattern. I’m not going to show the actual templates for the Blooming Along pattern in entirety. Here’s a free template from the trio of free felt embroidery designs as an example.
It is important to follow all directions on the stabilizer packaging and for your printer to print on the right side of the stabilizer. In addition, you’ll want to do a test page on paper before hand to make sure that the scale is correct, as noted on the Blooming Along templates.
Next, you would rough cut out a piece from the stabilizer template.
Then, remove the backing from the stabilizer and stick it to your felt. Again, use scissors to rough cut around that.
Next, use embroidery floss to stitch on the design as indicated in the pattern.
Then you will need to cut neatly on the outline of the shape.
To soak away the stabilizer, run cold water into a small dish. Place your stitched piece(s) in the water and watch the stabilizer start to dissolve. Set a timer for 20 minutes. When the timer is up, run your piece under cold water from your tap. A gentle spray from a sprayer is helpful to remove remaining stabilizer from around stitches. Don’t pick at the stitches.
Then set your piece to dry fully on paper towels or an old towel. When it’s dry, you’ll have a lovely part of a flower with neat stitching, thanks to the stabilizer that dissolves like magic!
Sometimes pieces have no stitching required. A stabilizer pattern piece is stuck on to the felt to help cut out the shape of the piece. Then the stabilizer is immediately removed and the piece is ready to go. Some people may find that the stabilizer leaves a little bit of sticky residue on the felt. If it bothers you, you can soak those unstitched shapes in cold water briefly and dry them to dissolve any residue.
Where To Buy Stabilizer
You can readily buy both the Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy and Pellon Print-Stitch-Dissolve at Amazon. Please choose a reliable reseller with good reviews. You can also order Sulky stabilizer from the Sulky website, with shipping from the US, or from the Connecting Threads online quilt shop. Stitch in the Ditch is a Canadian online shop that sells the Sulky Stabilizer under its other name, Stick’n Stitch.
Do check some of your local sewing shops, but I have never found the printable stabilizer at many. One of my local stores carries the Pellon stabilizer.
Other Helpful Tools and Materials for Felt Embroidery
There are a few other helpful tools and materials for felt embroidery that I use in creating the Blooming Along Basket.
Good scissors with sharp points are very important to doing felt embroidery with small pieces. You need to be able to cut clean, well-defined cuts on the edges of the pieces, as well as getting good control to make detailed cuts. I love using my aqua Perfect Scissors for cutting out both stabilizer and felt pieces. I’ve shared about how much I love “Perfect Scissors” by Karen Kay Buckley in another post.
You might also want a small pair of scissors for trimming floss ends while stitching. I like using my red pair of Perfect Scissors for this purpose and find the curved tip useful.
To help appliqué the felt flowers to the basket, I recommend using tiny dots of Tacky Glue. They market themselves as America’s Favourite, and they’re certainly my favourite kind of craft glue. It adheres well to the wool-blend felt, requires very little, and dries quickly and clear. You can find it in so many different sizes at craft stores such as Michaels, Walmart, dollar stores, and Amazon. Right now, I’ve got a very large size. I use it in a lot of different crafts.
Wonder Clips or Pins
When assembling the basket, you will find that some pins or clips are helpful. Regular sewing pins work just fine. I really like using Wonder Clips. I use them in all sorts of crafts and during quilt binding as well. You can find them in your local sewing and craft shops, at Michaels, as well as on Amazon.
My Biggest Tip for Materials for Felt Embroidery
While I love working with wool-blend felt, stabilizer and embroidery floss, the costs can begin to add up. Especially if you start to collect a lot of colours because they’re all so pretty!
So here’s my biggest tip – save your scraps!
But let me elaborate.
Felt – Save small pieces of felt that you can use when cutting out small pieces for other patterns. I have saved some very tiny pieces. As well, when I’m cutting out several pieces from a colour, I pre-plan a layout like a puzzle to minimize waste and nestle the stabilizer pieces close together on the felt.
Stabilizer – I save all stabilizer scraps bigger than about a 1/2″, including the borders of the sheets where the printer doesn’t usually print. One benefit is that if I lose a piece, or I don’t like how something turned out, I can replace it. Simply trace a new pattern piece from a printed template onto the stabilizer scrap with a pencil, and begin again. You can also try out new ideas, or draft your own small designs on scraps for other crafts. The stabilizer sheets are not super cheap, so I like to get my money’s worth out of them.
Embroidery Floss – While not really scraps, you can save money by keeping your floss untangled and organized. Especially when you’ve removed a couple of strands from a length, you want to be able to make use of the remaining strands, so I like to wind mine back on cardboard or plastic bobbins.
Materials for Felt Embroidery
I hope that if you try working with these materials for felt embroidery for the first time, that you enjoy working with them as much as I do!
I want to hear from you. Do you have any questions about any of these tools or materials for felt embroidery? Do you have a preference or a favourite that you already love? Let me know in the comments below.
All the best,