ow is the time to make holiday crafts- we’re making versatile crafty critters for ornaments, gifts and décor!
These felt critters can be as simple or ornamented as you choose; they can be made with craft felt from an arts and crafts store, or from upcycled wool felt made from thrifted wool sweaters. We used a combination so we could get some earthy textures plus the exact colors found in craft felt.
There are three parts to the tutorial:
I- Basic Felt Animals
II- Embroidering your Felt Animals
III- Felting wool sweaters to make your Felty Critters (If you want to make your own upcycled felt, follow these steps first.)
Part I – Basic Felt Animals
-Downloadable templates- We made templates for a fox, owl, songbird, squirrel and bonus leaf. Check out the templates so you know what colors of craft felt you’ll need.
-Craft Felt- Available in many colors, pick whichever strike your fancy, but you’ll probably want a variety of natural browns, reds, white, black, yellow and tan. If you want to use your animals as Christmas ornaments you may want to buy stiffened felt; it’s right next to the regular felt, but noticeably stiffer.
-Heat Bond- This comes in many brands and sizes, Stich Witchery, etc. You’ll be cutting it down to little pieces, so any size will do. Be sure to keep review the instructions on the packaging.
-Scissors- Yep, you’ll be needing some of these.
-Iron & Ironing Board- Use with adult supervision. You’ll want to turn off the steam option.
-Seamstress chalk – This is useful for marking on dark colored felt.
-Ballpoint pen – This is a little easier to use than the seamstress chalk for outlining your templates, but it’s not washable so you’ll want to make sure you cut inside the lines (that is, cutting off the lines) if you use pen.
-Pillow case or hand towel – Use this between your iron and felt, and your felt and ironing board- you don’t want any stray heat bond getting on your iron or ironing board.
*Optional – Embroidery thread and needles – we used a variety of colors to match the felt, and size 1-5 needles.
1- Print and cut out your templates. Click here to download the Templates.
2- Place your templates against your felt, outline with seamstress chalk or ballpoint pen – If you bought stiffened felt, you’ll want to use it for your large ‘body’ pieces.
3- Cut out each felt part; remember to cut off any ink lines. For very small pieces like eyes and beaks, a little free-hand trimming may be needed.
4- Cut the heat bond into small pieces to match your felt pieces.
5- Turn all of your felt pieces marked-side down, so any stray ink or chalk lines will be on the back instead of the front.
6- Place the heat bond between your layers of felt and iron to activate the bond. Follow any specific directions on the box regarding iron temperature. *Use the pillow case to protect your iron and ironing board from the heat bond.
7- Trim any uneven edges.
So you have a few animals made, now what? If you used stiffened felt you can use ornament hooks to make Christmas ornaments, or heat-bond on a loop of felt as a hanger, as shown here.
If you used softer felt you can applique (with more heat bond!) your animals onto throw pillow cases, sweaters, or use to decorate gift wrap.
II- Embroidering your Felt Animals
You can use embroidery felt to decorate your animals. Here are a few examples. This can be tricky on stiffened felt so you may want to embroider your upper layers of felt (the songbird’s wing or owl’s belly) before heat bonding them to a stiffened piece.
III- Felting wool sweaters to make your Felty Critters
So you want to turn your craftiness up to 11? You can also make your own felt from felted wool sweaters. Felting is a process that shrinks the wool so it pulls in very tight, making a dense material that can be cut without fraying.
1- Find sweaters for felting at a thrift store; look for as close to 100% wool as you can find. It should be dry-clean only. Washable wool is pre-shrunk and won’t felt.
2- You will want to wash and dry your sweaters inside a pillow case held shut by a rubber band in order to protect your washer and dryer from excess lint. Be sure to clean the dryer lint trap afterwards, as well.
3- Wash in hot water, rinse in cold. You’ll want to add your usual amount of laundry soap, and optionally, a tablespoon of baking soda as well. Tossing a pair of jeans or a few towels will cause more friction and help the felting process along.
4- Dry your sweater on high heat.
5- You will know your sweater is sufficiently felted when the weave is very tight, the fabric dense, and it holds a clean edge when cut with scissors. If it needs further felting, repeat the washing and drying process. (You may as well go ahead and wash your sheets and towels while you’re at it!)
6- When everything is felted nice and tight, cut your sweaters down into large, flat pieces and proceed with the “Basic Felt Animals” instructions.