When sewing, felt is one of my favorite materials to work with. I love the lofty feel and all the beautiful colors it comes in. There are a lot of hand sewing projects that are perfect for felt, but you might not have too many opportunities to construct garments with felt (one of the downsides of felt is that it has little to no stretch to it). However, it’s a great option for costumes, particularly when you're sewing costumes for children. Sewing felt can be tricky, but below are some tips to help you with the material.
Here are some of my sewing felt tips:
Choose quality felt.
Forget about the small rectangles of felt usually found near the kids’ section at a crafts store; it’s acrylic (that’s why it’s so cheap). If you’re sewing with felt, you want the good stuff. Look for 100% wool or wool-blend felt. If your local fabric store doesn’t stock wool felt, it’s widely available online. Be forewarned: once you get a feel for wool felt, you’ll think it’s a crime anyone ever thought up acrylic felt. Yes, the real stuff is more expensive, but you get what you pay for. Wool felt is much sturdier and less fuzzy than the cheap stuff.
Use sharp tools.
Make sure you are using sharp scissors or a new blade on your rotary cutter. Felt is thicker than many other fabrics and sharp tools will help you get crisp edges and prevent the fibers from pulling (which can weaken the felt).
Choose the right needle.
When you're choosing a sewing machine needle, a lightweight needle might break and a heavy-duty needle can cause unsightly holes in your felt. Make sure you’re using a medium-weight needle.
Choose the right stitch length.
Felt is a very compact fabric, so a shorter stitch length will look better than a longer one. The tension on your sewing machine may need to be adjusted as well, so as always, be sure to test on some scraps before you begin sewing.
Protect against moths.
Wool moths are not an urban legend. I found an invasion of wool moths in my sewing room a few months ago and was horrified by the damage they had caused to my felt and yarn stash (I’m sure the moths felt like they had hit the jackpot). Moths love wool and wool felt is no exception, so if you have a felt stash, you’ll want to protect it. Mothballs contain carcinogens, plus they smell awful. There are a lot of natural moth-deterrents though, like cedar. I now have some cedar balls tucked away with my felt. Not only do they keep the moths away, but my felt smells great, too.
Caring for wool felt
Unfortunately, wool felt is not something you can pop into the washing machine. Dry cleaning is typically recommended, though you can try handwashing with a detergent such as Woolite. Since colors can bleed, if your garment includes more than one color of felt, you should try spot cleaning first. Of course, follow the care instructions provided by the manufacturer if you have them available.