Read an Excerpt
Kata Golda's Hand-Stitched Felt
25 Whimsical Sewing Projects
By Kata Golda, Frank White, Liana Allday
Harry N. Abrams, Inc.Copyright © 2009 Kata Golda
All rights reserved.
Tools and Materials
Basic Tool List
Fine-tipped permanent marker
1" x 12" transparent ruler
6" x 24" transparent ruler
Self-healing cutting mat
Rotary cutter (great for cutting out large pieces of felt with straight edges)
Before you get started on the projects in this book, make sure that you have on hand the basic materials and tools listed here. Additional supplies and specific felt and embroidery floss recommendations are called for in the materials list at the beginning of each project.
I prefer to work with pure wool felt or felt that is about 70 percent wool and 30 percent rayon. Wool has an extraordinary natural beauty, a matte finish that is soft to the touch, and an elastic quality that works well with large stitches. It is also water-resistant, flame-resistant, and warm. Though synthetic felt fabrics can work in a pinch, they tend to look shiny and feel a bit plasticky.
At Kata Golda we dye our own felt with everything from plants to Kool-Aid. To find out about buying our felt and other wool felt, check the Resources on page 126.
CLEANING WOOL FELT
Pure wool felt and high-wool-content felt will shrink when washed in warm or hot water. I recommend hand-washing wool felt in cold water with mild detergent. To dry the felt, lay it on a towel and roll it up, gently twisting the ends of the towel to wring out the excess water. Then lay the felt on a dry towel and reshape it, if necessary. You can simply line-dry small items once you have removed excess water. To remove a stubborn stain, blot the stain with warm water, but do not scrub or you may cause discoloration and distortion.
When I sew I accumulate a huge quantity of scraps. Rather than throwing them out, I hang on to them in order to create patchwork (see page 17), appliqués, or small projects such as the FingerPuppets on page 74. I like to organize my scraps by color and size so that they are readily available when I am creating new designs.
Each of the projects in this book is sewn with embroidery floss, which is available in a wide variety of colors and can be found inexpensively at most craft and fabric stores. Embroidery floss is made up of six plies (or strands) of cotton thread that are twisted together. You can use the embroidery floss as you purchased it (with all six strands), or you can separate the plies to create thinner floss. In each project I recommend the number of plies that should be used, depending on the purpose of the stitches as well as what I think will look best. For instance, if my stitches need to be extra strong, such as those used to attach loops to the Patchwork Curtain on page 96, I might use six plies of floss. But for more delicate stitches, like those used to appliqué the letters on Odette's Door Sign (see page 86), I might only use one ply of floss.
To separate the six-ply floss into the desired number of plies, cut off a length of floss (about 18"), then, starting near the center of the piece, gently pull apart the number of plies you need. Be sure to pull gently or you will create a knotty mess. Keep the remaining strands nice and neat so that you can use them later in the project or in future projects.
Sewing with Wool Felt
Here are some important points to keep in mind when sewing with wool felt:
* Wool felt is incredibly strong and durable and can be used in projects that may experience strain over time.
* Wool felt is made from compressed animal fibers that interlock and become uniformly matted, so the cut edges can be left raw and will not unravel. This makes for extra quick sewing projects, since there is no need to hem or finish edges.
* Both sides of wool felt look the same, so the side on which you stitch the design will become the "right side," and the side on which you tie your knots will become the back or "wrong side."
* Projects made from wool felt are perfect for beginning sewers since, if you make a mistake and need to pull out your stitches, the marks won't show in the fabric.
* Over time, wool felt may stretch. If it does, trim off the excess and restitch the seam for a snugger fit.
Stitches and Knots
If the projects in this book look simple to make, that's because they are. Only a few basic stitches are used, and they are all worked by hand.
When it comes to stitches, I like to put more emphasis on individuality than consistency, though, as a general rule of thumb for the projects in this book, stitches should be roughly 1/8" to ¼" long and about the same distance apart, which is much larger than average hand-sewing stitches. We have four different hand-stitchers at Kata Golda, and I can tell the difference between each of their sewing styles at a glance—all different and all beautiful. I encourage you to experiment with your own stitching style, as well.
The projects in this book can be sewn with a wide variety of hand-sewing needles. I prefer #3sharps because they are a bit longer, thicker, and sturdier than most needles, which is perfect for sewing felt, but other similar sizes will work.
STRAIGHT STITCH (OR RUNNING STITCH)
To sew a straight stitch, bring the needle up from the wrong side of the felt at the place where you would like to begin stitching. Bring the needle back through the felt, about ¼" from the point of entry. Continue in this manner to create a line of stitches spaced approximately ¼" apart. see drawing.
DOUBLE RUNNING STITCH
To create a double running stitch, first sew a line of straight stitches, as described above. Then go back and sew another line of straight stitches, filling in the empty spaces between the stitches in the first line. I often sew a double running stitch in two different colors to add visual interest. see drawing.
In this book, whipstitch is used either to join the edges of two pieces of felt or to attach an appliqué.
To join edges, knot off between the layers or on the back side, bring the needle up through the top fabric, then down around both edges, then push it through both layers of fabric. Keep working round and round the edge, keeping stitches 1/8" to ¼" apart, until the pieces are attached, then knot off between layers or on the backside. see drawing.
To attach an appliqué, knot off and insert the needle from the wrong side. Bring the needle up through the background felt, just outside the edge of the appliqué, and push back down through the right side about 1/8" inside the perimeter of the appliqué. Continue working the stitches approximately 1/8" to ¼" apart around the entire appliqué and knot off on the wrong side. see drawing.
I use satin stitches to color in areas like noses and eyes. This can be done by sewing stitches, all going in one direction, to cover a given space entirely, being careful not to stitch "outside of the lines." To sew a satin stitch, knot off on the wrong side and bring the thread repeatedly from right side to wrong side, repeating the stitch in the same direction each time. When you can no longer see the fabric beneath the stitches, knot off on the wrong side. see drawing.
For a more rustic effect, a satin stitch can also be sewn with stitches going every which way. see drawing.
The blanket stitch can be used to finish the edge of a single-layer piece, like a blanket (hence its name), or to join the edges of two stacked pieces of felt. To sew a blanket stitch, knot off on the wrong side (or between the layers if sewing two pieces of felt), and bring the needle up to the right side of the work, 1/8" to ¼" from the edge. Bring the needle down around the edge and insert the needle again at the original point of entry (or in the bottom layer beneath the original point of entry, if sewing two pieces of felt). Catch the loop made from the first stitch with the working thread and insert the needle about 1/8" to ¼" away for next stitch. Repeat the process to continue stitching. see drawing.
French knots can be decorative, or they can be used to appliqué pieces together. To tie a French knot, thread the needle with 6-ply floss and knot off on the wrong side of the work. Bring the needle through to the right side of the work and wrap the floss tightly around the needle, near the tip, three times. Hold the coil of thread in place with your finger or thumb while you bring the needle back through to the wrong side as close to the first stitch as possible without piercing it. Knot off on the wrong side to secure the knot. see drawing.
As with most of my stitching, I like to keep knots simple when I sew. Most of the time I tie double knots at the end of my sewing strand, knotting one thread to itself twice. To do this, thread your needle and make two knots, one right on top of the other, at the end of your thread tail (see drawing). You can also make a double knot at the end of a line of stitches.
Other times, particularly if I am stitching around the perimeter of a piece of felt and my last stitch will be right next to my first one, I like to leave 3" tails at the beginning and end of the line of stitches, then tie two overhand knots with the two tails, creating a square knot. see drawing.
It is best to tie knots on the wrong side of your work, or to hide them from view in some other way, such as sandwiching them between two layers of felt. Usually tying a knot twice will do the trick, but you might wish to add another knot or two to make sure that the stitches are secure. Be sure to trim the loose tails after you're done sewing.
Perhaps the best use of leftover scraps of felt is patchwork, which can be sewn into anything from pillowcases to curtains (see pages 88 and 96), potholders (see page 98), and large blankets. I prefer to create patchwork in one color family, mixing a variety of pastel and saturated colors, but it can also be stunning to use multicolored scraps, or even to use scraps of the same color stitched together with thread in a contrasting color.
To create patchwork, lay out a piece of newsprint 2" longer and wider than the size of the patchwork you plan to create (which accounts for the seams needed to sew the pieces together.) If your project has two sides, such as a pillowcase or potholder, you will need to create a front and a back. Making each side different will add visual interest, so you may wish to use two pieces of newsprint. Draw varying shapes onto your newsprint and write a number on each shape, in rows from left to right (see drawing) to indicate their placement. With paper scissors, cut out the shapes and pin them to felt scraps in your choice of colors. With fabric shears, cut out the felt pieces, leaving the pinned templates attached.
Lay out the fabric pieces according to the numbers and pin the felt pieces together, overlapping the edges by ¼". Be sure to consider which edges will go on top and which underneath before you begin sewing. Once all the pieces are pinned together, remove the paper. Sew the pieces together with a straight stitch and 2-ply embroidery floss, leaving about 1/8" between stitches, and working 1/8" from the edge. Leave tails at least 3" long at the edges so that if you need to trim the finished patchwork to a desired dimension, you can undo stitches at the edge, trim the excess fabric, and retie the knots at the new edge.
Some of the projects in the book require that you stitch a design element, such as a face or a branch. Whether you create these elements using a template or sew them freehand is up to you.
DRAWING STITCHES WITH A TEMPLATE
To use a template for stitching, simply make an extra photocopy of the project template, reducing or enlarging the photocopy to the size indicated. Lay the photocopy directly over the area of felt where the design element will go and safety pin the paper in place. Thread your needle and stitch right through the paper, following the lines on the template to make an exact transfer. Carefully pull the paper away from the felt a little bit at a time as you sew. Do not pull directly up on the paper; remove the paper gently so as not to loosen or rip the stitches. When transferring satin stitches, which are often used for faces, stitch the general shape of the area to be filled in and then remove the template before piling on stitches (otherwise you will have to dig out the paper carefully with your needle).
DRAWING STITCHES FREEHAND
I have always loved to draw with a fine-tipped pen or a sharp pencil, but I also enjoy drawing with freehand stitches as it produces some of the most surprising and organic results. I encourage you to give it a try as it is a nice way to capture your individual style.
When stitching freehand, I keep the sketch of what I am creating next to me as I work, which helps me understand the relationship between all of the elements in the design (the distance between a branch and the appliquéd bird that will sit on it, or the tilt of an appliquéd head, for example). Above all, I like to keep the design simple, focusing on the barest qualities, not the nitpicky details.
Stitching Natural Details Freehand
I often use straight stitches to draw natural elements, such as branches and flowers, and I try to imitate the imperfections of nature, letting a stray stitch become a twig that is angled roughly in the direction I am headed with my needle and thread. Once I have laid out my rough design in straight stitches, I go back and fill in the empty stitch spaces with double running stitches, making a solid line of stitches.
Stitching Faces Freehand
Among my favorite things to stitch freehand are faces, as no two faces ever wind up the same. And on more than one occasion, I have found that the expressions I have captured mimic my mood. In general, I like to set the eyes far apart and about one third of the way down from the top of the head. To start, I think of an emotion and the face that would express it—for example, a surprised face might have a circular mouth and eyes set higher than normal, whereas a sly face may have lower eyes set off center, mouth in a half smile. I prefer to draw expressions that are not simply smiling or frowning; using different expressions adds an endearing quality to the characters. Subtlety plays a large role in the finished expression, and a few stitches are sometimes all that is needed to fully express a mood—in fact, a slight shift in angle can entirely change an expression. I suggest drawing some faces with pencil and paper before you begin sewing, then, as you sew, stepping back every couple of stitches to see how the expression is shaping up.CHAPTER 2
Picture Perfect Bunny Patch
I always enjoy creating an appliquéd patch to show off in one of the old frames I collect. I often hang groups of them in various sizes on a wall and admire the collection as a whole.
5" x 7"
5" x 7" frame
5" x 7" dark blue felt, for boy background (pink felt, for girl background)
3 ½" x 3" white felt, for rabbit head/arms
2 ½" x 2" sky blue felt, for overalls (yellow felt, for dress)
2" x 1" brown felt, for boy shoes (green felt, for girl shoes)
Embroidery floss in white (for head/arms), orange (for stripes on overalls), purple (for stripes in dress), red (for mouth, nose, and girl shoes), aqua blue (for eyes and boy shoes)
Photocopy of Rabbit Patch template (page 119) and Elephant template (page 119), reproduced at 100%
Satin Stitch, Straight Stitch, Double Running Stitch, Whipstitch. Instructions for these stitches can be found on pages 14–15.
To make a patch for a different frame size, cut the background felt to the same size as your frame backing, making sure the edges of the patch will be concealed by the frame. Reduce or enlarge the appliqué design on a photocopier to suit the patch size.
This project can also be made with the Elephant template (page 119) or Giraffe template (page 117), reproduced at 100%.
1. Cut Appliqué Pieces
With paper scissors, cut out the rabbit head/arms and overalls or dress from the Rabbit Patch template, and the shoe from the Elephant template. Pin the paper patterns to the felt pieces as designated in Materials and cut out the appliqué pieces with fabric shears. You will need to cut 2 shoes.
2. Assemble Appliqué Design
Lay out the background fabric and assemble the rabbit, placing the head/arms first. Layer the overalls or dress on top of the arms, and tuck the shoes under the overalls or dress. Once you are happy with the layout and have ensured that the design fits nicely in the frame, temporarily secure the pieces with glue stick to the background.
Excerpted from Kata Golda's Hand-Stitched Felt by Kata Golda, Frank White, Liana Allday. Copyright © 2009 Kata Golda. Excerpted by permission of Harry N. Abrams, Inc..
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