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felt poppies for Remembrance Day

When I was a kid growing up in the Midwest, each November my American friends would ask me why I was wearing a red flower on my coat. Canadians pretty much blend right in south of the 49th parallel, given enough time, but you can sometimes pick them out by looking for a few weird habits, like celebrating Thanksgiving a month and a half early, and like wearing plastic poppies in early November.

I don’t know how my mom got the authentic plastic given-out-by-Canadian-veterans-in-malls poppies down there. I imagine she saved them from before she moved away. But for those Canadian ex-pats less outrageously forward-planning, or Canadians (ex-pats or not) who keep having the darn things come unpinned and make a leap for freedom whenever their purse shifts slightly, here is a very simple, very quick tutorial for making your own Remembrance Day poppies.

For those non-Canadians wondering, as my school friends did, what the heck I’m talking about, the poppies represent Canadian soldiers who died in the World Wars, hence their significance for Remembrance Day. The reference goes back to a poem titled Flanders Fields, and attributed to John McCrae. Many World War I soldiers lie in unmarked graves in the region of Flanders, Belgium, where a great deal of fighting took place. For some time after the fighting, red poppies grew profusely on the battlefields, due to the soil becoming rich in poppy-growing nutrients from all the war-zone rubble. Every Canadian child (even I, who grew up in the States) memorized this poem at some point during their school years.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

- John McCrae

What you’ll need:

  • red felt
  • black felt
  • red thread
  • black thread
  • scissors
  • a sewing needle
  • straight pins
  • a clasp pin backing or safety pin
  • [optional] black beads
  • poppy template (or you can draw your own)

Putting it all together:

1) Trace and cut out your shapes. (Or pin the templates to the felt and cut around them.) One larger flower and one smaller flower from the red felt, and a small circle-with-scalloped-edges from the black felt.

poppy template


2) Sew the black circle to the small red flower, using stitches of varying lengths that go well into the red area.


3) [optional] If desired, sew small black beads overtop of the black felt. I double stitched mine in place to make sure they stayed put.


4) Using your red thread now, take the larger red flower and sew a rough circle of large stitches around its centre.


5) Before knotting the thread, pull on it a bit so the felt flower puckers and gathers in the middle. This gives your poppy some shape, rather than just letting it sit flat against your coat.

6) Still using red thread, the small flower to the larger flower. Stitch right around the edge of the poppy’s black centre, so that the red stitching is pretty much invisible on the front.

7) Stitch your pin backing or a large safety pin to the back of the flower.


8) Pin to your coat and wear outside. They really do stand out nicely, eh? Just make sure you’ve memorized the poem so you can thoroughly explain to quizzical non-Canadians just why the heck you’re wearing a poppy in November.




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51 Comments

  1. Thanks! My Canadian hubby was just feeling a little homesick for poppies. I’m going to make him one this evening :)

    Reply
  2. I too am a Canadian living in the USA…teaching school here. I am taking your craft idea to school to have our kids make them here to remember. My son is Canadian born and reared, but now is a US Marine serving in Afghanistan. I love this tradition. Thank you!

    Reply
  3. You know…people in the UK do this too.

    Reply
  4. where can iget the template to make this beautiful poppie

    kind regards

    kat x

    Reply
  5. admin

     /  March 27, 2011

    Sorry Amy, should have included the UK! Actually, I wasn’t sure that it was an observed practice over there, so thanks for the information.

    Kat, the poppy template is included in the post as a PDF – just click on the bold red “poppy template” text under step 1.

    Reply
  6. It’s practiced in Australia too – for Remembrance Day on 11 November. Thanks for the great tutorial.

    Reply
  7. Thanks for sharing this. The town of Leek in England is making 535 poppies this year to celebrate those who lived in Leek and died serving their country during the Great Wars.

    Reply
  8. Deborah

     /  July 10, 2011

    We wear poppies in the U.S. too on what is called Veterans Day here. November 11th here too which was Armistice Day, then called Remembrance day here too, and now Veterans day. Wearing the poppy has fallen out of custom a bit, but a lot of people still remember it and yes, I learned “In Flanders Fields” in school too.

    Just sayin’ I’m going to make up a batch of these to had around to my friends. My father is a WWII veteran so we hold such things dear.

    Reply
  9. Loz

     /  September 19, 2011

    They are busy banning the poppy in England due to too many complaining it upsets them to see it! I am starting a campagne on facebook to make poppies and to donate money anyways – the bloody murdering gits can shove it. Thanks for the template. Please promote your template as much as possible in England. Thank you xx

    Reply
  10. Linda

     /  October 17, 2011

    What a lovely idea! I can’t wait to try it.
    Can you please provide me with the template?

    Reply
  11. admin

     /  October 18, 2011

    Glad you like it, Linda! The poppy template is linked to in step 1, and I’ve now added the actual link in the list of materials (come to think of it, it would’ve made more sense to put it there in the first place – silly me).

    Reply
  12. Tania

     /  November 2, 2011

    Thanks so much for the template. I have some nice red wool felt and was thinking of making a nicer poppy than the plastic ones I always lose within a few hours. Tracing the spare one I have didn’t seem to be working so well for me. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Reply
  13. Heather Grant

     /  November 6, 2011

    We will be wearing your poppies on the Gold Coast in Australia this year for Remembrance Day. They are great. I blanket stitched around the outside in black which gives a nice finish.

    Reply
  14. Rachael Lythgoe

     /  November 8, 2011

    Thanks for your tutorial. In England we have paper poppies with a plastic stem, however they fall apart easily and are no good for school children whose jumpers are constantly on and off! I have bought red and green felt and a black button for the middle as an easy project for my children to make.

    Reply
  15. Nancy

     /  November 9, 2011

    Many thanks for the great tutorial. I am an English girl living in Paris and the felt poppy not only lets me carry on the tradition for Rememberance day, but it’s also so chic! Although the felt I found isn’t as shiny as yours, it doesn’t ‘pop’ as much!

    Reply
  16. I was just introduced to this tradition by some Canadian relatives, and I totally love it. I wanted to make some Poppy Lapel pins with my young daughters so I needed a littler simpler design. Here are the Red Felt Poppy Flowers we made with no sewing, just gluing! We will all be wearing them this Veteran’s Day!

    http://www.supermommoments.com/2011/11/remembrance-day-red-poppies/

    Reply
  17. Courtz

     /  January 8, 2012

    These are really cute,
    We have our own day for the soldiers too. ANZAC day is when NZ wears Poppies :)

    Reply
  18. Madie

     /  March 13, 2012

    In the rural US we not only wear the poppy on Vetran’s day in November but also on memorial day in May. The US Legion members sell little paper flowers, but this will be a great craft project and a little more dressy.

    Reply
  19. Thank you so much for this easy-to-do tutorial. It is very well explained and presented. Let me show you what I’ve learned from it:
    http://love4felt.blogspot.ro/2012/08/coronita-cu-maci.html

    Reply
    • Tally

       /  August 9, 2012

      You’re welcome, Roxi! I love the poppy-adorned wreath you’ve made. Looks great! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. :)

      Reply
  20. David Kumagai

     /  August 30, 2012

    Thanks for a nicely-presented tutorial. I always stand for a minute’s silence at 11 am on 11 Nov wherever I happen to be. I know folks are wondering what I’m doing, while I wonder why they’re not standing with me. Never found red poppy pins here so I am glad to have your help. Thanks!

    Reply
  21. Nancy Claggett

     /  November 4, 2012

    Growing up in Ohio in the 60′s it was common place to buy the poppies from vets and them the week leading up to Veteran’s Day. I’m so excited to make these with my Oklahoma 4th graders along with the poem I’d all but forgotten.

    Thank you so very much for sharing this! I’m so thrilled to have found this!!!

    BTW-Your photo tutorial will be perfect for use on my SMART Board!

    Reply
    • Tally

       /  November 5, 2012

      Hooray, so glad the tutorial is helpful! I hope you and your 4th graders enjoy making poppies and reading the poem. :)

      Reply
  22. Lori Garvey

     /  November 5, 2012

    I miss the poppies we used to buy from US vets when I was littlle. I live in Seattle area and have not seen poppies for years. I thought I’d have to go to Vancouver B.C. to buy some. If I don’t make it there I will make some :-).
    thanks so much for the pattern & directions.

    Reply
    • Tally

       /  November 5, 2012

      My pleasure, Lori! I hope these can be a helpful substitute if you can’t find anywhere to buy them from the veterans.

      Reply
  23. In my corner of California, the veterans give out poppies for Memorial Day in May, but I had no idea that they were also worn in November until a few years ago. (I think the US tends to use Veterans Day to honor everyone who has served and Memorial Day to specifically honor those who have died). Thanks for the pattern so I finally have a permanent poppy to wear for both occasions.

    Reply
  24. Thank you for the lovely pattern. I’ve made a few for me and the girls at work and have just posted about them with an acknowledgement to you (and link to this post) for the pattern. http://homejules.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/poppies-for-remembrance.html

    Reply
  25. Anna

     /  March 4, 2013

    Thanks for sharing! I was looking for a poppy pattern for a long time before stumbling across this! They are lovely and will make a lovely addition to a gift I’m making for my mum (it’s her favourite flower) I’m now set on making them for Remembrance day this year (still a very heart felt tradition in the UK)

    Reply
    • Tally

       /  March 12, 2013

      Hooray! I’m so glad you’ve found what you needed here. And yes, poppies are great for other times too! I’ve been thinking a few of these would look really nice on a hat or a headband or such, just for anytime wearing.

      Thanks for stopping by! :)

      Reply
  26. Kathi

     /  November 11, 2013

    We have these in the U.S.A. as well. The veterens hand them out. Thanks for the pattern, this will come in handy.

    Reply
  27. Rebecca

     /  April 22, 2014

    I’m glad I found this! Aussies where the red poppy on Anzac Day too (April 25th) which is fast approaching.

    Reply
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