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felt appliqué projects: drawing with felt

I used to draw a lot. Like, a lot a lot. I filled several note books in high school, and just about every night when my homework was done you could find me either reading a book or drawing a picture.

Now I don’t draw much, except to doodle craft ideas and draft patterns. Instead, I mostly sew. A lot. But lately I’ve started fiddling around in a place where drawing and sewing meet, doing all kinds of felt appliqué that is, essentially, drawing pictures with felt and thread instead of paper and pen.

It’s an easy enough process, the main trick is just getting practiced enough with the sewing machine that you can neatly stitch small, precise details. The procedure, though, is the exact same one used in my sad panda mask tutorial. You start by drawing your image on paper:

Then you trace that image onto a piece of this wonderful stuff called HeatNBond. Once the image is traced, you iron the HeatNBond onto the chosen colour of material, then cut out the shape. Then you iron that onto whatever you want to sew it to. 

In the pictures above, I was making my fiancé a dice bag. I took four of our much-loved childhood stuffed animals, who reside on our bed, and appliquéd images of each of them onto a small linen dice bag.

You can judge for yourself how well each of the real life stuffed animals matches up with its appliquéd counterpart:

Last time Jeremy took the dice bag out of the house, to a Magic the Gathering tournament, a fellow tournament goer remarked on how adorable it was. I’m not sure that’s what a guy is hoping for in a dice bag, but he reported it to me as a positive at least.

I used this same technique to make a Kermit dice bag for a friend’s birthday gift:

And also to participate in this week’s Strip Search elimination challenge.

Strip Search is something I’ve been enjoying a lot lately – it’s a new online reality show about the search for a great new webcomic artist. It’s created by the folks at Penny Arcade, and produced by my friends over at LoadingReadyRun. It’s essentially all the fun of reality TV without the soul-sucking horrors that usually includes (the horrible people, the totally staged drama, etc.) There is actually talent on this show. It’s incredible. And a lot of fun! As a bonus, I’ve found new web comics to enjoy, and several more amusing and gifted people to follow on Twitter.

But back to the project: every four episodes, two artists are put up for elimination. They must compete with each other by creating the best webcomic they can in 90 minutes, using two theme prompts pulled randomly out of a basket.

Some of the viewers have been trying the challenges out at home while they watch, and this week I decided I’d give that a go myself… but with felt! The prompts were “mermaid” and “ukelele,” and holy cow let me tell you that 90 minutes is not a lot of time. Here’s what I was able to put together in that span (and I did sort of cheat by pausing the timer to clean up when I knocked my pins all over the floor – seemed like a dangerous idea to just leave them there while I kept working…)

Originally, I planned to photograph the finished felt piece, then photoshop it to add speech bubbles. But holy cow did I ever not have time for that! And as I was working I realized anyway that such humour as this piece contained was perfectly well communicated through images only.

My favourite part (other than the cringing, ear-covering crab), is the mermaid’s fingers. I didn’t plan to do individually defined fingers, but as I was sewing the arms on I thought, why not try it. And oh man oh man it actually worked! My control with a sewing machine has way improved in the last few years.

After trying this myself, I have oodles more respect than before for what those artists are able to accomplish in 90 minutes, especially with all that pressure! Wow. This was a lot of fun to try, but in the peaceful comfort of my own work space, with no film crew and no distracting banter.

And that, then, is “drawing” with felt! Coming soon(ish), I have some more sweet project ideas up my sleeve using this technique…


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