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Sewing with Stitchable Dies

Posted by Renae Bradley on 04 September, 2018 2 comments

how to use stitch dies

Have you used stitchable die cuts yet? Traditionally used by paper crafters; these wafer thin dies include holes for stitching, ensuring that each creation is sewn evenly and neatly! Perfect for beginners or kids -but fun enough for advanced stitchers too! And we love how wool felt seems to be made for these sort of dies -sew stuffies, ornaments and appliqués super easily! Just roll them through your die cutter and start stitching. If you are new to die cutting we suggest catching up on our tutorial first where we explain the differences between dies and how to use them

Stitch Dies

We are going to introduce you to three different stitches you can use: Whip Stitch, Running Stitch and the Blanket Stitch. But first gather your supplies: favorite stitching die (we love Neat & Tangled!), Benzie wool blend felt, embroidery floss (we love classic DMC floss) and an embroidery needle 1/5. DMC floss is a divisible floss, meaning that it can be split into 6 parts. In this particular cloud die, we liked how all 6 strands pop on the cloud! If you are looking for a more subtle look use just 3 strands. Let's get started on the easiest stitch first, the whip stitch!

How to Whip Stitch

how to easily stitch felt

Whip Stitch
Step 1: Thread your needle and knot the end of your floss. Begin by bringing your needle in between the layers of felt. Stitch through the top layer of felt, the knot will remain hidden between the two layers of felt. 
Step 2: Line your layers of felt together -it will be easy to see the premade holes this way! Bring your needle to the back of the felt and stitch through the next set of holes, bringing up the needle to the front of the design. 
Step 3: Continue stitching, whipping the thread around the edge of the felt, always starting the stitch from the underside and ending on the top. The premade holes help to keep your stitches nice and even! 
Step 4: You will begin to see a succession of angled stitches, finish up the design by hiding the knot in between the layers of felt. 

how to blanket stitch

Blanket stitch for felt

Blanket Stitch
The Blanket Stitch builds on what you learned in the Whip Stitch but in addition to 'whipping' the floss from back to the front you stitch through the previous stitch before you head back around -this adds a more decorative edge to your finished piece.
Step 1: First thread your needle and knot the end of the floss. Start by bringing your needle in between the layers of felt nestling the knot underneath the top layer. 
Step 2: The blanket stitch uses a one time 'start stitch'. Just take your needle and stitch a loop around the felt; come back through the same place the knot is nesting in. It will be easy to locate the prepunched holes when the felt is lined up to each other.
Step 3: To finish the 'start stitch', go back through the floss loop you just made. This will position your thread just right for the blanket stitch!
Step 4: Bring your needle through the back of the felt and stitch through the next set of holes. 
Step 5: Right before tightening up the stitch from step four -run you needle through the loop you just made. You have made your first Blanket Stitch! 
Step 6: Continue to bring your needle from the back to the front.
Step 7: Don't forget to stitch through the previous loop! Gently pull to shape before moving on to the next stitch
Step 8: Continue to stitch, you will see the Blanket Stitch coming together soon! Finish by knotting floss around your first stitch and hiding the thread end between the felt layers.

Running Stitch and Felt

Basic stitches for stitching dies

Running Stitch
Both the Whip Stitch and the Blanket Stitch wrap floss around the edge of your felt  -but the Running Stitch stays on the felt and can end up looking like the more fancy Back Stitch -but simpler for beginners! 
Step 1: First thread your needle and knot the end of the floss. Start your first stitch in between the two layers of felt, hide your knot in the top layer of felt. Then line up your layers of felt so you can easily locate the holes.
Step 2: Stitch down into the the next hole. This completes your first stitch. 
Step 3: Bring your needle back up through the next hole. 
Step 4: Continue to 'run' to the next hole, stitching down then up chasing each hole in succession. You can finish your feltie just like this or go for round 2! See the next step! 

how to stitch felt with stitch dies

Step 5 & 6:
You can also choose to keep on stitching, just continue your up and down motion, this time filling in the spaces that were left. This gives your design a continuous floss border that resembles the Back Stitch but fully finished on both sides of the felt.

Additional Tips:
-Use all six strands of your floss -or just use a few! We like using just one to three strands when stitching on embellishments. If it's easier -just use tacky glue! 
-Line up the layers of felt to clearly identify prepunched holes - if you are still having problems identifying the holes use the eye the needle to clear the holes of any felt that did not come out during the die cut process.
-When making stuffies -don't forget to leave a couple of inches open to fill with polyfil. Once filled, finish stitching. 
-Be gentle with your stitches, if you pull too tightly the felt will ruffle! 
-Embellish! Use variegated floss, glitter floss or add beads and sequins (just make sure to get a beading needle!)

Introduction to Wool Crafts

Posted by Renae Bradley on 20 March, 2018 1 comment

introduction to wool crafts

The more I delve into wool crafts -the more I learn about how wonderful this world of fiber arts is and wanted to share a little with you! Many of you are much further ahead in your journey and know so much more -but the following is great place for curious novices and crafters!

what kind of wool felt should I use

Let's first talk about the sheep! Like many animals -the breed of sheep determines the coat or characteristics of the wool. Two common breeds used for their wool are Merino and Corriedale. Merino sheep's fleece is thin, soft and smooth whereas Corriedale wool is know to be a durable medium weight fiber. After sheep are sheared their raw wool is cleaned (all debris is picked out and washed) and carded (a combing process).The finished product is can be called batting, sliver or a roving (but to simply, we will refer to the raw fibers as roving). These raw fibers or roving are the basis for all our wonderful wool products. 

history of felting

The secret behind wool is that its fibers have the amazing capability to lock and bind together -this is called felting! There are quite a few fun theories of how the process of felting was discovered. Some fables tell of saints lining their sandals with wool fleece prior to a long journey -but once they arrived they discovered the raw fibers had become more like a sock around their feet! The act of walking along with the sweat of their journey matted the wool! (Ewe!!) I love that felted wool was one of the first textiles known to man -it predates even weaving and knitting! Even today, nomadic countries use felted wool to line their saddles, use as blankets or even utilize for their homes -commonly known as yerts. 

Even though wool got it's start in more utilitarian means -I am excited that it's used by crafters today! I will introduce you to our four favorite crafting supplies made with wool fibers: roving, yarn, felted wool and wool felt.

understanding wool crafts

Roving is the basis of all wool craft supplies so it's smart to talk about it first! At Benzie we sell Corriedale roving -a perfect breed for those getting started in the fiber arts. It's multifunctional fiber for wet felting, needle felting, weavings or spinning. We talk a lot more about needle felting here.

felted wool or wool felt

Second, roving can be spun into a yarn or a thread. This yard can be knitted or the thread can be woven into a fabric. This leads us to number three: felted wool. Often confused with 'wool felt', 'felted wool' is woven wool fabric. It is thick, soft and pliable and does not ravel like other woven fabrics. You can see in the above photo the woven nature of the fabric. 

types of wool felt

Fourth and finally, everyone's favorite at Benzie -wool felt! Wool felt is essentially made by pressing, rolling and felting raw fibers together to make sheets of compacted non-woven wool. Manufacturing technology allows for a dense and even felting process to achieve desired thickness and size. And oh, all the colors! Today there are several kinds of felt (not just wool!) and we explain the differences here. Wool is a pretty incredible, multifaceted fiber. Thank a sheep! 

Types of Felt

Posted by Renae Bradley on 16 February, 2018 1 comment

 types of felt

Felt is a pretty general term and it easy for a new crafter to be confused! I will introduce three types of nonwoven felt and and explain their uses and where it can be purchased. Let me know if you have any other questions! 

Wool Felt: Often referred to 100% wool felt so not to get confused with its blended counterparts. Fibers are tightly felted together making the felt evenly dense, pliable and quite sturdy. The colors are soft and beautiful. Use this felt for your most special of projects -the high price tag can make for expensive mistakes! Available online or in specialty boutiques. 

difference between craft felt and wool felt

Craft Felt: On the other end of the spectrum is craft felt, readily available in any big box craft store for very low prices. This felt is usually made from recycled materials such as water bottles or synthetic materials such as acrylic. It can be unusually thin or extra lofty and colors are limited. The above photo shows craft store felt -you can see how thin it is compared to the wool felt that is placed on top. Fibers are usually sparse and is prone to stretching and pilling. Warning, do not iron this felt, it will melt! Best left for kiddie crafts. 

wool blend felt

Wool Blend Felt: Most often referred to wool felt (but not to be confused with 100% wool felt), this felt is made up of wool and rayon fibers. Our favorite is Benzie's wool blend felt and it is made up of 20-35% merino wool with the remainder rayon (or viscose). Rayon and wool are both renewable sources! These two fibers work well together making a strong durable felt that is available in all colors of the rainbow. 

difference between pure felt and blend felt

I consider wool blend felt to be the best of both worlds - it's durable and dense like pure wool felt but it's affordably priced too! You can share all you want with your kids while using the same felt for heirlooms for your grandchildren. Available at www.benziedesign.com.

I would love to hear if you utilize the different kinds of felt and what projects you use them for! Read more on different types of wool crafts here!  Happy Crafting! 

 

 

Sewing Sequins & Beads to Felt

Posted by Renae Bradley on 06 November, 2017 1 comment

sewing sequins beads to felt

Adding sequins and beads makes any felt project just a bit more pretty, vintage or sparkly. We have the guide to the perfect needle and the sewing technique to make it neat and complete. 

sequin felt hair clips

To make these star clips you will need: 

Felt stars (cut your own or use our pre-cut fetti). 
Sequins & Beads -we used 4mm sequins and glass seed beads
Beading Needle
Embroidery Floss or Thread
Scissors (the cute eiffel tower is available here!)
Hair Clips
Pinch of polyfil

best beading needle

Let's talk about the most important tool when working with beads and sequins -it's the needle -as finding just the right needle for tiny beads can be pretty tricky! First, it must be delicate enough to fit though a small seed bead diameter but strong enough to stitch through felt. Third, it must be easy to thread! We have two different embroidery needle suggestions -both come with a variety of sizes -you'll want to use the two smallest sizes offered for beading! A budget friendly option is by DMC & our favorite option is by Tulip. The ones by Tulip have a really great feel in the hand and the gold eye help keep the needle in great condition!

 How to sew sequins

To stitch on the sequins you can just skip the bead and stitch the sequins right on to your felt or fabric -but you would be left with a visible strand of thread, which can be distracting or even messy on your final design. To avoid that we like to top our sequins with a single bead. It adds more dimension to your item and keeps things sparkling clean. To do this thread a single strand of floss or thread and come up from behind your felt. Add a single sequin and then a bead. Then, bring the the needle back through the sequin center to secure. 

sequins and felt

I love the sequin/bead look but I love accenting sequins with individual beads even more -it makes it look like a dusting of glitter! 

Glitter star hair clips

To finish the star for a hair clip -whip stitch the back on filling with a pinch of polyfil prior to closing. Secure onto a hair clip. 

felt star barrettes

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Cupcakes

Posted by Renae Bradley on 07 August, 2017 0 comments

chicka chicka boom party

My favorite children's book of my youngest was Chicka Chicka Boom Boom -he had it memorized from cover to cover and even requested to sleep with it! Look who's coming?! It's black-eyed pea!

Cupcake toppers are just the thing for this little book lover! To get started you will need:

You'll need: wool blend feltchicka font sized to 209, scissors, toothpicks, glue... and our secret weapon: Super Spray!

how to cut letters from felt

1. Fist cut out letters of your choosing (black eyed p is a favorite here!). We like to transfer our patterns using freezer paper -and even have a tutorial for you!
Stiff felt spray

2. I'm excited about this step fellow crafters -it's like introducing felt's best friend -or a secret beauty tip -and it's so easy too! Drum, dum dummmm... Fabric stiffener! It helps felt to stay sturdy, keep its form and provide extra durability; it extends the capabilities of felt even further. Here we are using a spray fabric product called Stiffen Quick (but I like to call it Super Spray!). I generally place the items to be sprayed in a box (to protect the surrounding area) -and spray stiffener about 6-8 inches away from the felt. You control how stiff you want your felt by how much you spray. These cupcake toppers needed to be pretty stiff so I sprayed one side till wet, came back an hour later flipped the letters and sprayed the backs.
chicka bom cupcakes
3. After the letters dried -I used thin line of hot glue to attach toothpicks. Then you're done and ready to party!
letter cupcake toppers

How to Cut Felt

Posted by Renae Bradley on 01 August, 2017 8 comments

how to cut felt

It's surprisingly easy to cut shapes and patterns out of felt -and we have a technique that is much more precise than pinning, far less fuzzy then transfer pens and cleaner than chalk! And it's by far the most fun! The key is freezer paper (yes, the same paper you can wrap your food in!) and a sharp scissors.

how to cut felt

This is what you'll need:
-freezer paper
-pattern 
-felt
-iron
-pencil
-scissors

how to transfer a pattern to felt

1. First trace your pattern onto the matte side of the freezer paper.

Freezer Paper and Felt

2. Iron your freezer paper (wax side down) to your felt. The wax helps to adhere the paper to the felt.

Cut out shapes out of felt

3. Cut out your shapes. I find small scissors helpful when maneuvering around tight corners and sharp tips lend itself to clean and precise cuts.

Freezer paper transfer on felt

4. Peel paper off. If you find the paper difficult to peel away from the felt -ease up on the heat or reverse the pattern when tracing. You can also reuse your freezer paper -just re-iron and cut. Perfect!

How to Cut Felt with a Die Cut Machine

Posted by Renae Bradley on 15 June, 2017 11 comments

 how to die cut felt

Two questions I get asked all the time: "How do you cut your shapes so perfect?" and "Can I die-cut felt?!" Yes, I say while nodding my head enthusiastically! You can die cut felt -it creates perfect edges every time and makes Benzie's felt even more versatile and production friendly. 

Make felt flowers quick and easy

It is important to first note that there are two categories of machines: electronic and manual. Manual machines have been the most fool-proof option for our felt crafting uses and we will talk about them today. 

kind of die cuts for felt

There a several different brands of manual machines and dies available and most are are interchangeable using a combination of platforms and shims. We really love Sizzix's brand of machines and dies. The machines feel substantial and have held up to thousands and thousands of cuts (we cut A LOT of felt here!). We love them so much we offer our favorite machines and dies right in our shop!

There are two main categories of dies: wafer thin dies and steel rule dies. Wafer thin dies are the flat silver ones shown in the above photo -they have a little raised border that cuts the felt when rolled through a die cut machine. Steel rule dies are approximately 3/4" thick dies encased in foam (the black die shown in the photo). Both dies work with our felt -but we have found the steel rule dies are are foolproof AND you can cut multiple layers of felt at one time -it's magical!

how to die cut felt

To get a perfect cut you will first need to make up a 'die-cut sandwich'. The basic level sandwich starts with a cutting pad, a steel rule die, a sheet of felt and is topped with a second cutting pad. Cutting pads are clear acrylic rectangles that the die cuts into as they cut the felt. Don't let this alarm you -they last for hundreds (and hundreds!) of cuts but you can alway purchase replacement ones when they wear out! Benzie's wool blend felt is a great match to die cuts -use our 6x9" sheets -they fit in the machine perfectly! 

Using thin dies to cut felt

To use the wafer thin dies -you'll need the addition of the 'multipurpose platform'. This will give you just the thickness needed to cut the felt! Occasionally you will find that the thin dies are not cutting well -we have found adding a card stock shim in addition to the platform provides just enough pressure to give the felt a clean cut! We give more tips about the thin dies in this fun banner tutorial
 Die Cut Machine for crafters

Now take your sandwich and roll it though the machine.

Die Cut felt flowers

Remove the sandwich from the machine and see what you have! We used the Camellia steel rule die to make these fun flower shapes! 

How to make felt flowers

We turned the flat petals into dimensional flowers by forming the flowers around a felt ball using a little hot glue! This die has a lot of possibilities!

Easy die cut felt flowers

You'll be making full felt bouquets (or bows or garlands or animal friends) in no time at all with a few time saving tools! Happy crafting friends! 

Get Started Needle Felting

Posted by Renae Bradley on 15 May, 2017 0 comments

Learn how to Needle Felt

Needle felting is one of those overlooked crafts -supplies are non-existent or hidden away in a back aisle and the actual process can sound a little strange and tedius... A sharp needle? Sheep's wool? But I can't have you missing out on your next favorite past time -so let's break it down and start with the basics. 

Beginner Needle Felting

What is needle felting? Felting occurs when wool fibers are agitated together with a special felting needle. Continually jabbing the roving back and forth will condense and form the fibers into any shape you would like. It's like soft sculpture! Felting can be one dimensional or three dimensional too. And the best part? You only need three items to get started! 

Wool Roving for Needle Felting

What do I need to get started? Number one -wool! In needle felting -you will need sheep's wool that has been combed and carded. There are different types of wool based on how the fibers have been prepared and can be called tops, roving, sliver or batting. Tops have the longest fiber length and run a single direction while batting has the smallest fiber length and runs amok. This may be a little too much information so for the beginner so let's just focus on roving for now. The term 'roving' has become an overall term to cover any wool used for felting but it is important to note that there are differences.

When I was looking for a roving to add to our shop -I fell in love with Corriedale Sliver. It comes from Corriedale sheep and is technically called a sliver. I love it because its length works great for spinning, weaving, wet felting and needle felting -really, it's an all purpose fiber! I know how crafters like to dabble and try out new techniques and a sliver is workable for all. 

Needle Felting Needles

The second item you will need is a needle felting needle. This is not like a sewing needle but includes tiny barbs or notches up and down the sides of a needle -these barbs agitate the roving in such a way that binds the fibers together. The higher the number of the needle the finer the detail but a great starter number is around a 38. Don't let a number stress you out though -this needle felting pen has just what you need. You can use the needles individually or together in a pen (it makes the felting process faster!). Needles are somewhat fragile -have a backup in case they break! 

Needle Felting Foam

And lastly -you need a cushion. Always needle felt on a soft surface such as a foam pad. It is essential to the safety of your lap and your fingers! And speaking of fingers -always keep an eye out on the location of your fingers to your needle -jabbing your finger hurts! 

How do I start? An inexpensive way to get started is to find a needle felting kit you love; our cactus kits include all the tools you need. Or try these if you are an animal lover! We also have loads of fun free tutorials on our Pinterest board! You can purchase the supplies in the shop.

Needle felt a cactus.

But let's start out felting a ball. I suggest beginning with something simple so you can get a feel of how wool felts.  Let's start with a basic sphere -like the one I used for the Desert Rose cactus above! 

To start any needle felting project you will need to first divide the roving fibers. To separate, gently pull to separate the fibers -you may need to spread your hands further apart to get the fibers to separate. Never use a scissors -the raw edges needle felt better.

How to Needle Felt

Then roll the roving into a very tight ball -the tighter you roll -the less felting you will need to do! Continue to felt by rotating the ball and jabbing with the felting needle until a nice sphere is created. Get comfy -it takes a little bit of of time! And watch those fingers! I find the most comfortable position is to hold the cushion in my lap and felt from there. The more you felt the smaller, more dense and smooth it will become. You can see the progress of the ball above!

It's sometime hard for beginners to get the roving firm enough -you want it pretty firm! It may take some time to get it this way but don't give up! You don't want it to feel (or look like) cotton candy -but more like a chewy sugar cookie! If you find your finished piece extra fuzzy -I have some tips: 1) Gently scrape the surface with your felting needle -it helps to hide the dimples. 2) Use a little bit of additional roving to cover the surface and lightly needle felt into place. 3). Use a scissors to give the finished piece a trim! But you may not have to do anything at all! 

Think outside the box -you don't have to use all roving either! For larger dimensional designs, use styrofoam ball as the base or add details like Benzie's felt or embroider with floss! Congratulations on learning a learning a new skill, have fun!  

Benzie Iron-On Glitter & Gold

Posted by Renae Bradley on 01 September, 2015 2 comments

Gitter and Gold Felt

Ready to make your felt go glam? Add on a layer of glitter -or go metallic -with Benzie's iron-on sheets. It's crazy easy -and doesn't leave you with paintbrushes to clean or fairy dust to mop! 

diy glitter felt

First, grab your supplies: Benzie's felt, iron-on glitter or iron-on metallic (we used our glitter in Julep here), a light cloth (we like a layer or two of tissue paper), hard surface (we used a cutting board) and an iron. Trim your felt and iron-on material to the size you would like. 

On a hard surface, layer your felt, iron-on material and light cloth. Heat your iron to the highest setting and press firmly for 15-20 seconds, slowly shifting your iron as you go. 

After the felt and glitter (or metallic) sheets have fully bonded remove protective sheet. We have found it's much like removing a sticker -sometimes it peels off quickly and sometime you need to work at it a bit! 

Glitter felt by Benzie

We offer 12 colors of glitter and 4 metallic hues -all ready to be ironed on and crafted with! Manual die cut users can expect to roll it through the machine 1-2 extra times and punch out design due to the extra thickness of the fabric. Craft just as you would regular felt -but now with more glam!  

We've been using our iron-on for a while now and have learned some important tips for success which we have outlined below:
-it is vital to iron on a hard surface such as a wood cutting board
-we have seen best success with a 1600 watt iron
-our glitter irons on easily with just 15 seconds of heat -our metallics take more like 20 seconds
-our metallic iron-ons work best in small batches

Can I wash felt? A tutorial about felt applique.

Posted by Renae Bradley on 24 June, 2015 0 comments

Felt Star Shirt DIY // Benzie

This is a craft question that I get asked quite often -can I wash wool blend felt? And as you can see from the felt star appliqué -yes you can! But before we get to care instructions let's talk first about fiber content.


Our felt contains both wool, ranging from 20-35%, and rayon. Rayon, or known as viscose, is made from wood pulp -a renewable source too! Most of us know what happened to our adult sized wool sweater when we tried to wash it -it shrunk down to a child's size! Wool should be treated with much care or it will shrink. We suggest dry cleaning or spot cleaning to keep our wool blend felt in its original condition. It's easy and already looks great!

But there are times that a toy or a t-shirt just needs be washer friendly. Before cutting into your design or appliqué -the felt must first be washed. Prewash in a sink of hot running water -immersing the felt completely. We use soap and gently squeeze the felt into a ball, rinsing and repeating until the water runs clear. This process does two things to the felt. First the hot water gets any excess dye out. Not all colors bleed -but this bright Carmine did! Second, the combination of hot water, soap and gentle squeezing is further felting the fabric -binding the fibers even closer together and causing the felt to shrink. Lay flat to dry -or use a blow dryer to speed things up. A washing machine on the delicate cycle is a great alternative to prep large batches.

Can I wash wool felt? // Benzie

In the image above you can see the difference between our original felt and felt that has been pre-washed. The washed felt is bubbly or wrinkled -and is thicker then its un-washed partner (this can be flattened by ironing though). Also it has shrunk. The 6x6" square shrunk to about 5 3/4x 5 1/2". Now you're ready to craft!

DIY Felt Applique // Benzie

Grab a t-shirt and your favorite color of Benzie's felt. To make cutting ultra easy we used the Nesting Star die from Lifestyle crafts -but old fashioned pattern and scissors will work just as well. We also found that we really liked Wonder Under's fusible adhesive. It's didn't make the felt appliqué stiff and it made a permanent bond to the fabric.

Felt Applique T-Shirt  // Benzie 


But before you do any of these steps -your felt and your shirt must be prewashed! Follow the washing instructions for felt above.

1) After the felt has dried -iron your fusible adhesive to your felt.
2). Use your favorite die to cut a shape our of the felt -adhesive side up. We explain how to use a die machine and dies here.
3. Peel off the top layer of your fusible adhesive -you can see the transparent paper star in the above photo (throw that away), carefully place your star where you want it and iron down. Iron from both the front and back of the shirt to ensure a permanent bond.

Can I wash felt? // Benzie

It's not necessary -but I think the added machine stitch adds detail and helps the star to stand out among the stripes. To care for your felt appliqué shirt and prevent further felting we suggest washing inside out, cold and delicate with a gentle dry.

4th of July applique shirt // Benzie 

I want to see what you are making too -hashtag #benziefelt and have a Happy Independence Day!

Originally posted June 2014