Do you love working with felt fabric? Have you ever wished it were easier to cut and sew felt but don’t quite know how to do it? Well you’ve come to the right place. While craft felt fabric is beautifully soft and pliable, sometimes this softness can be counterproductive when you are trying to cut small or detailed felt shapes out of it. But did you know that just one additional step in preparing your craft felt can make cutting, sewing and working with wool felt a lot more easier and enjoyable. This is where you have to stiffen felt first before working with it. Read on for your ultimate guide to making stiffened felt, and you too with be crafting away easily with felt fabric in no time.

Wool felt sheets

Working with hard felt ─ why does stiffness of material matter when making felt sewing projects

If you are a felt crafter, you will know that felt can be a rather wonderful and yet temperamental material to work with. It can appear to be sturdy …and yet if you tug slightly on one edge of the fabric, it can stretch and warp out of shape.

New wool felt has beautiful bright colours

New felt also looks beautifully bright and pristine. However unless it is carefully prepared beforehand, felt can bobble and warp under little fingers very quickly. For a crafter making felt fabric toys, the stiffness of material can be crucial in determining if your creations will stand the test of time. If you make things for children for example and the felt you are using is very soft, your creations will warp out of shape very rapidly, which is not good for you or your customers.

This is where hard felt comes in. Hard felt does not mean a felt fabric that is stiff like cardboard; however it does mean that your wool felt is more robust than virgin felt. This gives your felt sewing projects body and strength, making them last longer. It also makes cutting and sewing felt a lot easier, so that you can consider creating newer things to make with felt.

You can pick up all those projects that you were too scared to tackle earlier because your felt fabric was too soft or delicate. These could include all kinds of felt shapes, felt letters and any other felt cut outs that you might have to sew later. Hard felt also makes it easier to use felt patterns as it retains its shape while you are transferring and cutting the pattern. Once the pattern has been cut, hard felt makes sewing felt super easy and fun.

You could turn both wool felt and polyester felt into hard felt; this is particularly useful when working with die cut felt as most die cutters do not like soft craft felt.

The best fabric hardener to turn soft wool felt into a stiff fabric ─ PVA craft glue

You might have seen or heard about various fabric or felt stiffeners on the market… from starch powder to spray on stiffeners to liquid starch solutions and everything in between and beyond. But what if you only needed one ingredient to harden felt fabric at home … one that is cheap and also easy to find? In fact you might already have this magic ingredient sitting on a shelf right now. That magic ingredient is PVA glue or white craft glue.

The humble PVA glue is the best fabric hardener to stiffen felt

You can easily find PVA craft glue in most supermarkets, craft stores, DIY stores and online. It is cheap, nontoxic and safe to work with. You can also save money on white craft glue by buying bulk packs of it from DIY stores. The best part is that PVA glue gives a flawless finish to stiffened fabric every time.

How to stiffen felt ─ turning soft felt into a stiff fabric

You will need the following supplies to make your stiffened felt at home.

  • A small tub or a large bowl
  • Some lukewarm water
  • PVA glue
  • Felt fabric (which is around 3 inches wider and longer than your desired size)
You will need a large bowl to stiffen your felt fabric

In the bowl, pour around 2 to 3 tbsp of PVA glue and add to it a small amount of lukewarm water. Mix well to make a slightly runny mixture. Add more water to this until there is enough mixture to completely submerge your piece of felt fabric. It should be a milky white colour and almost as runny as water.

Now dunk the piece of felt in this PVA glue mixture and twirl and squeeze it around in the bowl. Let the felt absorb the liquid well.

Once the felt fabric is completely soaked, gently squeeze out the extra glue mixture and drape or peg it to a clothes rail to drip dry. Place a rug or a towel under it to absorb drips; there will be quite a few!

After the felt is completely dry, use a steam iron to press it out nice and flat. Make sure that your iron has plenty of steam and that it is on the wool setting.  Polyester felt in particular can burn easily so make sure that your steam iron is at an appropriate temperature.

You will notice that the felt fabric has shrunk to a slightly smaller size and that the edges of the hardened felt piece are misshapen and refuse to lie flat, no matter how well you try to press them out with a hot iron. You will need to trim away these edges to reveal your nice flat stiffened felt sheet.

Working with stiffened wool felt sheets

Stiffened wool felt sheets are a joy to work with

One of the biggest advantages of stiffened wool felt sheets is that they retain their shape well. However this quality can also become a problem if you are not careful. To work with stiffened wool felt sheets, remember these three things:

  1. Do not over-stiffen the felt with too much PVA glue. Add just enough white craft glue to your mixture to allow the felt to hold its shape. Adding too much glue will result in a felt fabric that is too hard to iron out or cut or sew.
  2. Use sharp tools to cut felt. If your cutting tools are blunt, they will fray the cut line and result in an untidy finish. Therefore keep a separate, very sharp pair of scissors to cut your stiffened felt. 
  3. Use an appropriate thickness of needle. Needle holes can look prominent on stiffened felt because the hardened fibres cannot settle back into place once the needle has pierced a hole. Therefore in this case, when sewing felt, use a needle that is just thick enough to do the job and not any thicker. Ideally the sewing holes should not be obvious.
Keep a separate pair of sharp scissors to cut felt

And there you have it, everything you need to know about the best fabric hardener to make stiffened felt at home. If you are unsure of which PVA glue to buy or where to purchase it from, this one comes highly recommended as it was used to stiffen all the wool felt sheets you see in felt projects on this website. It comes in a huge 5kg bottle and we recommend you decant it into smaller jars for easy management. You can read all about where stiffened felt fits into the big plan of how to make a quiet book here. Now go ahead and get working on those felt patterns you have been saving up on Pinterest. Happy crafting!