Table of Contents
- What are felt alphabet letters
- How are fabric letters different from alphabet letters made from felt
- How do individual felt letters enhance a quiet book for toddlers
- Why pre-cut felt letters are not the best option for your quiet book
- Why homemade die cut felt letters are a much better alternative for your next quiet book
- Two ways to use a die cutting machine to create felt letters for your next quiet book
- How I made the perfect felt
letters for my quiet book
- 1. Die cut the felt circles
- 2. Die cut the HTV letters
- 3. Heat press the HTV on to the felt
- 4. Die cut double-sided thick fusible interfacing
- 5. Mark out circles on the backing sheet
- 6. Cut Velcro tape
- 7. Sew on the Velcro
- 8. Heat press the felt letter ‘sandwich’
- 9. Separate out the felt circles
- 10. Sew around each felt circle
- 11. Trim around the individual felt letters
Does making felt letters seem too tricky or complicated ? I was in the same boat as you until I discovered this quick and easy way to make felt alphabet letters for my quiet books. Since then, making quiet books has become significantly faster and even more fun for all the little people in my life. Here, I share with you how I make my quiet book felt letters at home.
What are felt alphabet letters
Felt alphabet letters are any letters of any language that are made out of felt. While the idea of individual felt letters might make you visualize actual felt cut-out letters, they can in fact be letters printed on felt of different shapes. So for example the letter A could either be a felt cut out shaped like an A. Or it could be a circle of felt with the letter A printed on it. In either case, the use of felt alphabet letters is varied and extremely useful for making quiet books for toddlers.
How are fabric letters different from alphabet letters made from felt
While felt is a kind of fabric too, it differs hugely from other fabrics in the structure of its fibres.
Felt fibres are pressed
Most fabrics like cotton, linen or jersey have fibres that are either woven or knitted together. But the fibres in felt are actually pressed together. Therefore alphabet letters made from felt often need a different approach from regular fabric letters.
For example felt letters do not fray at the edges and therefore do not need to be hemmed or sealed. This makes them great for die-cutting. Meanwhile woven or knit fabric will fray unless its edges are properly finished.
Felt is thicker
Most fabrics are also much thinner than the usual thickness of craft felt. Craft felt ranges in thickness from 0.4 mm all the way to 4 mm and more. In fact, most craft felt used in quiet books is around 0.5mm – 1 mm thick, which is still thicker than the usual cotton or polycotton fabrics you find commonly everywhere.
Felt does not need special treatment unless necessary
Because of their thickness and unique pressed fibre composition, felt letters might not always need special stabilisers or interfacing for support. However to work with knit or woven fabric, you will almost always require some kind of fabric stabiliser or interfacing to strengthen and support the fabric letters.
Felt letters are better for younger children
Therefore alphabet letters made form felt are better than fabric letters because they are stronger, more robust and less prone to fraying. This advantage is particularly useful for making quiet books for toddlers. We all know that toddler toys or anything that little people handle must be strong and safe. Therefore felt letters offer the ideal qualities to be used in toddler quiet books.
However a lot also depends upon the size of the letters too. Generally speaking, the larger the size of the cut-out letters, the easier it is to work with them. Cutting and sewing larger letters is far simpler than working with smaller, more intricate shapes.
How do individual felt letters enhance a quiet book for toddlers
Quiet books are all the rage all over the internet. Just type in quiet book on Pinterest and you’ll see what I’m talking about. And a quick browse through these images will show you a lot of similar stuff over and over again. Therefore when you are making a quiet book, how do you make it stand out and become one of a kind? The answer lies in using individual felt letters.
Felt letters help to personalise quiet books
One of my favourite ways to incorporate individual felt letters into my quiet books is to create personalised quiet books for children. This means that the quiet book contains interactive pages with letters of the toddler’s name. In this way, each quiet book that I make is unique and precious to the receiving child and family.
Felt letters promote early learning in toddlers
Individual felt letters also incorporate an element of learning within the quiet book. I mean, what parent wouldn’t love to say that their 14-month-old can already spell her name because she received a personalised quiet book for her first birthday from her favourite aunt?
So when you gift a quiet book to a friend’s or family member’s baby, the grown-ups always go “Oooohhh!” and “Aaaaahhh!” because not only is your gift truly personalised and unique, it is also genuinely useful in setting the toddler up for learning from an early stage. So you see it really is a win-win for everyone if you choose to incorporate individual felt letters while making any quiet books for toddlers.
Using felt letters in quiet books extends the lifetime value of your gift
Never forget the heirloom quality of a well-created quiet book. A properly sewn, personalised quiet book can potentially last for years and even generations. It truly is a labour of love and it reaps the benefits of that labour long after the child has grown up.
Why pre-cut felt letters are not the best option for your quiet book
So now that you know the value that felt letters bring to your quiet books, should you just go on to Ebay and order yourself a pack of pre-cut felt letters? My experience tells me that this is not the best idea. Let me tell you why.
Most pre-cut felt letters are too small to sew
Firstly, most of the felt letters out there are ridiculously small sized to begin with. This means that even if you buy and stick them on to a piece of felt very neatly, it will be a nightmare to actually sew them on. And if you are making quiet books for toddlers, anything unstitched will either be ripped out by little fingers or sucked away using copious quantities of slobber or scratched into absolute oblivion by tiny fingernails. All this within five seconds flat after reaching the said toddler’s hands.
The bottom line is, you must sew down every single piece of fabric and felt that you are planning to put inside your quiet book. And therefore tiny little pre-cut felt letters are an absolute no-no when making quiet books.
The cost of the larger letters piles up very rapidly
Well then, how about the larger felt letters that are available online? On Ebay, a set of 7 larger-sized letters (around 2 inches tall) are selling for under £2. Now this might not look like a bad deal. But you must remember that you will only get seven letters for this money.
So what do you do if you want to make a quiet book for a child called Michelle or Anastasia? Do you really want to spend £2 on another set, only to use one letter from that set? Remember, you have not even accounted for the costs of any of the other craft supplies that you will need for your quiet book. Besides, what will you do with all the extra felt letters left over? Will they just sit in your craft stash collecting dust?
The quality of pre-cut large felt letters is questionable
Even if you do have the money to spend on multiple sets of felt alphabet letters, how do you know that the material’s composition is up to scratch?
Remember, the best kind of craft felt for making quiet books must have at least a 5-10% wool composition. The higher the wool content, the better. But all these sellers on Ebay are not selling wool-mix felt at all. Most of it is polyester felt which is scratchy and unpleasant to the touch. So despite spending all that money, the large felt letters do not come up to scratch. (Scratch! Get it? Ha ha. I’ll go get my coat.)
Why homemade die cut felt letters are a much better alternative for your next quiet book
So after all this rambling, my point is, if you can afford to do so, try not to buy pre-cut felt letters for your quiet book. Instead, try to invest in a cheap manual die cutter and a set of alphabet letter dies. These will serve you for years to come for multiple projects.
In fact I bought my own used manual die cutting machine, the Cuttlebug, from an auction on Ebay. And these machines are still selling for under £15! This is very reasonable for the lifetime value these little machines can give you, so do consider investing in one.
Also, disclaimer! I am not recommending or promoting the Cuttlebug brand here … I am not getting any money for this. I’m just sharing with you what I have bought and used and discovered to be truly wonderful in helping me improve the way I make my quiet books.
Two ways to use a die cutting machine to create felt letters for your next quiet book
So let’s talk a little bit about how a cheap, small, manual die cutting machine can help you create quiet book letters at home. Essentially, you can create felt alphabet letters by cutting two different types of materials.
1. Directly die cutting felt to create iron on felt letters
In the most obvious way of course, you could cut the felt directly in your die cutting machine. Assuming you want to use these letters in a quiet book for toddlers, you will have to stitch down these letters good and proper. Therefore you would want to iron on a fusible web also called Bondaweb on the back of the felt before running it through your die cutting machine. This will help you stick the felt into position before sewing on top of it.
You might also want to stiffen the felt first before die cutting it to create your iron on felt letters. But for now just remember that your felt needs to be robust enough (perhaps by stiffening or by using a fusible interfacing) and stable enough (by using fabric glue or fusible web) before you cut out your felt letters. Only then will you be able to properly press them in position and sew over them neatly to create a finely finished felt alphabet letter.
2. Die cutting heat transfer vinyl (HTV) to create felt letters
The second way to use your die cutting machine, and the one that has become my favourite method, is to cut heat transfer vinyl (HTV) letters first. Then fuse these HTV letters on to stiffened felt using a heat press to create the individual felt letters.
There are several reasons why this has become my favourite method of creating tactile alphabet letters made from felt. Firstly, it is faster because I do not have to sew around the intricate shapes of each letter. Secondly, I can choose to use any colour and texture of HTV to create the exact kind of felt alphabet letters I want. Thirdly, the technique compliments the overall flow and design of my quiet books wherein I do use HTV extensively. And finally, it’s just more fun when it is faster and just as safe and robust for the baby/toddler.
How I made the perfect felt letters for my quiet book
So now let me show you how I made these felt alphabet letters using my (cheap, second-hand/pre-loved) die cutting machine.
1. Die cut the felt circles
I first used a 2 ½ inch circular cutting die to cut out 6 colourful felt circles. This felt was already stiffened and ironed flat.
2. Die cut the HTV letters
Next I used my 1 ¾ inch tall alphabet cutting dies to cut out letters out of black HTV.
3. Heat press the HTV on to the felt
I placed these HTV letters on the felt circles and ran them through my heat press at 160 degrees for 15 seconds.
4. Die cut double-sided thick fusible interfacing
After this, I used the same circular cutting die to cut 6 white circles of thick, double-sided fusible interfacing.
5. Mark out circles on the backing sheet
I then used the circle cutting die as a template to mark out 6 circles in pencil on my sheet of backing felt. This is one of my favourite wool mix felt sheets. It has a lovely high quality 30% wool composition. I bought this by the metre a long time ago and it is still going strong.
I stiffened it in a mixture of PVA glue and water and ironed it flat. To watch a video of how I stiffen my quiet book felt at home, click here.
6. Cut Velcro tape
The next step was to cut out Velcro or hook-and-loop tape for the back of the letters. I used 2cm wide Velcro hook tape and cut 2cm lengths of it to make perfect 2x2cm squares. I cut out six squares for six letters.
7. Sew on the Velcro
I used the smallest length of stitch on my sewing machine to sew each piece of Velcro in the middle of the marked pencil circles. After sewing, I passed the thread lengths to the back of the fabric, knotted them and snipped off the extra lengths. I also preheated my heat press while I sewed so that I would save time in the next stage.
8. Heat press the felt letter ‘sandwich’
Now I sandwiched the double sided thick fusible interfacing between the two layers of felt: the top colourful circle and the bottom grey layer (on the wrong side of the Velcro). I made sure that the fusible interfacing is not peeking out and then I pressed the entire thing for 15 seconds as recommended in the HTV instructions.
(I accidentally ruined the red and yellow circles by trying to press the HTV with my regular iron. That didn’t work very well and only melted the HTV beyond repair, even smudging it into the felt fibres. Oh dear! So I had to re-cut the vinyl for these. But it was quick and everything was fine very quickly. This is one of the reasons why I love using this method. The mistakes can be rectified very quickly, unless you’ve sewn over them!)
9. Separate out the felt circles
Once the felt ‘sandwiches’ were pressed, I roughly cut around and separated each one. This left a narrow margin of grey felt all around. Each ‘sandwich’ felt robust and stiff, yet pleasant to the touch because of the high wool content.
10. Sew around each felt circle
Now for the sewing part. Since I was using lots of different colours (six to be exact) for the felt circles, I chose to save some time and effort. I filled my bobbin up with grey thread for the bottom of the circles. For the top, I used clear, invisible thread.
Now, I sewed all around each felt alphabet circle without having to change the top thread. Once done, I passed the top threads to the back, knotted and snipped them off.
11. Trim around the individual felt letters
Finally, I used a pair of my shearing scissors to cut a zig-zag around each felt alphabet letter circle. And there you have it! The perfect way to create felt letters for your quiet book that is much faster and easier than sewing each individual letter shape separately.
And here you can see how these felt alphabet letters look when placed on their respective pages in my quiet book. Did I tell you I’m making this quiet book for a friend’s little boy named Sameer?
You can see how this quiet book turned out by checking in; I post updates here every other day!
And you can find links to how I made each individual quiet book page here.
You can read all about how to make a quiet book here.