Felt Week: Interview With April of Felt-o-rama

Editor’s note, 11/13/09: In some very unfortunate timing on my part, April temporarily shut down Felt-o-rama yesterday for maternity leave. This interview took place some time ago and I hadn’t communicated recently with her re: my publishing timetable, so my sincere apologies to April and to those of you excited about checking out her shop (may I direct you to her blog and its enormous list of felt tutorials?). I will let you know the second she re-opens. Big huge congratulations and best wishes to April on her new addition!

I don’t know about you, but I used to find the felt world particularly confusing. There’s the terminology (the olde felted vs. fulled issue), different fiber types and blends, different thicknesses — then there’s the intersection with wet felting and needle felting and knitting. Then all the felt craft books I’m drawn to seem to be in Japanese, adding to the general air of inaccessibility and intrigue.

That was until I found April and her wonderful shop Felt-o-rama. There it all is (four types of felt; roving for needle felting and associated supplies; felt balls, beads, shapes, and ribbons; patterns and kits; all the current felt-centered books), all clearly organized and explained so I don’t feel stupid anymore. I also adore April’s blog, where she interviews felt crafters, discusses working with felt, and links to just about every single felt craft tutorial that’s out there on the internet.

And April is the guest star here on True Up today. I asked these questions back when I was still in that confused state, so in case you’re still there, she clears up all that messy terminology and explains the kind of projects for which each type of felt is suited.

feltoramabanner

Where is Felt-o-rama based? How long have you been in business?

Felt-o-rama is based out of Charlotte, NC. After many long months of planning and creating the online store, I launched the business in August of 2008. In addition to my online store, I also have an Etsy shop with a smaller selection of items. My company has one employee – me! I’m responsible for web development, photography, cutting yards and yards of felt, shipping, marketing, accounting, and everything in between.

felttreesbyapril

felt trees created by April (instructions here)– aren’t they so perfectly retro?

How did you get interested in felt?

I’ve been crafty from the core for as long as I can remember! When I was growing up, my mother was always sewing or cross-stitching, so I just assumed that these activities were part of everyone’s daily life. She taught me how to sew at an early age (on my grandma’s antique treadle machine) and I’ve dabbled in so many other crafts – knitting, jewelry making, paper crafts, embroidery, etc. However, I simply cannot resist textiles. A couple of years ago, I wanted to create appliquéd clothing for little ones. I did not care for the poor-quality felt in local craft stores, so I began to search for felt online. I was surprised to find that I could not find a one-stop source for a variety of different types of felt and a wide range of fun, vibrant colors. I knew that there must be other crafters out there with the same need for felt and Felt-o-rama was born!

For those readers who have never experienced felt other than the cheap craft-store acrylic stuff, please talk a bit about how the felt you sell is different.

Cheap craft-store acrylic stuff gives felt a bad name! So many customers tell me that they can’t find the “good stuff” in their local stores.

Cheap acrylic felt shreds easily, does not wash well, and can be too thin to hold up to many projects. Most of this poorly manufactured felt is imported from China and India. I’m very proud that all of the high-quality felt fabric sold by Felt-o-rama is manufactured in Canada, the United States, and Germany.

die-cutwooltypes

What are the differences between the fibers you sell? I’ve worked with 100% wool felt and loved it, and I’m curious about the blends and the polyester eco-felt, but is the quality comparable? My biggest concern is fraying. And what about the different thicknesses? Is the 3mm felt unusually thick? What kind of projects would that be suited for?

I currently sell four varieties of felt. I highly recommend that customers purchase samples to experience the various textures and colors first-hand.

Here is an overview of the unique qualities of each type of felt:

handdyedwoolWoven Felted Wool: This fabric begins as 100% woven wool. The woven wool then undergoes a fulling process, which results in a soft and fuzzy felted fabric. The fulling process is very similar to what happens when you accidentally machine wash a wool sweater. The fibers shrink and compress and the texture of the fabric changes completely.

The woven felted wool is hand-dyed, which results in a beautiful mottled effect. In other words, darker and lighter shades of the same color may be apparent in a single piece of fabric, kind of like a subtle tie-dye. The mottling effect surprises some customers, but it is a natural result of the hand-dying process. All dyes used for the woven felted wool are organic, environmentally safe, lead-free, and formaldehyde-free. For those of you who create items for children, it is CPSIA compliant! As an added bonus, is completely machine-washable.

Woven felted wool is best suited for special heirloom projects, such as a stuffed toy, wearable accessories, or even a small quilt. The edges may fray ever-so-slightly since it began as a woven fabric. It is the most expensive felt I carry, but it is worth every penny. Speaking of, the thickness of this felt is about that of a penny.

woolblendfeltWool Blend Felt: The wool blend felt is produced from a blend of 30% wool and 70% rayon. Many customers ask how the texture of this felt compares to the recycled eco-felt. Though the thicknesses are about the same, I’d describe the wool blend felt as having a more natural texture than the recycled eco-felt, which has a synthetic texture. Some customers have shared that the wool blend felt from Felt-o-rama is very similar to more costly pure wool felt that they have purchased elsewhere.

Wool blend felt is very versatile, does not fray, and is about the thickness of a penny. I recommend it for virtually any item that does not require machine-washing. The manufacturer recommends dry cleaning this wool blend felt, but you can machine wash it — as long as you like the ‘pebbly’ texture and the felt material is pre-washed before cutting and sewing. You can see before and after photos here.

recycledecofeltRecycled Eco-Felt: This is my most popular felt! The felt is made of Eco-fi, which is manufactured from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. In addition to being environmentally friendly, it’s also machine washable, very affordable, and CPSIA compliant. The recycled eco-felt bundles, which consist of a sheet of 29 various colors, are a great introduction to this fun felt.

Recycled Eco-Felt is also very versatile. I recommend it for children’s items that require machine-washing. It’s also a perfect choice for costumes, pillows, appliqué, and just about anything! Even though this felt is economical, it is a completely different animal than cheap acrylic felt. In my experience, it does not shred, fray, or pill. The thickness is about that of a penny.

3mmwoolfelt3mm Wool Felt: This pure wool felt is an industrial 3mm thickness (equivalent to about 2 stacked pennies) and does not fray. It is a perfect choice for household items, such as placemats and coasters. I think this felt also has a great potential for creative sculptural jewelry. It’s also great for very sturdy handbags. In fact, one of my customers created this bag tutorial using the 3mm felt and recycled leather.

The manufacturer recommends dry cleaning, but I’ve personally had good luck machine-washing the 3mm Wool Felt: see here.

I highly recommend using rotary cutters with the 3mm wool felt. You may find it difficult to cut precise shapes with regular scissors. It also works great with the Sizzix Big Shot Die Cutter!

feltbeads

Your felt beads are irresistible — any inspirational projects for those?

I just can’t get enough of the felt beads! There are so many projects that come to mind -– hand-strung garland, mobiles, simple necklaces and bracelets, earrings, adding 3-D elements to appliqué, finishing touches for felt food (like cherries on cupcakes!), and ornaments. Large felt beads also make a great base for needle felting.

You have an *amazing* list of felt projects and tutorials on your blog. Do you have any absolute favorites? What are your favorite projects for absolute beginners?

There are so many inspirational craft blogs out there and I have so much fun searching out links to new felt projects! I truly have too many favorite tutorials to list, but I think my favorite category is Felt Food. The detail captured by some of these tutorials with felt is amazing! Since felt is so forgiving and easy to work with, I think the majority of the tutorials collected on the Felt-o-rama blog are ideal for beginners as well as experienced crafters. Here are a couple of well-written tutorials that may appeal to the absolute beginner: Felt tea bags, and Felt-covered clip barrettes.

feltpenguin

I have to admit, I’ve never tried needle felting — it looks like a whole lot of effort for not a lot of return. Please take this opportunity to convince me otherwise.

I think that is a very common perception when it comes needle felting. I was also timid of needle felting until I tried a Woolpets kit by Laurie [penguin pictured above]. Laurie’s kits take the confusion and guesswork out of needle felting, since each kit contains precisely what you need to complete a project and includes very clear photo instructions. I was amazed at how quickly I could create such cute little dimensional creatures! I highly recommend them for the curious beginning needle felter.

Do you do much sewing with other kinds of fabric?

Oh my, yes! I love to sew, and with a baby on the way, I have a mountain of projects that I want to accomplish before he arrives this Thanksgiving. I’m lucky enough to live near the mecca of all fabric stores, Mary Jo’s, but I purchase a majority of fabric online. True Up is my go-to source for discovering new online fabric stores! My favorite prints are usually retro-inspired, like those by American Jane, and I also can’t get enough of Anna Maria Horner’s designs.

aprilfeltclochefromvintagepatternfelt cloche made by April from a vintage pattern

What’s next for Feltorama?

I’ll be added a much anticipated bamboo felt to the shop in the coming weeks. This felt is incredibly soft and available in eight fabulous colors. Bamboo felt is manufactured from 50% bamboo fibers and 50% rayon. It’s another eco-friendly felt option since bamboo is sustainable and grown without pesticides.

I also have daydreams of creating my own Felt-o-rama patterns and pattern kits containing all of the required materials. Online workshops would also be fun, since one of my favorite aspects of the business is interacting with customers!

Thank you so much, April! Wishing you much success with the baby and the shop.

5 Comments

  1. Those trees are beautiful! I might have to try making one :) Thank you for such an informative (and colorful!) post on felt!

  2. amanda says:

    Kind of frustrating that her shop is actually closed right now! I got super tempted by all of the beautiful photos of felt, but I can’t actually BUY any of it :( [not saying that people shouldn't be able to have a personal life - just saying that the timing is unfortunate in terms of this post]

  3. [...] I’ve been formulation to have a little fun, cheap legal holiday decorations this year, and I’m really going to try these retro felt Yuletide trees from Felt-O-Rama. [via True Up] [...]

  4. very informative interview. Love the trees must try it, I am always on the lookout for new things to make.

  5. [...] I’ve been formulation to have a little fun, cheap legal holiday decorations this year, and I’m really going to try these retro felt Yuletide trees from Felt-O-Rama. [via True Up] [...]