Felt is a great crafting medium for at least a megaton of reasons one of which is the fabric fibers are tangled together and therefore they do not require seams to prevent fraying. This makes felt perfect for applique or detail pieces. Cutting simple felt shapes like squares, circles etc can be accomplished by simply holding the pattern near the center with the thumb while rotating the piece as you cut, but cutting smaller or detailed felt pattern pieces can be tricky. I have written about this before: Here But since this is something I literally do everyday I thought it could use a more through evaluation.
Here are 5 well known methods (if you know of others I would love for you to let me know in the comments below) broken down and analyzed. These opinions are obviously my own and you may find other methods work better or worse for you.
The felt cutting methods are, freezer paper, a commercial spray called No Pins, packing tape, chalk outline and actual pins. The felt used is a wool rayon blend in black. I am going to break this down into 5 categories and then let you know the overall winner and why.
Catergory 1 Fuss
How hard is it to locate the product? Does this add additional cost or steps?
Freezer Paper- Finding freezer paper sized to go through your printer can be difficult and printable freezer paper will NOT work with laser printers. It is however fairly easy to trace and draw on if you aren’t working off a printed pattern. Freezer paper in rolls is available in the bag and plastic wrap area of your local store. The rolled freezer paper is not the same as the sheets sold to go through printers, these sheets are too thin and curly and will jam up most printers even if you manage to cut it to the perfect size. You will also need an iron and an ironing board.
No Pins- I ran across this brand spray, which is a temporary adhesive for paper patterns, in a quilting store. It works by spraying onto the back of a pattern, pressing it into place and ironing to set. I had never seen the product so I am not sure how easy it is to locate. You will also need an iron and an ironing board.
Tape- You can use any clear tape but packing tape is my go to, the cheaper the better. I find I do have to clean my scissors blades after a long day of cutting. Packing tape is easy super easy to locate, easy to transport, inexpensive and always at the ready and can be used to cover nearly any size template. It does make that classic tape sound so if you plan to craft while waiting in the hall of your kids karate class be prepared for some odd looks.
Trace – Typically you can trace with something much easier than chalk so the ease of use on a color other than black would be much better. I used a compressed chalk with a brush but tracing pens, chalk etc can be found at a craft store and may work better.
Pins- Chances are you have some of these old standbys lying around. But if not they come in a variety of sizes and shapes and are pretty inexpensive they can usually even be located in the random house junk isle of the grocery store. They aren’t that easy to transport unless you have a needle book or pin cushion – otherwise one spill can make cleaning out your purse a real adventure. You also have to be careful where they end up which is less than ideal for you fellow couch crafters.
WINNER TAPE – while tape and trace are both very portable, locating tape is much easier than any other item on this list.
Ease of use
Can it be used anywhere? Do you need additional tools? How portable is this technique? Is it messy? Does it make trash? How easy is it to cut?
Freezer Paper- You need an iron and ironing board so this is not the most portable method. The paper sticks to the felt making for very easy cleanup and creates minimal waste. Freezer paper is reuseable up to 6 times depending on the quality of your brand. And the freezer paper actually helps hold the felt stiff so cutting is SUPER easy. Nothing shifted and lines were easy to follow, the stiffness of the paper did make curves a bit more tricky to round. The paper can also lead you into a false sense of security with the size of your cuts, you may find they are too thin to hold together without the paper.
No Pins- Oh boy! Protect your work surface! This is literally spray glue, you were warned. No matter who you are there will be over-spray and it will be gummy and sticky and you will wonder what has become of your life. Surprisingly it stuck down very easily and ironing did not seem to be needed, but I am nothing if not a rule follower so I ironed for you dear reader. Dispite it being a lot of steps the pattern held firmly and was very easy to cut and easy to go back over in the areas I missed the first time. So while the attaching experience was a pain the cutting was actually quite easy and very easy to get the proper cuts. That being said it is NOT portable unless you pre- prepare your pieces, it is messy, and did I mention you have to iron? The pieces are said to be reusable but I haven’t tested.
Tape- Take it with you! You can tape pieces down nearly any place. Getting it down could not be faster simply cut around your image (not exactly) and tape down. 5 seconds. It won’t move if you use classic packing tape, although it will shift as you cut and pieces start to fall away from the attached areas. Cut high detailed or small areas first to minimize any issues with shifting. The template will fall away after you cut it and the tape will have stiffened it making it reusuable and more sturdy. There will be some tape waste and you may need to clean your scissors with rubbing alchol to clear off any stickiness.
Trace – Again typically you wouldn’t use chalk unless the surface was very dark there are pens and markers available for this with “ink” washes away when wet but frankly I don’t like to wet my work, I don’t have the patience for it to dry or the fortitude not to assume it will destroy something (which very rarely happens)
My point being that this may not be a the best assessment of tracing. Cutting the template to outline was a pain, basically you have to cut your shape twice, with this method. The chalk went on easy and wasn’t nearly as messy as I assumed…until I cut it, then little flecks got on the scissors and I had to clean them off a few times during the cut. The cut was very accurate because I could clearly see my piece as I worked but this was offset by the flopping of the piece as I moved it around because unlike the other methods nothing was helping hold the felt taunt. The thin areas were much harder to cut without paper. The chalk didn’t hold detail as well as I would have liked and your ability to handle the piece is limited because the chalk will move. This method produced no trash and was very simple.
Pins- Right away I learned placing the pins on these small pieces would be difficult. I had to move them around as I cut and any area not actually holding a pin moved away from the template. Details were extremely hard to cut because the template and the paper kept wanting to separate. The upside is there was no extra trash however you are limited on how much you could reuse the piece before the holes would make it unusable. You can pin anyplace without a lot of fuss so that’s an advantage.
WINNER TAPE – Tape is my ride or die – simply because it is so easy and quick to work with, easy to locate, it’s cheap and works with any template.
HONORABLE MENTION FREEZER PAPER – Freezer paper loses out big because of the need to iron BUT it brings up the rear with accuracy and ease to cut. Ironing pieces and setting them aside makes this a great portable option.
Does it remove cleanly? Does it fray or pull the fibers, distort or tear the shape?
Freezer Paper- Peels off perfectly. No residue, no distortion no tearing.
No Pins- NOPE – even with my best effort the image was distorted and the smaller pieces tore and stuck to the paper. Fibers got pulled up. I think this product is best used on standard fabrics. 🙁
Tape- Piece falls loose, no issues no distortion, no residue, The cut around the star was too thin and didn’t hold but the tape wasn’t at fault for that.
Trace – No residue stayed in the fibers, no distortion, no tearing although I did have to dust off a few areas.
Pins- No visible holes, no distortion, no tearing.
WINNER FREEZER PAPER – Clean and easy release.
HONORABLE MENTION TAPE – Tape also clean and easy but pulls away as you cut.
Did it work, that seems pretty important.
Freezer Paper- Works like a dream
No Pins- The mess, the ironing, the distortion…hard pass.
Tape- Works great.
Trace – Results were pretty good.
Pins- Results were pretty good.
WINNER FREEZER PAPER – Freezer paper
HONORABLE MENTION TAPE – Tape – oh how I love you packing tape.
Can you reuse it?
Freezer Paper– Yes
No Pins– Why would you want to? But can says yes.
Packing Tape– Template yes, tape no.
Tracing– No waste. Nothing to reuse.
Pins – Reuseable.
- Freezer Paper – Excellent precision felt cutting. (but ironing boo)
- Packing Tape – Easy, low key and gets the job done.
- Pins – Tricky and potentially dangerous
- Tracing – I miss the sturdiness of the template. Floppy.
- No Pins – too many steps, makes the felt all fuzzy.
What are your thoughts? What works well for you? Had any better luck with products like No Pins? Let me know in the comments.