I haven’t crafted with felt since I was little, but since picking up a copy of Anne Kyrrö Quinn‘s book, Felt Furnishings, I have a whole new universe of respect for the material. Anne was encouraged to revisit felt by her tutor in her final year studying Textile Design at London Metropolitan University, and she hasn’t looked back since. The techniques she explores in this vibrant craft book truly transform felt into modern, eye-catching home accents.
For this week’s How-Tuesday project, we’re sharing her pillow with rosette clusters. The gathered felt creates a feast of color for the eye; don’t the pictures just make you want to reach out and caress the nestled folds? This project comes from Anne’s chapter on gathering and ruching, but her felt techniques cover the gamut, from pleating to applique. Each page of this book leaves me awestruck.
Sometimes an idea for a new design will come to me when I’m playing around with a piece of felt in my hand. I often find that, when I’m twisting and manipulating the cloth, it starts to suggest interesting forms and shapes that could be used as decorative sculptural surface treatments.
To capture these forms, I have used the traditional techniques of gathering and ruching to create highly textural surface structures from felt and felted wool fabric. Some of these techniques are perhaps more often associated with floral-patterned chintz and lavishly deployed in extravagant soft furnishings; however, when using natural felt or heavy woolen cloth, these same techniques can create a totally different look that is modern, sculptural, and organic. To help to update these techniques even more, I have carefully balanced the flat and raised surface areas within my designs to create a distinct contrast between the textured, frilled, or ruched cloth and the areas of smooth, single-colored felt or wool fabric.
When choosing the colors to use for your gathered and ruched projects, bear in mind that tonal shades will enhance the play of light and shadow, while a contrasting color could be used for the gathered areas to further emphasize the effect of the textured detail against the flat background. Patterned fabric could also be used for the gathered detail, which would create an interesting effect, as the pattern would distort and make the colors merge.
Inspired, in part, by my diving vacations on coral reefs in the South China Sea, this design has a vital, dynamic quality, as the three-dimensional effect plays tricks with the eyes. The wonderful texture and depth of color have been created by folding small circles of bright orange cloth (either felt or felted wool) and packing them very tightly together on the base fabric in order to create a structure that seems alive, and screams out to be stroked.
- Feather pillow insert, 10 x 18″ (25 x 45cm)
- For the pillow cover: 23 1/2 x 19″ (57 x 47cm) orange felt or felted woven-wool fabric
- For the folded rosettes: 20 x 18″ (50 x 45cm) orange felt or felted woven-wool fabric
- Matching zipper, 18″ (45cm) long — optional
- Matching sewing thread
- Basic sewing kit
- Sewing machine
1. If you wish to make a pillow back with a zipper, cut out three pieces of felt for the pillow cover — one piece measuring 11 x 19″ (27 x 47cm) for the front and two pieces measuring 6 x 19″ (14.5 x 47cm) and 6 1/2 x 19″ (15.5 x 47cm) for the back. If you wish to make a sewn-in pillow back, cut the back panel to the same measurements as the front. To make the rosettes, cut out 60 felt circles with a 3″ (7cm) diameter.
3. Starting at one end of the front pillow panel, hand-stitch the rosettes onto the fabric, stitching neatly and securely through the base of each one.
4. Continue adding rosettes, positioning them very close together to form a dense, wide row of rosettes through the center of the pillow panel. Make sure that the row of rosettes is straight and that there is the same amount of undecorated base fabric on either side of the row.
5. Make up the pillow back and join the front and back following one of the two options below. Insert the pillow form into the finished cover.
Sewn-In Pillow Back
This is a really easy and quick way to apply a pillow backing, and it requires only a small amount of hand-sewing. The back panel of the pillow is cut in one piece, to the same size as the front panel. The front and back panels are pinned together, with right sides facing, then machine-sewn along three sides using a 1/2″ (1cm) seam allowance. Once the cover has been turned right side out and the pillow form inserted, the seam is turned in along the fourth side and closed with invisible stitching. The drawback to this method is that, once sewn in, the pillow cover cannot be easily removed for washing, and would require picking out the seam and resewing.
1. Cut a piece of fabric for the back of the pillow cover to the same size as the front panel, including the same 1/2″ (1cm) seam allowance (or as specified). Place the two panels with right sides together, and pin along the seam allowance on three sides, leaving the fourth side open.
2. Using matching thread and a small to medium sized straight stitch, machine-sew along the three sides to join the front and back panels together, removing the pins as you sew. Cut off the corners on the diagonal, being careful not to cut through the stitching — this will produce neater corners on the finished pillow.
3. Turn the pillow cover right side out and insert the pillow form. To close the fourth side of the cover, fold the 1/2″ (1cm) seam allowance to the inside and pin the edges together.
4. Stitch the two sides together, keeping the stitches as invisible as possible. To do this, work from right to left if you are right-handed and from left to right (as shown) if you are left-handed. Knot the end of the thread, and bring the needle and thread out through one folded edge. Slip the needle through the fold of the opposite edge for about 1/4″ (5mm); bring the needle out and draw the thread through. Continue to slip the needle and thread through the opposing folded edges.
Pillow Back With Zipper
Although sewing in a zipper requires a degree of technical skill, this is still not a complicated way to make up the back of a pillow cover, and it is the method that I would recommend using, as it does mean that the cover can be easily removed for cleaning. The back panel of the pillow cover is cut in two pieces, which are joined together in the middle by the zipper, running horizontally. You will need a metal or nylon closed-end zipper in a color that matches your pillow cover. The zipper should be the same length as the pillow form.
1. Cut two pieces of fabric for the back cover. Both should be the same width as the front cover (adding a 1/2″ [1cm] side-seam allowance, or as specified); one should be 1 1/2″ (3cm) longer than half the length of the front cover, and the other should be 1″ (2cm) longer, giving a 1/2″ (1cm) seam allowance along the top and bottom edges, and a 1″ (2cm) and 1/2″ (1cm) seam allowance along the inner zip edges respectively. With the fabric wrong side up, fold in 1″ (2cm) along the inner edge of the larger back piece, and press.
2. With the zipper wrong side up, pin one side of the zipper tape along the cut edge of the fold, with 1/2″ (1cm) clear at each end for the side seams. Open the zipper. Using the zipper foot, machine-sew the tape in place along the folded edge.
3. Pin the other side of the zipper tape along the inner edge of the other back piece, with the fabric right side up. Machine-sew in place.
4. Fold the edge over to form a neat fold aligning with the zipper’s teeth. Machine-sew in place.
5. With the zipper half open, pin the front and back covers with right sides together. Using a 1/2″ (1cm) seam allowance, machine-sew around the edges. Cut the corners (shown in step 2 opposite); turn right side out, and insert the pillow form.
Looking for more luscious felt projects for your home? Check out Felt Furnishings for stimulating inspiration. Thanks to Anna Kyyrö Quinn and the good folks at Potter Craft Publishing for sharing this project with us.