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Book review: Donna Kooler’s Kool Felt Embroidery

Reported by Erika Martin

Both felt and embroidery have made a huge comeback in the crafting world and both have taken on a fresh new look from what it was years ago. I’ve enjoyed needlework since I was a little girl and started my first cross stitch project at 8 years old. Since that day, I’ve picked up all sorts of needle crafts and deepened my love of the large color range of embroidery floss.

A book that I’ve been playing around with for quite a few months now is Donna Kooler’s Kool Felt Embroidery. This 132-page book includes “30 felt projects enhanced with beautiful details,” according to the book’s back cover. The cover also states “that because felt has no grain, it’s an ideal surface for embroidery.” The book includes “instructions for cutting the felt into the patterns provided in the book, as well as directions for layering them in complementary colors and adding embroidered swirls, borders and decorative stitches.”

The table of contents is brilliant with pictures of each project, along with the name of the project and the page number it can be found on. The book contains a section on basics, such as types of felt and what you’ll need to create your projects; a section on basic techniques including how to use a rotary cutter, making pattern pieces, transferring designs, constructing a basic pillow, the hobo bag, a purse and pincushion and much more. A section is included on types of embroidery threads, tools and techniques and a list of stitches. The back of the book contains a wonderful glossary of stitches along with illustrations to create the stitches. For a new embroiderer, this is a great resource. A full section of pattern pieces is located in the back of the book.


Each project is broken down in easy-to-understand steps. The author, Donna Kooler, tells you what you’ll need for felt, decorative thread (she even includes the numbers for floss so that if you want to recreate her project as it’s shown in the book, you can choose the right colors of floss to go with it) and other supplies. The “What you do” section of each project is broken down in numbered steps and is easy to follow; some of the steps include illustrations to accompany them.

One of the many things that I like about this book is that it’s great for all levels of stitchers. New stitchers can start off with no experience at all and learn through this book, while advanced stitchers can take the projects and tweak them a bit to add extras to them and create their own twist on the project. I’ve been hand stitching for 25 years and even I learned some stitches that I’d never done before!

Another of the things that I love about this book is that each project has multiple pictures shown along with tags for each stitch used so that you can recreate the pattern exactly has Donna Kooler has done with her projects.
The projects are whimsical and fun, and I love the practicality that many of them serve, along with the fun accessories that can be made to add to any wardrobe. I tweaked some of the projects and also experimented with some of the stitches that I’d never tried before. There is more than enough in this book to keep my stitching hands happy. My 10 year old daughter has also found her hand stitching improving by working with the illustrations in the back of the book and using the patterns and projects.

While the book includes a cell phone case pattern, I chose to use a die cut piece of felt to create my case, though I also used it as a way to practice the “whipped spider stitch,” a stitch I’d never heard of or done before. The directions and illustrations in the back of the book, along with photos of finished projects in the book helped to give me a perfect result on my first try. This book really is that detailed and helpful.

While creating some cell phone cases, I was able to pick a few stitches up that I had gotten rusty on, like the chain and outline stitches. The simplicity of this book reminds me that even basic stitches can take on a whole new look.

After seeing some felt coasters at a craft fair this past December, I gave the “Twirling Flower Coaster” a try. This is one of the easiest projects in the book and would make a great starting project for young kids learning to embroider.

I traced the pattern onto a piece of white computer paper first. You can also take your book to a local print shop and have them enlarge any of the pattern pieces. I used the pattern piece at the size it was printed in the book.
The pattern piece got pinned to felt so that I could cut a purple piece of felt and a green piece.
When I got the pieces cut, I twisted the purple flower on top of the green flower so that it showed beneath and pinned the two pieces together.
I used one of the stitch patterns shown in the book but added some beads on each of the stitched petals.
When I make these again, I’ll be enlarging the pattern as the pattern in the book was a bit smaller than what I wanted to make. This will be a great project for my daughter to do to make as gifts for teachers and relatives and it’s also a great project for me if I’m looking for a quick gift for a wedding or bridal shower, etc.
I also chose a time-consuming project and one with a little more difficulty. I decided on the “Belt of Many Paisleys.” I did tweak the measurements a bit since I made the belt for my 10 year old daughter, and I used smaller D-rings.

I chose to work with earth tones and cut a pieces of oatmeal and rust colored felt. I traced out the paisley pattern from the back of the book and then traced around it on the oatmeal colored felt. Since the pattern called for placing one piece of felt over the over, it didn’t matter that I used pen to trace since that side of the felt was going to be face down against the other piece of felt.
I used a pair of precision tip scissors to cut out the paisleys and then used spray adhesive to glue both of my pieces of felt together.
The belt in the book calls for different stitches on all of the paisleys but instead I chose to do all of the paisleys the same. Even still, it was a lot of stitching, but very therapeutic.

I added a couple of D-rings at the end of the belt and finished off the edges with a green blanket stitch.
I roughly put about 26 hours of work into this belt, but it was well worth it. I enjoyed the process so much! Not all of the projects in this book take that much time. In fact, the book includes a variety of projects for different skill levels and time values. Of course, like I’ve done, you can tweak a project if you want to simplify it.




Pros:

  • This book retails for $17.95, which works out to be 60 cents per project (30 projects with patterns included!) – a fantastic value
  • Book includes many techniques, stitch glossary, full supply lists, etc.
  • Variety of projects for beginners all the way to advanced stitchers
  • Beautiful full color photos and labels identifying all stitches on each project

Cons:

  • As much as I tried, I could not find one.

Donna Kooler’s Kool Felt Embroidery is available at Amazon.com, and if you use this link to purchase it, you’ll be supporting Craft Critique!

Time for your turn! Do you have this book? Which projects have you done and which are your favorites?

Disclosure

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5 Responses to Book review: Donna Kooler’s Kool Felt Embroidery

  1. rush8888 July 25, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

    i have been wanting to delve into using felt for embellishments. this article might bring that craft higher on the list. you always find the most interesting stuffs. thank you

  2. Gina July 25, 2010 at 3:26 pm #

    I don’t have the book, but the projects are very cute!

    I just wanted to give you one of my little tips–when I’m using a paper shape as a template for cutting felt, I staple the shape to the felt, cut the shape, then remove the staple. No pins, no chance of accidentally poking myself, and the felt stays completely flat.

  3. Catherine July 25, 2010 at 7:52 pm #

    Wow, that sounds like a great book – Thanks for the fab review 🙂 I <3 the projects you showed pics of!

  4. GrammaR July 25, 2010 at 7:59 pm #

    I’e been sewing since I was 8 and these look like fun projects! I’ll have to look for the book. Thanks for the review.

  5. Lois aka katesmum July 26, 2010 at 2:49 am #

    have you noticed you have a flat belly add on your site? Or is it supposed to be here…