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Book Review: Kata Golda’s Hand-Stitched Felt

Reported by Rachel Johnson

Kata Golda is an artist who works mostly in felt to create children’s toys and items for the home. She recently published her first project book, Kata Golda’s Hand-Stitched Felt: 25 Whimsical Sewing Projects (published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, MSRP $19.95), and I had the pleasure of meeting her during her promotional tour at the Etsy Labs Craft Night in Brooklyn on October 19th, 2009. At the craft event, Golda showed us how to create a felt photo pocket, one of the projects featured in her book.
Golda supplied the wool and wool-blend felt, which came in beautiful muted colors that were hand-dyed at her studio. She also gave us a template to use for the fall leaves on the pockets (in the book, the photo pockets have a botanical motif). The pockets were created by tri-folding a rectangle of felt and using a combination of three simple stitches (straight stitch, whip stitch, and blanket stitch) to secure the applique and close up the edges. The project was a good refresher for me, as I was a bit rusty on all of my stitching techniques. I was very pleased to finish my pretty pocket by the end of the evening!
I was so pleased that I went ahead and purchased the Hand-Stitched Felt book that evening! The beginning of the book covers many of the same things we learned at the event, like simple stitches, knots, and sewing techniques. There is a cute section all about stitching faces freehand. Golda’s stuffed toys are absolutely adorable, and it was fun to get a glimpse into how she creates their cute and expressive faces. The sewing techniques section of the book is only eight pages long and covers the most basic of instruction. It is completely adequate for a beginning stitcher interested in tackling simple sewing projects like those in the book, but more advanced seamstresses could probably skip right over the section.
The majority of the book is devoted to the twenty-five different felt project tutorials. The projects include a pincushion, a purse, stuffed animals, journals with felt covers, finger puppets (seen on the book’s cover), pillows, a baby quilt, a messenger bag, and many more cute felt creations. Each project tutorial is accompanied by multiple full-color photographs by Frank White, and Golda’s whimsical, hand-drawn sketches and diagrams. It was a joy looking through the book trying to determine what I would attempt as my first project. I settled on the “Songbird Mug Cozy and Coaster” as my inaugural hand-stitched felt creation.
I gathered my supplies (three colors of felt, three colors of embroidery thread, scissors, measuring tape, pencil, and buttons) and then hunkered down on the sofa to get stitching! Golda’s pattern for the mug cozy is ingenious, with a little tab that fits through the mug handle and an attached coaster at the bottom of the cozy. Each mug cozy must be custom-made for the mug it is intended to keep warm. I (somewhat stupidly) choose one of my largest mugs. This caused a problem when I discovered that my felt pieces were not quite long enough to wrap the mug. I improvised and added a tab with buttons on both sides to fit under the mug handle.
Even with my slight improvisation, Golda’s instructions kept me on track and reminded me to do simple things (like attach the applique first) that made the process of constructing the cozy go smoothly. (I added the little heart between the birds as my own special touch.) I had a lot of fun making this felt project, and I am very pleased with the results. The cozy is both cute and highly functional!
I have a weak spot in my heart for cute things, which probably was what initially swayed me to purchase Kata Golda’s Hand-Stitched Felt: 25 Whimsical Sewing Projects. But even if cute is not exactly your style, the book has many clever and functional project ideas for all ages that can be customized to fit your personal taste. If you are attracted to Golda’s cute characters, she provides all of the character and motif patterns at the back of the book in the templates section – including full-size templates for her signature stuffed companion dolls. The projects in Hand-Stitched Felt are all very simple, and as the title says, they are all completed with hand-stitching. No sewing machine required. So, that means you can work on them in front of the tv or on the subway with ease. Perfect for someone like me who likes quick, but satisfying craft endeavors!
Pros:
  • Wide variety of both functional and whimsical felt projects.
  • Beautiful color photography and detailed project instructions with construction diagrams.
  • The projects are all quick, simple, and can be completed with only the most basic materials.
  • Patterns for the applique designs are provided, but the projects are easily customizable using your own creativity.
Cons:
  • Advanced seamstresses may find the sewing projects to be too simple.
It is hard for me to come up with any substantial “cons” for Hand-Stitched Felt. I really love the book and it has made me more interested in continuing to craft in felt. What other felt craft books should I check out? Do you have a favorite online felt vendor? Who are some other artists or crafters working in felt who inspire you?
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DMC Linen Embroidery Floss

Reported by Susie Ziegler

I’ve been investigating the specialty embroidery flosses that are available. In my last article, I played with the shiny, modern satin embroidery flosses by DMC. This time I went traditional with the lovely linen threads offered by this popular manufacturer.

Linen is one of the oldest textiles in the world. It is a sturdy natural fiber from the flax plant, is stronger than cotton, and has a lovely natural luster. Linen is highly absorbent, and gets softer with washing. Linen does not “pill” as do many other fibers. The fibers of linen have a low elasticity. They do not stretch and are resistant to damage. You may have noticed this characteristic when ironing out stubborn wrinkles in your linen garments or table linens.
During my research for this review, I found that the United Nations declared 2009 as the International Year of Natural Fibers. I am not quite sure what to do with that information, but as Craft Critique Fabric Crafts Specialist I thought I should share that nugget of trivia with you.
This DMC floss comes in 24 beautiful colors, all coordinated, but limited to muted “natural” tones. I purchased a multipack at Michaels. The full price was $17.99 for 12 skeins. Two multipacks are available. I chose the one with more color variety… and pink. I like pink.
The multipack I purchased came with 10 cross-stitch patterns using their line of linen embroidery threads. I don’t have enough time as a Craft Critique reporter to finish an epic cross-stitch pattern like these, so I’ll keep these pretty patterns in my stash for some time in the future when my urge to cross-stitch returns. Still, it might be fun to try one of those butterflies or a single flower as an embellishment somewhere.

Instead I opted to use a pattern from this lovely book, Doodle Stitching by Aimee Ray. The muted tones and simple, whimsical designs in this beginning embroidery book will look lovely on the linen fabric I purchased for this project.

It is simple to trace a pattern onto your fabric. Since you will be covering up your lines, you can use a pencil, but if you make a mistake tracing, you might always be able to see your pencil marks. I prefer to use a disappearing ink marker and trace in a sunny window. The water soluble markers are preferable to the air soluble ones. You don’t want to lay your work down overnight only to find that your pattern lines have disappeared. Don’t ask my how I know this, but sometimes I am a slow learner.

It is not necessary to follow your lines exactly. No one will know that you improvised your stitching a little bit because the lines will disappear with a little spritz of fresh cool water.

My favorite stitch is the chain stitch, but I worked on some other stitches in this design like satin stitch and the long and short stitch. I found that this floss worked these stitches easily.

Sometimes the floss showed little thick slubs. They did not occur often and did not seem to show up in my work. This thread frays a bit as you work, so it is preferable to use short lengths (about 18 inches is what I prefer) when you stitch and not run the needle up and down the thread tail too often. In this photo you can see the little slubby “flaw” in the floss.

Unlike the slick satin floss I stitched with before, I found this floss to be sturdy and reliable. It behaved nicely and laid just where I wanted it to. My satin stitches were lined up nice and flat. I think it was even more cooperative because I was stitching on a natural linen fabric from the fabric store.

It took me two days to stitch this project for you and it looked perfect when I finished it, but I thought it was important to see how this floss stands up to the laundry. Into my regular washer and dryer it went with all my kids socks, kitchen towels, and other household laundry. I am happy to report that my piece laundered beautifully. All the fibers have the luster they started with. In fact, ironing enhanced their subtle shine.

Pros:

  • Natural, premium fiber is perfect for heirloom stitching that will last generations.
  • Beautifully coordinated colors.
  • Sturdy, cooperative threads with a soft natural sheen.
  • Launders like a dream
  • Multipack comes with inspiring, easy to read, large patterns
Cons:
  • Expensive compared to regular floss
  • Limited array of colors
  • Not easily found at all embroidery retailers
I found this package of floss at Michaels for $17.99. Individual floss skeins are available for about $1 each. DMC Linen Embroidery Floss is available online at HSN.com, JoAnns, or directly from DMC.
I still love my regular cotton embroidery floss collection. I set aside my slick rayon flosses for some time in the future when hell freezes over. I determined that these linen flosses are lovely for heirloom work, and I might purchase the second set color pack so I have the complete set of colors.