If you have been thinking about making a quiet book for a little one, you will need stiffened felt for the job. A truly beautiful quiet book needs high quality stiffened felt that is easy to sew and lasts a while.
Follow these easy steps to stiffen felt for quiet book pages:
- Dip large sheets of felt fabric in a mixture of PVA glue and water.
- Squeeze out the fabric and drip dry.
- Iron the dried, stiffened felt sheets with a hot steam iron.
Now follow my quick and easy tutorial here to make quiet book pages stiff.
The first two things you need to keep in mind when preparing to stiffen felt are getting your hands on the right type of felt and the right size of felt fabric sheets. So let’s take a quick look at this here.
Choosing the right type of felt fabric for your quiet book
When you set out to buy craft felt for your quiet book, you will find two main categories of felt stocked in most craft shops: polyester felt and wool-mix felt.
Polyester felt is very cheap and available in a mind-boggling array of colors. However if at all possible, please don’t be swayed by the price and try to stay away from it. Polyester felt feels scratchy to the touch, bobbles after only a few uses and is terrible for the environment because it is made out of pure plastic fibers.
Instead, go for wool-mix felt which contains a mixture of both wool and synthetic fibers. Wool-mix felt is also very reasonably priced and has a rich, soft texture. It comes in hundreds of beautiful colors that are a treat for the eyes.
When purchasing wool mix felt, remember that a higher percentage of wool signifies a higher quality of felt fabric. But this also comes at a price. To keep your crafting budget from spinning out of control, aim for at least a 5% wool content.
And if you do manage to get your hands on a 30% or higher composition of wool, you will get a beautifully soft felt fabric that is pure joy to work with.
Choosing the right size of felt fabric sheets for your quiet book
Felt comes in a wide variety of packs and sizes. However don’t be swayed by those bundles of cute little felt fabric squares that you find on Ebay etc. This is because they will not give you much value for your money as far as making a busy book goes.
Instead what you need is larger wool-mix felt sheets, preferably off the roll and by the yard.
If you do not want to go down this route, go for the largest size of felt sheets that you can buy. These could be A4 size or large felt squares.
Whatever size of felt you choose to purchase, remember that it should be at least 5 inches longer and wider than your desired final size of felt sheet. This is because felt shrinks quite a bit once you soak and dry it, so you need to allow for shrinkage.
Materials needed to stiffen felt for your quiet book pages
Now that we have the correct type and size of felt fabric, let’s get going.
You will only need a few simple household things to stiffen felt for quiet book pages.
A large bowl, tub or your kitchen sink
You will need to dip soft felt fabric into your homemade felt fabric stiffener. For this, you will need some kind of a basin. Just scavenge around your kitchen and find something that you can use.
If you can’t find anything, just use a large clean cooking pot. You can wash it after use.
After 5 years of experimentation and making quiet books, I have discovered that lukewarm water works best to stiffen felt. Just use tap water. Or you could boil a kettle and mix some hot water with tap water to do this. Nothing complicated.
White PVA glue
You might have come across various fabric stiffeners on the market, from starch powder to spray-on stiffeners to liquid starch solutions.
But actually all you need to stiffen felt is the humble white PVA glue. You can easily find PVA glue in most supermarkets, craft and hardware stores and online. It is cheap, nontoxic and safe to work with.
You can save money on PVA glue by buying a bulk pack from DIY stores. PVA glue gives a flawless finish to stiffened felt every time.
An egg whisk
A simple egg whisk is perfect for this job. You can run it through the dishwasher after use.
Household gloves (optional)
You can wear household gloves while stiffening felt, especially if you are dealing with large quantities of felt fabric.
An old towel or rug to catch drips
You will be hanging your wool felt sheets to dry. This will create lots of drips on your floor, so be sure to catch them with an old towel or a rug. You can always put the towel through a hot wash to get rid of any glue residue.
A place to hang up your felt sheets
You will need a place to hang your wet felt sheets of course. You could use a clothes line or any clothes airer. You could also drip-dry your sheets from hangers dangling over the bath tub.
Anything works, as long as there is plenty of air circulation going.
How to stiffen felt for your quiet book
Now that you have all the materials you need, let’s go ahead and make some stiffened felt!
Prepare the fabric stiffener
In a bowl or basin, pour around 3 to 4 tablespoons of PVA glue and add to it a small amount of lukewarm water. Mix well using your egg whisk to create a slightly runny solution. It should be the consistency of double cream.
Keep mixing to make sure there are no blobs of glue floating around.
Now add more water to this until there is enough solution to completely submerge your pieces of felt. This solution will have the same color and consistency of milk.
Saturate the felt
Now dunk the pieces of felt in this PVA glue mixture. Twirl and squeeze it gently to let the felt absorb the liquid well.
Remove excess moisture from the felt fabric
Once the felt is completely soaked, gently squeeze out the extra glue mixture. Put this wet felt to one side.
Now move on to the next piece of felt. Continue until you have treated all your wool felt sheets.
If you are making a large quantity of stiffened felt, you will notice that the glue mixture is running quite thin by the time you come to your last few pieces of felt. Don’t worry: simply add more water and more glue and mix everything well.
Continue to dunk, twirl, saturate and squeeze the remaining felt sheets.
Hang wool felt sheets to dry
Time to drip-dry your felt sheets. I like to use a small indoor clothes airer. It has lots of pegs attached to it so I can easily stiffen lots of different colors of felt at the same time.
Make sure you place an absorbent rug or towel under the wet felt to catch drips. There will be quite a few!
As the felt sheets dry out, they will get stiffer and stiffer. By the time all the water has evaporated, your felt fabric will be beautifully stiff.
Working with stiffened felt
Your stiffened felt sheets will be shrunken, wrinkled and impossible to use in their current state. Therefore you must press and trim them before use in your quiet book pages.
Pressing out stiffened felt
Use a steam iron to press out the felt sheets one by one. Make sure that your iron has plenty of steam going. Start with a low wool setting and slowly make the iron hotter if this temperature doesn’t work.
Begin by ironing the stiff, wrinkled felt sheet from one edge. You will have to press down on your iron hard for this and use plenty of steam. Keep ironing until you smooth out all the wrinkles and creases.
Now you will be left with a lovely stiff piece of felt fabric. But it’s still not quite flat.
Trimming stiffened felt sheets
You will notice that the felt fabric has shrunk to a smaller size than your original piece. Also, the edges of the stiffened felt are misshapen and refuse to lie flat, no matter how well you try to press them out with a hot iron.
Therefore you will need to trim away these edges. Simply take a pair of sharp scissors and trim away the stiffened felt edges to leave the nice, smooth, flat felt fabric in the middle.
Now you can use this stiffened felt for all kinds of children’s felt crafts, including quiet books!
Top three tips to working with stiffened felt
One of the biggest advantages of stiffened felt sheets is that they retain their shape well. However this quality can also become a problem if you are not careful.
To work with stiffened felt, remember these three things:
Do not over-stiffen the felt
Do not over-stiffen the felt fabric sheets with too much PVA glue. Add just enough white craft glue to your mixture to allow the felt to hold its shape.
Adding too much glue will result in a fabric that is too hard to iron out or cut or sew.
Use sharp tools to cut your stiffened felt.
If your cutting tools are blunt, they will fray the cut line and result in an untidy finish. Therefore keep a sturdy, sharp pair of scissors to cut your stiffened felt.
Use an appropriate thickness of needle to sew stiffened felt.
Needle holes can look prominent on stiffened felt. This is because the hardened fibers cannot settle back once pierced.
So when sewing stiffened felt, use a needle that is just thick enough to do the job and not any thicker. Ideally the sewing holes should not be obvious in your finished quiet book at all.
And there you have it! Perfectly stiff felt fabric sheets ready for use in your quiet book pages.
If you are still unsure of how to stiffen felt at home, watch my video where I show you exactly how to do this step-by-step.
How to make a quiet book step by step
I have written a detailed post about how to make a quiet book. After five years of making quiet books, I have simmered down this process into 12 simple steps.
If you follow them in order, you will have a finished quiet book at the end of it in no time!
How to sew quiet book pages together
Sewing or binding quiet book pages together can appear daunting and confusing if you look at all the different ideas floating around the internet. However I have simmered it down to a simple 4-step process that works flawlessly every single time.
Here is how to sew quiet book pages together:
- Make quiet book page ‘sandwiches’
- Hide the page edges
- Sew the inner spine
- Sew the outer spine
More on quiet book binding coming soon. Watch this space.