DIY instructions for making realistic felt taco shells for pretend food play

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Every fall, my felt food making adventures begin anew. Excited about making christmas gifts, I always find myself energized to experiment with new felt foods and create new patterns. In this tutorial, I’ll be showing you how to make these realistic felt taco shells. They are “crunchy” enough to hold their shape, but soft enough to flex to hold all the taco toppings your little one can dream up.

step by step tutorial for making realistic felt taco shells for play food

Now, I know tortillas have got to be just about the easiest felt food you could possibly make, and you hardly need a pattern or instructions to cut a simple circle of deep yellow felt that’s perfect for Mexican food themed pretend play.

As you may know from my previous tutorials, however, I love adding dimension and color variation to create more realistic felt food for my niece’s kitchen. In the case of these tortillas, I’ll show you how I take simple yellow felt circles and create the “crunchy” taco shells pictured here.

Best of all: This is a no sew project! By adding dimension and shading, this project is completed without a single stitch!

All you’ll need is:

  1. yellow felt (we used “mellow yellow” 35% wool felt to get a perfect color and improved durability)
  2. water + cornstarch
  3. A brown alcohol-based marker. I used a Copic E57 marker,  but a brown sharpie should be sufficient as long as the marker is definitely alcohol-based, not water-based.

How To Make the Shells:

To begin, simply cut 7-inch circles out of the yellow felt. These subdued yellow of  Mellow Yellow is perfect for lending a natural hue to these felt corn tortillas. You can trace around a bowl with a charcoal fabric marker, like below, or…

step by step tutorial for making realistic felt taco shells for play food

or cut out a simple 7″ circle from paper and use that as a template to cut your felt.

step by step tutorial for making realistic felt taco shells for play food

 

Once your circles are cut, they’ll already look a lot like raw tortillas cut from uncooked dough. To emulate the look of a cooked tortilla, we’ll next add shading using a brown alcohol-based marker.

Shading your Felt Tortillas

It’s important to use an alcohol-based marker, because the final step of making these tortillas into shells involves using water. If you use a water-based marker, your ink will smudge and run during the next step. Alcohol-based markers are permanent unless exposed to alcohol.

step by step tutorial for making realistic felt taco shells for play food

It might be helpful to look at a real tortilla, or to google images of one, while coloring your tortilla. I like to add a little bit of coloring along the edges and a few caramelized spots in the middle using a Copic E57 brown marker.

step by step tutorial for making realistic felt taco shells for play food

After you have completed one side, flip the felt tortilla over and draw char marks on the opposite side. This technique works best if you work on a light surface so you can see the ink on the other side and re-create the same pattern on both sides. Aim for duplicating the exact marks on opposing sides- alcohol ink can bleed, so duplicating the design on both sides turns potential “oop’s” into intentional coloring.

Once you add char marks- these corn tortillas are ready for soft-taco fun. For crunchy tacos, keep reading.
Once you add char marks- these corn tortillas are ready for soft-taco fun. For crunchy tacos, keep reading.

If your end goal is soft tortillas for soft tacos and open-ended toy-kitchen play, you can call this project done after adding shading. For  felt tortilla shells that hold the shape of a crunchy taco, proceed to the next step.

Adding The CRONCH

In this final step of making felt crunchy taco shells, we’ll be using the same instructions from my tutorial on stiffening felt. This extra step takes only a few minutes but adds so much durability and authenticity to the final results!

Using the recipe from our felt stiffening article, whip up a batch of cooked-cornstarch thickened water. Pour the cornstarch thickened water into a rimmed plate and let cool until cool enough to touch.

step by step tutorial for making realistic felt taco shells for play food

One by one, press the tortillas into the cornstarch mixture. Your cornstarch mixture might look thinner than mine, but that’s okay! The recipe is forgiving and it’s all about experimenting to get the right result.

Be sure to fully saturate the fibers of each felt round
Be sure to fully saturate the fibers of each felt round

Saturate the felt tortillas one by one in the cornstarch mixture, making sure that each one is soaked completely and the cornstarch mixture soaks in thoroughly.

Make sure each felt tortilla is completely saturated
Tortillas soaked and ready for molding

Once completely soaked, gently squeeze out excess cornstarch water, then place each round between paper towels to absorb even more moisture. Two important notes here:

How to Mold Soaked Felt into Taco Shells:

  1. Do not wring the material. Wringing wet felt can stretch the fibers and distort the final project. Instead, carefully scrape off excess moisture, gently pat and softly squeeze.
  2. Remove all excess liquid. If left very wet with cornstarch-water, the felt will develop a cloudy film when dry. Since we only want to leave a light bit of stiffener on the fibers, we need to blot away all excess water until the felt is damp but not soaked.
squeeze, don't wring, until the felt is damp but not soaked.
squeeze, don’t wring, until the felt is damp but not soaked.

Once colored and soaked in stiffener, you can lay your felt tortilla shells to dry. For felt tostadas, lay the felt tortillas to dry flat (as shown below). For crunchy felt taco shells,  lay the tortilla over a round rod –such as a broom handle- to dry.

Allow to dry completely, and the final result will be a semi-soft, flexible tortilla shell with strong, crisp fibers that maintains the shape in which it was dried, perfect for making crispy felt taco shells.

step by step tutorial for making realistic felt taco shells for play food

Need a Do-Over?

Done correctly, these taco shells should easily hold their shape but bend open for “filling” with felt taco toppings. If you find that your taco shells turn out a little too limp or too “crunchy” for pretend play fun, this can easily be remedied.

Soak in hot water and repeat stiffening process if your first batch turns out too stiff or too soft.
Soak in hot water and repeat stiffening process if your first batch turns out too stiff or too soft.

Too Limp: Run the felt taco shells under warm water until they soften, then repeat the cornstarch stiffening process a second time.

Too Stiff: Fill a bowl with very hot water and allow taco shells to soak for 3 to 4 minutes, remove with tongs, allow to cool until they are safe to touch, and repeat the dimensional drying process described above. This extra bath should remove excess cornstarch and result in a softer felt taco shell.

 

Be sure and check out all of our tutorials for creating this felt food taco playset!

step by step tutorial for making realistic felt taco shells for play food

 

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DIY instructions for making realistic felt taco shells for pretend food play

 

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