Most of my tutorials use felt in its natural state, but a few tutorials (like those for lettuce or potato chips) call for the felt to first be treated so it’s a little stiffer in order to hold shape and take on the specific form needed for the project. Rather than include these instructions within each of the tutorials calling for stiffer felt, I’ve collected the various methods I use here in one article, outlined below.
These four are my go-to, but I’m aware there are several more easy ways to stiffen felt. Have you tried this project with one of these methods or another method? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.
Four Ways to Stiffen Felt:
- Boiling (ONLY for wool felt)
- Clothes Dryer
- Glue or Glazing Media
Boiling (wool or wool blends only):
Felt is produced through a process of interlocking loose fibres together until they form a single matted unit, which is flattened and cut to size. The interlocking process is achieved through a combination of agitation and using heat to relax fibres that then lock more snugly together when cooled. At the mill, this process is stopped when the material is felted “enough” but if you need a felt that is denser you can repeat a similar process, outlined below, in order to process your felt a second or even third time.
PRO: works best when you need to produce a stiffer felt that is still very soft and very flexible. This method holds up the best to being handled and washed.
CON: requires real wool felt, this process may melt or deteriorate craft-felt.
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil
2. Cut felt into squares or strips no longer than 10″ on the longest side. (Do not overfill pot, work in batches from lightest-color to darkest color felt)
3. While gently stirring constantly, place the strips into the pot of boiling water and let boil for 4-5 minutes.
4. Using tongs, carefully remove the felt to an empty bowl and let cool (be careful not to let dark dyed felt touch pale colors during this phase)
5. Once cool, very gently squeeze out excess water. Roll felt between layers of an old towel and wring to speed drying.
6. Smooth flat and allow to dry thoroughly.
How to Treat Felt Via Clothes Dryer (Instructions provided by National Nonwovens)
The dyer method is a quick way to puff up your felt and create a fluffy sherpa-fleece-style effect. You may want to consider a very hot rinse or two for dark dyed felt before placing in your dryer, as dye transfer may occur.
PRO: creates a unique effect that is perfect for some craft projects.
CON: requires WoolFelt brand felt, this process may melt or deteriorate craft-felt. May transfer dye to drum of dryer. Greater effect to texture surface than stiffness.
Read about this method in our post dedicated to dryer-felting
How to Stiffen Felt with Cornstarch:
Cornstarch is a classic stiffener that’s natural, durable, and safe to use on felt projects that might end up gummed by a young toddler. Activating the stiffening properties of the cornstarch requires a few steps, but the stiffening power is impressive. For wool felt, combine with the boiling method above for phenomenally stiff felt with enough rigidity to create free-standing dimensional felt crafts.
PRO: Natural product, very powerful stiffening depending on the amount of cornstarch used. Can be used on wool or craft felt.
CON: Requires a few steps. May become less stiff over time with play. If the starched felt is vigorously washed stiffening will lessen.
(method below will stiffen about 5 12×18″ wool felt sheets, increase recipe to stiffen more sheets of felt)
1. Bring 2 cups of water to boil. While waiting for water to boil, mix 2-3 Tablespoons of cornstarch with an additional 1/2 cup of COLD water.
2. When the hot water boils, pour the cold cornstarch-water into the boiling water slowly while stirring constantly.
3. Continue stirring and maintain at a low boil for about 2 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
5. Working from lightest color to darkest color, use tongs to dunk each felt piece into the solution until fully saturated. Allow felt to cool till warm but not-too-hot to touch, then gently squeeze excess liquid, being careful not to “wring” the fabric. (do NOT leave to dry saturated or a film will form on surface)
6. Lay flat to dry.
How to Stiffen Felt with Glazing Media:
Glazing media- available at any craft store, is my go-to for quickly adding stiffness to felt when I’m in a hurry or only need a small piece stiffened. It’s versatile, washable, and works with wool felt or craft felt. Read on to find out two ways I use this media to stiffen.
PRO: Quick, one-step, semi-washable, practical for single-piece work.
CON: Most expensive option.
There are two ways to use glazing medium to stiffen felt. Immersion or brush application:
Brush Application of Glazing Media to Stiffen Felt:
This is the perfect technique for finishing touches like creating a sturdy stem for felt fruit or adding a bit of “crunch” to the bacon in your play breakfast food set.
1. Place the felt to be stiffened on a piece of scrap paper or cardboard.
2. Place a dot of glazing media on your cardboard
3. Use a stiff brush to dip into the glazing media and then apply to the felt in a blotting or stabbing motion. Applying this way helps the stiffening media sink into the fibers of the felt instead of remaining on the surface and potentially adding an unnatual finish to the felt.
4. Repeat until the section is covered, then use a paper towel to blot away any excess (if it’s thick enough that there’s an opaque white look to the felt, keep blotting)
5. Dry in the position desired (i.e. for a fruit stem dry straight or slightly curved, for bacon arrange the strip with ruffles).
Immersion Application of Glazing Media to Stiffen Felt:
1. Place 1-2 cups of cool water in a bowl.
2. Add 3-4 Tablespoons of glazing media (more for a very stiff product) and whisk until the mixture is uniformly liquid and opaque.
3. Add felt to the bowl one piece at a time, allowing the solution to fully saturate the fabric.
5. Very gently squeeze out excess solution. Roll felt between layers of an old towel and wring to speed drying.
6. Smooth flat and allow to dry thoroughly.