How To: Needle Felt T-Shirt Designs

Pinterest recently led me to a tutorial for needle felting onto shirts from the website Honestly WTF. In their post they felted onto a wool garment. Great for fall or winter, but so not so fun in June. I wondered can it be done on a cotton t-shirt? With my Fiber and Material Studies background I knew wool/apalca/angora fibers don't really felt all that well to cotton (or any plant or synthetic fibers for that matter), but where there's a will there's a way!

Here's How:

1. Gather 1 cotton tee, a couple felting needles, 1 pink styrofoam block (I have a bunch cut down from a huge sheet at Home Depot), 2 small squares of pre-felted wool, plenty of colorful fleece, paper, scissors, and 1 colored pencil that contrasts with your t shirt. Later you'll need soap, water and an iron.

2. Decide on the shape(s) you want to add to your t-shirt. Create a paper template, keeping both the cut out shape and the left over stencil. Play around with the placement of the design with the cut out piece of paper, then trace it with your colored pencil when you find the right spot.

2. Next place 1 square of pre-felted wool on the underside of your design. Make sure it is a little larger than the design you are felting. This will give the fibers you needle into the shirt something to truly felt into, since cotton won't hold them on its own.

3. Pull apart some small tufts of fleece, whether it be wool, apalca, or baby buffalo down. Use the pencil outline and the left over stencil paper to maintain the size and contours of the design. Felt several layers, until you can no longer see the tee underneath and wispy/stray fibers are packed tight.

4.Remove the stencil and create a crisp outline by twisting tufts of fiber into "threads" and needle felting the outline of the design.

5. Repeat on the other side. Or all over. Or until you feel you've added all the needle felted flair you can handle!

6. Pull the needle felted areas off the pink Styrofoam block. It should look like a fuzzy, mirror image of the outer t-shirt. Carefully trim off the excess pre-felted fibers, so you don't cut into the shirt.

7.Dampen the felted sections of the t-shirt and add a drop of dish soap onto the design. Lather up the area with your fingers for about 5 minutes. This will strengthen the felting process and help lay wispy/stray fibers down. Once dry, iron the felted parts of the shirt on the wool setting.

8. VOILA! An already cute shirt looking a little extra special :)

1. Felting needles are very painful when you stab yourself (believe me!). Avoid going off into la la land as your felting.
2. Hand wash or dry clean felted t-shirts. Cotton and wool both shrink when mixed with water, high and low temperatures and friction. However they don't shrink at the same rate. Beware...or experiment with the outcomes :)
3.  Wool is itchy. You may want to add some iron- on cloth material to felted areas that would be touching your skin or wear a tank underneath.

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