The Making of a Felt Like-ness, by Amber Alves of Felt Like It May 30, 2014 04:00
The 2013 holiday season was, thankfully, very busy for me and Felt Like It. But, after making many things over and over again, I was feeling a bit creatively unchallenged. So, I decided to do something I've never done before: make a felt person. That person ended up being Colorado Rockies OF Charlie Blackmon (or @Chuck_Nazty to the Twitterverse).
My work generally focuses on inanimate objects, like food, or the US states (you all know Buddy Rhodes, the RI pillow). I don’t have much experience with felt figurative work. However, one time I made a cartoonish, bobble-headed-looking version of Ben Folds, so I figured “professional baseball player” was a challenge that I could handle.
Step 1: Gathering Sources and Making Faces
Deciding that the head/face was going to be the most challenging to sew, I started there ("HA!" said Future Self. "You don't know 'challenging' until you've made some felt pants!"). Utilizing Google Image Search, I gathered some good images that clearly showed the shape of his head, but also some personality. I selected one to use as a template, scaled it to the actual size I needed, printed it out, and made a super simple line tracing, marking off the basics like eye and mouth placement.
I'm pretty sure I made everything at least twice (some components even thrice!). I started with a flat 2D nose made out of a few stitched lines. It looked lazy, to be honest, so I ended up making a three-dimensional nose (made two, actually!) and stitched it to the face using my "hide the knot under the thing you're sewing" method. For the eyes, I simply cut some felt circles and the mouth is a simple stitched curved line -- this gave the face a cute, cartoony look, but it's nicely balanced with semi-realistic eyebrows.
There was one crucial detail missing: the Beard (the Beard is, at this point, famous enough to Rockies baseball fans that it deserves to be capitalized). Of course, I ended up making three beards. For the final version, I cut out a larger-than-needed beard-shaped piece of felt and hand-stitched it directly to the face, leaving a small opening through which I stuffed a bit of felt before stitching it closed. This makes the head look like it actually has a chin.
Beard, version 1 of many
Hand-stitched CR logo baseball cap
Beardless mini Blackmon, beardless regular Blackmon. TWINS!
Step 2: Making Felt Clothing is Hard...
Marathoning "Project Runway" did nothing to prepare for the challenge of making tiny felt clothes. I'm not used to precision sewing or dealing with apparel patterns. But I really wanted this mini baseball player to look detailed and accurate so I googled shirt, pants, and baseball cap patterns that I could scale down. Also, I couldn't locate any white-with-purple pinstriped material at my fabric store so I made some by machine-sewing purple lines onto white felt.
The first pair of pants I stitched were too short. The mini looked absurd, with these long arms and stubby legs. I couldn't shortcut my way out of this, so the only solution was to make another pair of pants. Measure twice, cut once, kids!
I lucked out with the arms because I had just barely enough beige felt to make forearms and hands. Without the black undershirt, I ran the risk of having mismatched arm and face tones.
Rockies jersey, front (before the french knot "buttons")
The spikes were tough because, while there are plenty of shirt and pant patterns online,
there wasn't anything for footwear that I could use. All I did was guess and hope!
Step 3: ...But Hand Embroidery is Harder
There are easier ways to do everything, yet I never seem to go that route when I undertake a project. I go with what will look best in the final version. I could've used print-on, iron-on fabric paper to make all the logos and lettering, but what's the fun in that?! Instead, I chose to hand-embroider the CR logo on the hat, the "ROCKIES" text on the front of the jersey, and the name on the back of the jersey. (I did use print-on fabric and Heat 'n Bond for the tiny sleeve patch) The 19s on the front and back are cut from felt and then hand-stitched. A smarter person would've used a disappearing pen to sketch in the placement of the letters, but I pretty much eyeballed it. I'm happy with the way it turned out, though, despite the name on the back not being slightly curved like a true jersey.
Detail of jersey stitching
Step 4: Strike a Pose?
For the longest time, the figure just stood there (propped up in a stand) holding his arms awkwardly like a Ken doll. I just didn't know how to pose. If I placed him in a batting position, then I would've made batting gloves and a helmet for accuracy and that ship had sailed. Fortunately, inspiration came in early April when Blackmon was named NL Co-Player of the Week. The photo that came along with some of the press featured Blackmon with his right hand on his hip and a bat propped against his left shoulder. I went with it, but I ended up making about three bats (of course).
The end result? A handsome felt figure that has the approval of Blackmon himself.
Of course, the felt version has a different head-to-body size ratio...
To wrap things up: if you're starting to feel uninspired by what you've been making, try making something out of your comfort zone. I challenged myself with this particular project, and along the way I learned some lessons about planning (that I should do more of it...) and not being afraid to rip stitches out and start over. And who knows, maybe now I'll launch a Felt Like It side project called "Felt Likeness." Any requests?
A native of Rhode Island now living in Denver, Amber Alves graduated from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth with a degree in visual design and works as a graphic designer in the financial industry by day and creates rad pillows, plush toys, and tchotchkes by night under the name Felt Like It. In her free time, Ms. Alves enjoys cycling, running, traveling through the western US, and sampling the many craft beers Colorado has to offer.