Friday, May 04, 2012

How to Make a Felt Board for the Crafty Challenged - Experiment 10

Today I spent about $30 and many hours making a felt board for T.  I guess technically it's a flannel board, since the board itself is covered in flannel.  For those who haven't seen these before, it's something found in a lot of preschools - a board full of shapes that can be moved around to make pictures and stories.  The awesome thing is that you don't need magnets or velcro - the felt just sticks to itself!

I first saw these in action at the Seattle Aquarium in February.  They had a HUGE board with lots of fish and aquatic plant shapes. We had to drag T away from it to go see the rest of the exhibits.  Then we saw one last week at our friend E's house, which inspired me to make one.

I did several online searches to find a decent tutorial that explained what kind of felt to use.  I came up empty.  No, I didn't look on Pinterest.  The tutorials I did find went mostly like this:

1.  Stick (or staple) felt to board.
2.  Cut out shapes.

I don't do a lot of fabric crafting, so I needed more details.  What kind of felt?  Are the shapes made out of the same stuff as the board? 

So I turned to my trusty (and crafty!) Facebook friends, and asked them.  K told me to use flannel for the board itself, then felt for the pieces.  She used a thrift store frame for the board, which is what Martha Stewart recommends. 


E's feltboard was a piece of artists stretched canvas so that's what I bought, because I liked the look without a frame edge. 18 x 18 inches was a good size for T's little table.

I am fabric-challenged and can't sew, so venturing into the fabric section at Jo-Ann's was an adventure.  I finally found the "soft flannels", which were even on sale, and chose a pretty sky blue.  I liked the glitter flannel but it wasn't as fuzzy as the plain stuff, and I think the key to good stickiness is the fuzz.

I got a piece that was 24" long, which was more than enough.  I also found a pack of felt flower "buttons" in the trim section, which I figured would save me a ton of time cutting out flowers individually.

For the shapes, I bought a multi-pack of colored craft felt.  This is the same stuff they sell in 9x12 inch sheets, but the pack was a lot cheaper per piece.  It's soft fuzzy felt, not self-adhesive, and not the stiff kind.  If you want bigger pieces, Jo-Ann had bolts of it in the home fabric section.


Online tutorials suggested either hot glue or a staple gun to attach the felt to the board.  I chose the staple gun since it looked like fun and I've never used one before.  It's my new best friend. Special thanks to TJ for the staple gun lesson and troubleshooting.

I needed sharp scissors to cut the shapes out of felt, and I used my American Crafts Galaxy White Marker to trace/draw the shapes.  Many people use a Sharpie but I'm picky and didn't want dark lines on everything.

I used some cups and bowls to trace circles, and a ruler for straight lines.  Everything else was drawn (poorly) freehand.


1.  Cut flannel to just larger than the canvas.  About 3 inches extra on each side worked well.  The edges don't have to be particularly straight since you're going to fold them in.

2.  Iron the flannel.  Mine had huge ugly creases in it and no amount of stretching was going to get rid of those.  Note to self: Don't iron on the dining table, even with a towel underneath.  I ruined the surface of the table when I used the steam setting.  Sad.

3.  Place canvas upside down on top of the flannel, centered.  Before you do this, make sure the surface is clean and dry!

4.  Fold the ends in so the frayed edges aren't exposed then pull the flannel tight and staple it to the wood part of the canvas.  I put the staples in about 2 inches apart.  You can use binder clips to hold the sections tight.  Do one side at a time and make sure you don't have any wrinkles or "bubbles" on the front. 

I'm especially proud of this corner!

 4a.  Pull the corners in tight, rolling frayed edges in.  I did this a little like wrapping a present, where I folded the corner over like a triangle (when I could- some sides just wouldn't cooperate!). 

5.  Repeat steps 4 and 4a for each side and corner.  Make sure you're always pulling the fabric tight.  Here's what it looked like when I finished all four sides.

Woot!  Now the board is done.  Step back and admire your handiwork!  If you have pre-cut felt shapes you can test it out now:

5.  Draw and cut shapes out of the soft craft felt.  The sky is the limit!  I made a variety of different sized and colored shapes, stems and leaves for the precut flowers, clouds, moon, a sun, stars, fish and trees.  I used the white marker to trace or draw the shapes and then cut them out.  Sharp, small scissors are helpful for detailed designs.

Because I was having so much fun being crafty, I found a cute box to hold all the felt pieces and added some letter stickers spelling "FELT" to the top.

Tips and Thoughts

  • I'm not sure if the flannel used for the board will pill over time and wear.  But it was easy enough to make the board that if it gets that much use, I can always make another.

  • You can make *anything* stick to the flannel if you put a small velcro dot on the back.  So I may experiment with cardstock or shapes and letters cut with my paper die cutting machine.

  • I don't know if the felt pieces will fray over time.  I didn't treat any of them with Fray-Check because it seemed too time-consuming.

  • When using the staple gun, make sure you hold it close to the front, and press down when stapling, so the staple ends up going in flat, without a gap.  A flat head screwdriver is handy to remove misplaced staples.

If I had to make another one, it would be a lot quicker.  The most time consuming part was cutting all the little shapes out of felt.  I probably cut more than T really needs - there certainly are more than she can place on the board at once!

T was pretty excited about it when she saw it and spent a good 20 minutes playing with it, even after a busy day at preschool when her focus had run out.  I expect we'll get at least a year's use out of it, if not more. 

If you make one, leave me a link in the comments!


  1. Fabulous! A couple of things - felt doesn't fray (neither does fleece). I'm glad you skipped the fray-check. :)

    We had a felt board at my house for a while. I got rid of it when the pieces were on the floor *way* more than on the board. The box to hold them is a great idea - I just stuck all of them on the board! Also - at *my* house, there's often dog hair on the floor (the horrors!) and it would get on the felt and look ugly. :(

    If she likes it and it's working out, you can use it for lots of cool things - change it out seasonally Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter or make holiday shapes throughout the year. Eventually you can make her letters (write letters on square pieces unless you're nuts and want to cut them out). Have fun!

  2. T is big on putting things away (yay Montessori preschool and genetics) so she liked having a place to put the pieces.

    We also have an abundance of dog hair, so she also knows that she needs to play with the board on the table rather than the floor. I'm sure our pieces will collect a bunch of dog hair anyway - it's EVERYWHERE esp now that it's getting warmer and Peanut is shedding like crazy.

    I love the seasonal/holiday idea! Our local craft store has diecut machines you can use so I may go there to cut fancy shapes.

    I thought about letters too. I found a couple of school supply places that sell felt letters online (way more than we need), but we also have SO MANY letter magnets on our fridge that I may just skip it entirely on the felt board.

  3. This is so cute! I was thinking of felt house, cloud etc to build a,scenery. Maybe when she is a little older and can cut stuff herself :)

    PS: I got ur package in the mail! TY!


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