Mini-Tutorial: Felt Detailing

Amigurumi felt detailing : eye and mouth

The topic came up as a request from Instagram a while back – how do I attach the details on the face?

Here’s a short tutorial on exactly that.

For facial details, I had always done a combination of embroidery and painting on felt pieces. Back when I started to crochet (around 2008? A while ago), there wasn’t nearly as many places where I could buy safety animal eyes or wool for felting, and I didn’t have a credit card to order things online.

Instead of looking further, I decided to stitch on pieces of felt and paint on top of them with a thick acrylic paint. I usually work with white or black felt as the base, because almost any eye can be created from these two colours. In my example, however, I have the Midnight form Lycanroc – the eyes were made with an old piece of pink felt from the 70’s, and the white felt came from our nearby Japanese 2-dollar importer store, Oomomo.

If you do go look for felt, make sure the grain is dense and super smooth! If it’s the regular dollar store kind, there is a greater chance that the eyes will be stretched thin when it is stitched in place, or the paint will not coat evenly on top. I say this with experience from some of my previous projects, even as recent as last year.

regular felt example
This is an example of felt that probably is not dense enough for detailing your amigurumi with stitched attachment; texture is visibly rough and uneven (stripey in colour)
another regular felt example
Another example of rough felt
nice felt example
Example of denser felt; grain is more consistent in texture and has a sense of opaqueness that won’t allow colours to show through itself
another nice felt example
Felt costs relatively the same, whether it is of a good texture or not – checking it in person is probably for the best

When cutting out the base shape, I go for a slightly bigger shape than what I plan to have in the end. The stitching around the eyes takes up about 2.0mm to 3.0mm, and it is a lot easier to trim any excess with a bigger piece. Once I like the shape, I place the pieces onto the head to check the proportions and positioning.

Amigurumi felt detailing : eye piece cut out and placed onto face

To keep them roughly in place, I do a loose stitching around the edges onto the face. The secret to keeping the shape flat is to aim at the closest peak of the crocheted fabric, just outside the felt’s outline. The stretch between the fabric and felt lets it stay level with the piece – you can see how the first round of stitching keeps the mouth in place:

Amigurumi felt detailing : mouth piece cut out and placed onto face
Amigurumi felt detailing :  mouth piece roughly  being stitched in place on the head
Amigurumi felt detailing :  mouth piece with first round of stitching in place

At this point, it is best to roughly mark out where to paint the inner eye parts (or in this case, the eyes and the mouth):

Amigurumi felt detailing :  mouth piece with second round of stitches and pen roughly marked in for painting

Once the pieces are secured and marked with pen, the next round of stitching continues along the edges of the felt. I found that the easiest way to keep the edges looking smooth was to move in a clockwise pattern and place each stitch as close to the previous one as possible. If the first round of stitches have been placed securely enough, this part becomes a lot easier to do; in a sense, the first round establishes the base of the detail, and the second round tucks it in.

Amigurumi felt detailing :  eye piece going through second round of stitching
I still decided to go beyond to the next available crochet peak, but the exit point for the stitch is as close to the last stitch as possible.
Amigurumi felt detailing :  eye piece going through second round of stitching, placing the stitch just outside the edge to the nearest crocheted peak
It looks like this when it isn’t tightened
Amigurumi felt detailing :  eye piece going through second round of stitching, pulling one stitch tight
The stitch fits nicely once it is pulled tight

Next up is selecting the paint – I have some old liquitex paints, some metallic folk art acrylic paint, and a tube of black fabric paint that I usually use. These size tubes of paint can easily last me for years, I think I bought them back in the 2000’s.

Acrylic paint used for painting on felt
Fabric paint used for painting on felt

The nozzle tip helps with the outlines, while the other colours are diluted a bit with water (like a drop of water in a small blob of paint) with a small paintbrush. If the paint looks a bit too lumpy when it is applied onto the felt, more water should help it smooth out. Sometimes I mix the water into the paint on a piece of paper/palette to ensure it is nice and smooth in application; I do this a lot when I’m mixing a specific colour together.

Water used for diluting a small amount of acrylic paint

The pen lines stay pretty visible, so they can only be covered with a dark or thick coat of paint. The fabric paint does a pretty good job covering the lines, which makes sense to use the pen lines as guidelines for the outlines. With the above picture, I just realized that I forgot to mention that it is best to have the palm braced against something while painting the crocheted piece.

Paint is applied onto felt with a small paintbrush, or nozzle tip from a tube of fabric paint

Since I don’t have both my hands while I take pictures, it is difficult to show how I hold the pieces – imagine the non-dominant hand holding the piece, while the side-palm of the dominant hand is braced against the tip of the other hand’s fingers. This sort of grip helps me keep the small brush steady; as long as you can brace your dominant hand onto something, the application of details runs a lot smoother. I also use small strokes to “dab” the paint onto the felt, because it tends to absorb before it allows the paint to flow over. Every time I dip for more paint, I expect to cover maybe a quarter of a 1.0 cm squared area.

Amigurumi felt details: showing one eye painted and the other eye without paint

If you don’t like how the nozzle tip leaves a rounded edge at the end of a line, you can quickly go over it with a small paintbrush to push the paint to sharpen the final look. Sometimes I get lazy and use the tip of the nozzle to push the paint around instead, but you risk getting other colours into the paint tube.

Amigurumi felt details: showing one eye painted and details added on top

So that’s the gist of it on how I make the felt and paint details of my amigurumi dolls. I hope you enjoyed the mini-tutorial! Maybe I’ll have some more tips and tricks featured in the future.