Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Craft Corner : DIY Felt Birthday Crown

When my eldest was a baby (she just turned seven!) I read a lot of Soulemama. When I saw the birthday crowns she would make for her smalls, I just loved the idea and wanted to do the same for mine.

Seven years and nine crowns later.. my kids still love them. They get to be king/queen for a day, and it makes them feel that little bit more special than a paper party hat like the rest of the celebratory guests (even when there's no party)!

Because I change my mind too often to settle on just one crown for each of them to last their entire childhood, I add a new one to the collection when I feel the urge, when one is requested, or when their heads are just too damn big. Their first birthday crowns were adorned with their first initials and then we moved onto numbers. When birthday eve rolls around and I have completely forgotten that a new one was needed.. there has always been a number crown handy to fill the gap from an older sibling.

While (very) occasionally I am more organised.. most of the crowns were made after 10pm the night before their birthdays. It's always the last thing on my list to cross off before bed. Why I have never had the sense to move it to the top of the list I will never know. I raid my felt stash and zip it through my sewing machine. In less than half and hour there's a new crown perched on top of the present pile, waiting for excited eyes and hands when morning arrives.

BUT - I know everyone doesn't have a sewing machine, so I made one up especially for this tutorial and hand stitched from start to finish to show you they can be done easily, and quickly, for even the most craft challenged sort out there! In a little under an hour and a half (including making the boys and I some lunch and a lengthy skype chat with mum) this little non-specific-celebration crown was finished. Easily done while watching your favourite episode of whatever the night before kiddo's birthday.

It's very straight forward, just follow these simple steps..

1/ Choose your felt, decide on colours and design. I have a basket of felt leftover from all manner of craft activities - good stuff and average stuff. Any kind of wool blend is the best because it's stronger and feels really nice, also more durable over time (our crowns are used regularly during dress up play). Usually, you need to buy this from the big bolt in the fabric section, requesting how much you need cut for you. The wool blends won't lose shape easily like the cheapo coloured squares you can buy pre-cut - though not to discount them because I use them too. If that's what's in the basket, I am totally not making a trip to Spotlight just for one tiny piece of better quality felt..

2/ You'll need embroidery thread to stitch everything together. You could use regular cotton, doubled over your needle, but embroidery thread is thicker and designed to embellish so it makes everything look lovely.

3/ Using a piece of paper, sketch your crown shape - or half of it, so you end up with a symmetrical shape (sewing is ALL about symmetry). You will only ever need to do this once because any subsequent crowns can be shaped from your original (like below). Fold your chosen piece of felt in half and place the middle point of your crown on the fold line. You can use a sewing pen/chalk to mark the shape of your crown, but if you're lazy like me, simply hold it firm while cutting or slip a couple of pins through your pattern and felt to keep it in the right place.

4/ Repeat. I like to do a double coloured crown - because I love colour and it also helps with stability. I cut it the same size again and then just nick off a fraction each side so that it ends up slightly smaller than the first piece you cut. In this instance, I used the pinking shears for a bit of detail on the top layer.

If I'm organised, I will add a piece of stiffened fabric in between the two pieces of felt (look closely below and you can see a tiny bit of white poking out behind the orange). You can buy it in black and white and in varying thicknesses. It has one sticky side that is activated when ironed onto the fabric you're using, or simply sandwich and stitch together, omitting the ironing part. I put this extra layer in all their first birthday crowns and they still look exactly the same today. The stiffener definitely keeps the points of the crown, well.. pointy! Without it, the points can be softer but, given I am sewing crowns at 11pm, getting the iron and ironing board out is waaay too much trouble so I know they work just fine without the extra layer. The choice is yours.

5/ Create your embellishment. My tried and trusted method is a circle with the appropriate letter or number inside. Of course, you can do anything you like. If you're handy with a needle, you could even embroider your child's full name (my favourite choice of stitch for any kind of wording is stem stitch). When my nephew turned one last year, my sister requested a number one with a moustache because he was having a moustache party. Go crazy!

6/ Attach your embellishment to the TOP layer of your crown. This way, you will hide all the backstitching of the embellishment between the two layers. Keeping things neutral here, I simply chopped up some coloured scraps and arranged randomly, securing with a few pins before stitching down with a simple running stitch. The beauty of a running stitch is that it's quick - you can space those anchors right out and before you know it, you're done.

7/ Separating embroidery thread is tricky. It comes in strands of six - but you would never use six pieces at a time. Usually I will use two strands, sometimes three, cut to size. Years ago I came across this video of someone separating the thread using their mouth.. yes! Ever since then, I have always done it the same way. Of course I cannot find the video now.. so I will try to explain..

With six strands together, pull two strands away from the remaining four, about an inch is fine - so your thread will look like a Y but with a really shallow V part). Now using both hands to separate your group of two and four strands, put the long part of the Y (which is still 6 strands together) in your mouth so the V is positioned where it opens from the right hand corner of your mouth. The thread in your mouth needs to be gently coated by your tongue as you pull the thread through your mouth, pulling the strands further apart (the V part) as you pull the length of the thread through your mouth.. weird, but totally works.

8/ Stitch your top layer to your back layer. I used the same simple stitch again, attaching the top peaks first, leaving the sides and bottom open.

9/ Cut and insert the elastic. The amount of stretch in your elastic will determine how much you need to fit your child's head snugly. Measure and add an extra centimetre or two at each end, which will be tucked in between your two layers to ensure the elastic will never come away. Bring your stitches together very tightly when stitching over the elastic to ensure it is secure. Stitch one end of elastic in, then right across the bottom, finishing off sandwiching the other end of elastic between the two layers of felt.

10/ Voila! You're done.

After years of crown making, you can make your kids do a montage. Who doesn't love a montage?! MONTAGE!


  1. Could you be a sneaky cheat and use fabric glue instead of sewing?!

    1. Ha ha…my thoughts exactly!
      My "craft" tends to be done with glue and safety pins!

  2. Love it! We've sewn a few as birthday gifts too with a really simple felt wand with dangly ribbons! Always a well loved gift :) Love the one you've done with all the triangles!

  3. The article covers all the major aspects of the topic.


Thanks so much for your words of encouragement, advice and solidarity.

xo em