Introduction: Felt Cosy for a Cafetiere / French Press

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Everyone is a coffee fiend these days, and a cafetiere (sometimes called a French press) is a fuss-free way to brew it. Here’s how to make a felt cover to pretty up a cafetiere and keep the coffee hot for a second cup. It’s a suitable beginner’s needle felting project. Not only that, it's a good use for a sweater that has reached the end of its life. But if you don't have such a garment, you could make this from a piece of thick industrial felt instead.

You'll need:

  1. an old sweater in a plain colour (100% wool, not superwash treated)
  2. scraps of coloured craft felt
  3. a felting needle
  4. a foam block or upturned brush for needle-felting onto
  5. paper and pencil to make a pattern
  6. a tape measure
  7. 3 sew-on press studs or a short length of Velcro (hook and loop closure)
  8. sewing thread and needle
  9. scissors
  10. a sewing machine (not essential)

Step 1: Felt Your Sweater

Perhaps you have a wool jumper that someone (let's not dwell on who that was) has washed on the wrong cycle and it's now too small. Or maybe the moths have got to a sleeve, or an elbow has worn through. As long is the back or front, at least, is largely hole-free, it should be suitable for felting. (Strictly speaking, as we're starting with fabric and not fibre, it's milling not felting, but never mind that.) It needs to be a plain colour because you are going to embellish it.

Chop off the sleeves and the collar if there is one, and cut down the side seams. Then throw the back or front in the washing machine the next time you have some laundry to wash on a normal wash, not the gentle wash you would normally use for wool. You could felt the other pieces too if you wish and use them to make things such as an e-reader case.

I find that little and often is best for felting, so I'd recommend using a wash cycle at say 40°C (100°F) that's suitable for coloured synthetics rather than a white cotton wash at a higher temperature. You will probably have to subject the garment piece to several washes to get the right degree of felting, but better that than putting it in a single hot, vigorous wash and finding that it's become so stiff and shrunken that it's unusable.

After each wash, flatten the piece with your hands and leave it to dry naturally until you next use the washing machine. If it develops creases, iron them flat with a steam iron before you wash the piece again or the creases will become permanent.

When the jumper back or front has been adequately felted it should be only about half the size it was, but nice and thick. Also, it won't unravel when you cut it. Make sure you stop washing it while it's still big enough to wrap round your cafetiere. Let it dry and then press it with a steam iron and leave it somewhere warm to dry thoroughly.

The piece I used for this cosy was the front of an old cardigan - note the buttonholes that you can see along the bottom of the picture and the cabling which runs parallel to the buttonhole edge, a few inches above it.

Step 2: Measuring and Cutting

Start by measuring the circumference and height of the cafetiere. Mine is a standard, 8 cup model that measures 12.5″ (32cm) around and about 6″ (15cm) tall – just measure the height of the straight part of the glass. You’ll need a rectangle of felt that is about 0.5-1″ (1-2.5cm) shorter in each direction, plus an extra piece for the closure flap.

Cut a paper pattern of the maximum size you think you need and check it fits neatly around the cafetiere. The two ends won’t meet because the handle is in the way, they need to stop just short of the handle. Trim the pattern until it fits well - I ended up with a 11.5″ x 5″ / 29cm x 13cm rectangle.

Cut out a little V where the cafetiere’s pouring lip is, to make it less likely that the felt cosy will get drips of coffee on it. When you are satisfied that the pattern is the right size and shape, pin it to the felt and cut around it, avoiding any holes. If there are any interesting features of your felt, like the cabling on my cardigan front, you could make use of them - I cut my cosy such that the cabling formed the lower edge of it.

Step 3: Preparing to Embellish

All you need for the embellishment is some thin craft felt of the type that is sold in small squares for children to use. Cut out one or two large shapes (eg coffee cups, a Scottie dog, holly leaves, whatever takes your fancy) or lots of small shapes in different colours. I wanted to complement my favourite spotty coffee mug, so I cut out circles in five colours.

If this is your first go at needle felting, practise first with scraps of the backing felt and embellishment felt. Place the backing felt on the foam block with the coloured felt on top, hold it in place with your finger (or the tip of a pin) and stab the felting needle repeatedly into it. There are two important things to remember:

  1. Keep the felting needle well away from your fingers, it is VERY sharp.
  2. Hold the needle upright, perpendicular to the surface of the felt, or it will break. While any part of it is in contact with the felt, it must only move in an up and down direction.

Move the felting needle around (in between the stabbing actions) until the whole surface of the embellishment felt has been well and truly covered.

If you turn the backing felt over, you should see a coloured shape on the other side, indicating that fibres have been taken right through the fabric, like in the photo.

Keep going until it is no longer obvious that one piece of felt has been appliqued onto another and it looks more like the backing felt has been painted or printed with a different colour, but stop before any holes form in the embellishment felt.

Step 4: Adding the Embellishment

When you feel you have had enough practice, arrange your felt shapes on the backing fabric in a pleasing way. If you want, pin them in place but it shouldn’t be necessary if you keep the felt horizontal from now on. Lay it on the foam block and, starting at one side, quickly “tack” each shape in place with the felting needle. I found that about 80 stabs were needed to tack on each of my coloured circles. Remove any pins from a shape before you begin needle felting it, although you can hold a pin in your other hand and use its tip to stop the shape moving around if needed to start with.

Next, you must go back over each appliqued shape and needle felt it more thoroughly. A multi-needle felting tool makes the job faster, but I was able to do each of my 1cm circles in 3-4 minutes using a single needle. Go round the edges particularly thoroughly so that they are no longer proud of the surface and the felt shape appears to be part of the main fabric. In the first photo of the yellow circle it is not yet completely felted onto the backing fabric, while in the second one it has been fully attached.

When all the circles are fully felted onto the backing fabric, give it a good press with an iron and lots of steam (or a damp cloth) to get rid of all the little stab holes.

Step 5: The Closure

From the remains of the felted jumper, cut a rectangle that will fit through the cafetiere’s handle and overlap by about 1″ (2.5cm) on either side of the cosy. The rectangle I used was 3″ wide by 3.5″ high (7cm x 9cm). Position this rectangle in place on one side of the edge of the cosy, overlapping it by 1″ (2.5cm). Pin it and then stitch it with a double row of stitching, ideally by machine but you could hand sew with a backstitch.

Fasten the cosy by sewing press studs or a Velcro strip onto the free side of the flap and the opposite end of the cosy.

Step 6: The Finished Cosy

This is how it should look when fitted around a cafetiere.

Now, make a pot of coffee and enjoy.

Don't worry if your new cosy gets dirty. As long as you wash it gently, like any other wool item, it won't shrink any more.

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