Felt Cat Pin tutorial

This project is from my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk. I showed how to make the cat pin on HGTV’s The Carol Duvall Show soon after the book came out in 2003. Here are the same pieces we used in the step-by-step demonstration on the show.

Find out about books I’ve illustrated with fabric relief here. See more cats I made of felt in an earlier post here.


Felt Cat Pin from “Felt Wee Folk”, 2″ x 2.5″

Living without TV, I was unaware of the numerous cable craft shows and now have been exposed to this new term “tutorial” used on blogs. I’m slowly crawling out of my sewing room, but question how a person can both do their creative work and keep in touch with the vast sewing/fibers network! I suppose, like everything, it’s a question of balance. I hope that you enjoy this cat pin project and use it as a launching pad for other ideas of your own. You can read and see earlier posts about my pin business here.

FELT CAT PIN: To complete the project, you’ll need to understand how to do a blanket stitch, chain stitch, satin stitch and fly stitch.

Materials: 1″ pin back, pinking shears, embroidery needles, 2 green glass beads (about 1/4″), embroidery floss: black, brown, orange, gold, light green, wool felt: 2-1/4″ x 2″ pink, 1-1/2″ x 1-3/4″ blue, 1-1/4 x 1-1/2″ orange

CPTsuppliesWM Step 1. Cut out shapes from wool felt: orange for cat, blue for the middle layer and pink for the bottom layer.

Step 2. Sew the pin back to the bottom layer with floss or sewing thread.


Step 2

 Step 3. Satin stitch the cat’s nose with double strands of orange floss. With brown floss, stitch the bottom end the cat’s nose.

Step 3

Step 3

Step 4. Stitch the mouth and whiskers with double strands of brown floss. Sew the green bead eyes onto the cat face with black floss, stitching vertically to make the eye’s pupil. Stitch an outline around the bead eyes with a single strand of brown floss. With a double strand of gold floss, use a fly stitch to make cat’s stripes.

Step 4

Step 4

 Step 5: With double strands of orange floss, stitch the cat face to the blue middle piece, blanket stitching all around the outside edge of the cat face

Step 5

Step 5

Step 6. With a single strand of light green floss, chain stitch the curly queue on the blue felt, above the cat face. Then, with double strands of light green floss, blanket stitch the blue middle section onto the pink piece.

Step 7. With sharp picking shears, trim around the outside edge of the pink felt piece. You’re finished!

Step 6

Step 6

Noah’s Ark

At 26″ x 30″, Noah’s Ark is the largest piece I’ve ever made.  Everyone has their own scale and mine tends to be small. Even if the outside dimensions of a piece are large, I will fill it with smaller items. Looking at this picture now, I see large areas that would not escape my present-day appetite for embellishment.  It’s tricky to keep the all over design working, so that it draws you in first and then you can appreciate the detail up close. At this time, in 1985, I had stopped making the pins, but was still designing small animals of the same size to use in my fabric relief pictures. You can read a 3 part story about my pins in earlier blog posts here. Showing the story of Noah was an opportunity to continue figuring out how to make a variety of animals. It was also a way to play around with arranging them together in a landscape.

“Noah’s Ark”, 26″ x 30″, fabric relief 1985

 The background fabric is cotton velveteen, which I dyed with a spray bottle, building up layers of  color, giving it a variegated, stippled appearance. The border is made from an upholstery fabric remnant that I remember finding in a bargain bin at a fabric store in Berkeley, California.   

dyed velveteen

Detail of "Noah's Ark", 9" x 12", 1985

sketch of Noah's Ark

During this time, I was hand embroidering the leaves on the trees and adding some leaf beads as well. The fabric is machine appliqued, something I would give up shortly after this in favor of hand stitching. I came to dislike the uniform, flat stitches and put my sewing machine away for years at a time. It’s fun to look at this piece and see early examples of human figures and animals that I will continue to rework and develop for another 25 years.  

Noah and his wife

Detail from "Noah's Ark"

detail from "Noah's Ark"

detail from "Noah's Ark"

Close-ups (hearts)

This selection of hearts begins with a sleeping cat on a heart covered bed spread from my book In the Heart. Then there is a felt balsam pillow and a heart pin covered in french knots, both projects from my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk. The last two are a chain stitched heart that’s part of the endpapers and a heart tart from “The Queen of Hearts” nursery rhyme (see in this post) from my upcoming book, Pocketful of Posies (Sept. 2010). The original illustrations will be shown in a traveling exhibition which you can find out about here.

detail from “In the Heart” 2001

balsam pillow from “Felt Wee Folk” 2003

pin from “Felt Wee Folk”

detail from “Pocketful of Posies” 2010

detail from “Pocketful of Posies” 2010

Note: See other posts in the Close-ups series archive here.

Pins (part 3)


Pin catalog, 1980

 I enjoyed the challenge of coming up with ways to make the animals’ extremities and found beads for their legs, ears, noses and eyes. The business grew to a point where most of my sales were to shops, on a wholesale basis. To keep the process interesting, I came up with new designs like this bread and cheese and scallop shell.     

Display stand for pins

 In an effort to meet people and to make more for my labor, I became a member of the Christmas Store, a seasonal cooperative in Cambridge and commuted from the Cape to do my work shifts. For a display, I built a fruit and vegetable stand with crates made out of popsicle sticks.  Later, I made patterns and wrote directions on how to make the pins for the 1982 Holiday Crafts issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.     

Better Homes and Gardens, 1982

Better Homes and Gardens, 1982

 After about 5 years of mass producing the pins, I moved on to other things, including motherhood.  Since then, I’ve had several business ventures, which inevitably reach a point when I’ve had to make a decision to grow or stop all together. I’ve always chosen freedom, never wanting to spend all of my time running a business, even though I see the promotional part as an important element of a creative project. And it’s not as if I walked away from a gold mine. At the wholesale price, I was making so little for my time. Being an artist means coming up with new ideas and making the same thing over and over has therapeutic, although limited appeal. Even the idea of hiring others to do the work made me nervous. I knew that I would be a miserable boss, having to hold others to a high standard of workmanship at low pay. And, I realized that I am happiest while making things myself! I have no exact record of how many pins I made, but it must have been well over a thousand. Throughout, the peapod was a best-seller, which was ironic because it was the simplest and fastest to make of all.     

Peapod pin

Pins (part 2)

Continued from Pins (part 1).

I started adding new designs and soon had 20 different pins.  It was time to be more serious about marketing and I decided that a catalog was needed to reach more people. A former classmate from RISD, Niki Bonnett, volunteered to develop some promotional materials for my business.

Pin catalog designed by Niki Bonnett, 1980

Niki devised a poster that could be cut up in strips and glued together in such a way as to make an accordion-fold catalog. She made drawings, with descriptive hand written notes identifying materials and features of each pin.  For the sake of economy, the poster was printed in black and white, and I hand colored the pin illustrations with markers. I constructed a cover for each catalog out of cloth-covered cardboard. Then I glued the beginning and end of the accordion folded pages to the inside of the front and back covers, along with ribbon ties. The finished catalog size was 4″ x 3″.

pin poster designed by Niki Bonnett,1980

In a recent conversation from her home in Ashville, NC, Niki remembers this about the project:

“When I did your job, I was working at Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos (HHCC), a well-known ad agency in Boston. I was doing freelance work at night to build my portfolio and I loved your pins.

For your project, I designed a poster with all the art and type as white on a black background. Once printed, it could be cut up into horizontal strips that were then hand colored, accordion folded, taped together and hand-bound into a fabric wrapped cover (also handmade) that tied shut with a bit of ribbon. Obviously, back then I didn’t think about my time as part of the cost of doing the project, and I had plenty of it back then too! All it cost was the printing of some black and white posters! Those posters looked great on their own, and it was lots of fun making those books; they were little gems.

In addition to the design and production of the piece, I also did all the illustrations of the pins, the calligraphy naming each pin style, and I created that typeface that your name and other copy were set in. I got one of the typesetter reps who visited HHCC every day to give me an entire alphabet of uppercase, metal letters (“slugs”? I forget the terminology for those bits of lead type). The letters were tiny, maybe 12 point. I used a brayer to roll black acrylic paint out on a piece of glass and then hand printed each tiny letter on rough newsprint until I got the “perfect” letter. Once I chose the letters for the entire alphabet, I blew them up to four times the original size on the Photostat machine (Good thing I had a key to that ad agency! Can you imagine being able to sneak back into a large office now to work on your own stuff from 8 to midnight?). That became my typeface from which I made all the “typeset” words. Needless to say, there was A WHOLE LOT of cutting and pasting goin’ on!

House Pin 1977

I was very proud of that project and I know I still have at least one of those books and some pins tucked away somewhere all these years later. I sure do miss the hands-on way design was done before computers; that’s what eventually caused me to quit my graphic design business in favor of making art quilts. I never made the kind of money I made in commercial art with my textile artwork, but it was so enjoyable… the creativity and the “making” of things!”

Salley arranging pins on top of poster, designed by Niki Bonnett, 1980

Mummy pin

Eggplant Pin 1977

My pins were included in Yankee’s Feb. 1981 issue, along with articles about a man who played music on a saw and someone who repaired oriental rugs. Laura Gross wrote, “Sparkling beads and soft velvet compliment her intricate hand-sewn and embroidered Egyptian mummies, palm trees, hearts, carrots, etc. Prices range from $4.00 to $12.00, and her custom work starts at $15.00. In the past, Salley has specially made banjos, cats, mermaids, New York town houses, corn-on-the-cob and a doctor’s bag, complete with gold initials.” I don’t recall making the doctor’s bag, but I do remember sewing on individual yellow seed beads for kernels of corn.

pin catalogs, 1980

People wrote in response to the article and I sent out free catalogs in manilla envelopes. I can’t remember how many orders came in, but it was enough to keep me busy for a while.

Pin catalog

The story will be continued in PINS (part 3).