Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Marvel City Felt Board

This city goes along with our Marvel Characters Felt Board Pieces and it is incredibly easy to make. However, it's just filling in for now because I plan on making a 3-D city for these pieces to be played with in. (Fair warning though, it will probably take me at least a few weeks to complete it. I only have a short while each night that I can devote to a project like that.)

For the city buildings I traced a few different sized rectangular boxes. I used a tan and a dark grey colour felt. I'll have many different ones for the future. In the meantime...

I used a sheet of black felt to cut out doors and windows. 

The black windows are for the ones that don't have a light on inside. :)

And I did the same thing with a sheet of white and yellow felt, except I didn't cut out doors. I also freehanded the windows, so they are not perfectly square. In the comic universe, that's ok.

Bean picked out the light blue felt board because she said it was a clear day. She asked for a couple clouds, some rain drops and lightning because later there would be a storm. :)

These are the pieces she picked out.

Then she started to set up the buildings. They only fit if you layer them up, but it looks more interesting that way anyways. :)

And after much arranging of windows... We decided to glue them on before the next time we play with them. Yes, it's interesting to arrange them, but it also takes away from the activity if you have to keep fixing them every time they fall off. So yeah, that will be my project tomorrow - glue the windows on!

Thor summoned some thunder and lightning. It would be interesting to make some comic book action sounds, like BAM, ZAP or BAMF, etc. and make them into laminated felt pieces like the characters.

Munchkin kept "slamming" Iron Man down, which is his version of Iron Man's typical landing.

Meanwhile Doctor Doom is summoning up a clone of himself... and Spider-Man is forever climbing up the window...

Meanwhile, the other pieces are waiting to be called into action... :)

And this city is only temporary... It's my intention to build a 3-D city that will fit over our coffee table and will include several Marvel specific buildings, like Stark Tower, Baxter Building, Avengers Mansion, X-Men Academy, Daily Bugle, etc. and they will also be removable, just in case a building or two falls over. Because, let's face it, the Marvel crew are known for beating up the city as well as the villains. So there will be streets, props, trees, rubble... I'll probably share sneak peeks on my Facebook page! :)

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and look forward to our future felt projects!! If you have ever made a project like this, I'd love to hear about it in the comments! Or if you have any suggestions, please feel free to share them! 

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Marvel Characters Felt Board Pieces

Alright, here is the big project I have been working on for the past week or so. My daughter's 4th birthday just passed and it's a tradition of mine to make a homemade gift each holiday for them. This year she wanted a Spider-Man themed birthday party and since she is also obsessed with Captain America from The Avengers, I decided I should combine the two and just make a big batch of Marvel felt board pieces.

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Well, I'll be honest, I can't really draw that well. I mean, I can draw a carrot, but don't ask me to draw a symmetrical face. I used to draw well, but it's been almost 10 years since I took drawing seriously. And since I'm out of practice, it took many (and I mean many) rough sketch drawings to convince myself that I couldn't draw a Captain America or Spider-Man that could easily be transferred to felt. Not to mention, they have lots of fine details on their armor and suits that would have been difficult to draw even with a fine tip fabric marker or to stitch, which would have made this project even longer to complete. Well, all that being said, I started to think of other ways to make the pieces I had in mind.

And then I remembered the Marvel Avengers sticker book that I saw at Target. So I went back and bought it ($13) and tested out a few different ways to make them. Well these particular stickers are reusable, which means they don't stick very well, especially not to felt. So for the test batch, I glued them using Elmer's CraftBond Flexible Dual Tip Glue Pen onto a sheet of white felt. Several of them came out perfect and a few had a bit too much glue, so they did not dry flat. I want these pieces to last a while, so I decided to laminate some of them. And by some of them, I mean most of the ones included in the book (there are two of each sticker in the book, so I used one for the majority of them).

A glorious stack of laminated pages... Each time I got to a sticker that didn't quite fit, it just gave me more of an excuse to make more, so I'd fill up the next page and come to the same issue again. :) This is the laminator that I use: Swingline GBC Inspire Thermal Laminator (which is currently on sale on Amazon!!).

After laminating them, I cut out each individual piece, leaving only a tiny bit of laminated border around the sticker. This is the part that takes the longest, so if you plan to make a big batch of pieces like this, you may want to work page by page instead of trying to tackle the project all at once.

So far I have about 100 pieces cut out and trimmed up, but I have about 100 more pieces waiting to be trimmed. I work on cutting out these pieces each night while we play board games or table top games (after the kids are in bed). And as I work on cutting them out, I separate the pieces into Ziplocs. The trimmed up ones are on the left and the ones on the right are separated but waiting to be trimmed. It doesn't look like a lot, but that's because they don't have felt glued to them yet.

Here's what one of the laminated pages looks like after I've cut out each sticker.

And here's what the page looks like after I've trimmed around the border of the sticker. I left a tiny bit of laminated border around each sticker, but you can hardly tell.

It makes a huge difference. :)

Once the laminated pieces are cut out and trimmed, arrange them on a piece of felt and trace around them using a fine point disappearing ink fabric pen. This pen is my new best friend because I usually trace out my pieces before I cut them out and this eliminates any ink being left behind on the felt. The ink air-dries and disappears within 3 days. It's brilliant and especially useful for my felt projects. I use a pair of Precision Scissors similar to these, although mine are smaller. I have a dozen pairs of scissors for crafting, but I gravitate towards the really small ones that cut more precisely because details matter to me.

Trace the laminated sticker onto the felt. It doesn't matter whether you trace it face up or face down, however I noticed that the ink dries faster if you trace the sticker face down so that when you glue the sticker to the felt the ink is facing away from the sticker.

Then cut along the traced line.

So after you've traced them all out, or if you are working one at a time, cut around the tracing and then set it aside. For most of them I traced them face down (white side up), that way the ink would be on the opposite side of the glue, so it could dry more easily. I did not glue them using the glue pen directly. Instead I poured the glue into a recycled lid and used a plastic paintbrush to apply the glue. I applied a thin, even layer of glue to the white side of the laminated sticker and then lined it up with the matching side of the felt. I held the pieces together for a few moments to make sure the glue was stuck to the entire piece of felt and then I set is aside on a tray to dry. The great thing about this particular glue is that it dries flexible, so although you wouldn't want to bend the pieces too much, the glue will not lose its grip or crumble off. The glue perfectly binds the laminated sticker to the sheet of felt. The only thing you'd want to avoid is using too much glue, because you do not want it to bleed through to the other side of the felt. That may not be too much of an issue if you were using wool or premium felt, but I was just using regular felt bought from Jo-Ann's, so it's relatively thin.

You can trace them and cut them out one at a time, however I preferred to trace them all at once and cut them out right after. The issue with this is if you can't get to it right away, the ink will disappear and you'd have to retrace them again. So if you think you will need to take a break, it'd be better to cut them out directly after tracing them. 

Here's what the two pieces look like side by side.

This is how they look front and back (before being glued).

I applied an even layer of glue to the back side of the laminated sticker. 

And then I lined them up and pressed both sides together. Then I set the piece aside to dry.

Here's what 1/3 of the finished pieces look like all stacked up. You probably can't tell from the angle, but it's about 4 inches tall. I imagine when they are all completed they'd be at least 10 inches stacked up. I plan to store them in a Marvel lunch box or a small storage bucket adorned with Marvel stickers and I'll create a divider for the heroes and villains. :)

And below are what the pieces look like in all the stages. Uncut and/or trimmed but without felt in the top bag. Trimmed and all the felt pieces cut out but not glued yet in the middle bag. And glued and completely finished in the bottom bag. That's a whole lot of pieces! But I expect they will all be used a lot!

The below pictures are from the test batch. I had not laminated these stickers. I simply applied glue straight to the back of them and arranged them on a piece of felt. I definitely recommend using a paintbrush that has plastic bristles, since it's so much easier to wash the glue off of it.

I roughly cut around them to separate them. If you look closely, you can see that the Doctor Doom sticker did not dry flat. It is all wavy, though the others came out fine. It most likely got too moist from the glue.

And then I trimmed them around the stickers edge.

I definitely like the stickers that have the thinner white border, however those were from a separate batch of stickers. The ones with the wider white border are from the Avengers Assembled sticker book. They do make cutting around the edges easier though. However, to me they look "chunkier".

See the difference between the Doctor Doom sticker and the two below? The size of the sticker and all the small details either make it easier or more difficult to work with.

I brought over a handful of the pieces to Grammy's house on the day of Bean's birthday party. I did not bring any city pieces, just a sheet of blue and green felt for sky and grass. Both kids really enjoyed arranging the characters and naming each of them. Bean sets them up for "action scenes" and Munchkin just tries to drive them around. The felt side sticks to the sheets of felt as best you could expect, the only downside is that nothing sticks to the other side, so you can't stack them up or over-lap them. So far that hasn't been an issue. Over the next few weeks I'll be designing and making a play mat to go along with these pieces. It may end up being a sewing project and it will most likely be 3-D. I'll have more details soon!

And here's the fun part! This method can be used with just about any stickers! And some may not even require lamination or gluing. These Hello Kitty stickers did not need to be glued or laminated! I pressed them on and they stuck and it was difficult to pry them off. Because these ones were not laminated, they might not last as long as the others, but I expect they will still last a good while, since they are thick good-quality stickers.

I just grouped them together on the felt and then cut around them.

They look so cute on the felt board! I am thinking about designing a Hello Kitty themed house after I finish the Marvel city. :) It will either be a felt board or quite book, or quite possibly both!

So even if you do not like Marvel as much as we do, you can still use this method with just about any sticker. You could make a Disney Princess or Fairies board, or Thomas the Train, or Sesame Street, etc. What your kids love, basically! You could even use it for educational stickers, like street signs, different types of vehicles, country flags, types of food, animals and birds, etc. I have so many ideas that I will use with this method! But I will still continue making felt boards like the ones I have posted previously. :)

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and look forward to our future felt projects!! If you have ever made a project like this, I'd love to hear about it in the comments! Or if you have any suggestions, please feel free to share them!

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