artsy fartsy,  Bug,  spilling my guts

Felt Boards!

mess of felt

My friend Kate gave me a mess of felt today. She’s trying to go through her craft supplies and tidy up by hopefully getting rid of the extras that she and her kids don’t use. So when she called me up, hoping that I might want to help take some of her rejects off her hands, you know I was right there with open arms.

Of course this does not help my own problems with organizing craft supplies. I swear if I had a warehouse, I could fill it up in a month or less. Craft supplies multiply in the night like bunnies and they are a bear to keep organized.

A long time ago someone asked me how I keep organized. I don’t really. I operate on a system I like to call “Shove it in a basket or bin and rely on your excellent visual memory to remember where things are.” If everything is out of sight and a room can look neat and clean when you stand in the doorway, then that is considered organized to me. I am the queen of junk drawers. If it’s out of sight it’s out of mind. I call it Bren Shui.

This works for me because I don’t use any of my brain for math or numbers. All that empty space where normal people would store phone numbers or how to add fractions I store a giant catalogue of images. I don’t have a photographic memory but I do have a pretty good memory of what things look like. Well, sometimes. I do fail those Sherlock Holmes type tests but I’m pretty good about remembering where things are.

Back in the day when I was working in an office I had our entire library of stock photos memorized. If you needed a photo of a girl cutting a cantaloupe I could tell you it was on CD 34, the third page in, on the top right corner. It’s useless information now but it was totally handy when I was a graphic designer. I’m thinking that’s why having baskets and bins full of miscellaneous crafty crap in my closets and under my beds and hidden behind our cheap makeshift entertainment center works for me. It drive Toby insane but what’s a girl to do?

Why am I blathering on about this? What I really want to share with you is what I did with the giant pile of felt Kate gave me. It was sitting on my desk, waiting for me to find a home for it when suddenly I was struck with the idea to make a flannel board or a flannel graph or a felt board, whatever you call it.

My grandma used to teach Sunday School when I was a kid and she had the BEST flannel graph stories. I remember clearly sitting on the floor with other children watching her walk across her felt board with her felt characters. There was Joseph and his coat of many colors and all his brothers standing around talking about what they were going to do with him after they threw him in a pit. I remember the wooly white felt lambs in the story about the Shepherd. My grandma was the best story teller. She still is, really.

She’s spoiled me for any other Sunday School classes. I’ve taken Bug to many Sunday School classes in her short life and none of them have measured up to my Grandma and her passion for telling a good story. It’s sad really. I’ve walked out of churches dissatisfied and unhappy just because the Sunday School teacher didn’t do anything other than hand out a coloring sheet and read a book in monotone. I know teaching kids is tough and I’d probably get burnt out too but part of me secretly wants to be a Sunday School teacher. I know I could make learning fun. Of course I sort of need to find a church or meeting and become a regular member first but that’s a whole other story.

making a flannel board

So anyway. I made a flannel board. I just took a piece of cardboard and wrapped it with a big piece of felt. I taped the back but it really wasn’t effective. Neither was my pathetically small stapler but it’s all I had and it sort of worked. I seriously need to get a real stapler one of these days. I’ve got crafts out the ying yang but only a stapler Hello Kitty would use. It’s insane. Now you know what to get me for Christmas.


grumpy gnome

Then I cut out some shapes and this is the part where I got completely engrossed in the project and Bug wandered away bored. That’s my problem sometimes. I’m more into these crafts than my three-year-old is. But thankfully when I started telling a story to go with my felt shapes she was back and quite interested. I opted for something not in the bible just because I’m not quite up to cutting out silhouettes of Adam or Joseph and I’m sort of on a gnome, toadstool, fairy kick right now.

story teller

It was a hit. Bug loved my story about the fairy who decorated the mushrooms in the daytime and the grumpy gnome who stole the decorations at night. We acted it out in several different variations. I think I could really get into this and add more, maybe some cupcakes and a spooky forest even but of course by the time I finished cutting out the shapes I did cut out it was time to cook dinner and I had to clean the whole mess up.

We shall definitely revisit this craft. I’d offer to make some templates for anyone who wants to try this at home but I already have about five things promised to you guys that I haven’t followed through on so I’m not promising anything yet. I need an assistant. Just kidding. But sometimes I hurt myself thinking about all the things I could do if I just had more time. I guess that’s the breaks. You have a kid, they inspire you to make a million things and then they use up all your time so you can’t. I wouldn’t change it for the world though.


  • Clover

    I love the concept of Bren Shui! :-) As a kid’s librarian, I know all about flannel boards. I even made my own spiffy one of the Raffi song “Down by the Bay” one time. Your characters are vastly superior to anything I could do, though! I would love to hear your gnome/toadstool/fairy story!

  • Lady in a Smalltown

    I can totally relate to Bren Sui. When I am stage managing I can remember exactly where a specific line is on a page. I also have craft stuff exploding all over my house. I keep buying storage boxes and as soon as I get them packed the stuff multiplies.

  • andrea

    This is so great. We use them at school, but silly me hadn’t thought about re-purposing all my leftover felt and making one at home. I can’t wait.

    We also suffer from only having a tiny stapler, we also often only have double stick tape in the house which is completely ineffective for most of the projects I need tape for.

  • LauraP

    I thought my husband was the only one who jammed stuff into drawers and closets. It’s even worse since our rental house is on the market. Showings with 1 hour notice doesn’t help. He, unfortunately, is not so good at remembering where he puts things.

  • Laura

    Very cool, and I enjoyed your story about your visual memory. I think that little tidbits like that are what make your blog so enjoyable for me.

  • Gramma

    For your background board, just use plain olld cotton flannel. The felt figures will fit, and with crayons, you can even do panorama designs of mountains, trees, rivers, etc. My favorite felt design was like an ellipse that can be used for palm tree leaves, logs for campfire, little boats, baskets, etc, etc. I’m excited about your newest project AND your planned camping trip.,

  • Anna-b-bonkers

    I organize the same way, exactly!!!!

    And the felt board, love it! I have been on the same kick and spent the summer making little mushrooms and gnome houses for my almost secret terrarium.
    Love it!

  • Kate

    I used to love those felt board stories in church too! I remember being given some scraps of felt when I was a kid but instead of making my own felts, I cut out various pictures from magazines, glues a piece of felt on the back, and those were my felt figures.

    I specifically remember having a Jolly Green Giant felt person and a Hamburger Helper felt person. Made for interesting stories…

  • Katherine Marie

    I love those sweet mushrooms and that magical garden… I’ve been a felt fanatic lately— so easy and so enjoyable. I still need to make an actual board!!!

    Yes, you sooo need a good stapler and so do I!

    Thanks for sharing!!!!!

  • Leesa

    I LOVE your felt board! The give away ones I made I used adhesive spray to get the felt onto the craftboard, but yeah it peels away bit dodgy at the edges and won’t last forever. But me and my kids LOVED designing, cutting out or glue-ing on the acessories!
    Here’s what I love to do- when something is that good that your kids love it too, you take it to playgroup and share it at group time with a bunch of other gorgeous kids! and thy all love it!
    I use a beautiful Betty Lukens felt board at our sunday school- it’s a fantastic resource and really helps keep the kids to stay focused.
    I am a very visual person too- I truly love your craft inspirations. I keep meaning to print out your menu planner PDF too- just always so much to make and do and never enough time! Hmm. no wonder I have trouble sleeping at night!
    PS it helps me nowadays to only look at my computer less regularly, but everyone’s different!
    I guess you know about the best staplers for 12 sheets of paper- so super you can use it up in the air with one hand! But true I have a kachoong kachoong gun too for hard core stuff.