This felt salad is one of my favorite felt projects I have made over the years. The multicolored textured greens produce a salad that looks, well, edible!
In this tutorial, I will be showing you how to make your own version of this delicious looking green lettuce salad for your child’s (or in my case niece’s) play kitchen. Creating this play food for my niece who lives over 2,000 miles away is one way that I, as a long-distance aunt, can play my part in bringing my imagination-play to my niece.
Scroll down for a free printable PDF pattern that contains templates for cutting out felt versions of spinach, watercress, kale, bok choy, baby chard, romaine, frisee, sorrel, arugula, dandelion, oak lettuce, bibb lettuce, butter lettuce, and dandelion leaves- plus a tip for making all that cutting way easier!
My Take on Felt Food:
Felt food facilitates the type of play psychologists call “open-ended play”. Open-ended play is the type of play that children use to problem solve and organize their experiences of the world. In real-life families, the dinner table can be a place where a child feels pretty powerless – play food allows a child to work with these experiences in their own kitchen where they are in charge.
I had the opportunity get some training in child psychology. In my course, one professor repeated over and over that if a child tells you something, even if it seems silly or insignificant, it’s because it matters to them. And if they tell you something more than once, it is really, really important. Why is this relevant? Because when you allow children to engage in open-ended play, they will communicate. Watch, observe, and listen without redirecting play in order to open up a whole new way to communicate with your child.
How to Make a Felt Salad
What you’ll need
Our Green WoolFelt Multi Pack – Craft store eco-felt is a little too unnaturally saturated green and too flimsy to work for this project, but wool-blend felt shades- the same greens used for the salad pictured- are perfect.
Our free printable pattern – A downloadable pdf designed to print on a single 8.5×10″ page:
(optional but recommended)
A stiffening agent – There are lots of ways to stiffen felt, but for this project, I used the cornstarch method, which I’ll explain below.
Fabric marking pen – makes cutting out the leaves oh so much easier!
Step by Step Tutorial for Felt Lettuce
1. Stiffen Felt
Begin by stiffening your felt. Some of the lettuce leaves are very detailed, and the cutting process is much easier if the felt has first been stiffened.
a. First, boil 1.5 cups of water. While you are waiting for the water to boil, mix 4 tablespoons of cornstarch in a cup with 3/4 cup of cold water.
b. When the water begins to boil, slowly stir in the cool cornstarch mixture and return to a boil. Continue stirring.
c. Boil for about two minutes – or until the mixture turns from cloudy to clear- then allow the mixture to cool until it is warm but not hot.
d. Working one half-sheet of felt at the time, dunk the felt into the mixture, saturated felt, and then gently squeeze excess moisture out of the fabric.
d. Lay the felt sheets flat and allow them to dry completely. (You can speed the process by placing them in front of a fan or outside in the sunshine)
2. Cut Pattern
The next step is to cut leaves out – lots and lots of leaves! It didn’t take as long as I expected, thanks to the stiffened felt that didn’t compress down as layered were added. I was pleasantly surprised how quickly my felt food salad bowl grew to overflowing!
This is where you will really want to use a fabric marking pen. Marking pen makes it really easy to transfer the shape onto the felt and then cutting them out is as simple as following the marked line. The lines are erasable with water so will disappear during the final step of making this felt food salad.
I think it looks best to choose a particular color for each type of lettuce, and stick to that color!
3. Stitch Leaves
Once you cut all your lettuce leaves and greens out, grab a bit of green thread and use running blanket stitch to create stems on the leaves that appear to have little tabs at the stem. Just fold each side inward and stitch, creating a structure similar to a real stem on many types of lettuce leaf.
For leaves without a tabbed stem, use your imagination. Should it have a spine up the center? Should it have a ruffled/gathered bottom? Stitches can help create definitions, as shown below.
Once you have stitched as many as you wish to stitch (and trust me they turn out pretty okay even if you skip that step) it is time to do some final forming.
You may notice that your lettuce, though the right shape and semi-rigid, lacks texture. That’s where this final step comes in.
To finish off these leaves and add shape to each of them, we’ll repeat step 1 over again. You can use cornstarch and go through the process again, however when I make my felt salads I complete this final stop using a bit of acrylic medium (Elmer’s glue can work in a pinch).
Simply mix a two tablespoons of glue media with a cup or so of cool water. Stir to combine until the mixture is milky opaque white.
Next, dip each felt lettuce leaf in the glue mixture, squeeze to remove excess, use your hands to form the leaf into its dimensional shape, and place on a nonporous surface (such as aluminum foil) to dry.
Some leaves will need only to be folded and placed on the foil to dry, while others will need more aggressive shaping. For leaf shapes like dandelion and arugula just lay flat to dry on a curved surface.
Other lettuces, like kale and romaine, may need artificial shaping. To create my most textured leaves I folded the leaf in half to form the spine and then bunched up the edges, tightly placing a rubber band around the leaf while it dried.
Get creative! You can use rubber bands, string, binder clips, and other props to help the leaves dry in the formation you need to create authentic felt versions of these spinach, watercress, kale, bok choy, baby chard, Romaine, Frisee, Sorrel, arugula, collards, dandelion, oak lettuce, bibb lettuce, butter lettuce, and dandelion leaves.
Despite the multiple stiffening treatments, the finished product should still be pliable, soft to the touch, and felt–like. If you find you’ve applied a little too much of either stiffening treatment, boiling the leaves in water and then wringing should remove excess stiffener and restore softness and pliability to the salad.
If you follow these instructions step-by-step you can create a vibrant, healthy-looking, delicious-looking felt salad for your collection of felt food. How did your felt salad turn out? Use the comment section below to share your results!
Prepping Felt Salad for Little Play
If you are a mom, you might look at this play set and think “YIKES” so many pieces! To make it a bit easier to corral, especially for young chefs, I suggest two solutions to keep it tidy:
1. Create salad-leaf-chains or bunches.
Connecting 6 or 8 leaves on a chain leaves space for free play without tiny and easy-to-lose pieces. The chains can, however, tangle fairly easily so you may wish to consider stringing the leaves together more tightly or stitching the leaves together in bunches of 4-6 leaves.
2. Use a meal-prep container or food storage to corral the leaves or bunches of leaves.
Meal prep containers can serve as playthings and storage! Perfect for gifting your new felt meals, for play in your child’s play kitchen, and for storing toy food between meals.
Free Pattern and Tutorial for Felt Food Kale Spinach Collard Greens
Kale, Collards, and Spinach are classic kitchen staples that are right at home in a play kitchen felt food set. I like to build play food sets with a huge variety of both “super healthy” food and “junk food.” Play kitchens and felt food aren’t just for kiddos to pass time by playing- play is how kids make sense of the world and their experiences. In play, as with actual feeding, providing lots of options and encouraging a child to be empowered to choose helps build healthy kids.
One key component of eating disorder treatment for struggling adolescents and adults is helping them understand there is no such thing as a “bad” food or a “not allowed” food- all foods can be consumed in ways that are nourishing and all foods can be consumed in a way that bring the body harm- helping kids understand this at meals and in their own play kitchen can help create healthy kids with resiliency against a culture that often promotes disordered eating. This quick little tutorial on creating felt greens can be a fun addition to the diversity of you play kitchen’s menu.Today I’m demonstrating how to make leaves out of felt- specifically I’m working on a kale type leaf that’s made out of wool felt (wool felt holds up to play better- especially for a single-thickness felt food project like a leaf).
First I’m bending the leaf in half and I’m stitching about three-fourths of the way up to the leaf- just to get a nice sturdy spine on the leaf-like real kale.
Next, I begin making big loopy stitches in a really random pattern across the leaf and then gathering them every seven to ten stitches. This helps create the wrinkled texture that you want on felt kale leaves if you’re going for a slightly more realistic look. This works great for kale, greens for the top of carrots, and also for spinach
To created bunches on the leaves I take a couple stitches at a time, gather, and then loop it twice to knot it, and then trim. it’s so easy!
Next we’ll work on the stem and I do that by folding one of the straight sides in very tightly and then running a quick stitch up the stem to hold that roll in place.
Once I’ve got that one side rolled in and held down with some stitches I’m going to roll the other side tightly over the first rolled side and then begin to stitch that down. Here I show you a close-up so you can see how I get in there and make that stitch. You’ll need to tighten it pretty much with every stitch to get a really nice tight stem that will support the leaf.
This kale leaf takes me maybe 10 minutes of work including cutting so it’s a really fast project!
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