DIY Felt Phone Sleeve

star magnolias felt phone sleeve tutorial

I share a few links in this post. I am not affiliated with any stores/brands other than my own, and any product mentions are my own honest opinion and things that I use myself.

If I had to take a guess, you probably did not know that I spent over a year, this past year, without a cell phone. Well, those of you who know me personally do, but it's just so completely unheard of these days. Especially for a *gasp* MILLENIAL!? Though, to be honest, I prefer Gen Y since the people who are commonly thought of as millenials are close to a decade behind me, and I remember a time before the internet and cell phones. For the record I have NO issue with Millenials, but there is an undisputable age/experience difference between the first of the generation group and the last. And that's just it. We, my Gen-X husband and I, remembered what it was like before being so accessible all the time, and we wanted to see if we could make it work. The thing is that in certain situations there isn't anything wrong with being accessible. Like when he's coming home late from work. Or the very rare occasion where he's home and I'm out with the kids and he has no clue where we are or when we're coming home. Or when I'm trying to meet up with friends and we have to arrange a specific time and location ahead of time - and we all know that with little ones it is near IMPOSSIBLE to be anywhere on time. Needing to communicate if I'm running late. Et cetera. 

So I have a phone again. 

And now I need to make a sleeve for it, because I still can't believe how expensive these mini computers have become over the last several year. Not to mention how large they've become. Weren't we going as small as possible for a while? They're the size of half a mini tablet now! So my gain is... your gain? I'll show you how I make my sleeve, and if you like it, you can make one for yourself.

Can I Run A Business Without A Cellphone?

Before I get into the tutorial, I thought I'd tell you what I learned during that time that I didn't have a cell phone from a business standpoint (if you're not interested in this and just want to read the tutorial, scroll down to where the tutorial begins). There are plenty of articles where people shame cellphone users by pointing out how everyone spends too much time staring at their screens (it is true though, you don't really notice it until you don't have one). However, in case you're trying to start up without a cell phone or need to cut some of your overhead costs down while continuing to run a business, these are the things that helped me.

It is possible to run (and grow) a business without a cellphone (however I do recommend having a tablet solely for the purpose of being able to access some mobile-only features of social media apps). Case-in-point, I am/was quite satisfied with the very manageable (as in not so fast that it was overwhelming, which I've seen happen with some people) growth despite having to find work-arounds for social media, and that was starting out from nothing, not maintaining a fanbase that was already there. It's not perfect. You don't get access to certain apps, like Snapchat or musical.ly (the recent one that is gaining popularity), but maybe that's a good thing because this way you can get really good at building a follower base and maintaining a handful of accounts instead of having to maintain ALL the accounts. Instagram is sort of accessible (much better if you have a tablet and access to wireless service), which I'll get into in a minute.

The things you do need are a computer or laptop, a camera and photo editing software, a video camera of some sort if you plan on doing videos and video editing software, a means to transfer the data to your computer and a google voice number and a mobile device of some sort in order to access the DM feature of Instagram (as long as you have access to wireless you do not need a data plan, and a tablet or even your old phone is perfectly fine for this - if you need a new device that is cost effective, the Kindle Fire works). It wasn't an additional cost for me because I already had all those items on hand. The point is not having a data plan does not mean your phone will no longer work - it just means you can't access data at all times. It just becomes a tiny tablet. But if you do most of your business at home and you have wireless internet access in your home, you won't even notice.

If you don't have a decent camera on your mobile device, Instagram is possible to use on a PC with the help of this wonderful free tool called Gramblr. The ONLY thing that doesn't work through Gramblr is the story feature or accessing your direct messages. In fact, I plan to continue using it for some things, because I like the fact that I can edit a video before I even try to upload it instead of trying to use Instagram to record the video. I like that I can play around with my photos in Photoshop before uploading them as well. I don't care if people think that's cheating, I just care about marketing here. If you want to view other people's stories, there is a Chrome extention for that, but there was no way to create your own without the mobile app. You do need a mobile version of the app in order to access direct messages. Of course, you'll notice that my Instagram is not updated nearly as often as I'd like, and I'm hoping that will change with having a phone, but I can't blame it on that. I communicate best through writing followed by video or in person (I never thought I'd be saying that, lol), so IG took some getting used to. Because, to be perfectly honest, if you get a TON of photos done, the other super amazing feature of Gramblr is that you can schedule your posts out! So sometimes I'd get a ton of photos up, throw them in there, leave my PC on and just let it do the work for me while I focused on other things.

My husband came up with this fancy contraption for me to mount my camera at the exact angle I need it over my desk. The bolt is a tad too long, so instead of fiddling with it I use tape to keep the camera in the correct position.

My husband came up with this fancy contraption for me to mount my camera at the exact angle I need it over my desk. The bolt is a tad too long, so instead of fiddling with it I use tape to keep the camera in the correct position.

For Facebook live I use a Logitech webcam hooked up directly to my PC, a Logitech headset for my mic (the webcam comes with a mic but this way I'm not having to speak loudly and/or it's not picking up my kids' sibling rivalry as much) and the free open source software OBS Studio. Because my Facebook live sessions are mostly stationary events in that I am sitting at my desk, I'm not concerned about doing videos on-the-go (though now with a phone I should be able to do a video or few while I'm dyeing or processing wool in other ways). I LOVE OBS Studio, because I can select my video input (or have multiple video input sources if I wanted to get shots at different angles or a camera on me), audio input, I can share photos if I want to show you something extra, etc. This is also the set-up I use when recording some of my tutorials, except for that I switch to my hi-def Sony camera for a better quality video. And, attention shameless plug here, this is also the set-up I will be using for my private one-on-one virtual needle felting classes with you, which will be done through Skype, you can see what I'm doing while you point your camera/phone at your project so I can guide you along. The point I'm trying to make here is that for absolutely none of my video-recording-and-sharing needs did I use a mobile device or app. Everything was done through my cameras/PC.

My website/blog is hosted through Squarespace, which at the time that I set it up did not have mobile capabilities for back-end stuff. So that's all done on my computer. On a side note, it has been by far my favorite web hosting software (of which I've used a few, including setting up my own server), because when I'm having to produce content and take care of the marketing for it, sometimes it's just easier to leave the web design and programming to the experts. Managing my Etsy shop is also done via web. Managing my Facebook page - also web. 

One more thing, which I'm sure you're all wondering, is how the heck do I communicate with people without a cell phone? What about texting? Google voice is free (as long as it's within your country or toll-free), as long as you have a (decent) internet connection. I used Hangouts for both texting and calling. That headset I mentioned earlier is what I use for making phonecalls. And now, even though I've had this new phone for a few days at this point, I still reach for my headset first. 

So if, for whatever reason, you find yourself either wanting to cut that phone bill out of your budget or you're wanting to find a way to unplug more without completely unplugging for business purposes, not having a cellphone is not the end of the world. I do recommend making a few other changes, like making sure you have excellent internet service because you will depend on it, but upgrading internet and cutting out your phone bill will still save money. You just have to work a bit harder and/or smarter. All that being said, the plan is that I can now see those ETSY orders as soon as they come in (instead of sitting down to check my mail), respond to your questions a little faster, and give you a better idea of the things I'm working on AS I'm working on them instead of having to set up a photo shoot each time. Maybe even setting up a Snapchat account? So you can definitely expect that there will be more stuff happening on my end (I just need to adjust some). Honestly I'm pretty excited about it. Now, let's get on with the phone sleeve.

Enough Already, How Do I Make a Felt Phone Sleeve?

You're going to need a piece of felt. There are a few ways you can do this. Wet felting is one option (if you have never wet felted before, check out Marie Spaulding's tutorial from Living Felt's youtube channel - she's one of my favorite people in the felting world so definitely send plenty of love her way!). You can use a piece of commercial felt. If you have one, you can use an embellisher/felting machine to make your own felt (like I did in my last tutorial). Or you can use a combination. 

IF you are familiar with wet felting, know how to calculate shrinkage (usually around 30%) and do not plan to needle felt anything on your case, you could skip all these steps and felt a complete case using a resist. If I decide to make a case in this manner in the future, I will link it in here at a later date.

I am LOVING these colors!

I am LOVING these colors!

For my felt, I decided to first use my blending board to lay out my colors. I wanted to do a white-to-teal ombre effect, throwing in some Angelina fiber in mint sparkle for a glittery effect and a lock of alpaca here and there for texture. I then cut a sheet of commercial 100% wool felt for extra protection/padding (the commercial felt is an ivory color, which is why I still wanted to use white, as well as getting a better blend between the colors). If you don't use commercial felt, I'd recommend making sure your felt is a minimum 1/8" thickness and fairly solid. I used my embellisher to felt it all together.

Here I'm figuring out the placement/which part of the felt I want to use.

Here I'm figuring out the placement/which part of the felt I want to use.

Now we're going to cut it down to the right size. The felt should be as tall as your phone plus half an inch. Place the phone inside and fold it over, leaving about half an inch overhang. I pressed my fingertip down (see photo below) to figure out my "seam allowance", then trimmed the other edge. This way you'll be able to stitch it closed and it won't be too tight to get the phone in and out. I like the look of having one of the corners rounded (the one between the two edges that are being stitched). Feel free to play around with the top edge, possibly doing a cut out of some sort to make it easier to grab your phone, or end the stitching before you get all the way to the top. I did take the cut down piece and run the edges through the embellisher to make sure any loose ends were felted in properly and give it a bit more of a finished edge. You could also try to finish off the edges with wet felting (though if you are using a polyester blend or 100% polyester commercial felt, wet felting won't do anything) - if you decide to go this route, give yourself a bit more of a seam allowance than I did.

cutting down the felt

Now comes the really fun part! Time to get your needle and wool out and go to town decorating and embellishing your case. Maybe you want to make a creature of some sort, or just do a floral design, or cute shapes, or anything really. Use your sewing machine and add some free motion stitches to it. Grab some embroidery thread and embroider it. Add buttons and beads and sequins if you like. Felt or stitch on other fabrics. Its your case, so make it as personal as you want! For my case, I loved the way it looked without being embellished, so I went straight to stitching.

ready to stitch

Once you're done with that, it's time to tie it all together. You will need to fold it back in half, and starting from ether the bottom or top corner (not in the middle), do a blanket, aka buttonhole, stitch around the edges. In case you don't know how to do that, this is my favorite resource for embroidery stitches. In fact, if you're still working on the previous step, check out the other stitches on that blog for some additional inspiration! I used a DMC Satin (specifically DMC SAS 5959), because I wanted to coordinate with the Angelina sparkles I used in my felt.

And voila! You now have a beautiful felt phone sleeve you can call your own, and maybe even use to show off if someone asks you about your hobbies. *wink*

If you decide to make you own, join me on my Facebook page on the weekends and share your phone sleeve during our weekend #artshare!