On felting, bags and oops

I love making felted bags. I made my first one in Noro Kureyon – a beautiful 100% wool single – ages and ages ago, and loved it, little knowing it would be the start of an addiction. Then I made another, a bit more complex, using the same yarn and a spot of Jamieson’s Shetland Chunky for contrast:

and I was even more pleased with the result (it’s based on the Booga Bag – Ravelry link). I still use it, a lot, and no it isn’t for sale. Not at any price. Well, probably at any price if that price is well into five figures, but otherwise – nope.

I made one from a Rowan pattern, this time embroidered:

Apologies for the quality of that shot – what was I thinking?

Each bag taught me something. That one taught me to take better photos before parting with a bag, and that an unlined felted strap will stretch like Stretchy McStretchyThing, so you have to line it. I line the bags, generally, though some don’t necessarily need it.

Then I started thinking ‘why not make one to your own pattern? I came up with one and made another bag, using handspun and hand-dyed scraps, and everyone wanted to buy it. But it was mine, all mine! I used it. Boy, did I use it. The handles have stretched because I’ve been doing silly things like carrying heavy books and my iPad in it.

The one in the front probably wasn’t felted enough and the handles are too wide, but you learn…

Inevitably, I made more. They often ended up on my stall at craft fairs and in the summer pop-up shop, and they always sold. And with each one, I continued to learn. I learned to do a felting test first, knitting a swatch then shoving it in the washing machine and seeing how and how much it shrank.

Some handspun Jacobs felted hardly at all, for instance, so that was out. And the degree of shrinkage was always greater vertically than horizontally: I might lose 10% of the knitted width, for example, but 33% of the depth. I could then knit the unfelted piece accordingly. This worked really well:

and my felting became much more predictable.

Predictably, I got sloppy. Some Malabrigo Worsted came to live with me, and it clearly wanted to felt, so I let it. I knitted myself a replacement bag for the scrappy one, shoved it in the washing machine and kept my fingers crossed. Boy, did it shrink: to just the right size to carry my circular needles, but that is it. So, with a ball of yarn for scale:

Cute, but hm. However, it had felted (logically) into a really solid fabric which needed no lining and which pleased me enormously. So, bearing in mind the shrinkage, I knitted another. I knitted everything I still had. It worked, but it’s still not as tall as I’d wish…


and after:

And the finished bag:

I love it. Definitely holds more than my circular needles…

So, a few tips:

  • Always knit a test piece, and always remember to note the measurements of this piece before you wash it (ahem). Make it big enough to allow for interesting developments.
  • Not all 100% wool will felt in the same way or to the same degree. Another reason why you need that test piece.
  • Knit on needles at least a couple of sizes larger than you would normally use for the yarn. It will look terrible (see the ‘before’ pics) but you need to give the piece room to felt.
  • If you’re knitting a bag with a rectangular base, put a stitch marker at each corner. That helps with working out where the handle goes, and also ensures you end with a full round rather than a partial one.
  • Washing something you are felting with a pair of old jeans for company may provide enough friction for the felting. Trainers work too. But you may still need to felt more than once to get the solidity you require.
  • Lining is easy. I line mine as though I was making a tote bag (many, many tutorials online) and cut off the excess on the base. Note, though, that because the knitted/felted fabric of the bag is flexible, the lining should be too – a couple of soft pleats will do the trick. It will need hand stitching into place; machine stitching can be difficult because of bulk, and can also be too assertive. Unless that’s what you want.
  • Have fun!
  • Oh yes – do not use a felted bag for carrying bricks.

2 thoughts on “On felting, bags and oops

  1. Louise

    Thanks for sharing the tips and varying results. It’s given me the confidence to give a few ideas a whirl. Best wishes.


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