Saturday, August 15, 2009

Jazzy Knitted and Felted Handbag - Felting Tutorial

Felting is all the rage and it was something I really wanted to try. So, last spring when I was shopping at a yarn shop in Macon, GA, I saw a really cute felted handbag displayed and it gave me the inspiration I needed. Of course, I bought the instruction book for the handbag. It is called Knit One, Felt Two, by Kathleen Taylor. You can find it at The book contains 25 easy projects of things like hats, mittens, slippers, bags, toys, etc. They all look wonderful.

This bag is very easy to make and it took only a few hours to knit. The most time consuming part was attaching the beads. I am still not quite finished. I want to add a lining with a pocket and a magnetic or zipper closure. This bag requires holding two strands of yarn together. I wanted a tweedy look; so, I chose two complimentary colors of purple. The lime green and bright blue really make it jazzy and fun. The instructions give the exact yardage of yard required for each color; so, when using the blue and green yarns, I just made a ball of half the yardage plus one additional yard for my second strand. It worked out perfect. The darker colors tend to felt and shrink more than lighter colors adding more shape to the bag.

The Felting Process:
Felting is surprisingly easy. Most animal yarns fibers will felt. Wool usually comes to mind when I think of felt. But, you can also use mohair, llama and alpaca. Some yarns have been treated not to shrink or felt; so, stay away from fibers labeled "superwash" or "shrink-proof" for felting projects. Also, some white wool yarns may be felt resistant too. Off white yarns are probably OK; but, I would suggest knitting and then felting a swatch before you begin your project.

Most knitted felting projects are knitted with very large needles and when you finish knitting the item it looks like it belongs to a giant. This is especially true of hats and slippers. Most items with shrink between 15 and 20 percent in width and 25 to as much as 40 percent in height. You have control over the amount of shrinkage and stitch definition. You simply stop the felting process when it is felted the way you want.

  • Once you have finished knitting your project you should place it in a lingerie bag. This will prevent your project from becoming wrapped around the agitator in your washing machine. I have a front loading washing machine; so, I just throw my project in the machine without a bag.
  • Toss the lingerie bag into your washing machine. You may want to add an old pair of jeans to the machine for extra agitation; but, this is not necessary.
  • Add enough laundry soap for a small load.Adjust the machine setting to the smallest load and set the water temperature to HOT.
  • Shut the lid and turn on the machine. The magic will now begin.
  • Check the felting process every few minutes by stopping the machine. Remove your item for the bag and and look at it. If it is the size you require and fully felted remove them from the machine. If not, put the item back in the bag and start the machine again. Repeat this process until the item is felted as you desire.
  • Rinse your project in water that is slightly cooler than the wash water.
  • Remove the excess water by spinning it in the washing machine for just a minute or two. Then roll it in a bath towel to absorb the rest of the moisture

Once the item is felted you will need to shape it. I found that placing the project on a flat surface and smoothing it to the desired shape will work for most projects. Don't be afraid to tug and pull on your project to achieve the shape you want. Felted items are very durable. For a really professional look you can use pins to block and hold the project to the desired shape. Don't be surprised if it takes a few days for your project to dry. If your project doesn't suit you when dry, no problem, just get it wet again and reshape it.

Here is a picture of my bag before it was felted. You can see all of the knitted stitches and the elongated shape.

The Care of Your Felted Project:
Your felted item can be dry cleaned or washed at home using the same methods as those you follow for hand-washables. Don't use hot water to wash felted items. The items should be gently washed with a mild detergent or a wool detergent that does not require rinsing. Then the item should be air dried.

Fill a sink full of water add detergent and let your item soak for an couple of hours. Gently scrub away and stained or dirty areas being careful not to stretch the item. Once your item is washed and rinse gently press out the excess moisture while it is still in the sink. Then blot out the remaining water with a large bath towel. Block and shape the item as you did before and let air dry.

I hope you give felting a try; I know you will love it. Have fun! :)

1 comment:

  1. Judy, your bag is fabulous ... thanks for sharing it with all of us at KME4U ...

    Hugs, Mummsie!


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