That Felt Great!

Wool is not always my favorite fiber: it can be itchy and scratchy, especially against my sensitive skin. But one thing I do love is how it felts! I’ve made a few small felted purses in the past and just love seeing the transformation from the loose, floppy, shapeless piece of knitting into a firm, sturdy piece of felted fabric. I also love that it negates the need for sewing in a lining. I recently found a few books showing felted purses accented with novelty fibers, like fur or eyelash or pompoms, and I liked the contrasting textures. I’d picked up some more books at that huge estate sale, and in one I found my perfect pattern: this adorable Vintage Bubble Bag. And after I got my new shelves set up, and my yarn all organized, I could see that I finally some good possibilities to work with.

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I started with the pinky-purple Cascade 220 because I had two full skeins of it, and I quickly matched it with the multicolor novelty yarn. I knew I didn’t have enough of the Cascade for the bubble bag, so I was toying with the idea of a contrasting band around the top edge. I liked this dark teal Lamb’s Pride, and it matched the teal in the novelty yarn, but I thought it would be too stark a contrast between the pink and the teal. I picked up a different skein of the Lamb’s Pride, a lovely shade called Supreme Purple, and as soon as I set the three together, I knew it was the right combination. I cast on right away, and since I was using two strands and bigger needles, I had the body of the bag done quickly.

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As it laid there, I wasn’t sure I’d done the right thing. It was bigger than I expected, and I wished I’d switched to the purple as soon as I ran out of the novelty yarn. But it was so close to being done, and I figured the felting and shaping process would change it quite a bit anyway. So I knitted the endless 40″ of I-cord for the handles, stitched them on, and the bag was ready for felting.

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In the past, felting had gone quickly and smoothly. Two cycles in the washer with a towel or a pair of jeans, and bam, it was felted. Not this time. The first cycle did nothing, and my washer complained that the load was too small. I added a couple of towels and tried again. The pinky section started felting, but the purple band and handles still had complete stitch definition. I was already using hot water so I had no idea what I could do differently. I tried one more cycle but saw little improvement. It was going to be hand felting for me. I talked to my SIL, consulted my knitting books, and filled up the sink with hot hot water.

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I stirred and rubbed with the spoon, I beat it with the spoon. I rubbed the bag together with my hands, focusing on the purple band that refused to felt. Finally I picked it up, squeezed out some of the excess water, and started throwing it into the other sink. I really heaved it, feeling the sink shudder slightly with the force. I beat the bag against the side of the sink. At one point, I confess I even took it outside and slapped it against the side of the house. Then I did it all again. In a way, it was good therapy, allowing me to vent my frustration at the silly thing for not wanting to felt. Eventually, it got close enough that I was happy, though the purple band never felted completely. I didn’t have anything perfect to shape it with, so I just lined with a plastic bag and stuffed it full of newspaper, adjusting it until the was the shape I wanted, and I left it out to dry.

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By mid-afternoon the next day, I moved it to the sunny windowsill and flipped it to allow the bottom to dry.

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Finally, after almost two full days of drying, the bag was done! I’m so happy with how it turned out. It feels wonderfully Springy to me, and the little bits of blue and teal just pop out of the wool. It’s about 10″ tall and 12″ wide, so it’s great for either a large purse or a good project bag. I added it to my For Sale items on my Facebook page and my Etsy shop, though I’d be happy to carry it myself…especially with my cute little Junie Balloonie flower added!

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