Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Pink Felt Bag

I've had some questions about houndstooth felt bag I just completed. Since I was jumping right in to another felt bag I thought I would have you come along for the journey to see how I go about it. 


First you need the wool, preferably a knit but not totally necessary. A 100% wool sweater is the ideal. Don't get blends unless they are angora or mohair with at least 60% wool. NO synthetics! They will never felt. I get my sweaters from friends and family. They all know my addiction. I've been known to felt a sweater or two of hubby's that he never even missed. He learned a long time ago not to ask where I get fabric and certainly doesn't ask what I am doing with the washing machine .So all wool sweaters are the best. I also shop  the local consignment shop or the Salvation Army. I know of three craftspeople up here  who make their living selling felted mittens. They are in demand here with our awful cold. I swear they beat me out to the shops as here I am in one of the coldest climates in the lower 48 and I can hardly ever find a 100% wool sweater.  Lately I've been lucky.

Make sure you shop the extra large sizes, the triple exes and friends. The sweater will shrink substantially so start out as big as you can. The two sweaters I picked up last week were both extra larges. Once felted/fulled (not getting into the difference with this post) they would fit my 6 year old Sophie. So be careful of dreaming of a huge bag as you won't have enough fabric unless you piece with other sweaters. Keep your eye out for color and pattern. I can't tell you how many grey,maroon, and black felted sweaters I have. They get boring fast. But when you find a great color or pattern, even a Fair Isle type sweater, lots of possibilities open up. They are the real score. Remember, the hunt is part of the fun here. 

Take your sweaters home. Fill your machine with very hot water, very little of it. You want your sweaters to be peaking out of the top of the water in the machine. If they are in a water filled machine there will be less abrasion and therefore less shrinking. So just enough water for them to swim together tightly. Add some shampoo, not Tide. Anything meant to clean protein fibers, like our hair, is good for wool. The soap aids in the process so don't think of not adding it. 

At this point you can walk away but I don't recommend for more than a minute or two. Talk to a friend on the phone while you hang out at the machine. Every few minutes of agitation, pull out the sweater and check. You never know how much a piece will felt. Sometime they can felt as thick as carpet padding and other times they keep their drape. So watch closely. Don't let it get to the carpet padding stage  unless you will make slippers, mittens, or trivets/hot pads. Now if at the end of the agitation its not felted enough, don't fret. There's more to come. 

Make sure your rinse is set for cold. The shock of the cold water will cause additional shrinkage. Just let the machine run through the rest of its cycle on cold. When done, take your sweater out. Before you do one more thing, wipe down the inside of the machine with a paper towel to pick up as much lint as possible. You don't want this fuzz draining out and clogging something up. Many who seriously felt for profit have an old machine in the garage or basement kept just for felting, a word of warning. Now inspect your garment. Does it  look done enough ? If so place it somewhere to dry.It doesn't have to be flat as any lumps can easily be steamed out later. I use  my woodstove which has these hanger things that come out to dry clothes and boots on, which we love. 

If it is not felted enough to your liking, throw it in a hot dryer. That will further seize up the fibers. Once you have a dry felted sweater you are ready to create.

Here is where the planning comes in. REALLY look at your sweater. Think of the bag you want to make and its pattern pieces. How will you get a piece of fabric to fit each piece necessary? You have ribs, cables, and who knows what else going on with your sweater. For this bag, the back of the sweater provided fabric for one side of the bag. The front of the sweater had pockets knitted in so forget that section, although that could creatively been utilized, just not part of my vision on this one. I used the sleeves for the other side of the bag. I know, they are not wide enough. This needs to be pieced. Above you can see part of the sleeve cut off. It will be pieced with the other cut piece. Notice how the cut is in line with the knitted cable, just like matching stripes. Now there are a couple of ways to go about this. First I tried a way I saw written up in Threads eons ago. The pieces were butted and triple zigzagged together. I used an edge stitching foot to do this butting up each piece to the blade and triple ZZing away. Here is the result:
Ah, it has wavy bumps you say. Yes, it does. The wonder of wool is that those steam right out and here you can see it all pressed away:

While I have seen this treatment work well on clothing I did not like the look for the bag. How else could I piece this together? I looked at my slim inventory again and decided to put a section of the cuff in the center of these pieces. The seams would be traditional and hidden on the inside of the bag. That worked so well that I decided all seams will be on the inside of the bag. 
Notice how the ends of the seam allowances are trimmed back to eliminate bulk when stitching the cross seam. 

I needed a gusset for the bag as well. My sweater front had limited uses due to the pockets but I could squeeze out enough if I pieced two center fronts in the middle for the gusset so that's what I did. By the way, this fabric cuts like a dream even with the rotary cutter. 

So my next challenge is to piece together the cuff. The bag will have stems felted and embroidered on its face. The cuff will have flowers. Here is sort of a rough idea:
Before proceeding with any further decoration all the pieces needed to be interfaced. I used fusible Decor Bond. I cut away the seam allowances but leave them in at the top edge. I find this fabric can come unfused but if one part is stitched in the product will do its job. Now comes the fun!

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I completed my tablecloth skirt and I love it. I just haven't had the time to photo it but it will come. I really like it and hope to make more for the summer. 
I also picked up these two little black and white egg cups for my special pins. I love having the pins in egg cups,each holding a certain type. Today DH and I off loaded nearly everything in the studio into another room. We decided to hang the new shelf on a different wall and we are both happy with the results. It looks much better and frees up a lot of space. The neat thing is without any provocation from me, he has started calling it my "studio." Aren't guys funny?  I'm going to take that as a sign of respect for the seriousness with which I approach this craft. He knows all about that but it was nice to hear.

The studio is coming along. Every day I move something or other. A dear sewing friend offered to monogram my slipcover so while that is out being done I will work on other things. There is always some sort of idea waiting to be stitched up.......Bunny


8 comments:

  1. I can't wait to see what that pretty pink sweater looks like as a purse. I think you're having way too much fun lately.

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  2. thanks for the tutorial on felting. I have tried this in my washing machine, but her in the UK 99% of washing machines are front loaders (including mine) so you cant open the lid an look etc so I guess I just have to put this on a hot wash and wait for it to finish, and then pop it in a dryer?

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  3. Only pop it in the dryer if it needs further felting. This pink sweater did not.

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  4. Thanks for the tutorial. I am planning the hunt for wool sweaters now... and thanks for the idea of using the felted wool for slippers!

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  5. Can't wait to actually try this... I think I will go scout out everyone's closets!

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  6. Thank you for sharing this tutorial! :D

    My blog:
    http://alicecloset-sewing.blogspot.com/

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  7. What a beautiful colour pink! This bag is going to be gorgeous!
    Genine

    P.S. Thank you for fixing the comment thing! lol.

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