Felted Shoulder Bag

You may remember a previous post where I was complaining about the amount of green there is in the world. I REALLY don’t like green. I find it such a depressing colour. Which is why it was such a surprise to many people that I volunteered to knit and felt a bag for Alison at Cobwebs in Tottington. It just goes to show what a lovely, kind, generous person I am – cough, cough, splutter, splutter!

I had an idea of the type of bag that Alison was hoping for – shoulder bag, long strap, front flap and lots of room – so I began knitting. 

The ball band for the yarn states that it should be knitted on 6.5mm needles. Obviously the bag had to be worked on larger needles as it was due to be felted, which would shrink the bag creating a thick, stiff fabric. I began by using 10mm needles. This created a fabric  that had too little ‘body’. I was concerned that it was too loose and would not hold its shape when being felted in the washing machine. I then tried 8mm needles, which worked well. Having first tried 39 stitches on the 8mm needles, I pulled that back and increased the number of stitches to 49 which I cast on in brown. I worked on 49 stitches throughout the body of the bag and flap. I worked in moss stitch using only the brown wool for 34.5 cm (13.5 inches) to create the front of the main body of the bag, beneath the flap. This section of the bag was 48cm (19″) wide.

At that point I joined the green wool to work in both brown and green to create the back of the main body of the bag and the front flap. I continued working in moss stitch: 2 rows brown then 2 rows in green, slipping the second then every fourth stitch in one colour and the fourth and every following fourth stitch in the other colour. i did this so that the two colours merged into each other slightly as I did not want the bag to have a defined stripey effect. I was quite pleased with the result. This section of the bag was 48cm (15″) wide and 56cm (22″) long. I then reverted to knitting in only the brown wool to create a slightly wrinkled decorative edge to the flap. I decided on that to give extra design interest. The strip was 46cm (18″) wide over the 49 stitches and 6.5 cm (2.5″) deep.

The strap, which Alison had asked to be extra long, was, again, knitted in moss stitch over 10 stitches in the brown colourway. The overall measurement of the strap before felting was 240cm (91″) long by 9cm (3.75″). The green sides of the bag were knitted in one piece measuring 75cm (30″) by 9cm (3.75″).

I had decided to knit the bag in separate sections to allow me more control over the finished dimensions. I do not have much experience of felting in the washing machine and was too lacking in confidence to put a virtually finished bag into my machine. If I had a top-loading machine I would have had far more confidence in my ability to control the process as it can be interrupted throughout. To counter the problem of being unable to check progress, I use a low heat setting and a short to medium length wash when felting. If the item has not felted sufficiently I can put it back into the machine and choose an appropriate wash programme.

Apologies at this point as I forgot to measure the felted fabric before I constructed the bag (and after!).

The felted fabric was thick but comfortably pliable. The yarn had a much softer feel than it had when I was knitting with it. It is a rough textured yarn even though it contains 10% Angora – someone has said to me that it feels as though it has half the hedge in it! Once it had been felted the texture of the angora became more apparent, making the fabric unexpectedly soft to the touch.

To construct the bag I had to trim the edges of the fabric to neaten it and to ensure I could achieve the design effect I was after. To protect the edges of the bag and strap, I decided to oversew all of them by hand. A mammoth task which took very many hours! The fabric was too thick and too fluffy for me to even consider attempting to use my sewing machine for the job.

The lining was 100% cotton, brown with a slightly oriental tree pattern in two shades of green. I had bought two Fat Quarters and needed to cut into both to ensure a good fit. Again this was sewn in entirely by hand, as was the label proclaiming the bag was handmade.

I expended a lot of mental energy deciding how best to create the closure method for the bag. I had found large brown buttons in my collection which were an ideal way to embellish it. My problem was that I did not want to use felt in the closure as it would be too thick and give a heavy appearance. I decided upon ribbon loops on the underside of the flap which would be put around the buttons to keep the bag closed. Again, suitable ribbon was found in my stash.

I did not attach the second end of the strap until I had measured it on Alison. I wanted to ensure that the strap was exactly the right length. Hmmm. Problem. I didn’t want her to see the bag until it was complete. My solution was to make her try it on in the kitchen at the shop, with her eyes closed! (It was at the start of our knitting group session in Cobwebs.) She was then banned from entering the shop unless her eyes were closed, until I had affixed the strap.

Finally… the reveal. Alison was delighted with her bag and proudly showed it to members of the group. I was quite pleased with it, as well, and tried hard not to be as proud as a peacock. My overwhelming feeling was that I was pleased with myself as it was I who had designed the bag. Woohoo! I had, in my opinion, been ‘creative’. R-E-S-U-L-T!

I used four balls of Debbie Bliss Donegal Luxury Tweed Chunky which was 90% wool and 10% angora (for some reason the webpage for this yarn says it is 100% wool) in brown and four balls in green. However, Only a little of the fourth brown and second green balls was used.


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