Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Felted Bags

Yesterday Biker Chick (she doesn't want me to refer to her as "youngest child" on this blog anymore) and I took three purses we knitted to the laundry to felt them. In case you are not familiar with felting, all it really means is taking something made from wool, and shrinking it by means of heat and moisture, like using the washing machine. You yourself may have felted something accidentally when you washed your favorite sweater in the washing machine only to take it out and find it doll-sized.

Now why would anyone purposely shrink something? Because the resulting fabric is much stronger and warmer. During the felting process, fibers mat together and create a smooth surface.

So when did people start felting wool? I'm sure it all began by accident when our wool sweaters started smelling quite awful and the laundress tried to remedy the situation on wash day with a pot of boiling water and a stick. People were already felting on purpose in the 12th century, and Ken Follett describes this process in his historical fiction book Pillars of the Earth. Creating yards of felted fabric, or boiled wool, was a hellish process for the medieval characters. Someone had to beat the fabric with a stick while the fabric was covered in boiling water.
Here's one of the purses before it was felted. Notice that while it is attractive, it's quite floppy and probably would not last long as a purse:

Here's a close up of the strap after felting. Notice how the stitches have "blurred" together:

And here's a look at the finished bag:
This is the second bag before felting:

This bag, which was made of sheep's wool and mohair, shrunk up considerably more than my other bag, which was all wool. During the drying process, I shaped it somewhat like an acorn, which I thought was fitting for the fall colors. Here's a side view:


Jenny Graman Meyer said...

Hey Girl,
I had such a wonderful time tonight, I'm still glowing. We should make it a monthly event! (g)

So, just reading today's blog post, there are so many things we didn't talk about. Pillars of the Earth! I loved that book. And this summer I read World Without End, which I loved even more.

And felted bags...well. Knitting and crocheting are sort of like cat and dog people. I can crochet and like it, but knitting? I CAN do it (like, if someone were holding a gun to my head), but it requires far too much of my attention for it to really be enjoyable.

Your felted bags are beautiful. My Girl Scout co-leader makes felted bags and takes them to many of the craft shows around Cincinnati. It's amazing how versitile it can be.

Hoping to see you soon!

Lottery Girl said...

Yes, let's definitely make it a monthly event!

I know what you mean about knitting vs. crocheting. I learned to crochet when I was a kid and can follow a pattern fairly well. I've only been knitting a short while, but I'm not very confident.

Thanks for the compliment about the bags!

So where should we meet next?

Rhonda said...

Hi Girlfriend!

Felting! I've felted a cashmere sweater once. (Smile)

I like this idea and I think I can work some felting into my story.

So cool!

I LOVE the felted bags. They are gorgeous!

Lottery Girl said...


Hey girlfriend!

Glad you like the bags!

If you decide to work the felting into your story, I think in POTE Follett has them "beating" the fabric with their feet. Obviously a grueling process on your skin!

Joan Sandford-Cook said...

Very interesting post about felting. Ive always thrown things out that went that way accidentally - now I know I can use them - if they will cut up and stitch together into practical shapes for bags etc.

Lottery Girl said...


Yes, you can cut up those items that have been "accidentally" felted and sew them into something else. I think it's so interesting that the green purse, the one that was sheep's wool/mohair not only shrunk up more, but was also thicker than the other bag. The resulting bag feels almost like a heavy carpet bag.

I do know some fellow knitters who have taken old sweaters they no longer wear and have turned them into felted bags. Why not? Recycling at it's best as far as I'm concerned!

Annapurna said...

Thanks for the info. I asked my hubby if he has felted any clothes and he rubbed his hand against his shirt and goes "like this?". He is a funny man.
Is that now a bag/purse for the biker chick? Funny how they don't like things.
I hated it when someone called me "hey girl", I would reply back saying "I have a name, you know?"

Lottery Girl said...

Dear Anna,

Your husband IS funny! A good sense of humor goes a long way in a marriage, right?

No, these bags are not for my daughters--I already gave them theirs last Christmas. I should take photos of those bags, because they really turned out well. The red and black one is for my sister (hopefully she will not read this comment section!)

Robert A Vollrath said...

Love this post as I knew nothing about felting before reading it.
I'm going to add you to my blog list.

I need to visit this blog more.

Deniz Bevan said...

Oooh, that looks like fun! I haven't tried felting yet - I just got myself a drop spindle and have to learn how to use that... Love the colours you chose!

Deniz Bevan said...

Hi Jenny - I wish we lived near each other; I could knit and you could crochet, and maybe I could learn from you :-)

Lottery Girl said...


Thank for stopping by!

Lottery Girl said...


Thanks for visiting!

The felting part is extremely easy. If you ever want to do this, let me know and I can recommend yarns, patterns, etc.

Since I already know you knit, I LOVE the Lamb's Pride brand that is 85% sheep's wool, and 15 % mohair. That's the green purse that after felting resembled a heavy carpet bag. I prefer the texture and that heaviness. The red/black bag is Cascade, and while I like it, I'd never make anything large out of it, because I want the end product to be heavy.