I had been wanting to try making more accessories and had been planning to make some eyeglass cases when Sally Gulbrandsen at Felt Magnet posted a tutorial for a case on one of the Facebook groups made with a flex frame. I haven’t made anything with a flex frame before, although I do own a small handbag that my grandmother made when she used to work in a bag factory that had a large flex frame closure, so I knew what they were. I had a look at Sally’s tutorial and made some modifications. I am not a big fan of using the tumble dryer with my felting. If I have used it at all, it is mostly as a last resort. I am learning the patience of rolling. Besides, this project is small and I really don’t want to waste my electricity, so I went old school. By the way, I don’t have any process photos as I completely forgot as I was so engrossed in what I was doing, but if you click on the link for Felt Magnet, you should get the idea. I just did it slightly different.
After working with a lot of pink recently, I was ready to change things up.I decided to use leftovers from my blue stash. I have a lot of small pieces of blue from when I made a network scarf. Most of it came from a mixed bag of blue merino and I really don’t have enough of any one color of these blues to make a hat or a scarf. Also, most of this is 23 micron which is perfect for accessories. This is not the original template. After using the measurements from Sally’s tutorial, I decided to make the template 2 inches longer for each end.
I ordered two sizes of flex frames from a supplier on Ebay. I ordered 8cm and 10cm. I used the larger flex frame to start with. I made 4 sunglass/eyeglass cases in total and they are all different.
A) Based on the tutorial from Sally Gulbrandsen: I made the template 6 inches wide (instead of 5 inches) by 20 inches long. It is long because you are going to insert one side into the other. I laid out 2 thin layers for each end, which will give you 4 layers in total, plus decoration, which I only did on one side. However, as one side was going to be inserted into the other side, I first laid out one side starting with horizontal and vertical on top and then for the other side I laid out the opposite. I did this on both sides. I used the sander for each side, gave the piece a little bit of a rub, and then I rolled from each end about 100x. The template was starting to buckle, so it was time to remove. I cut a line in the wool near the center of the template where the top of the case would be, but not too close. I then healed the edges. After I pulled out the template out, I folded the piece and I marked out my center. It does get a little tricky here and you will have to figure this part out like I did. I made another cut on the side of the piece to insert the flex frame. (Please note that at this stage, the decorative side is currently inside the piece.) There is a knack to inserting the flex frame and you need to be careful it doesn’t snag and tear your piece as the fabric is still delicate at this stage. You will need to ruche it around the flex frame and then connect the frame together. Remember, that your piece is inside out and your cuts should be seen. You will need to heal your cuts by adding more wool in the opposite direction of the cut. Use plenty of soap and plastic gloves or netting. I inserted a piece of template material to the inside of the piece and used the sander for the larger cut. After mending the cuts, I then had to turn the whole piece the right way out. I made sure the flex frame was at the top edge and slowly turned it to the way you see in the photo above. Now, the wool is all ruched around the flex frame and you need to meld the two sides of the case to each other. The 10cm frame is large enough for you to be able to put most of one hand inside while rubbing the other side to get rid of creases and to make sure the layers adhere to each other. You need to make sure that you rub well under the bottom edge of the flex frame. This will create a pocket for the frame. As you rub the piece you will notice that the wool will start to shrink around the frame and the ruching will eventually disappear. You just need to keep rubbing that part with some fingers inside and one hand rubbing on the outside. Open up the flex frame when working on the sides. When you think the piece is stable and the two sides are stuck together, you can start to shrink by more rolling. I did not do any fulling, just rolling. It is difficult to roll sideways because of the frame, so I rolled on the diagonal to make the piece more narrow. I also rolled on the vertical and I would use a felting tool to get rid of any texture and smooth out the sides. I rolled and shrunk the piece as much as I could to make a firm felt and still fit a pair of glasses inside. The piece is fairly well felted, however I feel it needs more as the outside is not as tight as I would like for something that will be going in and out of your handbag and will also be rubbing against other things. As for length, I think it could be a bit longer. I have a kid sized head, so my glasses fit in here, but I felt I could do better for the average person.
B) I did the same as above except for a few things. Firstly, I added an extra 4 inches to the template as you can see in the first photo. Secondly, I added extra wool to the center of the template where the flex frame will go in order to add more stability. Thirdly, when rolling on the template, I also rolled the sides to shrink them more there as I found it was difficult to do once the flex frame was in. Next, after inserting one side into the other, I didn’t rub the top area of the case as I wanted to shrink the width as much as possible before adding the flex frame. I tried out the smaller 8cm flex frame. It wasn’t as easy to felt with as I could only get 3 fingers inside, but otherwise I did everything the same as before. Because my template was longer, I was able to roll and shrink down my case for longer also and I got a tighter fabric that I am much happier with. I have a sturdier piece of felt. If it looks a bit bumpy, that is because some fibers in the top coat contained silk and milk fibers. I quite like the bumpy texture on the outside. Inside, the felt is quite flat and smooth. The downside to this case for me is the width of the flex frame. The 8cm size is too small for eyeglasses or sunglasses. However, they are a very good size for a coin purse, so I will most likely make another, but smaller, template to make one of those. This could make a good pencil case also.
C) I decided to make a case with a flap instead. Instead of inserting one side into the other as before, I just added 4 layers of wool on each side of the template. I used the second template and marked out 10cm extra from the center to make a flap. You can see that in the first photo. Stupidly, as I may have had a senior moment, I forgot to reduce the amount of wool in the flap area, so I have a rather thick flap with 8 thin layers. I rolled as I did before. The top part of the flap was open ended and I cut at the top where the opening of the case was going to be, healed the edges, and pulled the template out. I could have cut off one side of the flap, but I didn’t want messy edges. I melded both sides of the flap together and proceeded to do all of the rubbing and rolling with the piece turned inside out. Just before it got to the size I wanted, I then turned it right side out. I feel that the fabric is even more sturdy than the previous case. Having the freedom to roll in all directions makes a big difference in the quality of the felt. Of course, I now had to make another case with the modifications for the flap.
D) Rather than re-using the double ended template, I made a new one for a single with flap. I modified the flap area and made it a little bit more narrow. I made it exactly as above for C, but I used two layers of wool for each side for the flap instead, to make 4 in total. The whole piece was enclosed around the template and I made a cut where the opening for the case was to be and melded the flap together. This was easier to roll and shrink down as the whole piece was the same thickness.
You can see how the glasses would fit in relation to these cases. The extra inches added to the template make a big difference to the quality of the felt and the thickness. You want something sturdy to protect your glasses and that will also not pill from being bounced around in your bag. I am quite happy with the length I ended up with as they will be good for people with a wider face or larger head. For the cases with flaps, I debated adding a button to the front, but I really don’t have any to do them justice. I left them plain and have sewn snaps on the inside.
These snaps are strong enough to keep the flaps closed and yet are still easy to pop open. I just need to give them all a bit of a steam and reshape them a bit.
You are probably wondering why I went through all of that effort to make a pair of glasses cases. Firstly, I wanted to make something I hadn’t made before. I could have gone for the easy option and made one with just a flap or with no flap, but the flex frame option intrigued me as it is very streamlined. I am grateful to Sally Gulbrandsen for posting her tutorial for inspiration. I have flex frame eyeglass cases made from fabric and to make one from wool seemed like an interesting challenge. I also wanted to utilize some new skills I recently learned. I really like how case (B) turned out and I will make more like that, but with the wider flex frame, and I will keep the small ones for coin purses. I spent two afternoons making cases and coasters (coasters are for another post) and had fun improving on what I have done before. Having fun is the most important thing, especially as I have 9 more flex frames to use up as they came in packs of 10! They are also different to making brooches for craft fairs, and I can use up my leftover bits of wool!