After working on shawls for a few weeks, I was itching to make something different. I do have some classes I need to follow-up on, but I thought I would try something that didn’t require too much thinking, or so I imagined. 🙂
I was inspired to make a couple of little bags from Jorie Johnson’s book I recently purchased. Bearing in mind that the book was originally published in 1999, I was not going to follow the instructions to the letter. All of the projects in this book are created using cardboard, which is very eco-friendly! However, I used underlay for laminate floors, which can be rolled and re-used. None of the projects in the book are rolled with the template still inside because of the cardboard, so a lot of rubbing is involved. With updated felting processes, you can eliminate the need for an inordinate amount of rubbing. What I did find interesting is that a lot of 3D items with surface decoration are made with the decoration on the inside.
I didn’t take any process photos. I don’t usually start with my decoration on the inside, but the advantage of this is that the decoration is held in place during the felting stage. You also don’t get any seam marks. Migration tends to occur from the inside out, so there is very little migration on the outside of the completed item. In the photo above, you can see at the top of the left bag where the red has been coming through. Although I used the same micron of wool throughout, 23 micron, some colors come through more. I don’t know why that happens. Maybe it has something to do with the dye process. Not all colors of the same micron feel the same. You can also see the pocket on the bag on the right. I have learned a new way to make a pocket and I think that this will now be my go to method to make pockets.
I used 4 layers of wool plus yarn and sari silk fibers for decoration. After wetting out, I sanded on both sides. I then did a little bit of rubbing to make sure it would pass the pinch test. I always do this even after sanding. I made both of the purses at the same time, so the first day I laid out all of the wool and wet it out. The second day I did everything else and finished the bags. After rubbing I rolled both bags together (side by side) and rolled 100 times on each edge and then flipped them over and did the same again for a total of 800 rolls. These were not hard rolls. If I saw any crinkling, I straightened out the wool. Now I am going to share an important tip: just because the item around a resist is starting to shrink and crinkle the resist, that does not mean you are ready to stop rolling. The outside layer will shrink faster than inside. You need to straighten the felt either by hand wearing plastic gloves, or by using a felting tool. This stretching of the felt around the resist will make the felt stronger. This is why it is a good idea to check after every 100 rolls. This helps keep the fiber straight and smooth also, rather than all crinkly. If you want crinkles, fine, but save it until the end. Felting is not a fast craft and rushing things too early will not give you a nice effect or sturdy felt. So please, do not skimp on the rolling.
After rolling, I checked my felt to make sure it was ok. Throughout rolling, I checked if the felt was ok. I had to add a little bit of wool to a couple of places, but otherwise everything was fine. If you need to add more wool, after sanding and in-between rolling is a good time. Just don’t forget to add more soap too. Once I was happy, I cut the top of the bag and saved those pieces for the loop closures. I checked my seams and the decoration inside and did a bit of gentle rubbing with more soap. I rolled my felt with some plastic inside with the decoration on the inside so it wouldn’t stick to itself as it is still pre-felt at this stage, and when it was hardened I took the plastic out and continued rolling to shrink it down to size. I used the felting tool to straighten out the wool after each bit of rolling. Merino is prone to puckering as the wool wants to get back to it’s natural crimp, so if you want a really nice hard and smooth felt, you need to roll and smooth out until it becomes the right size. There was no throwing or bashing to make these bags. The only fulling I did was to rub the felt on a bit of shelf liner that I bought from the hardware store. You can see it in the top photo, and it was cheaper than Ikea.
Here is the inside with the pocket. It has the orange peel effect that you need to look for to know when your felt is ready. It is still a smooth felt. For four layers, it is still thin. There are 4 layers on the pocket also.
And here we are, all finished! I spent part of one day making the cords. They may be a little bit thinner than I would have liked, but they are quite sturdy and strong. The bags measure approximately 7 x 10 inches and you can wear them across your front. They are big enough to hold your phone and keys, some lippy and a small purse.
I really enjoyed making these. I haven’t made that many bags, so I think it is about time I focus on making more as I still have a lot of 23 micron wool to get through! I shall probably make some more asymmetrical bags, but with flaps this time.