Monday, November 29, 2010

Felted Bags - the Secret to Hiding My Knitting Mistakes

Troubles with dropped stitches? Added a few extra each row? Felting could be the answer...the magical combination of a washing machine, extra soap, some old jeans, and a few tennis balls hides a multitude of sins.
Denise's new book bag
It all started a couple of years ago when Barb, Patti and I made a trip to Costa Mesa, CA and the craft store to end all craft stores - Piecemakers (

They have everything! Beading, quilting, painting, porcelain dolls, clay sculpture, and the list goes on. It's three buildings of craft supplies and classes. You could get lost in the place! In fact, they expect that so they also serve lunch - potluck style for $5.

Anyway, the three of us wandered around and visited with many of the classes in session (it's highly encouraged)...but the one that caught our attention the most that day was the felted purse class.

We were too late to join in but were enthralled with the idea of knitting giant-sized shapeless mounds and transforming them into tightly felted bags. Through some careful sleuthing, we were able to discover the basic "recipe" and scampered off to try it on our own.

A quick trip to Michael's and we were stocked up with wool (synthetic yarn won't felt - anything over 60% wool will work) and ready to experiment. For the record, Barb started hers in the car on the way home - she's a speedy knitter.

I'll admit my first efforts were a little oddly formed but I think I've got it mostly figured out now...I still get compliments on my purse when I'm out.

Several of you have asked me for the "how-to's" so here goes:

1. If you have wool scraps handy use them, otherwise you'll need between 6-9 balls of wool ( Andes wool is the source Barb found online - they have great colors).

2. The felting seems to come out thicker if you use two strands of wool and that allows for easy blending.

3. Use huge circular needles and cast on about 90-100 stitches depending on if you want a purse or a tote bag.

4. If you want structured corners, you'll need to mark them with a ribbon or strand of contrasting yarn - to make the corner, knit 2 together, then yarn over to replace the stitch and knit the rest of the way around.

5. If you just want a tote - sit and knit - until your bag looks like something the Jolly Green Giant would wear as a beanie (or toque for the Canadians in the crowd) then cast off.
Caroline and her book bag before felting...

6. If you are making the tote - stitch (or knit) the bottom together and you are ready for felting.

7. If you are making a structured purse, I pick up the stitches for the side on the bottom of the piece and knit back and forth connecting the ends as I go - mostly because I am too lazy to knit a separate bottom and sew it on like a normal person would.
My purse before felting - note the eyelash yarn near the top and the knitted across bottom
FUZZY TIP:If you like the fuzzy stuff - knit in a synthetic eyelash yarn along with the wool - it won't shrink in the wash and will remain fuzzy. For the more delicate ribbon effect - hand sew those pieces on at the same time as the handles.


8. Since felting produces lint - it's best to toss your knitting into a pillow case or sewn up sweatshirt (I cut the sleeves off mine and installed a zipper for easy access) to protect your washer from lint clogs.

9. Add the knitted bag, lots of laundry soap, a couple of pairs of jeans and a few tennis balls (if you have them handy - they aren't required) and wash on hot.

10. After one cycle - pull it out and check the progress - WARNING - it will look like a fuzzy mass of something a cat would throw up...a large cat that is. Check if you can still "see" the individual stitches - if you can - run it again.

11. I usually run it through twice.


12. Then it is time to stretch the piece into the shape you want for your final project. This is work! It usually takes me about 10-15 minutes to create a shape that doesn't annoy me. I try hard to smooth out the wrinkles too.

13. If you have a bunch of old plastic grocery bags - they are perfect for stuffing the piece - I have also used CD cases and towels. The idea is to hold the shape until the felt dries - about 3 days.


14. You can knit your handles or even sew them from quilting fabric but both of those methods take time and skill - I called myself a haphazard housewife for a reason - I'm cheap and lazy so I go to thrift shops and buy an old purse or tote that has good handles. I have paid between $1-5 for real leather - but even the fake leather handles can look good.

My purse after felting

15. Cut the handles off the old purse/bag and hand sew them on your felted bag - use the holes already made - piercing new ones takes a lot of effort. A thimble is a nice tool for this part.

Caroline's book bag after felting


16. I like a lined bag so will sew up a quick lining from pretty quilting fabric. I like to include pockets and any other dividers/holders that make sense for the bag's intended use. For my purse, I made pockets for my cell phone, keys, chapstick, and gum.
My purse - dividers and pockets for all my stuff

Denise's book bag lining

That's it! Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy! Now I want to try a pleated bag...


  1. Yay nice to see the process and my bag on there. :) I use it all the time. When i actually figure out how to knit even a strange shape such as that I might try it myself. :)

  2. I'm glad you like it! Youtube has easy knitting videos and it's just one CAN DO IT! Plus you can always call me for tech support...

  3. That is the funniest picture of Caroline's book bag. How long did it take you to knit?

  4. Two days to knit if memory serves - it's so fast to knit in the round on huge needles!