Felting was a new craft for me, and I will definitely be keeping in touch with this one! I attended the Homespun Yarn Party this year, and had a blast. It was my first time going, but I can tell you this will become a yearly thing for me! It is held in a beautiful old fiber mill in Savage, Maryland, and they gather lots of local fiber talent. It’s a great opportunity to see some of the fine fibers made by local farms or craftspeople. I had entirely too much fun, particularly picking up roving for spinning projects! Although the yarn party only happens once a year, there are lovely boutiques open year round, and one of them is Noni’s Designs. I have several friends who have made Noni handbags, and I’ve always eyed them jealously. Well, I picked up the fixings for my own! I really loved the Anouk & Vianne patterns (Nora, the designer, named them for the mother & daughter in Chocolat), but felt that I needed to start with something smaller. And I really needed a new wristlet clutch…
The craft: Pieces are made several ways: You can knit or crochet a piece in wool, and then machine felt it in the washer or dryer. You can also hand-felt a piece by stabbing wool fluff with a special felting needle. (I feel this would be both therapeutic, and a little dangerous for me… I’ve managed to wound myself with a plastic butter knife… )
My 1st piece: I chose a delightful little piece called “Friday Night”, and decided to work it in a stunning Hot Pink Shepherd’s Wool by Stonehedge Fiber Mills. I picked up the wool, pattern and metal clasp with chain at Noni’s. I decided to do mine without the flowers the pattern calls for (mostly because I know I will be keeping it in a larger purse, and they would get in the way.) Instead, I stitched a small crystal flower to it. The chain can go inside the bag, and the u shaped handle can come off, so it’s perfect on its own, or in another bag.
The work: The piece itself stitched up very quickly; maybe 2-4 hours of knitting. It is worsted weight yarn on size 8 needles, so of course I used my trusty ChiaoGoo’s! But the fun part was felting it. The pattern book has instructions, but I also did a little side research and referenced some friends. In the end, I decided to felt the piece in the washing machine. I filled the washer for a large load, with a tiny scoop of OxiClean. Then I tossed the piece in and let the machine’s agitation cycle do the work. I checked it every five minutes or so. Probably more often because I was impatient and worried it would felt too quickly. But in retrospect I should have just checked it every five minutes or so. Also in retrospect, I should have put the piece in a lingerie bag. Although I didn’t have a problem, a friend cautioned me that little bits of fluff could come off and get stuck in the machine. So important safety tip going forward. All in all I think it took about 20-25 minutes. I let it dry overnight, and the next day took it with me to Stitch & Bitch to sew on the metal. There was some tug of war getting it in to the perfect shape for the frame, but I won the fight!
My 2nd piece: I had so much fun with the first project, I found a second pattern on Ravelry, and hit Knit Locally to get some more Shepherd’s Wool. This project was a much larger tote bag, finished with i-cord handles and grommets.
The work: This piece took me a few days, but it was pleasant knitting. It is worked with double yarn strands, on size 13s (have I mentioned just how much I love my interchangeable needles!!). I worked the bottom piece in Fuschia, and then alternated rows of Antique Rose and Peach. Betweeen row changes I did a few rows of one of each strand, hoping to create an ombre effect rather than solid stripes. For the i-cord handles (again in Fushcia) I had to pick up a new French Knitter (as the one I have had since childhood didn’t seem like it would stand up to two strands of worsted weight wool). That stitched up in about a half hour. I threw the whole thing in the washing machine (with just a little scoop of my Homemade Laundry Detergent, which I had just finished) but this time in a lingerie bag. (And I’m really glad I did – there wasn’t a lot of wool fluff with my first project, but this one was a lot bigger, and had more ends from the color changing!) After felting, I stretched it over two cereal boxes (which I put in a plastic grocery bag so the wet wool wouldn’t make the boxes a soggy mess). It took a few days to dry fully, and then I poked holes in the bag and had Darling Husband help me place the grommets. The i-cord threads through and knots at one end. Viola! I love this little tote!
Going forward: I have to say, this has become one of my favorite things to do! I love the feel of the felted fabric. At Maryland Sheep & Wool this year, I visited Nora’s booth and picked up the patterns for two additional felted purses – and I have my eye on a third! Well, my friends warned me! Noni bags are addictive! Keep an eye out for my very own Nomad, Fancy Party, and Betty Boop bags!
Tools: Please consider ordering pieces for this project from Nora’s website, Noni Designs. Otherwise, felting kits (stabby felting kits, as I think of them) are available at Michaels, or on Amazon.