…one step back

Buoyed by my success with the ridgeless felt eyeglass case, I thought I’d try making a bag with a handle. Following the instructions in Lizzie Houghton’s Creative Felting, I made the handle first by rolling and wetting strands of wool to form a long cord, leaving the ends dry so that I could felt them on to the bag itself.

Then I made the bag as before, enclosing a bubble wrap template with two layers of wool plus decoration, rubbing and rolling it before cutting it open. At this stage I tried to felt the handle to the inside of the bag, wetting the dry ends of the cord and rubbing them to attach them to the bag. However, I think the bag had gone too far in the felting process, as I couldn’t get the handle to stick.

Felt bag
First felt bag - with separate handle!
Back of bag
Back of bag

It seems that if I am using an enclosed template I will have to attach the handle to the outside of the bag at an earlier stage. I don’t think I can cut through the wool to felt the handle to the inside of the bag any earlier, as it won’t be stable enough.

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One step forward…

My first attempt at using a plastic template to make a felt fan case wasn’t a huge success. The case had unattractive ridges along the sides where the wool on each side had felted together.

So I thought I’d have another go, this time making an eyeglass case. This time I used three layers of merino rather than two, partly to make a thicker case to better protect the spectacles, and partly so that the outer layer would be a horizontal layer that wrapped around the sides, thus avoiding ridges.

I also completely enclosed the bubble wrap template. Then after the pre-felting stage and a bit of rolling, when the wool had started to shrink and the template inside started to wrinkle up,  I cut through the top edge of the package and continued rolling and rubbing.

Purple eyeglass case - no ridges!

Finished case with embroidery
Finished case with embroidery
Back of case
Back of case

This case shrank noticeably more than the fan case, which hardly shrank at all. I think this must be due to the extra layer of merino – the more layers of wool, the more it shrinks.

I’d also like to find a way of neatening the cut edges. Particularly when making felt with different coloured layers, the edges can look a bit ragged.

Felted fan case

Time to start experimenting properly with felt at home – so I ordered a 500g mixed pack of merino in nine colours, plus 100g of undyed merino, from Adelaide Walker in Otley, Yorkshire. They are very helpful and friendly:  you discuss over the phone what colours you’re interested in, they calculate the postage based on weight – and you don’t have to send a cheque until you receive the wool with an invoice (they don’t take credit or debit cards). The wool arrived the day after I placed the order – excellent service.

Merino wool
Merino tops from Adelaide Walker

For my first project, I thought I’d try making a fan case. I dance Argentine tango and often get quite hot, so I usually take a fan with me. The fans are made from carved sandalwood and are quite delicate, so bits break off as they get bashed about in my bag. (They come in a cardboard box, but this is also quite fragile and falls apart after a few outings.)

Broken fan
Broken fan

So, following the instructions in Lizzie Houghton’s Creative Felting, I cut out a template from bubble wrap and covered it with two layers of wool on either side – the first layer was a mix of burgundy and purple, while the second layer was straight purple.

Felting it was remarkably straightforward and quick. But it didn’t shrink as much as I expected – only about 15% lengthwise and hardly at all widthwise – even though I kept on felting until there was no stretch left.

Felted fan case and template
Fan case on top of template, showing how little it shrank

The fan case has pronounced ridges along the sides, where the wool joined on each side of the template. This also makes the shape irregular. I wonder whether this was because the outer layer was laid vertically, so some of the wool at the edges moved and joined up at the side. The bottom, where the vertical layers wrapped round to the other side, has no ridge, and neither does the inner layer, which was laid horizontally. Next time I’ll either lay the first layer vertically and the second horizontally, or use three layers so that the last layer is horizontal.

Fan case
The inner layer of wool was laid horizontally

Finally, I added a some  embroidery for a bit of texture.

Embroidered fan case

Embroidered fan case