Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Knitted Entrelac Backpack and Tote

I recall that about a year ago, I told you I'd talk about felting.  The top photo is the finished project- small and large felted entrelac bags.  The lower photo is the bags before felting.  The pattern is a Skill Builder pattern by

There are lots of topics under the general heading of "felting".  I'll talk about all of them at some point, but right now I'd like to show you how to felt a knitted project.  In a nutshell, you knit something in mega size in 100% wool, then agitate it in hot water, dry it, and you have a felted product.  When it "felts", it shrinks up and the fibers become intertwined.  You get a solid piece of fabric- like a wool blanket.  It's great for handbags.  You can actually poke holes in it or cut it with scissors and it won't unravel.  It's really strong.

I love entrelac knitting.  I got hooked on it a few years ago.  My niece, Meredith, got me into this project.  She bought a skein of all of these colors in Lamb's Pride wool yarn.  She loaned me all of the yarns- you only needed a little of each one.  She made a bag, then loaned me the yarns and I made 2 bags, then I gave them back to her for more projects.  THANKS, MERE!  These are photos of the knitted bags before felting.  Look closely- there are 2 bags... my hand is on the top left for scale in the above photo.

This is a closeup of the bags before felting.

Most of us have accidentally felted something at some time in our lives.  That's when you take a favorite sweater and turn it into a Barbie doll outfit when you think you're using cold water in the washer but it's actually on hot/hot.  100% Wool (and some other natural fibers) shrink when agitated in warm water.  You can felt a project in a washing machine, or by hand.  When you felt by hand, you can just agitate it with your hands (or a wooden spoon or spatula).  You can also boil it, but not unless it's a solid color.  Otherwise- it will all kinda turn to a muddy color.  I know.

You can also do some felting with a steam iron.  The steam will felt wool, but without agitation, it will take more time at the iron that I want to spend.  It would be a good option for very minor felting or for delicate wool.

Be forewarned- if you felt in a washing machine, you should put the item in some sort of bag- I like using pillow cases.  If you don't do this- you will become best friends with your plumber.  The bag contains the blobs of wool and keeps them out of your plumbing.  It also protects the item you're felting from attracting other fibers which can become embedded (felted) into your project.  I know this, too.  When you agitate the item, you do this by throwing something tough in with it- like old jeans.  The first time I felted something, I threw in some old towels and didn't put it in a pillow case.  My DARK knitted bag ended up with white fibers (from the towels) permanently embedded into it.

You CAN felt in a front loader washing machine, but the results can be unpredictable.  I prefer using a top loader.  I have a front loader.  I sometimes go to a laundromat, and sometimes I beg someone with a top loader to let me play in their laundry room.

My felting bag is an old pillow case that I put a zipper into.  Works great. I put a very small amount of detergent into the washer and filled it with very hot water- then put it on the super duper cycle (or whatever your washer calls it).  Basically- treat it rough.  I keep pulling it out, opening the zipper and looking at it until it's the size I want.  Every time I pull it out, I use my fingers to shape and flatten areas that might be "rolling" or looking mis-shaped.

This is after felting.  Now they need to dry.  You're supposed to air dry them.  Sometimes (shhh.. don't tell the felt police) I put them, in the pillow case, in the dryer to get the drying started.  I don't leave the item in the dryer until it's finished drying- I just leave it in there long enough to get it past the really wet stage.  Put them over a form or stuff them if possible.  I made a large bag and 2 smaller ones.  The small ones are stuffed with small towels and the larger one is laying on the right.   It's too big to stand up and I couldn't find anything to invert it over.

Here are the little ones. 

And this is the big one all finished after drying for several days.

I used a heavy webbing for the straps.

The small bags have holes knitted into it for the straps.  I kept opening them up as it was felting.  For the large bag, I inserted grommets.  It will hold more weight.

The grommets are all around the top and there are 2 closer to the bottom.


Here's the finished small neutral bag.  I used Noro Kuryon yarn for it.  It's self-striping yarn so the colors just changed like that using one skein.


QuiltSue said...

Thanks that was really interesting. I've often wondered how one felted something. Could you felt say jumpers from a charity shop and then cut them up and make something with them?

Sandy said...

This is VERY neat- but I have a hard time getting my head around purposely shrinking something!! LOL
I love your color choices and the end result ;) Sandy

Cindy said...

The bags are beautiful! It makes me want to learn how to knit. During our mega snow storm last year, I did creative felting using roving and yarns and a sprinkling of other fibers. Quilting is still my passion, but felting is fun! Thank you for sharing.

Shellie said...

so cool!! great job - your knitting is gorgeous :)

Anonymous said...

Wow that is totally amazing! I've felted a sweater from goodwill...I made a clutch out of it. It turned out nice...but wasn't nearly as much work as your beautiful stuff!

sosarahsew said...

Could you share with us where to get the pattern for these bags? I saw a similar purse in a yarn shop, but when I asked for the pattern she said they were all gone and perhaps she should remove the sample... Anyway, if you could direct me to a place to purchase the pattern, I would be most appreciative. I have not tried entrelac before and this looks like the perfect first project.

Carla said...

Wow the colors just grabbed my attention. It's so pretty!

WoolenSails said...

Those are wonderful. I want to learn to make purses and totes. I have a backpack purse and cannot find anything new, that i like.


Kath said...

Wow, those rainbow colours really jump off the screen. Fabulous!

Melaniemmacdonald said...

Very cool!

Micki said...

It's a neat bag! Great job!

Soggibottom said...

I've seen and hae a entrelac knitting pattern. Now seeing yours it has made me look at it again. :-) xxx thanks

Soggibottom said...

Have, it should have been have, slip of the paw. Sorry !

quilterfaye said...

I have seen felting before but enjoyed your post. Love your colours!

Diane H said...

Thanks, Sue - wonderful post. Very interesting. Now I know how I ruined that Aran sweater!

Judy S. said...

Did you have a pattern for the bag? I've felted a couple of things (on purpose), and it really is fun. Have you see the dumpling bag pattern? it's really cute. Love your rainbow colors!

Vanessa said...

I just LOVE those .. I have never tried to knit that design defore looks hard but on how I LOVE the multi colored bag... fantastic job!