Noni’s Iconic “Lipstick and Change” Purse: The Story Behind the Design and a Free Pattern!

A bright yellow felted "Lipstick and Change"  purse is held aloft in the hand of purse designer Nora J. Bellows's hand.

My purses and bags often begin with hardware components. What I mean is, I design around a particular piece of hardware, or a handle. This purse was no exception. I had been collecting sew-in purse frames for some time. I knew I wanted to design purses for them. Just one sticking point. I think sew-in frames look terrible when the sewing through those little sew-holes is visible. I stared and stared at those holes trying to figure out how I could make the stitches look pretty, or hide them.

A group of small felted purses called Lipstick and Change Sparkle are arranged horizontally on a white surface. They range in color from black, to grey, to orange, pink, and finally green.
Lipstick and Change Sparkle was a second iteration of the classic design, this time with sparkle rivets. The perfect purse to wear like a bracelet to a party.

And then one day I had the idea to use seed beads as anchors for stitches that went through the holes but not around the frame. So, instead of stiches that had to move from fabric around the frame, into a whole, and then around the frame again, my concept was to put the needle through each hole twice, with a single bead on the outside to hold those stitches in place and the purse in the frame.

That epiphany exploded my purse and bag world . . . and took a little bit of the knitting world by storm!

Lipstick and Change is my effort to recapture that beloved first purse. My update is colorful, playful, and has 3 size options, because who doesn’t love options?

A bright orange Lipstick and Change purse dangles from a woman's wrist. She wears it like a bracelet.
The early frames did not have loops for the lobster claw purse chain to attach to. Frames with built in handle loops came later.

I had solved an engineering iproblem. Now for the design itself. I write about the inspiration for Lipstick and Change in the “liner notes” for the purse:

I remember one of the first purses I ever owned: a gift for my birthday, it was made of black leather that was soft to the touch. It was tiny. Perfect for treasured things when I was a little girl and then for grown-up girl things, like lipstick . . . and change. It carried these essentials until its sweet little kiss lock would no longer kiss.

Lipstick and Change is my effort to recapture that beloved first purse. My update is colorful, playful, and has 3 size options (who doesn’t love options?).The tiniest size is perfect for when you can leave the house with just about nothing except a car key, lipstick, and a few crisp bills.

The medium size is ideal for the after party where smart phones are just not cool. And the celeb who spots your bag will probably ask you where you got it.

And the largest size is large enough for an I-phone and everything you really need. You really can’t make just one.

An array of rainbow-colored Lipstick and Change purses sits against a white background.

After the first Lipstick and Change pattern came Lipstick and Change Sparkle, and then I made a series of tiny purses that were more pared down and sleek, called Lipstick and Change City. I’m still hooked on tiny bags . . . you might have noticed.

The knitted gift for a bride, a woman friend, family member, or teacher just got a lot easier . . .

They are speedy purses to knit, and relatively quick to finish. They make great gifts: an economical gift, both in terms of time and cost.

Make Your Own Lipstick and Change! Promotion

If you’ve always had a mind to try making Lipstick and Change, now is a great opportunity. Below I have included the pattern for the smallest size.

And for 24 hours, the entire Lipstick and Change pattern is Free on my website and on Ravelry.

But that’s not all! Use the promo code 5dollars for $5 off your order of $25 or more off of everything, EVERYTHING in the Noni Store until Midnight on Monday, January 25th.

Small Lipstick and Change Pattern

Difficulty Level

The knitting is intrepid Easy: Requires knowledge of knitting and purling, knitting in the round on circular needles, and some hand-sewing during the finishing process.

Abbreviations Used In The Pattern

  • BO Bind off
  • CO Cast on
  • K Knit
  • K3tog Knit three stitches together
  • Kfbf Knit in the front, back, and front of the stitch
  • P Purl
  • pm Place marker
  • RS Right side or knit side
  • st/sts Stitch/stitches
  • St st Stockinette stitch
  • WS Wrong side

Pre-Felted Gauge

20 stitches and 28 rounds = 4″ (10cm) in stockinette stitch

Post-Felting Approximate Finished Measurements

4″ (10cm) wide across the front/back at bag bottom x 4″ (10cm) wide across the front/back at bag top x 2″ (5cm) deep4″ (10cm) tall from bottom to frame

Yarn Requirements

75 yds (69m) of worsted weight feltable yarn

Knitting Needles & Other Materials

  • Size 8 (5mm) 16″ (40cm) circular needles or needle size to obtain pre-felted gauge
  • Sharp sewing needle
  • 1 Stitch marker to mark round
  • 1 Noni Lipstick & Change Bag kit: Includes frame, 10″ chain, clear, silver-lined seed beads, white nylon beading thread, stiffener for the bag bottom, and 6 tiny bag feet.
  • Awl or size 6 (4mm) double-pointed needle to help with the finishing process
  • Clear-drying fabric glue or Locktite Extra Time Control super glue

Small Lipstick and Change Purse Instructions for the Bag Bottom and Body

With a single-strand of yarn, CO 24 sts. Work in St st for 16 rows. BO. With the RS facing you, pick up and knit stitches around the bag bottom, beginning with a short side as follows: *pick up and knit 6 sts, pm, pick up 6 more sts across the short side, then across long side, pick up 24 sts; repeat from * once for remaining short and long sides, pm for beginning of the round—72 sts.

Round 1: Join and knit in the round as follows: *knit across short side, k6, [kfbf, k1] 6 times, k6; repeat from * once more—96 sts.

Round 17: Divide the sts in half to create the 48-st bag flaps as follows, removing markers as you come to them: knit across short side, knit across long side, k6 short side sts, rm; join a new ball of yarn and k6, knit across long side, remove beginning of the round marker, k6.

Flaps

Row 1 (WS): Turn and work flaps simultaneously with separate yarns, p48 across each flap.

Rows 2 – 7: Work each flap in St st.

Row 8 (RS): K3tog 16 times—16 sts each flap.

Rows 9 – 10: Work in St st.

Row 11 (WS): BO knitwise. Weave in ends.

Felting, Blocking, and Finishing

Prepare to Felt Your Purse

It is imperative that you have your purse frame available to check the size of the purse so that you do not over-felt. For best results, felt your bag until it the flaps are about 1 inch wider than the entire width of the purse frame. Once the purse is the desired size, rinse and then spin until slightly damp. Keep the purse slightly damp (not wet) in a plastic bag in the fridge until you can glue the purse into the frame (see below).

Felting in conventional (non HE) top-loading washers

Place items to felt in separate lingerie bag(s) or zippered pillow protector(s). Make sure any ends are cut to no longer than 2″ (5cm). Choose the smallest load size that accommodates your project and allows it to move freely – in this case, the extra small – small load size. Add tennis balls, sport shoes devoted to felting, or a soft canvas bag to the load to provide extra agitation and balance. It is critical that you do not use towels or other items that will release lint onto your felt. Choose hot/cold water setting and add a tiny bit of detergent. Check often and move the bag around in the washer, making sure no set-in creases develop.

To conserve resources, turn back the agitation dial until the bag is finished felting to your liking or reaches the finished measurements here, rather than letting the machine complete multiple cycles. When your bag has reached the proper size, rinse (with no agitation or rinse in cold tap water) and spin dry. Remove and pull into shape.

Felting in HE/front-loading washers

For those with washers that cannot be opened or do not provide agitation, or those with high-speed spin cycles that might crease your bag, felt in the clothes dryer (below).

Felting in a clothes dryer

Soak your project in boiling hot water for about 10 minutes. Put in the dryer. Felt just as you would in the washer: the agitation of the dryer and project wetness is what causes the felting. Stay close by, smooth out, check size, and re-wet often. Once the bag has shrunk to the desired measurements, pull it into shape using the photographs on the cover to direct your efforts.

Glue and then Sew Purse into Purse Frame

Take a look at my blog tutorial on this topic. Or follow the instructions below.

Apply clear-drying fabric glue (instant-bond glues not recommended) into the “slot” of the purse frame using the flaps in place while the glue dries with long basting stitches that go through the purse fabric, through a frame hole, and around frame to another hole 2 – 3 holes from previous one. Remove basting stitches once glue has dried.

Use a needle and beading thread to sew flaps to the purse frame. Beginning on inside of purse, bring threaded needle through felt, through a metal purse frame hole, and through a bead.

To reach the next sew-hole, angle the needle toward that hole as you put it back through the same frame hole the needle just came out of. Pull snug. Your needle is now on the inside of the bag: again, angle the needle toward the next sew-hole as you place the needle through the bag almost where it came out. You can also put a bead on the thread here on the inside for a lovely effect. Repeat steps until each hole on frame exterior is filled with a bead. Finish off thread with a knot and cut.

Line the Bag Bottom with Stiffener and Attach Bag Feet

Take a look at my blog tutorial on this topic with step-by-step instructions and pictures.

Cut two pieces of stiffener that fit nicely in the bag bottom. Use bag feet to secure this first piece in the bag as follows: Use a paper hole punch to punch holes in the stiffener at even intervals for bag feet. Use an awl or size 6 (4mm) double-pointed needle to create a hole for the bag foot prongs in the felt. Insert the prongs into the little hole and press through both the felt and bag stiffener piece already positioned inside the bag. Open the prongs and press down.

Repeat at desired intervals. Last, place the second sheet of stiffener inside the bag and tack in place. If desired, it looks nice to “line” this second sheet of stiffener with some fun fabric.

I Made The Dining Room Into My Creative Studio. . . And I’m never giving it back

Yellow felted purses hang from an antique floor lamp. The garden is visible through french doors behind the lamp.

This is the story of how I turned our library-quiet, unused, uninhabited dining room into my light-filled, color-filled creative studio space.

The dining room in my house is the only room with twelve foot ceilings. It has fantastic light, even though it’s North-facing: the french doors open into the garden. In Spring and Fall, and even some Summer days when the breezes are lovely and the humidity low, I open the doors wide and the air sweeps through the house.

An antique couch with white upholstery and white sheep skins sits empty. Next to it, a small table is covered with books and carved fruit. A unique light sits on the table.
The white couch amongst my flat weave textiles.

I’ve always loved this dining room. But it has been little used in the nearly sixteen years since we have lived in this house. Like many formal dining rooms, it was an homage to a different time and a different way of living. If we all sat down together at the big table, it was at Thanksgiving and then again at Christmas, perhaps New Year’s Eve if my husband’s parents were visiting. But maybe not even then.

The kitchen, as in many households, is the center of our home universe. But it’s not the best place for all of my projects . . . all in various states of completion and, dare I say, beautiful disarray.

Several felted bags designed by Nora J. Bellows of Noni Designs are arranged together: they are all shades of pink and red. Some have bold red or pink felted flowers.
My favorite bags.

The kitchen, as in many households, is the center of our home universe. And when family or friends gather with us, it is in the kitchen . . . or it is in one of the outdoor dining rooms I have created in my garden. So the dining room sat silent and empty. My studio was in a spare bedroom that we deconstructed, re-insulated (even the ceiling), re-constructed, and redecorated. A wall of books, my favorite red Federalist era Empire couch in carved mahogony. My Empire library table desk, a barrister book case full of yarn and pretty little bags I’ve made over the years.

The pandemic has re-vised the way we use our house, however. My engineer husband has been working at home since March. At first, we set him up on a spare table in our bedroom. This is what a lot of people have done. But our bedroom is cozy and dark while my husband craves the sun. It wasn’t long before he was miserable: irritable, depressed. Pandemic life is hard enough, isolating and depressing enough . . . I insisted he move into the studio where the light is lovely and the space calm and comfortable. It agrees with him very well.

I was a creative nomad. I needed my own room.

This made me a creative nomad. I moved to the kitchen because I needed the horizontal surface and our kitchen island is nice for big projects. But soon every horizontal surface was colonized by my projects: it was a chaos of books in various states of being read, knitting projects, sour dough bread rising, a stack of nutrition texts and cook books from the library stacked next to the huge fruit bowl I keep stocked with apples, bananas, plantains, mangoes, oranges, dragon fruit, and sometimes papayas, starfruit, plums, peaches. It all depends what is in season.

I don’t like to pack up my projects all the time, so there was a lof of moving things aside with a slow sweep of one arm in order that we could sit down at the counter and have a meal together.

“Mom, you need to clean up your messes,” my fourteen year old son said soberly one day, annoyance at the edges of his voice, “You’re colonizing the kitchen,” he said a few minutes later, wirh irritation and some indignation. Hearing him say this made me feel very proud and pleased. How many times had I said the same thing to him? He was right, of course.

I moved my projects to the den. This created problems, too. I needed my own room.

The guest room was not ideal because I didn’t want to be a nomad again if we had guests, even if the prospect of guests is a long way off. I wanted a permanent place to rest. And a big table. And good light.

“I’m taking over the dining room,” I said to my husband one afternoon.

“I’m taking over the dining room,” I said to my husband one afternoon. I stood in the doorway of my once-studio and now his 10-, 12-, 14-hours a day workspace. His fingers continued to click on the keys for a moment, his back to me, as I stood there, leaning on the door frame.

“That’s good,” he said as he turned around. This surprised me a little, because he had argued against me turning the guest bedroom into a studio space. But Misha is exceedingly practical, a n engineer through and through. He is also a casual person, more interested in connection than formality. More interested in using things now than in putting them away for some future date or some rarefied use.

“Maybe we are finally figuring out how to use all of the rooms in our house,” he said, thoughtfully.

“I’m not going to give it back,” I said to him as I walked from the studio into the kitchen one evening to start dinner, thinking about our post-covid re-arranging. He should keep that work station in the old studio, so he can work comfortably from home. And, anyway, I have to wonder just what our relationships will be with big campsuses of colleagues after we no longer need to worry about the coronavirus.

“Good,” he said. “You don’t have to.” He smiled and I smiled back.

An array of Nonibags are arranged together on a wooden surface: a black and white purse with pink flowers, a small white purse, a poofy pink purse, a purse with lots of pink and red flowers, etc.
Beautiful chaos of purses and purse frames.

I’m still working out the best way to ship orders out of my new space. And I am only just starting to go through the boxes of my things that lived all spread out in the Noni Studio in the Savage Mill when I had my little store front. It is not easy to winnow down three separate rooms of creativity into one. I still don’t know where everything is. Yesterday, I found a box of fabric I didn’t remember, and, finally, I located the old hat box full of special one-off purse frames that I want to design bags for. It will be, I think, a long process of unpacking, re-organizing, re-arranging.

For now, I sit on my beatiful white couch, or at my big work table and I look often out the tall windows of the French doors. The Carolina Wrens often scritchand hop in the dry leaves that have collected in the covered nook just outside the doors. They chide and argue. And just the other day, as I was gazing out into the woodland garden I have sculpted ourside, a fox walked across the brick patio, to my astonishment, because I had just been writing about the fox in the Morning Pages.

An antique couch covered with sheep skins is centered in the photograph. Behind the couch is a wall tapestry that is shades of red and blue and black.
The white couch where I sit and knit. I’m able to see into the back garden from this vantage point.

“I’m in the right place,” I thought, sitting down on the white couch again after dashing outside to see where the fox had gone.

In the Springtime, I’ll open the doors wide and the divide between the inside rooms and the outside rooms will collapse, at least until nightfall. That’s what I’ve always wanted, to walk right out of my studio and into the garden. . .

How has the pandemic changed the way you use your own house? The way you live with your creativity and your creative projects?

Have you had to get creative about creating a work and creativity space for yourself? I’d love to hear in the comments how you have adjusted to this new way we are living and working.

The Medium Sized Carpet Bag – Free Pattern!

The medium and small sized carpet bags are shown in an alternate, slightly side view.

For 24 hours – from 5pm on Friday to 5pm on Saturday, January 16, 2021 the entire Carpet Bag in Three Sizes pattern is free both on Ravelry and on the Noni Website.

I have included the instructions for just the medium sized purse here, as well as finishing tips and tricks to finish the carpet bag with this updated, stunning LIMITED EDITION hardware package you can BUY NOW. JUL was able to make 3 of these gorgeous Curvy handle pairs at special pricing and we are passing the savings on to you.

Click here to purchase The Limited Edition JUL Leather Handle and Hardware Package (only 3 available!)

JUL and I worked together earlier this week to put together this beautiful new JUL “Curvy” flat leather strap handle.

Black leather purse handles with shiny chrome snap hooks.
The JUL Curvy Handle.

Once I had the handles, I put together components from the Noni warehouse to make a hardware package that gives the Carpet Bag a sleek, modern, professional appearance.

This stunning hardware kit retails for $132.90 and can be used to finish the Medium and Rather Huge Carpet Bags as well as any other medium or large tote in the Noni Collection. There are only three at this price! If you love it, please act fast.

The kit includes the following:

  • 1 JUL USA-made Leather Curvy Handles – pair
  • 2 Large Handle Brackets 
  • 1 Amazing Snap (package contains a second rivet-in snap)
  • 1 package of 24mm Bag feet (6 bag feet) – We do recommend you purchase an additional package if you are making the Rather Huge Carpet Bag as it needs more feet to protect its bottom.
  • 1 package of shiny nickel Cabochon Rivets (20 pcs)
  • 1 A Noni Design label (as my gift – not included in the kit price)
A medium sized, red-striped felted bag with red plastic handles sits behind a shorter white and grey striped felted bag with frosted white handles.

The Medium Carpet Bag Pattern

Difficulty Level

I consider this an easy project. I have known of people who learned how to knit by making this bag. The project requires knowledge of knitting, purling, increasing, decreasing, knitting in the round on circular needles, and some simple hand-sewing during the finishing process.

Abbreviations Used – For a List of All Noni Abbreviations, Click Here

  • BO Bind off
  • CO Cast on
  • K Knit
  • P Purl
  • pu Pick up and knit stitches
  • RS Right (knit) side
  • St st Stockinette Stitch
  • st/sts Stitch/stitches
  • WS Wrong (purl) side

Medium Carpet Bag Projected Finished Dimensions

Finished sizes vary with fiber choice, needle size, gauge, and felting time.

10″ (25cm) high x 4″ (10cm) deep at the base

Pre-Felted Gauge

12 sts and 16 rows over 4″ (10cm) using a double-strand of worsted
weight, feltable yarn on larger needle

Yarn Requirements

The Medium Carpet Bag requires 880 yds (805m) worsted weight feltable wool. My favorite felting yarn is Stonehedge Fiber Mill’s Shepherd’s Wool light worsted. I do not recommend using a single-ply bulky yarn as I have seen it torque in the washer, making a wonky shape.

To get the look of the red striped bag, I used 440 yds (402m) – or 2 skeins – each in Christmas Red (A) and Garnet (B).

Needles and Other Materials

  • Size 11 (8mm) 24″ (60cm) circular needle for working the bag
  • Stitch markers to mark corners
  • Tapestry needle for weaving in ends
  • Sewing needle for finishing work
  • 1 Noni Limited Edition Curvy Leather Handle and Hardware Kit
    • Kit contains 1 Noni Amazing Magnetic Snap, 2 pairs of Handle Brackets, 1 package of 6 bag feet, 1 package of 20 cabochon rivets, and, as my gift, 1 A Noni Design lead-free pewter label.

The Solid Colored Medium Carpet Bag Pattern

Bag Bottom (striped bag instructions are below)

With a double-strand of worsted-weight yarn CO 48 sts.
Row 1 (WS): Purl.
Rows 2 – 24: Continue in St st.
BO. Cut yarn. Weave in Ends.

Picking Up Stitches For The Bag Body

With the WS of the bag bottom facing you, pick up and knit stitches as follows: *pu 48 sts along the CO/BO edge, place marker, pu 20 sts on short end (this translates
to roughly 2 sts for every 3 rows and the difference here is because rows felt more than stitches so you pick up fewer stitches to rows to get the same gauge) place marker; repeat from * for the remaining long and short edges, place marker in different color to designate the beginning of the round—136 sts. Cut yarn. Weave in end.

Turn your work so that the RS is facing you, join a new double-strand of A and begin knitting in the round. The round should begin with a short end.

Bag Body and Bag Shaping

Rounds 1 – 64: Knit in the round. BO. Cut yarn. Weave in ends.

The Striped Medium Sized Carpet Bag Pattern

Bag Bottom

With a double-strand of A CO 48 sts.
Row 1 (WS): Purl in A.
Rows 2 – 4: Continue in St st in A.
Rows 5 -8: Change to B and continue in St st.
Rows 9 -18: Continue to work 4 – row stripes, alternating between A and B.
Rows 19 – 24: Finish with a 6 – row strip in A.
BO in A. Cut yarn. Weave in Ends.

Picking Up Stitches for The Bag Body

With the WS of the purse bottom facing you, pick up and knit stitches with a double-strand of A as follows: *pu 48 sts along the CO/BO edge, place marker, pu 20 sts on short end (this translates to roughly 2 sts for every 3 rows), place marker; repeat from * for remaining long and short edges, place marker in different color to designate the beginning of the round—136 sts. Cut yarn. Weave in end.

Turn your work so that the RS is facing you, join a new double-strand of A and begin knitting in the round. The round should begin with a short end.

Bag Body & Bag Shaping

Rounds 1 – 3: Knit in the round in A.
Rounds 4 – 7: Change to B and knit in the round.
Rounds 8 – 80: Knit in the round, alternating between 4 – row stripes in A and B, ending with a stripe in B BO all sts. Cut yarn. Weave in ends.

Felting & Finishing

Felt Your Bag – please read the entire section before felting

Felting in conventional (non HE) top-loading washers
Place items to felt in separate lingerie bag(s) or zippered pillow protector(s). Make sure any ends are cut to no longer than 2″ (5cm). Choose the smallest load size that accommodates your project and allows it to move freely – in this case, the medium – large load size. Add tennis balls, sport shoes devoted to felting, or a soft canvas bag to the load to provide extra agitation and balance. It is critical that you do not use towels or other items that will release lint onto your felt. Choose hot/cold water setting and add a tiny bit of detergent. Check often and move the bag around in the washer, making sure no set-in creases develop.

To conserve resources, turn back the agitation dial until the bag is finished felting to your liking or reaches the finished measurements here, rather than letting the machine complete multiple cycles.

When your bag has reached the proper size, rinse (with no agitation or rinse in cold tap water) and spin dry. Remove and pull into shape.

Felting in HE/front-loading washers
For those with washers that cannot be opened or do not provide agitation, or those with high-speed spin cycles that might crease your bag, felt in the clothes dryer (below).

Felting in a clothes dryer
Soak your project in boiling hot water for about 10 minutes. Put in the dryer. Felt just as you would in the washer: the agitation of the dryer and project wetness is what causes the felting. Stay close by, smooth out, check size, and re-wet often–for dryer felting it is crucial that your bag stay sopping wet during this process.

Block Your Bag During and After Felting

The finishing process begins in the washer or dryer. As your bag goes through the felting process, it is important to take it out of the washer or dryer and check it. Is it creasing or curling? Is the top felting too slowly? Stretch the bag body to match the width of the top, Make sure it is felting evenly. Stretch and pull the fabric to encourage even felting. Uncurl the bag opening if it is trying to curl.

You can encourage even felting by sewing the top together with a cotton yarn or contrasting superwash yarn. Big stitches, just enough to stabilise it. Why do this? Because then the top will felt at the same gauge as the body and not flare at the top. Do not sew all the way across because you do want to be able to cut the stitches afterwards and pull the yarn out. If the top does flare slightly, it’s not terrible: simply fold the ends in, as pictured, and block carefully for crisp shaping.

Once the bag has shrunk to the desired measurements, pull it into shape using the photographs on the cover to direct your efforts. Below is the picture of a felted bag that has been well blocked but has no structure and is yet unfinished.

A grey and black striped felted bag body after felting but before finishing is lying on a grey background.

Attach Bag Handles Using Hardware Brackets

Attaching the Handle Brackets is the first step in the finishing process.

Gorgeous Handle Brackets

Measure carefully so that handle brackets are equidistant from each end and properly centered in the bag.

Press the bracket prongs through the felt and expose the little prongs on the inside, put the plate over the prongs, then put a dot of super glue on the prong and another inside the rivet “cap.” Press the cap over the prong and hold in place until let.

NOTE: If you are attaching a plastic handle or handle rings to the bag using fabric loops or “tabs”, see my step-by-step photo-tutorial and instructions for this, called “Handles 101.” I use fabric tabs or sturdy ribbon and a doublet-strand of sewing thread that matches the color of the bag. Use small stitches and take some of your stitches all the way through the felt fabric.

Line the Bag Bottom with Stiffener

I do recommend that you stiffen the bottom of your bag. I have, in the past, used Plastic Artist Canvas to line bag bottoms, but I have not been able to get the product I prefer lately. A good alternative is the stiff Mat Board that is used in the matting and framing of pictures. I like the feel of the Mat Board in the bag because it is bio-degradable (I’m always looking for ways to reduce the use of plastic)

Attach Bag Feet

BF6-24mm-NIC
24mm bag feet in shiny nickel

Take a look at this step-by-step blog tutorial on attaching bag feet. Instead of the stiffener mentioned and pictured in the post, consider using Mat Board, the thick board used in the matting and framing of pictures.

Attach the Amazing Snap or Sew-in Snap

The Amazing Magnetic Snap. The snap included in the kit has a rivet-in back.

Attach the Amazing Snap or Sew-in Snap

Amazing Snap
Measure carefully to identify the center of the bag opening. Place the front or “knob” portion of Amazing Snap on the Flap. Place the “screw-in” back on the wrong side of the Flap and screw into the knob front. Once this is complete, snap the magnetic “back” to the front and locate the proper position for the magnet prongs on the bag body. Press magnet prongs through felt from outside to inside, slide the washer onto the prongs, and open prongs outward. Snap closed. Open by pulling on the knob.

Best sew-in snaps are one of the most invisible ways to put a snap in your bag.

Sew in the Best Sew-in Snap or Glue on the Rivet-in Snap

Find the center of the bag opening and mark. Using Nylon beading or sewing thread
and a sewing needle, sew the Sew-In Snap in place directly on the felt or over the lining.

Rivet-in snaps are easy to apply with super glue. They also put a nice “rivet” top on the outside of your bag for a sleek look.

To attach the Rivet-in snaps, simply place where you want the snap, pressing the snap prong through the felt toward the outside. Then put a dot of super glue on the little prong and a dot of glue inside the female part of the rivet (the “cap” that shows on the outside of the bag), press the two sides together and hold in place until set.

Attach the Noni Metal Label

A pile of A Noni Design labels are arranged on a wooden surface.

Take a look at this blog tutorial about how to Attach the Noni metal label to the top center back of the bag (or in the location you desire) using a sharp needle and nylon beading thread and four no. 8 seed beads and beginning on the inside of the bag, bring the threaded needle through bag fabric, through one of the metal label holes, and then through a bead. Go back through the same hole and through bag fabric. Travel on the inside to next label hole and repeat the procedure until the label is secured through all four holes using beads. Cut the sewing thread and secure.

Attach the Cabochon Rivets

Mark the places around the top of the bag opening where you want to place a cab rivet. Place all the rivets. When you have them where you want them, “set” them with super glue by taking the cab front off the back, put a dot of glue in the center of the cab front or the center of the cab back while it is still in place in the fabric and then press together again. Hold until the glue has set. Take a look at my blog post about this topic.

A Finished grey and black striped felted bg sits on a grey background
This bag is shown with a Prague handle, a handle similar to the Curvy . . . but not as curvy.

Any questions about felting, finishing, or this pattern, please post your questions in the comments below. If you don’t see your comment right away, rest assured that I will get it. I have to approve them in order that the comments section does not become filled with all sorts of really weird spam.

If you have any suggestions for short videos you’d like to see, or blog photo tutorials, or even a zoom class, let me know! I am in the process of creating a lot of new content and I would love your feedback.

Happy knitting and felting!

Nora

The Story of The First Nonibag and The First Nonibag Pattern

Three felted bags are arranged on a white background: a large black one with huge red flowers, a medium sized bag in red stripes, and a small sized bag in white and grey stripes.
The Carepet Bag in Three Sizes with Camellia Flowers

My life as Noni started years ago during a lonely stretch of time when I was a graduate student at the University of Maryland and living in Baltimore City–in Charles Village and later Bolton Hill for those of you who are local to me here in Maryland.

My father and stepmother still lived in Maryland then and invited me to spend the weekend with them. Our adventure: a trip to the Mannings, a destination knitting and weaving store for generations that has since then sadly closed. As most of us know, the sample sells . . . I walked into the shop and saw a Dale of Norway colorwork sweater on the mannequin. Arranged below were balls and balls of Dale of Norway yarn.

I made the sweater exactly as you see it above. To practice – I had not knit anything of any consequence since I was about 13! – I made the hat on the way home. I am a continental knitter and had no experience with color work. I just (to this day I do this) knit with one color, dropped that strand, picked the other up, knit with that, and so on. I’m slow but my knitting stays nice and flat.

I worked on that sweater as a sort of solace. This was before smart phones, before the days of social media and constant interruption. I didn’t even have a TV. I would knit in the quiet of my Baltimore row house, the sound of the clock ticking, the radiator clancking periodically. It was the sweetest meditation.

When the sweater was finally finished, I took it to the local knit shop, Woolworks on Falls Road. It, sadly, closed last year, but it was a veritable institution for generations of knitters. I took it there, laid it on the counter and said, “I need to finish the plackets and cuffs with embroidery. Do you have Dale of Norway yarns?”

Two ladies crowded around the sweater and started inspecting it, running their fingers over the stitches, looking at the pattern created by the carries on the inside of the sweater, turning it over, inside out, looking at every inch, fingers delicately following the purl row that allows a flat turn at the collar and cuffs . . .

“Did YOU knit this?” said W, a pretty, petite woman with a slight New York accent. She had dark, unruly wavy hair cut close in an almost pixie. She wore an oversized hand-knit sweater with slim grey jeans, ballet flats. Her face was narrow and intent. She was warm, and inquisitive.

“Are you married?” said R, the other woman, a tall, elegant,handsome person. She wore jeans that had been pressed to creases. Her fitted t-shirt also looked pressed and was tucked in. She, too, was wearing a hand-knit sweater with classic lines, small buttons, all fitted with lovely details. Her hair was combed into perfect waves and kept that way, no doubt, with a cloud of hair spray. I wondered what she looked like without make-up.

“Do you want a job?” they both said, nearly in unison. I laughed. The two of them eyed me intently, both still leaning forward, their hands still brushing absently over the sweater on the counter in the middle of our little circle.

In fact, I did want a job. “Yes, yes I want a job. Yes, I knit this . . .” I told them the story of finding it at Mannings, the weeks knitting. They listened as they led me back to the left side back recesses of the store where the bins of Dale of Norway were and we stood and discussed color combinations. They took turns asking me personal questions until other ladies entered the shop and their help was needed elsewhere.

They were serious about the job. And I took that job. Thus began my part-time-while-a-graduate-student-job and a crash course in everything knitting that I had never known or paid attention to in the past: swatching, gauge, yarn weight, fiber content, making mistakes, fixing mistakes, altering patterns, writing patterns . . . I learned by making my own mistakes, figuring out how to fix them, and by helping other people fix their mistakes. This was central to my own philosophy of knitting and teaching: mistakes are the treasure trove of knowledge. Don’t be afraid of making them, even though it’s stressful sometimes . . . mistakes are worth their weight in gold nuggets.

I was mostly contented to make sweaters from the pattern books in the shop until one day when the two owners came back from the big knitting trade show (TNNA . . . sadly this pandemic has forced its demise only last year, too). They had seen a felted bag at the show and had both made small ones at night after the show when they were in the hotel room. Now, these little bags sat on the counter by the register. I had never seen anything like them. They were adorable, captivating. I had to make one.

“HOW did you do this?” I asked W. It was furry, a small creature in my hands. I didn’t want to put it down. A bag that was like carrying a small, obedient puppy. W handed me a very simple hand-written pattern photocopied on a half-sheet of white paper. I bought some feltable yarn in a bunch of fun colors and added some hot pink mohair that I had from a sweater I had recently knit and made the little bag below. It is, truly, the first Nonibag. I was absolutely in love with it. I carried it everywhere even though it is so small it can hold nearly nothing except for wallet, car and house keys, pen, maybe a small paperback book. . . I think I did carry a copy of Othello around since I was teaching Shakespeare at the University of Maryland at the time.

A small felted bag with stripes in reds, pinks, and yellows sits against a white background. It has soft, felted handles.
This is the first ever Nonibag . . . It is just barely big enough for a wallet, pen, car keys, and maybe a small paperback book.

I started experimenting immediately. Questions, theories, and mistakes were my teachers. What if I wanted to . . . What if I did this? What would happen if I . . .

I made lots of little bags. I made enormous bags that became yarn baskets. I made bags shaped like tubes. And I used stripes, a lot. I used mohair to create color complexity and a lovely halo that I, to this day, find quite fetching sometimes. You can see this in several of the Vintage Nonibags, such as The Garden Party Bag with its grass-green, textured body.

A medium sized, red-striped felted bag with red plastic handles sits behind a shorter white and grey striped felted bag with frosted white handles.

My purses started attracting a lot of attention. Ladies stopped me on the street. The ladies at the shop asked me to make bags for them, too. The red and red striped medium carpet bag was my first commissions. M wanted a red bag with big red flowers. “Can you do it?” She asked me. “Of course!” I said, feeling just a little queasy because I was not too sure about the flowers part. I started picking different feltable reds from the shelf. I think I pulled about 15 different reds down and used all of them in a bag that came out AMAZING but rather odd. I carried it around for years . . . it has since been retired. Design work often means taking an idea through several iterations. I tried again. The second bag I made was the Medium Carpet Bag. That first flower was The Camellia Flower.

Another customer wanted a smaller sized after she saw M’s bag. That became the Small Carpet Bag.

The medium and small sized carpet bags are shown in an alternate, slightly side view.

And then someone wanted a briefcase-sized version of the Carpet Bag with big red flowers. The Rather Huge Carpet Bag was born. She’s amazing. Striking. Classic. Fun. Unapologetic. She still stops traffic.

And for 24 hours . . . starting with tomorrow’s blog post . . . you can download this classic Nonibag pattern for free.

In tomorrow’s blog entry itself, I will include the written instructions for the medium sized carpet bag as well as my tips and techniques for excellent finishing. I will also introduce a new finishing package that includes a beautiful new JUL Leather handle and gorgeous metal hardware–handle brackets, a beautiful snap closure, bag feet, and cabochon rivet details. A stunning hardware update for an unforgettable bag. See you tomorrow on the Noni Blog!

Large black and grey striped felted purse with black handles and huge red felted flower in the front center of the bag.

Cultivating Solace Part 1: Or How The Korean Side Dish Dubu Jorim Brings Me Joy

A Korean dish of spicy braised tofu, called Dubu Jorim, sits atop some steamed Jasmine Rice on a square black plate. Metal chopsticks sit on the edge of the plate.

This last week has been tense for me. For a lot of us. I was with my sister, Laura Bellows of JUL Designs on Thursday. It was to be a working as well as social visit. But it was tough: I was agitated and upset by what was unfolding on Capitol Hill. We were alternately talking about our latest creative projects and absolutely sick about and rivetted by the news coming out of DC. I was distracted, sad, angry, worried, disbelieving, not surprised. So many emotions. It was hard to concentrate and settle down: I didn’t get my Thursday blog post written, or my Friday one.

As the afternoon became evening and I worked on pictures of fruit as inspiration for new colorways and as I knit and reknit a new small bag I will share with you this coming week, I found myself seeking solace, some joy to balance the anxiety of the day.

Once home, I wanted something soothing after such a day. My husband and I decided to relax by watching a lovely, quiet Japanese import TV series we have been enjoying on Netflix: Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories. Here is a review that you might like to watch. The stories center around a tiny little diner in Shinjuku, Tokyo, that is only open from Midnight until 7am. There is only one thing on the menu, but the cook, know only as Master, will make anything you ask for as long as he has the ingredients.

The show is an homage to comfort food, to foods whose deliciousness is as much about the fresh ingredients and skill of Master as it is about the memories and emotions the different diners associate with their requested dishes. it is beautiful, poitnant. I cherish each episode. I want such a diner to be tucked away in my own town . . . the sort of gem you want to succeed but you want to keep it secret so it will always be intimate, special, welcoming. Watching the way Master prepares food, and the way his customers enjoy it, had made me take more care with the dishes that I make myself.

I thought I’d share with you here one of the dishes I have recently made . . . ia Korean dish called Dubu Jorim, officially a side dish, or “banchan,” that we had been buying already prepared from a local asian grocery store. But it was expensive there and served in plastic packaging that I really didn’t want to take home and wonder if it was ending up recycled or the landfill. Plus, it was not always as fresh as I would have liked.

Lately, I have been trying to learn how to make some things that I have always previously purchased, such as Naan, tempeh, my favorite Indian dishes, harissa spice paste, and things like this tasty Korean braised tofu. What I have discovered is that it is always better when I make it myself. And my life is better, too. . .

A Korean dish of spicy braised tofu, called Dubu Jorim, sits atop some steamed Jasmine Rice on a square black plate.
This is the version of this dish that I served to my son during one of his breaks in on-line school.

At first, I didn’t know what it was called . . . but some googled descriptions turned an abundance of recipes quickly. I’ve made it many times now and from several different recipes, so here is my own rendition of a “double” recipe using 2 cakes of extra firm tofu. You can serve as banchan, eat as a main course with sauteed baby bok choy over jasmine rice, or make a wonderful innovation of your own. Delicious!

Steaming sauteed baby bok choy with the extra Dubu Jorim sauce drizzled over the top. Umami!

Here is what you will need:

For the tofu

  • 2 cakes of extra firm tofu
  • 2 tbs neutral oil such as grapeseed or canola for frying the tofu

Prepare the tofu by removing it from the packaging and draining off any water. Place the two cakes on a paper or cloth towel and pat dry.

Next cut the tofu into 1/4 inch slices. Pat the slices dry if necessary.

Put the oil in a non-stick pan and heat over medium heat. Add the tofu to the frying pan in a single layer – for 2 cakes, you will need to fry in 2 – 3 batches. After one side has browned slightly, flip using tongs and lightly brown the other side. My son likes the tofu to be slightly crisp while I like a softer skin . . . try both and see what you like. Once each piece is browned on both sides, remove and arrangeattractively on a plate. Some people lay the pieces down so that they are like dominoes that have already been toppled. You can also simply arrange them so that they are not touching. I try different things each time.

While the tofu is gently frying, you can mix up the sauce.

For the sauce (mix in a small mixing bowl – this reciipe makes enough to have some left over):

  • 6 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 2 tbs water
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp korean red chili flakes
  • 1 tbs sesame seeds – I like to use black and white mixed but just toasted white is nice by itself, too.
  • 1 large or 2 medium cloves of garlic minced finely or grated using a fine grater
  • 4 – 5 fresh scallions
  • Extra sesame seeds, chili flakes, and scallions for garnish.

Mix all together with a spoon or fork until well integrated. Separately, wash and remove the roots and any yellowing bits of 4 – 5 scallions. Cut into small rounds. I use the entire scallion, not just the white or green part. These will be sprinkled on top of the dish. You can certainly add some to the sauce as well so the scallions marinate.

Scallions both whole and chopped sit on a dark wood cutting board.

Once the tofu is arranged on a plate, spoon the sauce over the top, making sure each piece of tofu has some sauce and that all pieces are sitting in a little bit of sauce.

Slices of tofu are lined up on a black plate and drizzled with a spicy Korean sauce of soy sauce, sesame oil, and chilli flakes to make Dubu Jorim, a classic Korean side dish.

Finally, sprinkle the scallions over the tofu and then sprinkle more chili flakes and sesame seeds over all.

A plate of Dubu Jorim: Slices of fried tofu are lined up on a black plate and then drizzled with spicy sauce and sprinkled with fresh scallions and sesame seeds.

Eat as a snack, with your fingers standing up in the kitchen! Or serve over steaming hot Jasmine rice. Or serve the platter alongside baby bok choy that has been sauteed in a little bit of oil. Put in a pretty bowl while it is still bright bright green and drizzle with the extra Dubu Jorim sauce. Joyful food. I hope you love this dish as much as I do.

I will be sharing more of the ways I add joy to my days or meals.

How do you inject moments of solace and pleasure into your own days? Please share in the comments.

A Bit Of Hope: A Tiny Felted Purse – Free Knitting Pattern

I have been thinking a lot about hope as winter begins. For me, hope can be a small thing, but always with you. We tuck it away. Hold it tight in our hands or worry it with nervous fingers. Small hope gets us through. Hope is big. This tiny bag, is the little big bag that carries hope.

As any knitter knows, the knitted gift is always more than its physical self. It is hours of thought, a meditation often, of love. Of hope. This tiny purse is no different, even though it is quick to knit and easy to finish. This tiny purse is perfect for small treasures. It is a re-usable gift box for a lovely gift. Or it is the gift itself. It is a bodacious stash buster, too, requiring only 20 yards of feltable worsted weight yarn. You don’t have 20 yards of one color? Stripes are fun. Maybe more fun. Make several for tiny precious surprises or as a happy container for your stitch markers and other small knitting notions. Attach a key chain and carry it with you.

Pattern Difficulty Level

Easy: This project requires knowledge of casting on, knitting, purling, increasing, decreasing, knitting in the round on double-pointed needles, binding off, and some hand-sewing to complete the finishing process and to make the tiny bag linings (if desired).

Finished Dimensions

2 1/2 inches wide (6.25cm) by 2 1/2 inches tall (6.25cm

Unfelted Gauge

20 sts and 28 rounds = 4″ (10cm) in stockinette stitch on a US size 7 (4.5mm) needle

Yarn & Materials

Buy A LIttle Bit of Hope Limited Edition Hardware Kit – total Noni Designs inventory for this kit is only 28 pieces, so if you love this little bag, don’t wait!

If you love this little bag and might want to make more tiny bags, consider buying the Little Sweets Pattern. The Little Sweets pattern is also for sale on Ravelry. Little Sweets contains 3 bag patterns: A Little Bit of Hope plus Just Lipstick and Little Poof. All adorable.

If you’d like a copy of A Little Bit of Hope in your Ravelry Library, you can download the free pattern on Ravelry HERE.

Use promocode blogpost20 for a 20% discount off of the A LIttle Bit of Hope Limited Edition Hardware Kit and nearly everything* in the store from now until Friday, January 8th at midnight EST.

*Excluded from the sale are JUL leather handles and leather handle kits.

A tiny purse frame, a spool of white thread, silver-lined clear seed beads, and A Noni Design Label comprise the Little Bit Of Hope purse hardware kit displayed here on a wooden surface.

The Little Bit of Hope Kit Contains:

  • 1 Little Flirt Purse Frame
  • 1 Noni seed beads and thread: white with silver-lined clear beads
  • 1 A Noni Design label in lead-free, USA-made pewter
  • A tiny working lock and key as a gift from Noni (a $10 value!)

You will also need:

  • 20 yds (18.5m) worsted-weight, feltable wool from your stash or purchase a skein from Noni. The pictured bags are made with Stonehedge Fiber Mill’s Shepherd’s Wool
  • US size 7 (4.5mm) set of 5 double-pointed needles 
  • 2 locking stitch markers in different colors to mark sides
  • Sewing needle for finishing work
  • Tapestry needle for weaving in ends
  • Locktite Super Glue “Extra Time Control”
  • 1/16 yd (.05m) lining fabric if desired (optional)

A Little Bit Of Hope Purse Pattern

Purse Flaps (make 2)
First, cast on 6 stitches using your preferred cast on method. I worked the flaps separately on double-pointed needles, but you can certainly use a circular needle and work the flaps simultaneously if you prefer.
Row 1 (WS): P6.
Row 2: K1, m1r, k to last st, m1l, k1—8 sts.
Row 3: P8.
Row 4: Repeat row 2—10 sts.
Row 5: P10.
Row 6: Repeat row 2—12 sts.
Row 7: P12.
Row 8: Repeat row 2—14 sts.
Rows 9 – 11: Continue in St st. Place stitches for first flap on a spare needle if working separately and work the second flap as for the first.
Round 12: Note: Use your preferred needle(s) to work in the round, taking into consideration that you will be knitting a very small circumference, and, in the end, will perform a three-needle bind off, by dividing the stitches in half at the side markers. 

Join the 2 flaps together to finish the bag in the round as follows: knit across the last worked flap, place a marker to indicate the side seam of the bag, continue to work across the stitches from the second flap, place different colored marker to designate the side seam and beginning of the round. 

Purse Body
Rounds 13 – 16: Knit in the round.
Round 17: *K1, ssk, knit to 3 sts before marker, k2tog, k1, sm; repeat from *, slip round marker—12sts each side.
Round 18: Knit in the round.
Round 19: Repeat round 16—10sts each side.
Round 20: Knit around.
Round 21: Repeat round 16—8 sts each side.
Round 22: Knit around.

After the last round turn the bag inside out so that RSs face each other and the WS of the fabric is facing you. Divide the sts onto 2 needles at the side markers so that the two sides sit parallel to each other. Perform a 3-needle bind off. Cut yarn. Weave in all ends. 

Three tiny knitted purses sit on a window sill waiting to be felted.

Finishing

Where possible, I have created live links to other blog post tutorials here in The Noni Blog that offer additional details about each finishing step. Details about how to felt your knitted bags are coming within the next few days to this blog. When that post is live on Tuesday, January 5, the Felt Your Bag heading below will become a live link.

Prepare to Felt Your Purse

For best results, have the purse frame available to check the size of the purse so that you do not over-felt or under-felt your bag. Felt your bag until the bag, from side seam to side seam, measures between 2.5 – 2.75″ (6.25 – 6.75cm).

I caution against overfelting as a general principle: an over-felted bag is difficult if not impossible to put in a frame. Once the purse is the desired size, rinse and then spin or press between absorbent cloths until slightly damp. Keep the purse slightly damp (not wet) until you can sew the purse into the frame. If you are not able to begin the finishing process immediately, place your felted purse in a plastic bag and store in the freezer until you are ready to glue the purse into the frame (see below).

Felt Your Bag

In the top-loading washer, choose the smallest (hot wash/cold rinse) load size since this purse is so tiny. Put in a small lingerie bag. You do not need to add anything else to the washer. You especially should not add anything, such as towels, that will add lint to the wash. Add a few drops of wool-wash or baking soda to create an alkaline wash environment. Turn back the agitation dial until the bag is felted to measurement specifications. Then spin or press dry.

In a dryer, choose the hottest setting. Soak the purse in cool water until the wool is saturated. Then put in the dryer. Felt just as you would in the washer: the agitation of the dryer and project wetness is what causes the felting. Stay close by, smooth out, check size, and re-wet often. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to keep the bag absolutely soaking wet and to check it every few minutes.

The purpose for such vigilance is not only to make sure the bag does not shrink too little or too much but also to ensure that it does not develop creases or curling at the bag edges and/or top. Creasing and curling are a particular danger with this really tiny purse: it is so tiny that it can get balled up and stay that way. I urge you to set a timer so that you are reminded to check your bag often in order to wet it, block it, and check its felting process.

Both during the felting process and once the bag has shrunk to the desired measurements, pull, push, and mush into shape using the photographs here and its size in relation to the frame itself to direct your efforts. Questions, worries, or felting emergencies? Take the bag out of the felting process, put in a plastic bag, and put it into the freezer. Then write to me in the comments section below and I will get back to you as quickly as I can.

Once your purse is felted, proceed to the finishing below and glue the purse into the purse frame.

Glue And Then Sew Your Purse Into The Purse Frame 

I recommend that you do not to skip this important step: Apply clear-drying, Locktite Extra Time Control glue into the “slot” of purse frame. Do NOT fill the slot, but rather put a single line of glue on the non-hole side of the flap.

Press flap edges into the slot with a tapestry or small-gauge double-pointed needle.

If needed, keep flaps in place with long (snug) basting stitches that go through the purse fabric and around frame (going through the sew holes is not necessary unless the purse is very densely felted and is difficult to keep in the frame). Immediately sew the purse into the frame as described below as sometimes the glue makes this step nearly or completely impossible.

Only remove basting stitches once glue has dried.

Sew the purse into frame while the glue is still drying: With a sharp, small- gauge sewing needle and beading thread, begin on inside of purse: bring threaded needle through felt, through first metal purse frame hole, and through a bead on the outside. 

*To reach the next sew-hole, angle the needle toward that hole as you put it back through the same frame hole out of which the needle just came. Pull snug. Your needle is now on the inside of the purse and the bead is secure on the outside of the purse. Repeat from * until each hole on frame exterior is filled with a bead. Finish off thread on the inside of the purse with a knot. Weave end(s) into the felt so as to be invisible before cutting the thread. 

Two tiny felted purses side by side: on the left is a light turquoise bag with clear beads and on the right is a blue and green striped bag.

Sew on The “A Noni Design” Label

A pile of A Noni Design labels are arranged on a wooden surface.
Noni Labels take your bag to the next level of finishing.

Measure carefully to position the label in the center front or back of the purse. Secure the label to the purse as follows: Place just a tiny dot of fabric or super glue on the label back and place in desired location. Hold in place until dry. Second, beginning on the inside of the purse, bring a threaded needle through purse fabric, through one of the metal label holes, and finally through a bead. Then go back through the same hole and through purse fabric. Travel on the inside of the purse (for invisible stitches, travel through the fabric of the felt) to next label hole and repeat the procedure until the label is secured through all four holes using beads. Cut the thread and secure on the inside of the purse.

Share Your Projects With Your Knitting Friends and With Us!

A series of tiny Noni "A Bit of Hope" Felted bags are lined up vertically.

This pattern is also available for free on Ravelry. Please post your Little Bit Of Hope purses in your own Ravelry projects (it’s up in mine) and link to the pattern page. I would be delighted if you would share with all of your knitting friends!

Let me know what you think in the comments. As always, let me know if there are questions, comments, or if you need my help with anything.

Happy New Year!

Nora

My 2020: I’ve been taking lots and lots of walks.

Since I shuttered my storefront in 2015, I have tried a few different things . . . Most recently, I taught English Composition at the local community college. Like many other jobs everywhere on the planet, that gig was upended by Covid-19. I had to figure out what to do with myself again.

As for most of us, 2020 was a challenge for me. I have been lonely and isolated in ways that made me reach out in order to connect and reach into myself in order to find solid ground: where do I want to stand? What do I want to stand up for, publicly? I have always wanted to stay away from politics when it came to business. But isn’t it true to say that just about all of our decisions have socio-political, cultural consequences and a carbon footprint?

The events of the past year are still very present in my mind: my heart aches for the losses we have suffered because of Covid-19, the losses that go on and on. And I am disgusted by the losses that are the consequence of systemic racism in our country and world. We need to transform our thinking. I can only hope the detestable acts of violence we continue to see may finally be bringing about a cultural reckoning. I am hearing stories I have never heard before – maybe you are, too, truths that are hard to bear but that must be heard and borne in order to grow and do better. I have work to do. I believe that the lives of black people matter. All of them. A writer friend of mine, Reginald McKnight, always said, “Take everyone as they come.” It is the best antidote to any -ism I have found. Like most simple, true advice, it is harder than it seems . . . for all of us.

So, what have I been up to?

I have been in a state of grief and hope. I have not seen my most loved elders and some friends in over a year. I don’t hug anymore. I have been observing my self. All spring and summer I gardened my small, much-too-shady-for-a-proper-vegetable-garden yard. I’ve taught myself how to make sourdough bread with the help of a who knows how old it is? starter from King Arthur Flour company that I came into possession of by way of my dad who took a class there on making bread several years ago and has dutifully tended to his starter ever since. I also studied the book, Tartine. I learned the Russian Kale I like to eat likes to grow even in the a bit too shady sliver of side garden where it volunteered. I have discovered that if you love our planet and you want to reduce your carbon footprint, one of the most powerful things you can do is eat more plants – see for yourself by taking this quiz. The more you replace meat with plants, the better it is for your health (in general, but every one is different) and our world. Maybe you already know this but it was a surprise to me. So this, coupled with some health issues in our little family, spurred me to start giving myself a crash course in nutrition. Physical pain I thought I might always just endure is mostly gone. I have more flexibility than I have had for years, and more energy. My memory is returning: all that menopausal “brain fog” bullshit . . . am I going crazy? feeling . . . Gone. I’m clear. Awake. I remember.

I have started reading novels again, a delicious past time I have not enjoyed much since graduate school. I am even reading one out loud to my husband in the evenings, a chapter or two at a time. Recently, I also picked up my knitting needles again, the designer’s pen, my writing pen. As most journeys are, this one was an indirect path to this moment, this very one. It all began years ago, when my friend James mentioned that he writes Morning Pages. I didn’t know what they were, save that he wrote them in the morning. I didn’t investigate. But I did remember.

The Artist’s Way has helped countless people find an art-filled path and purpose.

Just over a month ago, I heard the term Morning Pages again. Seth Godin mentioned them in a conversation with Marie Forleo about his latest book. Both are content creators who have helped thousands if not millions figure out how to follow a passion and turn it into a business. I could tell from Marie’s reaction that she knew exactly what they were. . . “She probably writes them, too,” I thought. I was intriqued. “Two such inspiring and successful people write Morning Pages?” I wondered to myself. “Those must be some powerful pages.” And then I thought of James, too. “I want to be in that club,” I thought to myself.

The title Morning Pages is just visible at the top of a journal page.

Over Thanksgiving, I started my own. I didn’t know the rules, exactly, as specified by their originator, Julia Cameron, a brilliant woman who has made inspiring works in many fields and is the creative force behind The Artist’s Way, a book – or, more accurately, a self-guided creative program, to help you find your artist self (again) – that has helped many (maybe millions?) find their way to a sense of purpose and intention.

Somehow I did know that I was supposed to write three long-hand pages on 8.5″ x 11″ paper. Analogue writing gets our thoughts and brains to places we can’t reach when we type, because long-hand forces us to slow down. If you can’t write long-hand, however, use the tools you must. While Cameron assures us that long-hand is best, she also acknowledges that writing at all is better than not writing. I am into my second month and have not missed a single day, though I did have to write Afternoon Pages once because I messed up my morning. I am closing in on the last few pages in a notebook that had lain empty for over 16 years just waiting for these pages. I tell you, Morning Pages are hard, annoying, illuminating, tedious, in-my-face, the best therapist I’ve ever had (if I had only known!), damn broken record stop it already confrontational when I’m avoiding something, persistent is an understatement, amazing, amazing AMAZING. Wow.

WOW!

On the first day after writing the Morning Pages, I was seeing differently. I was inhabiting the landscape in a way that felt fundamentally changed. It had been a long time since I was seeing and thinking like a writer, dare I whisper . . . like an artist.

I look forward to them. I work things out, solve problems, ask big and small questions, try out answers. Write down ideas. Sometimes they feel horrible, difficult, laborious, like pulling teeth out of the hard-baked ground. Some days, I recount what happened yesterday, or what I remember from a day when I was four. I am look forward to where they will take me, what I will discover.

Here’s what I do know: I have lots of ideas.

Morning Pages have led me back to Noni: I have turned my attentions to some designs that I teased you with in the past (but did not publish), I am working on some really great new stuff, too, soonish.

My next blog post is a free pattern for a little bag called A Bit of Hope. She is tiny, and lovely, and comforting. Let your knitting friends know to come and visit, subscribe, or look for my latest on my Facebook page or in my Instagram feed. Please share this post with them and other artists you might know who just might need or want Morning Pages.

Black and white, horizontally-striped bag with hot pink handle and flowers.

For now, I invite you to start your own Morning Pages. For a very clear synopsis, try this article by the MasterClass people (they have some great free content) entitled, Journaling Techniques: 12 Tips For Writing Morning Pages

Here is my own shorter synopsis:

  1. Set out your necessary materials. You will need 3 pieces of 8.5 x 11 paper and a pen. At minimum. I humbly suggest you make a committment and give it a go for a while. Get a notebook to devote to your pages. I have recently pillaged my son’s old notebooks from elementary school . . . some empty or nearly empty. Those are waiting to be filled with morning pages. Or go all out on a fancy notebook. Whatever works for you. What is most important is that you write.
  2. Set up your coffee/tea and your space the night before. Think ahead of time about where you want to write and what you will need first thing in the morning so you don’t get sidetracked by your daily routine. Must have coffee? Set it up the night before so all you have to do is get it out of the fridge OR all you have to do is hit a button. I load up my french press and the water kettle so all I have to do is wait for the water to boil and pour. My pen, journal, and a clean, well-lit place to write (with a little side table for my coffee) are all waiting for me to curl up and get to work.
  3. Write without stopping until 3 pages are completed. Some people say you should keep the pen moving without censoring what you are writing. The point is to get used to writing whether you want to or not, whether you think what you are writing is bad, terrible, drivel, amazing, brilliant, publishible, or crap. Write. Write anyway. Keep writing. In order to produce a piece of writing, we must all write through sunny days and gloomy ones. The Morning Pages teach us this. And a lot more, too. I must confess that sometimes I look up when the Carolina Wren scrabbles around the window I can see from my table. When she flies off, I remember to turn again to my pages. I do not beat myself up for this.
  4. Do NOT share your Morning Pages with others. The last thing you need is someone saying something about the pages that makes you not want to write them, or write at all. The pages are for you. Protect them.
  5. Repeat steps 1 – 4 every day, first thing in the morning. But if you can’t make the morning work out one day, write as soon as you can. Sometime-of-day pages are better than no pages at all.

Share Your Thoughs about your own journey this past year. What is one way you have coped with the difficulties of 2020? If you start writing Morning Pages, or if you already write them, what is one way they have worked for you? What have you discovered about yourself and your artist self?

It’s Flower-Knitting Season

Web-Flowers-are-Quick-Knits

Knitted Flowers are the quintessential quick knit. Add knitted flowers to anything old, new, hand-made, ready-to-wear, unapologetically for you, and that made-to-be-special heirloom gift.

While a scarf of simple construction takes days, or much much longer if it is made in fingering weight yarn and has any sort of color-work, short rows, or gradient color changes and patterning so popular now. Brioche can take weeks.

Flowers, on the other hand, require a few hours, or as little as 20 minutes. I was sitting at the kitchen table the other day making Camellias and Bling Flowers (Cherry Blossoms by another name) in different gauge yarns, from fingering to worsted-weight, so as to achieve a variety of sizes, from delicate cherry blossoms to  . . . one right after another.

The picture below shows a purse I recently made: a W purse in Hot Pink with 2 beaded Camellias and many Bling Flowers. After beading all those flowers, I decorated the purse in an extravagant way.

W-purse-with-camellias-and-bling-flowers

Picture a 6-8-10 bag in white and pale green for a spectacular bridal keepsake purse. Or Grace Kelly’s Overnight Bag in black and grey for a gallery opening, or in palest blue with a bright garden of flowers in the colors of sorbet as a Mother’s Day gift.

For smaller, quicker gifts, I make pairs of flowers, sew them onto flower clips and give them as decorations that can be used singly or in pairs to adorn sandals, one’s hair. . . the neckline of a favorite t-shirt. Here is a picture of a purchased ruffly scarf decorated with a single beaded bling flower.

Noni-bling-flower-with-ruffled-scarf

How long does a Bling Flower take to make? you might be wondering.

I timed myself. It took between 15 and 30 minutes to make each worsted-weight Bling Flowers on a size 6 needle. It didn’t take long for me to memorized the pattern. That’s a speedy hand-knitted gift. You could have a lovely hostess gift flower clipped to a bottle of wine or jar of tasty Sundried Tomato bread spread done in less than an hour.

Sundried-Tomatoes-with-Cherry-Blossom.gif

Knitted flowers are a beautiful and economical gift that allow you to demonstrate your devotion to loved one in a heartfelt way. That’s the best kind of gift.

Knitting Old and Knitting New

Knit word bag

Most of us knitters have several projects in baskets, velvet bags, drawstring pouches, little baskets.

As I finish up my Moody Ella Coat, I’m excited about getting to work on several projects, some new, some languishing.

I’ve had a creamy-white, bulky-weight coat in the works for a while (3 years!). She is so close. So close. Sleeves and some decisions about the hem and cuffs. And the considerable but exciting finishing that includes a Mohair goat (beautiful) or Blue Faced Leicester fur collar, cuffs, and trim down the front. She needs a name. Constantia? Constance? She’s been patient. Harlow? (meaning a pile of rocks or a hill . . . I’m thinking ever there, waiting). She’s been very very patient. Hope? You get the idea.

Ella Coat Bulky White

And then there is the blue-black Ella-inspired duster I am going to make for my sister. Ella goes out West?  Ella learns to ride a Palomino? This color is stunning:

blue black yarn

And then the Pumpkin duster I am going to make for myself. The yarn is a DK weight, so I’ll be re-writing the stitch counts for the lighter weight. Of course it will take a while but the drape and swing will be lovely. The pumpkin is show-stopping with blue jeans or a black ensemble.

Pumpkin Yarn

I’m going to work a lovely little easy pattern into the work:  2 rows of St st and one row of K1, P1. Repeat the 3 rows. So pretty and so easy.

Pumpkin stitch pattern

I’m learning to crochet. My friend Roxy is teaching me. She’s tough. I keep telling her how fast I’m picking it up and then she laughs and rips it out and tells me to start over. I like it. This was last night’s practice session on my own. It’s a bit rough but I’ve got some things I want to make so I’m going to stick with it. A little each day.

Little crochet swatch

There is a lot to keep you up-to-date on as I progress through multiple projects!

Next update will be my Moody Ella . . . then we will see what’s next.

 

Recovering and Knitting

Ella Coat Palette.jpgWhen my son doesn’t write to me when he is at camp I know he must be having a great time. It is when the food is terrible or one of his tent-mates wakes up crying in the middle of the night, every night, that I hear about it.

I think I am the same way. You have not heard from me because I feel so great and I have so much energy.  I have not taken a single pain-killer in two weeks time, only 2 weeks out from surgery. I wake up at 6-ish am without an alarm (that never happened pre-surgery). Sleep is so restful. Walking feels amazing. So smooth. So easy. I am taking my little dog for hour-long walks, even in this cold (you should see how I bundle her up). Noni original girl dog coat coming soon!

I have taken everyone’s facebook advice about how to hold on to gratitude in everyday life. I strive to take stock each morning of the abundance around me. It is truly a time of renewal for me, of yet another reinvention. I am working on projects new and languishing. Friends are visiting since I am house-bound until January 10th when I see my surgeon again.

I have a lot to share with you. Today, my latest new project . . . another Ella coat is in the works. Are you surprised? The picture above is my original palette. I picked a number of tone on tone hand-dyes from several different dyers in a worsted weight – I’m pretty sure they are all the same base. You can tell I had stripes in mind. As I started knitting, though, I started to think that I really had two different palettes.

One with the greens and bright turquoise. I’ve since added more colors and some yellow.

ella coat palette partial greens and turquoise

And another colorway with the darker, moodier tones: royal purple, dark purple-magenta, blue-black, royal blue, black-purple with black-magenta elements. There were two skeins of a colorway that seemed so different I had to get both. One has turned out to have too much white, so I’ve gotten an array of sharpies to tone those little bits down. It’s fun! Hand painting stitch by stitch. Meditative. The finished results are really great. More about this below.

This was my first go at the new moody stripes colorway.

ella-coat-palette 1

And here is the palette I ended up with, but including the bright purple-magenta in the center above. I loved it so much I ran out! I searched everywhere in my considerable collection but could only find a brighter, more pink version that just didn’t want to be moody like the rest of the palette.

2017-12-29 16.17.01

And here is how it looks worked in stripes . . . this is my Ella sleeve.

2017-12-29 16.17.36

Back, briefly, to those 2 skeins that seemed so different. One had more color contrast, the different colors in the skein set off in blocks. In the skein it was dramatic and drew my attention. It’s colorway mate from a different dye-lot was muted. All of the same colors were there but they didn’t block up. To me, a different dyer’s hands were in evidence. I loved them both. What I didn’t love is how the color-block skein ended up with too much white. Some parts of the hank didn’t seem to have been dyed nearly at all. These near white stitches drew so much attention to themselves that they were distracting. Unfortunately, in my coat they were right across the bum and the bust. Looks almost like I planned it. Not what I wanted. When the body of the coat was nearly done, and thought about ripping it all out. Several times I thought about it but I kept going, reasoning I”d think of something.

And that something . . . was Sharpies.  I did a little test in a tiny corner with their most enduring original: the black Sharpie. I really liked it. Toned that white right down to nothing but moody wonderfulness, worked with the rest of the coat without being maudlin. The original teal or blue or raspberry was still there but without the distraction.

You probably know that Sharpies come in all different colors now. House-bound as I am until 1/10/18 and alone for the moment because my guys are in Utah skiing (I miss them but it has been lovely to work on my pile of projects). In any case, I had to put off shopping at Staples and the immediate gratification that would have brought me and ordered a 12-pack on-line. They came yesterday!

I love the results and the work is a meditation. I’m painting stitch by stitch. This process has alerted me to other moments in the work where there was not enough dye saturation and a little bit of too-much-whiteness shows through. Dab of the Sharpie in the right color and it’s gone. Beautiful.

Here is a before the Sharpie picture.

Before Sharpie.jpg

And after the Sharpie magic.

After Sharpie.jpg

Side By Side Comparison

Sharpie vs Non Sharpie.jpg

I might go over these sections with a little bit of black, or just paint in some darker bits with the same colors I originally used, or layer different colors sans black. Still a work in progress. I will assess after it is put together and then adorned with finishing touches such as hand-dyed silk around the neckline and cuffs. I’m toying with the idea of a wide hand-dyed/painted velvet collar but that’s going go take a while. Maybe I’ll go with the ruched silk around the neck as my immediate gratification so I can wear it tomorrow as I draft the collar, make the final version, and then hand-dye/paint it at my friend Gwen’s farm. However long it takes is however long it takes . . .  My coats are nothing if not patient.

What are you working on? I’d love to hear what you are doing in the comments. Post pictures, too!