Where do I start? I have a tumor on my eye. So, I’m shutting the Noni web store. This time for good. And as quickly as possible. Here’s what is going on . . .

I visited the first eye doctor on Monday, March 27th and the third doctor just a few days ago. There is some consensus amongst the three . . . but it’s a watching and waiting game right now. You see, I found a white bump on my eye, right at the edge of the iris. I really can’t see well without my glasses anymore, so it seems a bit miraculous to me that I even
spotted it . . . It’s the size of a short grain piece of rice. And I have no idea how long it’s been there . . . because it reflects light in a way that makes it almost impossible to see when I’m looking, for example, in my magnifying mirror with the light on.

Turns out I have three problems, all of them caused by UV damage that is no doubt the result of all those years before I needed glasses of any kind and I never wore sunglasses. It just never became a habit. I always forgot them, lost them, broke them.

Two of my three problems are progressive if the eyes remain inflamed (as they are right now) and the other is abnormal cells we are now watching to see if they change in any way. Changes may mean they already are, or will turn into, cancer.

As some of you may know firsthand, the word cancer, even if there ends up being nothing substantially wrong (my hope, of course), has a way of clarifying things and distilling one’s thoughts, of focusing the mind. It certainly has done so for me the last few weeks. Because even if this white, piece-of-rice-sized blob on MY EYE!, even if it’s nothing . . . well, it’s not
nothing . . . but even if it’s a pre-cancerous lesion, or just a Pterygium (the progressive problem I mentioned), and not full-on cancer, I have been thinking about how I want to spend my time, thinking in a way that is simply not possible to do, at least for me, even when doing a thought experiment called, Cancer For a Day (yes, the actual title of an actual exercise for a very excellent class I took on Time and Life Management).

I’ve made some decisions. I’m going to lay Noni down for good. Some of you have been with me since the beginning of Noni in 2005. Some of you know me from before that, from the Woolworks Yarn Shop days where I worked during my grad school days as I was working on my PhD. It was there that I made my first felted purse . . . and then I made purses on commission for a while. Maybe you saw Noni go viral in 2005 with the Carpet Bag trio. Remember that? And remember how most, if not all of the felted bags in the knitting world before that moment were shapeless totes you might not want to carry into the office, much less a board room? The Carpet Bags, with those big, sexy red Camellias, changed that and took me from having my paper patterns in 3 shops to over 3 thousand shops in a few weeks. My son was just born and on my lap most of the time. My dad and his wife came down from Maine to help us right after the birth and my dad went to every post office within a 30 mile radius to find boxes. Things were pretty crazy!

I remember standing in a line at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in 2007 when Noni was just over a year old. I had my one-of-a-kind Noni purse, so many different colors of red, big red flowers . . . it was actually the first Nonibag, but one I never made into a pattern because it was so idiosyncratic – I wouldn’t have been able to reproduce it. Two women approached me, tentative, said, “Is that a Nonibag?”

“Yes,” I said slowly, a little confused, “I’m Noni.”

And they screamed! O my goodness it was awesome and made me so happy, but I was embarrassed, too. I think they were a little as well, because they fled and we never even got to chat, which would have been so nice . . .

Those were the days when I was sending out hundreds of paper patterns a day to shops all over the country and the world–Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, England, Canada . . . It was all before pdf patterns and before social media became a thing . . . It was largely, too, before the indie designer was a thing. I sometimes wonder how much I had to do with aspiring designers saying to heck with the big yarn companies. I’m just going to self-publish, like I did.

I taught workshops all over, back when we did that in person . . . I even went to Hawaii to teach people about how to finish purses. I remember my son was really little in the beginning, and, when I taught, my husband and son would travel with me. They would even come with me to the shop and my husband would lead Soma around the store, saying, “Look at this . . .” and “Feel that . . .” and soon Soma would say, “Let’s go!” And off they would go adventuring. This is the way we hacked separation anxiety. Now he’s making up college lists and driving and taller than both his parents.

Remember The Nomad Bag, and The Bedouin, and The Cinch, slouchy purses that took slouchy in a whole new, awesome direction? I still remember the face of the young woman in Starbucks when I walked in with The Tulip Tote over my shoulder. She went slack jawed in absolute best way, touched the tulips, whispered, “Where did you get this?”

Remember how the Lipstick and Change was a purse revelation?

There were A LOT of purse revelations . . . 

And remember Noni Flowers, my book of botanically correct knitted flowers? It was published here in the US in 2012, and then it was published in the UK under the name Beautiful Botanical Knits, and it was even published in South Korea! So cool. I look at that book now and I think, I made this?

And remember how I shuttered my studio and stopped designing for a while, starting in the Spring of 2015, because I got the opportunity to teach English Literature and Rhetoric and Composition to high school students at a fancy private school. My PhD is in English Literature and I taught Rhetoric and Literature for years at the University level . . . I thought that high school post might turn into a permanent position, but I ended up really glad it didn’t. I do still love to lead a discussion about a great book or a Shakespeare play and I do from time to time lead the book discussion for my mom’s book group . . . but I learned in 2015 that teaching all four grades of high school is not the same as the teaching first year college and it wasn’t for me. I started designing for Noni again sometime in 2017 and teaching as an adjunct at my local community college at the same time . . . But that all
changed with the pandemic and its demands on virtual teaching.

I’ve been designing quietly ever since and teaching more Noni classes since the pandemic showed us all we could teach people all over the world from our living rooms via Zoom.

But my life has also taken me in a new direction and that new direction is making demands on my heart. Maybe you don’t know that I’ve always wanted to write more books, but not about knitting. And I’ve been researching nutrition in an intensive way that has changed the way I see the world, the way I see chronic illness. I’ve healed my own thyroid, my arthritic shoulder. I’ve been learning Tai Chi. I have a side hustle as a personal vegan cook.

Something has to shift, because I need to focus more of my attention on my health. It might take my full attention.

So, if you want to take a class with me, now is the time.

If there are purses you love but you have not yet bought the patterns, yarn, and hardware to make them, now is the time.

If you have purses you have knit but never felted, never finished, but you want to . . . now is the time. . . 

Take a Class With Me

Take the Pick A Noni, Any Noni Finishing Bootcamp Class and let me help you make
something beautiful.

If you have always wanted to design your own purses, now is the time.

Registration is still open for the Design Your Own Purse/Bag/Tote Class. In this multi-meeting class, I divulge ALL my design tricks and secrets. I’ll also be designing some new purses as a part of that class, mostly backpacks, because my body is demanding that of me – it no longer tolerates me carrying a heavy purse on one side.

Class participants will receive all of my rough backpack and any other patterns I write during the class duration — what that means is that you will get my informal, basic pattern for each purse. They will be bare bones patterns – you will see the way I write them for myself. But they will be correct AND I will support them. This means that if you don’t start your Noni backpack until next year and have a question, send me a text or give me a call and I will answer your question(s) and help you in any way I can. I always have been and will remain committed to your success.

Shepherd’s Wool  If the Shepherd’s Wool color you want is sold out, please write to me at nora@nonipatterns.com. I will accept special orders for Shepherd’s Wool at 10% off with prepayment. The discount on in-stock yarn will stop at $13.18 per skein – a tasty discount off of the regular $15.50 price.

I will be offering special discounts and other promotions weekly, sometimes daily** until everything is gone. I’ll start with the following discount schedule.

April 27: 15% off sitewide with code LAST15

May 3: 25% off almost sitewide with code LAST25

Then things will get more fluid and creative.

On June 15, or when everything is gone, whichever comes first, I will close the Noni store, take the Noni website down. You will still be able to purchase Noni patterns through Ravelry.

I hope this deadline doesn’t end your Noni Bags and Non Flowers journey, and it certainly won’t end my creativity. I am excited to see how my creativity may be unbound by this process. I’ve already got some ideas I can’t wait to start working on.

Over the course of the rest of this month and into the first part of June, I will share more about my own plans moving forward. Perhaps you will want to come with me as I explore new things and teach very different kinds of classes. A little later, I’ll send around an email sign up that will allow you to choose to continue to get emails from me as I move toward my second act . . . after a short intermission to take care of my eyes and sort out the details of the second half of my life.

**Noni classes, Shepherd’s Wool, and JUL leather handles are exceptions to the Noni Fire Sale discounting schedule. 

The Joy of Luscious Camellias Even During Dark Dark Days

Luscious, Hot Pink Camellias on the Lime Green and Black Lattice Bag

This Lattice Purse has been in a big plastic bag in my garage attic for several years now. But I came across it recently and hung it up in my at-home studio. It hangs where I can see it when I am sitting at my desk. I can hardly take my eyes off it.

As the news has turned increasingly dark, it’s my purses that are most exuberant, most luscious with flowers and beads, brightest and most joyful that are capturing my attention. The Lattice Bag is the biggest of them all. And it’s the one that has my heart right now.

The hot pink flowers are faded from when the purse was left too long in some shop window during a trunk show years ago. They are sun-kissed in much the same way that actual flowers are. And it is this imperfection that makes them, for me, even more beautiful.

I live surrounded by purses . . . and I get used to them, so much so that they can look dull to me: there is nothing special about them. Sometimes it is only absence or distance that allows me to see them as they are.

I was taking the Lattice Bag with me to Frederick, Maryland to be photographed by Bruce Falkinburg – he took the fabulous photograph above and below – when I caught sight of the purse over my arm in a reflective shop window. A spotlight on big, bright flowers in a dark room.


I almost stopped in my tracks. It was like seeing it for the first time. Maybe in a way I had never seen it before. The sidewalk was crowded with people were shuffling past and all around me in their blue jeans, dark non-descript jackets and brown beany hats. Unmemorable shoes. Women carrying purses that all looked the same . . . I mean, they really do – some version of brown or blue or black, some monogram printed on leather, thin leather or chain strap. And then there was my Lattice Bag. A riot of color in that almost monochrome sea.

I felt such joy at that moment: I felt then the joy I felt making those big flowers so long ago, and the excitement when I figured out how to make the cable pattern in two colors so that purse could be made all in one large piece, no piecing together. I remembered why I made that purse and in those colors. An issue of Vogue Knitting came out with a similar bag on the cover, that one decorated with spiral roses and in it were real roses. I loved the whole look: beautiful taffeta skirt, amazing stockings on the model, and carrying a bold bag. I wanted to make it. And then I looked at the pattern. It was made in three pieces. All sorts of assembly. “No way!” I remember thinking. I might even have whispered it. I tried to find a way to use the same stitch pattern and make it in the round. Wouldn’t work. I got out one of Barbara Walker’s books of stitch patterns and started leafing through. Had to be a way. Had to be a way.

I knew I wanted to work in two colors, just the way my inspiration bag was made, but it also had to be possible to make it in the round. And it had to be increasable, meaning that the pattern had to be able to be smaller at the bottom and larger at the top. Many stitch patterns wouldn’t/didn’t give me that flexibility. When I started working the cables, I got really excited. It took a little bit to work out how to use two colors, but once I had that sorted, I swatched a slice of the entire bag. A dramatic slice of pie that I worked from large end to small, just as I was planning to work the bag. Once I had the pattern picked out and had settled on how large each contrast color field had to be between the cables, I had to work out how many stitches and cables had to go around for the bag to be what I wanted.

Notice how the cables get smaller as you work from top down toward the bottom.

And after I had sorted all that out, I decided to make the purse rectangular as well as circular. That was a whole different set of challenges! I started out by working it top down, but unlike the circular version where it decreases so nicely into the center with that fabulous bicycle spoke look, the rectangular bottom decreased into the center left a very unattractive fault line just where the decreases were. That wouldn’t work. I had to start from the bottom up.

Ok, starting over again: striped bottom . . . and this time I had to work out how the stripes would match up with the contrasting colors of the cable pattern. It was a great moment when I figured that one out!

Hot Fuchsia and Orange just zang together! I love it.

I remember how much fun I had picking out colors that twanged together, zinged and almost visually clanged when they were next to each other. That’s what I wanted, that visual happiness. I made four different versions of 2 basic styles, and I lined each one with beautiful iridescent, dupioni silk.

Four Beauties.

The joy still radiates off of that big bag. That’s why it’s been catching my eye lately. And just then, just as I was standing on the street, staring at the bag reflection in the window in my reverie, just then, a man at the stoplight rolled down his window, leaned across the seats in his car, one hand on the seat beside him, left hand still on the steering wheel, and yelled, “I love your outfit!” Big smile. Light turned green. Window gliding up as he drove away. I was so happy.

I’m going to start carrying this purse again, I decided right then. But first, I needed to swap those plastic handles for JUL Flat Strap Forager handles with the Chicago screw application. And the snap needs to be revamped . . . and I’ll put 5 Fancy Bag Feet on the bottom. . .

And loving the camellias so much again got me thinking . . .

The Victoria Purse with Camellias and Cherry Blossoms – A Detail of that big Camellia

I want to share this joy.

So I’ve re-worked the pattern. And I’ve put together a class you can take. I hope you’ll join me!

If you have made the Camellias and they have brought you joy or you have a story to tell, please write it in the comments. I’d love to hear it. You can also write to me an email to nora at nonipatterns.com and send pictures. I would love to see what you have made.

Last-Minute, DIY and MIY Gift Ideas

An assortment of smaller felted bags in a bright rainbow of colors. They are all arranged on a deep window sill in Nora Bellows former artist studio in the Savage Mill.
Delicious little bags . . . one for each of your loved family and friends.

This year I’m going to make everything I give as gifts. It gets me in the holiday spirit, I feel more connected to the friends and family I give gifts to, and I think thoughtful (and perishable) gifts are more memorable and more sustainable than more stuff.

Whatever you are planning, I thought I would share with you what I’m making:

First, my knitting projects:

Tiny Knitted and Felted (Coin and Treasure) Purses

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

My FAVORITE knitted gifts are TINY knitted gifts. I still can’t make enough tiny and small purses that anyone can tuck away in a larger bag, or a lingerie drawer, or a knitting bag, or even a jacket pocket. Some will be lined. Some not. They are perfect for beloved friends with treasures tucked inside, or for teachers we have admired, or attached to a wine bottle as a host gift, or as part of the wrapping decadence around a larger gift.

Some will include spring gate rings so my recipients can clip their little purse to their key chains and carry it everywhere to catch those stray coins, that one dollar left over. Here is a gallery of some of the designs in my own Noni Patterns catalogue. Click on the image and it will take you right to the pattern page.

On The Go Purses

Please share this post with your knitting friends on social media and through email.

I’ve got all the frames and chains you need for all these purses at the Noni online store.

It’s Not Too Late to Make a Last Minute Hostess Gift: My Top 5 Purses to Knit, Felt, and Finish Just In Time For Visiting

by Nora J. Bellows

I’ve put together a list of five of my personal favorite purses to give as gifts on special occasions: for this selection, I’ve focused on small purses that you can knit quickly, finish quickly, and give as a gift just a day or two later. These projects are quick, but they don’t look quick. They look as gifts for special people on a special day should look: You took the time to make something unique for someone you love. Decorate with beads, knitted flowers, ribbons, or with screw-in embellishments. Knitting the perfect gift doesn’t have to take a long time. Take a look!

Amazing Grace Purse

1. Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace is a smallish purse that is incredibly versatile: the cute handle you see here (with its felted cover) is removable! Gently pinch the base and it comes out of its hosing. Thus, it’s a clutch! There’s more: it has chain loops so you can attach a chain to make it a handbag (or 2 chains to make it a cross body bag). While not in use, the chain waits patiently for you on the inside of the purse.

It requires only 4 ounces of yarn: you will need 2 ounces of two colors plus any other colors you like for flowers. The only hardware you need is the purse frame and chain. This makes it a great purse for gift-giving. You still have time to knit it for Mother’s day!

I was inspired to make this bag as a gift for a dear friend of many years. She has had a rough few years: brutal divorce, raising her kids on her own now, diagnosed with, fought against, and won that battle with breast cancer, lost her mom to Covid (and almost her dad). And, yet, through all this (and it does get her down, but . . . ) she manages to pull herself out of her roughest days, by focusing on what she does have. She focuses on the blessings around her, the smiles (and even the petty tantrums) of her kids. She’s here to see it all. She inspires me: she is an amazing mom, an amazing teacher, smart, funny, gracious, generous. I adore her. And in the Month of May I will finally be able to give her this purse to show her how much she means to me.

Maybe this is the perfect purse for your Amazing Grace.

For size specifications, materials, and yarn requirements, go to the pattern page on the Noni Website or on the Noni Ravelry Page.

This tiny yellow and grey striped felted purse is decorated with yellow cherry blossom (knitted) flowers with grey beaded centers.
The Welcome, Spring! Purse fits in your palm.

2. Welcome Spring!

Welcome Spring! is a tiny little bag that will fit in the palm of your hand. You can purchase just the purse frame or purchase the hardware kit that includes a key-ring component so it can be clipped to the handle or inside of any purse, attached to a belt-loop, or clipped anywhere you need it. The instructions include the stripe pattern information as well as the flower pattern. This one is a great stash-buster, a super-fast knit and a fun finishing project. It is so quick to make, felt, and finish that you can make one for every special lady on your list before Mom’s Day.

This little cutie purse only requires 20 yards of each of two colors for the striped pattern or 40 yards of a single color, making it an amazing stash buster. And the flowers only need about 3 – 4 yards each. Take a look at the Additional Details tab on the Noni Website or the Noni Ravelry Page for more particulars.

Big Flirt

3. Big Flirt

Big Flirt is another diminutive purse that has a big impact visually. Fun to knit, a great stash buster, and quick to put together, this little cutie is perfect for tiny treasures, big enough for lipstick and change, and just so stinkin’ cute! Big Flirt is pretty darned irresistable. The hardware kit includes a handle that is easily attached with screw-in handle loops.

I’ve carried Big Flirt to a party when all I needed was my lipstick and a little mirror. I wore it all night dangling from my wrist like a bangle. Decorate it with sparkly beads or buttons or pretty ribbons for a gorgeous keepsake. The perfect purse to use as a fancy “gift box” for a jewelry or other rare and special gift. Also a great hostess present!

See the pattern page on the Noni Website or Ravelry for additional information about size, materials, and yarn requirements.

Hearts On My Sleeve are perfect for those close to your heart.

4. Heart On My Sleeve

Heart on My Sleeve is for anyone you love. It is for your oldest friend, your daughter just becase or on her wedding day, for your son’s new wife, for your mother when you want to say without words thank you . . . for everything, for putting up with me. Add cherry blossoms and all-over beading and it is a celebration of Spring for yourself. Cover it with sparkle rivets and it is a celebration of joy, of life.

How will you dress it so that it expesses your most heart-felt emotions?

This purse is the perfect size for your credit card, lip balm or lipstick, some change, a few bills. Or it is the perfect little container for a special gift of jewelry, or a heart-felt poem written small on slender paper.

It needs only the Classic Purse Frame and a Classic Purse Chain (in 10″, 12″, or 27″ lengths) for hardware. Pick a Seed Beads and Thread combination that matches the yarn you have chosen or pick a fun contrast for a delightful surprise.

See the Additional Details page on the Noni Website or the Noni Ravelry page for more information about yarn requirements, hardware, and other particulars.

Dragon Fruit Purses are elegant little treasures.

5. Dragon Fruit Purse

The Dragon Fruit Purses make lovely pouches for special gifts, or they are the gifts themselves. Diminutive, perfect for special treasures, or change, or a small assortment of cosmetics. These little purses are quick to knit and great for stash busting.

If you’ve never tried stranded colorwork, this might be the perfect project: small, easy to knit, and easy to felt and finish.

Take a look at the pattern page on the Noni Website or on Ravelry.

Noni Sale Happening Now!

RIGHT NOW the Amazing Grace complete kits are listed at 10% off. Use promocode 15more for an additional 15% off Amazing Grace as well as 15% off anything in the following categories: *Tiny Purses*, *Our Latest*, and all *Hardware and Accessories* except for leather handles. ALL orders over $100 will receive a free purse frame for Amazing Grace and all domestic orders over $100 will receive free shipping.

Press APPLY at checkout to activate your discount. Sale lasts until Sunday, May 2 (my birthday!) at Midnight.

Meet The Magnolia Tote: Or Why I Make My Own Luggage

The Magnolia Tote

It was over twenty years ago when I saw a knitted and felted purse on the counter of the yarn shop where I worked at the time. It was quite small–big enough for a wallet, keys, a few other items. In spite of its diminutive size, it had a big impact on me . . . I had never seen the way that knitting could become a three-dimensional object with structure, architectural integrity, durability, and style. I wanted that. It was in that single moment that knitted felt became a canvas for my creativity.

I love making my own fabric. I love that I can design and make my own bags, and totes, and make purses that are exactly what I want: understated and neutral, or vibrant and whimsical, covered with flowers, or bold with sleek hardware, tiny and romantic, for my own secret pleasure, or, like these bags, big and roomy, ready for any adventure. 

And I really loved designing, making, and now carrying the Magnolia Tote. It is a roomy tote, perfect for an I packed light overnight with a dear friend, or a trip to the farmer’s market, or a trip to the mall. I use it as a shoulder bag, a knitting bag, my put everthing in it when I am shopping bag.

And check out these three different ways to style the bag, depending on your mood and the way you are using the bag . . . today.

Lately, I have been working on a new colorwork bag: this new one, The Magnolia Travel Bag (you can pre-order both the pattern and the complete kit now), is the friend of the Medallion Travel Bag you see in the picture below. The Magnolia Travel Bag wears the same large medallion shared by both the Magnolia Tote and the Medallion Travel Bag and it will be a large bag, perfect for adventures, for traveling. I will carry it as my carry-on luggage. And sometimes it will be my only luggage.

The Medallion Travel Bag

I can’t tell you how great it feels to make my own luggage. Now, even my carry-on bag is an extension of my creativity.

Making these big bags is, however, a bit stressful. What if . . . something goes horribly wrong?

Don’t let fear or trepidation stop you.

I have a solution.

Making these big bags is, however, a bit stressful! All that knitting and what if the felting process goes horribly wrong? What if it is distorted, or won’t felt, or felts too much, or felts wacky? I have not had it happen . . . because I stand over the washer and baby these big colorwork bags through the whole process. I jimmy the top-loader door open so I can mess with it while it is felting (possible video . . . do you want to see what I do? Let me know in the comments).

I have a solution: my Felted Colorwork Tote class.

My Felted Colorwork Tote class is your opportunity to make one of these beautiful felted totes with the benefit of all the knitting, felting, and finishing tips and tricks I have learned over the past 20 years. In 12 hours of instruction, I will tell you all my secrets.

We begin with a new way of picking out colors, proceed to casting on, review chart reading, go over the unique requirements of knitting in two colors when you are going to felt, preview the challenges of felting large totes in either the top loading washer or the clothes dryer, then felt together via a zoom, block our bags together, then cover and practice professional fine finishing, make linings, and finally plan artful embellishing.

In this class, you get to make all the decisions when it comes to the Magnolia Tote, Magnolia Travel Bag, or the Medallion Travel Bag you carry: you choose the colors, how long the handles are, whether it is lined and how many pockets the has, how it is decorated, and whether there are matching accessory purses for all your must-have possessions.

What You Will Make

You get to choose from one of three patterns to make your own fabulous, felted, colorwork bag. Choose the soon-to-be released Magnolia Travel Bag, the recently released Magnolia Tote, or the classic Medallion Travel Bag. These gorgeous bags demand attention. And admiration. And now you can make one that is uniquely yours. . . The first component of your own luggage set!

What You Will Get

  • The pattern for the Magnolia Tote or the Medallion Travel Bag
  • 12 hours of hands-on, student-focused instruction divided between four 2-hour instruction and practice-focused meetings and 4 1-hour “check-in” meeting
  • $15 store credit you can apply toward anything in the Noni Store – this credit it placed on your account as soon as your class registration is confirmed by Noni
  • Access to the recordings of our zoom classroom sessions
  • Small class size that allows for personalized attention, including 1 thirty-minute personal meeting

What You Will Learn

In this class, consisting of 12 classroom hours of instruction, plus personal help when you need it, you will learn new skills and refine existing ones:

  • Use color theory and some unique strategies to pick colors that work together (or pick from Nora’s selection of curated colorways),
  • Learn how to read a color chart,
  • Learn different techniques to knit with two colors flat, for the bag bottom, and in the round in order to make either the stranded colorwork Magnolia Tote or The Medallion Travel Bag,
  • How to maintain the even tension required for stranded knitting that will subsequently be felted,
  • How to felt a large bag in the top-loading washer or the clothes dryer,
  • How to block your bag for a beautifully smooth felted fabric and crisp silhouette,
  • How to finish your bag so that it looks sleek and polished: learn how to apply bag feet, stiffen the bottom of the bag, use different types of magnetic snaps for the closure you want, apply a turnlock, set in a zipper, apply custom-made leather handles, and use other premium bag hardware for a beautiful finished product
  • Decorate your finished bag to take it from fabulous to art: short tutorials on knitting flowers, embroidering on felted fabric, beading, and more.

Class Dates

Dates of the instruction and practice classes: 2-hour meetings from 9 – 11am every other Saturday (to give you time to knit!):

May 8, May 22, and June 5 and June 19.

Dates of check-in meetings in the evenings from 7 – 8 pm on alternate Thursdays: 

May 13, May 27, June 10, and June 17.

Class Size

The class is limited to 10 participants so everyone gets individualized attention during our meetings. Each participant also receives 30 minutes of individualized meeting time and “emergency” support when needed.

There are still some spots left!

Through Sunday, I get a 10% discount on Noni classes. Use the code 10offclasses at checkout. Don’t forget to press apply to activate your discount.

Join me in class!

How to Shrink or “Felt” Knitted Wool Fabric: A Basic Overview

A swatch of felted fabric sets on top of a knitted (not yet felted) fabric of the same pattern to show the difference between felted and unfelted knitting.

During the many workshops I have taught, I have seen a good number of felting disasters: One time, a woman brought a black purse body to one of my finishing classes. Instead of being a pristine black, it was covered with tiny white dots and fuzz.

“O dear,” I thought immediately . . . “What happened?” I was almost afraid to ask. The woman next to her beat me to it: “What’s all this white stuff?” she asked, brushing her fingers over all the dots and fuzzies.
“I don’t know what happened,” the woman said, irritation and disappointment in her voice. “I followed the directions. I put towels in the washer like you are supposed to–”

That was all I had to hear. I knew immediately what had happened.

And then there was the time when a woman came to class with a bag so badly creased that she wanted to disown it. She would hardly look at it.

“Tell me about what happened,” I said repeatedly in response to her “I don’t want to talk about it. It’s ruined.” Finally, she said, “I put it in the smallest load size, just like your’re supposed to, because then it has the most agitation . . . “

“O dear,” I thought. “I know what happened.”

Most of these felting disasters could have been prevented if the knitters had followed a few of what I regard as basic principles of felting (technically “fulling”) knitted fabric. Some of my basic principles may differ from what you have heard or read before. Stay with me!

Felting carefully is an essential step in creating a beautiful knitted felt bag. And there are a lot of variables to keep in mind . . . Time in a state of agitation is only one, and that is fairly far down on my list. Let’s go more basic, and sooner in the whole process. Let’s start with the wool itself . . . Or even further back, with the sheep.

How your knitting felts depends on a lot of things: type of wool, percentage of different wool fiber types, the color of the yarn, the temperature and ph of the water, the amount and type of agitation, and the length of time in a state of agitation.

The fiber content of the yarn you use makes a difference. Working with a100% Merino wool will felt more readily than most 100% wool yarns, for example. Think about it: there is no “wool” sheep. There are Merino, Jacobs, Leicester Long Wools, Blue-faced Leicesters . . .. Each different breed has a particular type of wool with very specific qualities of smoothness, sheen, strength, softness, or kink–these are my terms, NOT technical terms.

The color of the yarn makes a difference, too: dark colors sometimes felt more readily than light because light-colored yarns may have been bleached. . . but sometimes dark yarns have been bleached in order to saturate them with so much color; consequently, the wool is somewhat stripped and may felt less well.

Here is another way to think about it: the reason for differences in shrinkage is that different colors require different chemical combinations and sometimes different lengths of time in the dye bath (darker colors, for example, may take longer and are sometimes harsher). These differences can result in different felting times. Pure white, for example, very often will not felt. Yet a creamy white that has not spent time in a bleach bath will have little trouble at all felting.

How do you tell, ahead of time, whether the yarn and color you want to work with will felt well? You can create a fair-sized sample of fabric knitted with the color and fiber you want to test. Then shrink it in the desired way. In other words, make and felt a sizeable swatch before you commit to a large project. Or pick one of my tiny purse patterns and see how it felts, as a substitute for swatching. You can always line a tiny purse, no matter how well it shrinks, and put it in the frame.

What Else Has An Impact On How Well Something Shrinks?

The size of the bag or other item you are shrinking also has an impact on felting time. Contrary to what you might think, it may take tiny bags longer to felt than large ones. Why? Because that tiny project is getting tossed around with the agitation. In other words, there is less drag on a small project. The greater drag on a larger purse will cause it to felt more quickly and often more densely.

Another factor? Colorwork: A two-color, stranded bag will felt faster than one that is a single color with no strand work. Why? Because the carries across the back are another kind of surface area that experience drag AND unknitted yarn also felts faster and more readily than knitted yarn.

What is the same with every bag, however, is that careful attention to each individual project through constant monitoring will ensure felting success, regardless of the time it takes.

Careful attention to each individual project through constant monitoring will ensure felting success, regardless of how long it takes that project to shrink to the desired size.

What follows are my recommendations for best felting practices for beautiful results every time, regardless of how you are agitating your project . . . via top-loading washing machine, clothes dryer, or a bucket with a plunger:

Felting Bags Using a Top-Loading Washer

Load size matters: For this method, felt your project in a top-loading washer that is set to the hottest water setting. Also important: choose the smallest load size that accommodates your project and allows it to move freely:

  • For tiny or small bags, putting your washer on the absolute smallest load size is critical so your bags get maximum agitation.
  • For medium bags, the medium or large setting should work well.
  • For larger bags, the largest load size is crucial so that your bag does not develop set-in creases.

Each bag should get its own lingerie bag: Put each bag in its own lingerie bag, one that is big enough, as with load size, to allow your bag to move freely. Large lingerie bags for large bags, tiny ones for tiny bags (or large ones knotted to be small), etc. The lingerie bag does two things: it keeps the felt from getting too crazy furry and because it keeps the fuzz down, it also reduces the amount of wool lint that is released into the water and later into your pipes. I have suffered the consequences of lint clogged pipes . . . I don’t want you to.

You might want extra agitation but it is not necessary: It may be wise, though it is by no means necessary to add tennis balls to the wash for extra agitation. I have never found it particularly helpful, but some swear by it. What I do add is a soft canvas bag to the load for balance when I am felting medium to large bags. With tiny purses, there is no balance proglem, unless you are felting LOTS at a time.

Create an alkaline environment: Once the water is in the washer and the bag is in, put just a little bit of wool wash (like Soak or Eucalan) or a tablespoon of baking soda to the water. This makes the water alkaline and helps the felting process along. It is not necessary insofar as it is agitation combined with water that really makes the felting process go to town.

Start the blocking process in the wash: Check the load often and move the bag around in the washer, making sure no set-in creases develop. I think of felting as the beginning of the blocking process. At frequent intervals, pull the bag out of the water to make sure it is not getting creased, that the sides are felting at the same rate, that the bottom stays rectangular, that the front and back are the same width, the same height, that the bag is not felting smaller than the frame (if applicable).

You are in charge of felting, not your washer’s cycle timing/schedule: To conserve resources, turn back the agitation dial until the bag is finished felted to your liking, or reaches the finished measurements listed in the pattern, rather than letting the machine complete multiple cycles. When your bag has reached the proper size, rinse with no agitation – that is, do not put through the “rinse” cycle –  or rinse in cold tap water in the sink – and then spin dry in the spin cycle. I press the bag as flat as possible around the washer drum at the outset, but don’t worry if it slumps. Once the cycle is complete, remove the bag and pull into shape. IF, however, you have a washer with a particularly violent spin cycle that may put creases in your felt . . . avoid it. Use towels to press out excess water.

EXTREMELY IMPORTANT: LINT ALERT! It is critical that you do not use towels or other items that will release lint onto your felt as balancing agents. I have seen beautiful bags ruined by getting covered by towel lint. Once cotton lint it falls in love with your felt it is virtually impossible to get out without a lot of painful hand-picking. And sometimes the best thing to do is cover every piece of lint with a bead. It’s a laborious but often spectacular save . . . and the beading looks fabulously random!

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, I recommend that you felt in the clothes dryer (below).

Felting in a Front-Loading Washer

Using a violent top-loading washer produces a nicer felt more quickly than a front loader, but this does not mean that you can’t felt in a front loader. There are a few things you can do to help things along:  add some tennis balls, sports shoes, and old blue jeans to your wash to increase the agitation or friction that your woolies have to contend with. And use that little timer to check your felt at about 2 – 3 minute intervals (REALLY, that often!). Be sure to pull out any creases that look as though they are setting in, and to uncurl the curl at the top of your bag that often develops in a front loader. You will be attending to that curl in order to make it straight. 

Felting in a Dryer

Wet your bag before you dryer felt it: Soak your project in warm or hot water that either has in it a tablespoon of baking soda (dissolved) or a delicate clothes or wool wash such as Soak or Euclan. If you have none of these things or prefer not to use soap and/or detergent, go ahead and go without. Soak your bag until it is thoroughly saturated and really floppy. Put in the clothes dryer and get things going on the hottest setting on your dryer.

Keep the bag completely soaked: As with felting in the top-loading washer, it is the agitation of the dryer and the wetness of the bag that causes the felting. To that end, stay close by and check often to make sure your bag stays completely soaked. It can start to get dry quickly, especially smaller bags, so take out of the dryer with great frequency and regularity to re-wet. This may mean every 2 – 5 minutes. Keep bags soaking, absolutely sopping wet for the duration of the shrinking process.

Block your bag constantly: Every time you check your bag to make sure it is completely wet, also take the opportunity to “block” it. Pull the bag into shape, make sure it is felting evenly and not creasing in any way. Once the bag has shrunk to the desired measurements, pull it into shape using the photographs on the pattern cover and what is pleasing to your own eye or use your sense of what fits the purse hardware to direct your efforts. Remove from the dryer and press out as much water as possible with towels. You may go through many towels. Then let air dry until just slightly damp. Follow the blocking instructions below.

What To Do If You Are Stuck Without Any Washer or Dryer At All

I know a man who, when without a washer, devised the following to felt on the go. Caveat: this really only works for small and small-medium sized purses.

Pick up, at your local hardware store, a bucket (a rather deep one, I think), a toilet plunger, and some detergent. Procure for yourself a good bit of hot water and then work at that felted bag as though you want to make butter out of milk. This is a great method for the apartment dwellers who must content themselves with coin-op washers, the person in search of a workout for svelte arms, and for the felter in a hotel or some other locale lacking the benefit of an accessible washer or dryer.

Blocking Your Felted Bag

At the conclusion of the felting process, block your bag until it dries to a state of slight dampness. Finishing is best accomplished on a damp bag, but not a wet bag: stretch the bag so that its height and width are even all the way around. 

You can stuff the bag with newspaper, plastic bags, or anything else at hand, such as a rolled up dry towel or even skeins of yarn you might have around. You may want to use a small plate or bowl to give circular bottoms shape, or a box to help a square or rectangular bag develop or keep its crisp shape. I have, on occasion put same-sized books in thick plastic bags and then put them in the bag until it dries to a nice slight dampness. 

Once the bag has dried to a state of slight dampness, now you are ready to begin the finishing process! If your bag has reached this state several days ahead of the moment you want to finish it, put it in a right-sized plastic bag and put it in the fridge (or even freezer if there is a long delay between slightly damp and the time to finish the bag.  

IMPORTANT: Again, I must state EMPHATICALLY that you should not work on a sopping or even just really wet bag during finishing. You will get soaking wet and the bag can’t be properly finished this way. If you have a top loader at home, please put the bag through the spin cycle and then let sit in the fresh air until you can just feel its dampness. This means it is ready to finish.

Share Your Questions and Comments

Have you tried something unique that worked when you felted one of your own bags? Any advice for other readers? Are there felting question you have that I did not anticipate in this post? If so, please share them in the comments and I will answer each and every question. If you have any finishing questions or concerns, share those as well. I am happy to build future content based on your needs. I would love to hear from you!

Introducing The New Noni Special Edition Tiny Purse: Welcome, Spring!

I have been making a lot of tiny purses lately. They are an ideal pandemic distraction: small, portable, quick to make. They are stash busters. They are easy to knit while watching Neflix . . . They make great gifts for loved ones far away, or next door.

Two metal hands sit on a black surface. Cradled in the metal hands is a small, yellow and grey striped (knitted and then felted) purse that has been hand-beaded and then decorated with yellow knitted flowers.

Welcome, Change! is More Than Just A Change Purse

All of the new On The Go! tiny purses are as practical as they are great looking. Welcome, Spring! and Welcome, Change! are ideal change purses, but they are also lovely trinket and treasure bags. I’m making one for my mom for Mother’s day. They make lovely hostess gifts, and you can make one in the evening and complete all the finishing the next day.

Ready, Set, Go! Is The Perfect Shopping Companion

Ready, Set, Go! is the little purse I clip to my big bag and take with me everywhere. Truly. My little black one is clipped onto a new tote I will tell you about soon . . . but the point is that she can carry my most-used credit cards, folded bills, change, and I clip my car and house keys to her little key chain set up on the back. I grab her and go! I love that I don’t need to dig through my tote to find my credit card. I’m already checked out and out the door while some folks are still putting their groceries in bags one at a time.

Clip It! Can Keep You Organized . . . And Safe

And Clip It! She can carry everything Ready, Set, Go! can but she can also carry your pen, your glasses. Know someone who has complained that she can’t find a cute bag for her epi pen? This is it! If my dad would carry a little purse, he’d love it. He has his pen with him at. all. times. Just the other day, I clipped Clip It! to my knitting bag. She now keeps track of my short double-points, my needle case, my stitch holders, and my long skinny needle gauge. I stowed my glasses in the other one. . . the one I dressed up with a sugar skull ornament and some cabochon rivets. Noni has more decorative ornaments coming soon . . .

A pink purse lies on top of a grey purse. Both are on the wood and canvas background of an old steamer trunk.

Welcome to Welcome, Spring!: A Beautiful Easter or Mother’s Day Gift

And the absolute newest tiny purse is Welcome, Spring! a special edition pattern that you can only get if you purchase the On The Go! purse pattern (contains the trio of Welcome, Change!; Ready, Set, Go!; and Clip It!) or one of the singles (each purse is also featured in her own pattern at a half the price of On The Go!). You must also purchase at least one On The Go! purse hardware kit and then I’ll send Welcome, Spring! to you as my gift.

If you have already purchased the pattern and a kit, please take a picture of your order confirmation or the kit and pattern and send it to me at nora@nonipatterns.com and I will send you your pattern.

Until Thursday, February 25, get 15% off orders of $50 or more. JUL Leather handles and kits that include leather handles are excluded. Use Promo code blog15off50 at checkout and then be sure to press APPLY to activate your discount.

This tiny yellow and grey striped felted purse is decorated with yellow cherry blossom (knitted) flowers with grey beaded centers.

You can make your own On The Go! tiny purses! Or shop the entire Noni Store Now. Welcome, Spring can be not only the prettiest key chain you’ve owned, but you can attach a chain and locket and carry her as a wristlet. An Easter or Mother’s Day Corsage that is also practical. Make Something Beautiful!

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!

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.

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.


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, with 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, an 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 campuses 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 scritch and 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 outside, 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

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!