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:
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.
To make your gift knitting as fun (and economical) as possible, and, special for the holidays, I have put together special Bonus Packs of purse frames and chains so you can get a pile of frames for the best price. In other words, the more you buy, the better the price. Buy 20 of one frame, for example, and they are 45% off.
It’s time to STOCK UP!
And, for a limited time (from now until Tuesday, December 7th at 5pm), you can download the On The Go purses pattern for free – that’s three free purse patters in one download!
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.
Buy 3 of a frame and get 15% off, 5 frames are 25% off, 10 frames are 35% off, and 20 frames (not available in all sizes because of limited quantities) are an amazing 45% off!
Also available at these bulk discount prices are two purse frames that are excellent for use with your home-made fabric, needlepoint, felted, or knitted purses: the brand new Renaissance and Rococo Frames.
The Renaissance Purse Chain and antique brass bag feet pair beautifully with both frames.
The Rococo frame is lovely with either antique brass or gunmetal bag feet and chains as it has a smoky patina that has elements of both finishes.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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! 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 . . .
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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
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
K3tog Knit three stitches together
Kfbf Knit in the front, back, and front of the stitch
pm Place marker
RS Right side or knit side
St st Stockinette stitch
WS Wrong side
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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. 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.
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 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.
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.
“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. . .
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.
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.
JUL and I worked together earlier this week to put together this beautiful new JUL “Curvy” flat leather strap 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.
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
pu Pick up and knit stitches
RS Right (knit) side
St st Stockinette Stitch
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
12 sts and 16 rows over 4″ (10cm) using a double-strand of worsted weight, feltable yarn on larger needle
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
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
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.
Attach Bag Handles Using Hardware Brackets
Attaching the Handle Brackets is the first step in the finishing process.
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)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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. . .
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!
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.
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.
Finally, sprinkle the scallions over the tofu and then sprinkle more chili flakes and sesame seeds over all.
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.