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.

Flaps

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

Rows 2 – 7: Work each flap in St st.

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

Rows 9 – 10: Work in St st.

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

Felting, Blocking, and Finishing

Prepare to Felt Your Purse

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

Felting in conventional (non HE) top-loading washers

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

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

Felting in HE/front-loading washers

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

Felting in a clothes dryer

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

Glue and then Sew Purse into Purse Frame

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

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

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

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

Line the Bag Bottom with Stiffener and Attach Bag Feet

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

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

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

The Story of The First Nonibag and The First Nonibag Pattern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pattern Difficulty Level

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

Finished Dimensions

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

Unfelted Gauge

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

Yarn & Materials

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Little Bit of Hope Kit Contains:

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

You will also need:

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

A Little Bit Of Hope Purse Pattern

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

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

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

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

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

Finishing

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

Prepare to Felt Your Purse

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

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

Felt Your Bag

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

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

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

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

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

Glue And Then Sew Your Purse Into The Purse Frame 

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

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

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

Only remove basting stitches once glue has dried.

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

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

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

Sew on The “A Noni Design” Label

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

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

Share Your Projects With Your Knitting Friends and With Us!

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

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

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

Happy New Year!

Nora

If You Love Noni, You Must Read This

100_Books_home_imgA page is turning in my life and I have decided to close Noni Designs (for the most part-I will still design and add new pdfs to my website) to follow a strong pull toward new and exciting opportunities. I plan to return to school for another advanced degree, spend more time writing, possibly on the knitting project people have asked for for a long time: new bags and flowers all in one book – I am working on the book proposal right now! I have other books in me, too.

New-Chapter-in-my-lifeI plan to spend more time having adventures with my son, Soma.

My son enjoying the ice cream left on the dasher after making ice cream the old way with my father.

My son enjoying the ice cream left on the dasher after making ice cream the old way with my father.

I am excited about these new paths and where they will take me.

My-path-to-somewhereNevertheless, I will miss Noni and all of the wonderful and talented people I have had the pleasure and honor of meeting, teaching, working with: you, your stories, feed-back, projects, enthusiasm and support have made for an unforgettable 10 year chapter in my life.

I do have some great news for all of you: news I’d like you to share with as many knitters and bag-makers and bag-loves as you know: help me get the word ot that I will be selling many of my one-of-a-kind bags. This process may extend beyond the studio close date of January 31st. More on these small releases as we get closer to the first one and those following: it will be soon.

Delicious little bags . . . one could be yours

Delicious little bags . . . one could be yours

The other exciting news is that I will be designing a small fare-well collection that will include updates to some of my classics: look for my these exciting designs.

Possible_new_designs_2Possible-New-Bag-DesignsLOOK FOR MANY TASTY PROMOTIONS ON VARIOUS PRODUCTS EVERY WEEK STARTING THIS TUESDAY until the studio closes. Keep up-to-date on my latest activities, discounts, and special promotions via e-mail (make sure you sign up at the bottom left of my home page), Noni Designs Facebook page, blog postings, and Ravelry announcements in the groups associated with Noni. As inventory is sold, except for yarn and some essential products, it will not be replaced: In other words, shop early and often for patterns and kits containing everything you need to make those projects that have been on your mind for a time. Add them to your Noni queue.

Thank you for bringing me and my work into your creative life, and for making Noni such a wild, fun, beautiful, and rewarding journey for me.

It has been a great run. Help me make the last months of Noni just as wild and fun.

Thank you all. I've had so much fun!

Thank you all. I’ve had so much fun!

Also Better: Adding Cabochons as Ornaments

As I mentioned previously, ornamenting your felted bags need not be time-consuming or expensive. I have taken a liking to cabochon rivets and use them to decorate bags, my ready-made clothing, my knitted coats, my boots.

They are a nice, quick way to add both interest, sparkle, and a pretty cool look to almost any bag. Here, I’ve used them in an off-set pattern on the front of the little bag we’ve been visiting for a couple of days now met. This is, in my opinion, like the flower we saw yesterday, an example of better. And for some bags, this would be the BEST.

2014-02-10-17.09.25While you can go hunting for specialized tools with which to set these special rivets (and I even sprang for the expensive tools, I confess, but didn’t like using them and found the setting process to be frustrating and laborious), you don’t have to. I have experimented with a few different methods and find that superglue works really well to attach these rivets.

Here’s what you do:

Get a little bottle of Locktite Superglue. I prefer Extra Time Control. Place all the rivets where you want them and satisfy your eye that they are just right. If not, re-locate. Snap the front cab part (the female part) to the back (the male part) and wait for the click. They are placed, at this point, but not set. To set, I twist off the cab front, put a drop of glue in the receptacle and click back in place. Hold for a few seconds. I work systematically so I know which rivets are done and which are not.

Let sit for a bit and you are done!

Where do you get Cabochon Rivets, you might be wondering?  Noni has cabochon rivets in 3 finishes: antique brass, gunmetal, and nickel (pictured above). Call to place your order.

Better: Adding a simple flower to a tiny bag for a big statement

 

Red-Bag--better-with-flower

Above you can see our little red bag dressed with a single Camellia flower. I love this look. Simple, big statement, quick knit. If you’d like to knit this flower yourself, you can buy the pattern from the Noni store or buy the pattern now on Ravelry To make the flower as pictured, I used a size 6 needle and a single-strand of worsted weight feltable yarn. I made 5 larger petals (as written) and then 4 smaller petals.

Check out my post about another Better dressing idea for this little bag.

Good, Better, Best . . . Dressing a little bag for business cards

Sometimes I don’t have time to go back to a particular bag and dress it the way I would like. I tend to like little bags that are crusty with beads and flowers and ribbon in swirls. Such ornamentation takes time. And, well, for the knitter looking at my bag, such ornamentation might be a bit off-putting or intimidating.

But ornamentation need not be intimidating or time-consuming. My aim with Good, Better, Best is to show how easy it can be to turn a bag from “It’s nice,” into “I love it!” into positively “WOW!”

Here is a picture of a cute little bag that is perfect for business cards or those tiny fold up into nothing glasses that fit in a tiny case. Right now, it’s fine. It’s good.

naked-red-bagTomorrow, I’ll show you better. . .

 

 

 

 

Noni Q&A: Beaded Hearts on Heart on My Sleeve

2-Hearts-2Noni’s Heart on My Sleeve Purse is embellished with beaded hearts . . .they are beautiful, but took a bit of trial and error before I hit upon the right technique for getting a solidly beaded heart that was a pretty shape.

I rejected a bunch of lop-sided hearts (all of which got undone) before I came up with a plan for beautiful hearts every time.

Find a clean, well-lit place to work, of course: Lay down a piece of clean of paper or other material on your work surface – when beads are involved, sometimes it’s nice to put down a slightly damp towel so if beads go astray they don’t roll everywhere.

Gather Your Materials: No. 8 seed beads, a small dish in which to keep them, a beading needle, nylon beading thread, your almost finished purse, and scissors or thread nippers.

Decide on the Location for a Beaded Heart:  If you can’t decide, just pick some place with abandon. Start on the inside of the purse with your double-strand of thread knotted on the end.

Zinnia-Heart

First, Outline The Heart with Thread:

As you can see, I used a modified running stitch. A backwards running stitch will also work. I use the outline to guide the beading process.

Outline-the-Heart-with-thread

Second, Outline The Heart with Beads:

You can see above that I have started to follow the thread outline with beads. I go all the way around and then decide how much of the heart to fill in. Sometimes, I only filled in part of the heart.

Christmas-Red-Heart

Others, I filled the hearts completely with beads.

hearts-at-the-bottom-of-the-bag

Fill the Heart With Beads:

I have no scientific method for my beading process, only that I keep traveling (like a mole under the surface of the garden) through the felt until I push the tip of the needle up and out of the felted fabric again, put a bead on the needle, and then go back into the felt (rather than all the way through it to the inside of the purse). In this way, I stay working on the outside of the bag, catch a bit of the felt, and out comes the needle somewhere else ready for another bead. I do not feel that I must start at the bottom and fill in from the bottom up or the inside out or the outside in. My only concern is that I stay inside the lines.

Questions?  Post them here and I will answer in the comments or add to this blog posting.