The South East Textile Group held our first meeting of the year last Saturday and it was my turn to share some skills and facilitate the workshop. We met at the Demanse Yard in Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny and as usual started the morning with a coffee and chat in the beautiful light filled restaurant/coffee shop. Our theme for the day was ‘felt bags’ and luckily I got my newsletter from the secretary during the end of last week or they would have been without a tutor as with all the excitement of the rug making I had totally forgotton to make a note of the date in my diary! We had a great turnout of members and as many of them had only felted once or twice before I really wanted to make sure that they all had a good experience and went home with their own beautiful completed bag.
We started the workshop by passing around some seamless bags that I had previously made and I explained that I wanted everyone to work using an oval resist, the different shapes of the finished bags would be achieved by cutting the opening in different positions. I prefer using laminate floor underlay as my resist and we had a brief discussion about how this layer of plastic is like a letter in an envelope and prevents the fibres from both sides sticking together when starting the felting process. Because I had a lot of wool ordered for Mehmet’s rug making workshops I had a nice selection of colours for anyone to choose from if they didn’t have their own wool to work with and once everyone had selected and weighed their wool (mainly long fibred American merino but also a few colours in New Zealand merino batts) I showed them how to lay out the fibres in even layers on top of their oval shaped resist. When using this method it is really important to take care when turning your package over and keeping the fibres tight around the outside as you flip the loose strands from one side to the other. Because some of the members had only felted once before we did have a few laughs trying to get to grips with the concept of seamless felting; which layers of wool would become the inside of the bag, which the front, which the back, where would the design end up etc. but once everyone understood what we were aiming to achieve some beautiful bags started to take shape. Interestingly enough one of the completed bags actually looked even better when turned inside out, something that quite often happens when felting, one of the reasons that I love the process! We wet the layers of wool out (all the bags were worked between 2 layers of bubble wrap) with warm water and olive oil soap, massaged the fibres, flipped the whole thing over and then laid out the other side. In order for everyone to have a well finished bag I kept a close eye on how the members were laying to wool out, some used 3 layers before laying out any final decoration, some 4 layers. I had brought a goodie bag with a selection of different coloured wool for the final layer and also some great mulberry silk which some people choose to incorporate into their design. We broke for lunch at this stage and returned in the afternoon to roll, throw and complete the fulling process. Once the packages had shrunk enough and the members could feel the resist culing inside the felt it was time to cut open the package and decide where to place the handles. Some members cut out a semi-circle of felt as I had done in my demo bags, Mari and Mary actually didn’t cut a whole piece of felt out but created clever little flaps to use as closures in the finished bags. Once the bags were felted fully I showed everyone how to make a simple cord handle and a couple of people went on to decorate their bags with great felt flowers as well!
The Clasheen New Year destash swap is now underway and swap partners have been assigned!
Annabie swaps with Clear2glass
edwardsdawn41 swaps with Shelivesacharmedlife
Clasheen swaps with ABarrett
Girly Girl Bags swaps with weepereas
Check out our Flickr group to see exactly what we are up to and why not join in the fun next time around!
These felted bags are adorable. Do you think there is a length limit on the rolled handles or the amaount of weight they can support? I prefer a larger bag that rests on my shoulder.. for hands free activities. I am so pumped to make a bag. I suppose after a few layers one could even add a small resist for inside pockets. Thank you Nicola you are AWESOME!
Hi Deb, You can make the rolled handles as thick, strong and long as you like! These handles are just inserted through small holes punched in the side of the bags (small bags therefore not going to be too heavy even when full) so if you wanted to make a bigger bag I would strengthen the hole with some extra fabric or a patch of leather.
I want to make one of these bags…… do I just have bubble wrap the shape of the bag then put fibers on boI saw a youtube video making slippers this way. She was from the UK and she tucked the edges in at the last layer. When done, cut top open put bubble wrap out?
The handle is still bit of a mystery. Roll the wool then how is is it felted just keep rolling?
I want to make heart shaped for my niece.
YOU are incredible Nicola, got a CV or biography? when/how did you get inspired? Guess I could take the time to read your archives. Hope we meet someday.
Hi Deb, You can use bubble wrap for the inside but I prefer to use the stiff plastic which is used underneath laminate flooring, easy to get at the hardware store. This is easier to cut into a template and it holds it’s shape, just make it about 30 to 40% bigger than you want the bag to end up. I lay about 2 layers of wool thinly, wet lightly, turn over package and fold over the edging fibres. Lay out 2 layers on this side, wet and turn over again. Fold over fibres (now you have a package or felt with the plastic inside) and lay a third layer of wool, wet, turn over and lay the third layer on the other side. Now you can add any embellishments eg. silk, fabric scraps etc, wet again and start to felt as you would for flat felt. When the package starts to curl up quite a bit it is ready to cut open. Make a very small opening (it always stretches), seal the edges by felting them gently by hand, remove the plastic and continue until you have shrunk the bag enough. I think I will explain about the handle in my next post!