As I described before, it was rather difficult to explain how the beautiful (and very large) strip of mosaic knitting I was working on was going to end up being a bag. It is finished now, and you can judge for yourself whether or not I in fact succeeded in making a bag.
The instructions were to make a piece 3x as long as it is wide. (I was very close, and compensated the rest by making my seams rather deep.) It then gets folded a rather peculiar way to take on a peculiar, but still bag-like, shape. I counted rows and figured out exactly where to make the first seam:
Then the second, attaching the straps a the corners.
It definitely looks like a bag now, though still so enormous that it could also function as a baby coracle.
This baby doesn’t need a wool coracle, however, and I didn’t want it to flop open into one after it was felted. So, in a fit of ingenuity, I made a center buckle for the purse using the strap pattern. I cast on with two colors in the center, with a double knitting cast on and twice as many stitches, and made one and a half repeats on each end. (If you can’t tell in the pictures, I switched with the two straps which was the foreground and which was the background color; I did the same with each side of this buckle.) I sewed one end of the buckle in place. For a closure, I happened to have an excellent magnet closure that I’d removed from a thrift store purse I made into a bodice a couple years back. I installed this after felting was complete.
Naomi was extremely dubious about the whole felting process.
I have a fair bit of felting experience, but I shared her hesitancy. This was a whole lot of beautiful knitting I had just done, and once it was felted, there’s no going back. You can adjust things here and there, but you can’t rip out and start over. But we took the plunge anyway.
I used way too much soap. Forgot that with Charlie’s soap, instructions that say “a small scoop” mean “a tiny scoop.”
The immediate results were still bag-like, but rather askew. Stretch, adjust, and manipulate as I might, the fabric had shrunk length-wise much more severely than width-wise. I managed not to cry, and put on my thinking cap.
Maybe, I thought, I could give the bag a rectangular bottom, putting the bottom corners at opposite sides. I found a couple of flat rate boxes in Jared’s mailing stash in the basement, and let it dry like this.
It was a good idea, but it didn’t quite work. The corners were too pointy, the felting had already been too severe, and the new corners I was trying to make didn’t quite take. The cast on/bind off edges were still much floppier than the selvedge edges, despite all my manipulations, and look rather ungraceful.
What did we learn from this experience, Naomi? What would we do different next time?
1) If I ever again take on a significant-sized felting project on which gauge matters, I would felt a swatch first. The water and electricity for an extra wash cycle is worth it. I had the little bags (which turned out just fine, by the way) as samples; a run through the washer would have told me what I needed to know. See how askew the change purse is? That could have told me in advance how off my purse would be if I didn’t make some changes.
2) With that information I would have discerned that it’s actually the 3:1 length:width ratio has to be post felting. At my gauge that would have meant a 4:1 ratio pre-felting.
3) This would require more yarn. I used up all but a few inches of the burgundy, and had to buy extra of the brown and grey. Or, more realistically, casting on fewer stitches. This isn’t the pattern’s fault; it called for 250 yards of each color and I only bought one skein each of Patons Classic Wool, which has 223. I might still would have needed extra to make the accessories if I hadn’t accidentally bought an extra color, though.
4) I also would have made the straps a little shorter. I hate too-long straps.
5) My center buckle? Brilliant. I wouldn’t do that differently. I highly recommend it.
It looks pretty in these pictures, for which I am glad. The stitch pattern is beautiful, and I think I should get a ruddy Pulitzer for my color selection. But its usefulness as a bag is going to be limited. With a few extra instructions, or some extra attentiveness and experience on my part, these problems could have been averted. I hope I have provided some help for others to make this piece with more success.
This is not the result I would have chosen for the first step on this epic journey. But (and I know there’s no way I can say this without being trite, so, sorry), if Bilbo can start by forgetting his pocket-handkerchief, and Merry and Pippin can start by getting sucked into an oak tree, then I can bear it.