Sunday, September 20, 2009

Alpaca Never Felt So Good

I would like to thank everyone for their well wishes and prayers for Mr Puffy, whether left as a comment or expressed privately in your heart. We continue to be blessed that he is tolerating the cancer treatment medication which keeps him feeling well and gives us this extra special time with him. He is such a big part of our lives and I can not bear to think of losing him.

And, for a time, we continue along as normally as we can. We do stay a little closer to home these days, which means that I have some knitting to share. And timely, I think, with the cooler days of Fall upon us.



I saw some posh felted bags several years back in a LYS and ever since then I've wanted to make a nice big plush felted bag. Yet the style of the bags I saw a few years back were rather ordinary and, dare I say, boring. But I've kept my eyes open and finally I spotted exactly what I was looking for! It is the Pebble Bag designed by Artmuse (knit in alpaca) and I knew it was just the bag for me as soon as I saw it. Love it! Love it! Love it!



I bought it as a kit from The Toft Alpaca Shop which is located in England. I saw an ad for these bags in The Knitter a new knitting magazine published in England and I immediately placed an order using my birthday money - thanks Mom and Dad! It's on trend being an over sized bag, but I don't think so much so that after this season I won't be able to wear and enjoy it. It has a great cuddly feel and wears great next to the skin, now that the evenings are a bit cooler. But I think it really will be best this Winter when worn with a turtleneck sweater and slacks.

It's a surprisingly fast knit as you use 3 strands of yarn held together. The only major design modification I made was to omit what was supposed to be an extra large bobble closure, which I felt was just one bobble too many. Plus, this way I get to play around with different closures. The closure in the pictures above is from a key fob that Steve spotted while we were wandering around the San Clemente farmer's Market. The closure in the pictures below is a ceramic bead that I special ordered from Jennifer Jangles Beads, which I love too. For that matter, I could also knit and felt a gigantic bobble and use that a closure as well. It's super easy to switch the closure as I simply sew it on with a tiny bit of white embroidery floss.



The great thing about Jennifer's bead is that I can also wear it as a necklace.....



Particulars: Large Pebble Bag, designed for Toft by Artmuse; 600g chuncky alpaca felting yarn; US 11 needles. Modifications: I omitted the large bobble closure (as discussed above) and for the handle I began the whip stitching about 2 inches up from where it attached to the bag to provide a stronger base and a more tapered handle. There are a few finishing instructions which are a little off, such as you want the smooth side of the stockinette facing outward on the front closure flap and make sure to center your handles evenly on either side. Approximate dimensions: 11 inches wide; 6 inches deep; 10 inch strap height. On the whole, it's a very easy to follow and well designed pattern.



Fun Felting Facts:

1. Did you know that it's unusual to see anything felted that is white? This is because most wools must be bleached the color white and the bleaching process interferes with felting. Because Alpaca fleece is naturally a beautiful creamy white color it felts beautifully.

2. 100% wool will generally felt into a smooth fabric. But if you felt mohair (or alpaca) the fabric surface will be become matted and fuzzy with loose fibers that needs to be shaved to achieve a smooth fabric. If you look at the picture below, you will see what my bag looked like right out of the washing machine. When I showed it to Steve, he wanted to know if would eat a lot.....



3. Europeans generally refer to the process of converting wool fiber to a fabric as "fulling" while in the United States we generally call it "felting."

4. Felting can be hard on your washing machine, in several respects. First, if you don't want to plug your drains, it's a good idea to place the item to be felted into an old pillow case and then knot the pillow case closed as this will help capture loose fibers that may plug your drain. Second, it may take several cycles of the agitation phase of the wash to felt your item. I'm not placing blame here, but after 2 hours, my older washing machine went kaput (fortunately by that time my bag had felted). The repair man assured me that it was not anything I had done to cause the machine to break and it shouldn't be a problem to force the machine to repeat the wash cycle over and over and over again. This was greatly reassuring to me. Such a nice man. And yet. It might be wise, if you have a major felting project, to take yourself over to a coin laundry facility and use someone else's machine, if yours is older and not covered by a warranty.

5. It's best NOT to use an older pair of jeans to create friction in the washing machine. No matter how faded and old the jeans are, there may be residual dye that can stain light colored wools. It's best to use an old towel to provide the friction in the wash phase.

6. Finally, it's not felted (i.e. finished) until you pull it out of the water and no longer see any stitch definition and have a contiguous fabric. With this project, it took close to 2 hours in the washing machine to felt. Please refer to Fact No. 4 above.



Until next time, be well, love well, and do what you have a passion to do in this life.

28 comments:

raining sheep said...

Ooooooh! I LOVE it. I love it. It is so cute. I would so totally carry that all the time. I love felted bags. There is just something totally boho chic about them. And it suits you. I think the size is perfect - myself I love big bags even though I am a pretty small person... I am constantly carrying running clothes of some kind with me :)

Renee said...

What a gorgeous bag, Claudia! I've not felted anything yet and it's super to hear about your experiences.

Wishing you, Steve and Mr Puffy continued well and all the best.

Monika said...

This is a funny looking bag! I love your closure options. You were so right to omit the last bobble, the closures make this bag extra special.

subliminalrabbit said...

1. i owe you an email. moving and fixing up the house and writing/designing/giving a presentation in front of 180 people has made life insane. but no excuses. i will write.

2. that is an absolutely gorgeous purse!

3. gentle ear tugs for mr puffy!

Allie said...

That is GORGEOUS. I adore alpaca - so soft - and that bag is perfect for it.
I was very sorry to read about your Mr. Puffy, and am sending prayers out for all of you.

Ally Johnston said...

It is beautiful. I still can't quite get my head around knitting something and then boiling the heck out if it, but this is the start of a new era so who knows. Continued blessings for you and Mr Puffy.

sue said...

The felted bag looks gorgeous and yes I dont think I have seen many white bags felted, perhaps yours is the first. I love the bobbles and the closure too. I am glad that Mr. Puffy is continuing along well with the help of his medicine and I hope he continues to do so.

tiennie said...

What a cute little bag! I wish you many many many more moments with Mr. Puffy.

Willow said...

Excellent knitting and felting on this bag! I have done quite a lot of felting in previous years and I concur with all your comments and facts. I wanted to make something felted in white severa years ago and had to spin the wool myself from a fleece I had skirted and scoured myself to assure that it would felt.

Yes, you can plug your washing machine's drain and spend an inordinate amount of money to get the repair man to come out and pull a wad of fiber from your rinse hose. Ask me how I know this...

It is good to hear that Mr Puffy is doing so well. Continued prayers for him...

Jennifer Jangles said...

Claudia,
The bag is beautiful! I am honored that you chose my closure to use on it. Thanks for sharing it with us,
Jennifer
Jangles

At Home Mommy Knits said...

I'm so glad to hear Mr. Puffy is handling his treatment well!

Love the bag, perfect for this fall.

Channon said...

Lovely!! And do love on Mr Puffy on my behalf. I literally ran my finger down his back when your blog header loaded...

I want to try felting the wad of fiber I had to cut off of a bobbin Saturday, from feeble spinning attempts while my wheel was being adjusted. I think I'm going to make a felted toy for Gretchen with the scraps.

Hilary said...

That is so cool! I love all the bobbles and also love the closures you've used. Both are fabulous. And thank you for all the felting tips. It is something I haven't done much of, but would like to do more.

Bridget said...

What a cool bag! Even with three strands of yarn held together, I would probably lose it when the bobbles came around ...

xoxo to Mr P!

betty said...

That's a great bag with a very artsy look to it! With my small amount of felting experimentation, I've discovered that different yarns produce different amounts of fuzziness. Is your bag very fuzzy?

I will continue to send good vibes down your way to Mr. Puffy.

t does wool said...

gorgeous bag,Claudia...gorgeous.
I agree...very chic...and fitting for you...
and the wonderful tips! cannot go wrong there.
continued best wishes for you,Steve and Mr Puffy. Hugs.

Tracy said...

LOVE, LOVE, love that bag, Claudia! You really went all out with this one... It is scrumptious! The size, shape and styling is perfect--and with that closure option--super! I've acutally not done a felted bag yet myself, but have been wanting to. Like you, trying to find a pattern, etc. that suits me. Most I've seen are these HUGE things. I'm petite so that wouldn't work unless I'm shipping myself off somewhere in it--LOL! So very glad to hear that sweet Mr. Puffy is still responding well to his medication and that the "normal" is such a comfort right now. I love what you say that the end there...Life is too short, so we must savor while we can! :o) Thinking of you all there...((BIG HUGS))

The Wooly Wumpus said...

Oh, I love your bag! That's a bag for a girl who's going places! It's wonderful and your impeccable taste comes through in managing your bobbles! It would have been to, what? Predictable! I love the key fob/closure, how inventive - and good eye Steve!

I've been wanting to try felting - and even bought last years Felting issue from Interweave Knits. You may have inspired me to give it a whirl!

Hugs to Mr Puffy :)

Jules said...

That is the cutest bag! The bobbles are wonderful, and I bet it's really soft, too. I didn't know that about white yarn and felting, but I can't say I've seen many white felted things around. Sorry to hear about the washing machine :o) but it sounds like it was a coincidence. Hugs to you and Mr. P.

knittingdragonflies said...

Wow I love the bag, the color shows the bobbles off. And the button is so cute! You know how I feel about felted bags! It's addicting, I do feel like I'm carrying a "live" purse, like I should name it.
You sweetie, I got the brooch, is it so lovely, I'm wearing it on my sweater at work. It reminds me of warm sunny days and wildflowers when I look at it.
All my love to Mr. Puffy and of course you and Steve.
Vicki

Miriam said...

The bag is lovely. I lately discovered alpaca is the only animal fiber I'm not allergic to, I have always wanted to try felting. Your notes are a great cautionary tale.

Keeping Mr Puffy in my thoughts. The card that you sent with your package last year is on my bulletin board and I think of both of you when I see it.

lucky knitter said...

Sorry to hear about Mr. Puffy. I will be sending warm thoughts your way.

The bag really is beautiful! I love felted bags!

Marie said...

I love this bag! I don't think I have ever seen a white felted bag. Pity because it sure is stunning and makes the bobbles and shape just pop.

Anonymous said...

I'm not usually a fan of felted bags, but this one might change my mind. It might be the whiteness of it all. Or the bobbles which make it look sculptural. Ooh-la-la!

Ursula

Anita said...

Love the bag! And the beads are gorgeous.

Mr Puffy's Knitting Blog: said...

Thank you Ursula! I think it was the creamy whiteness for me too.

I hope you are enjoying the start to your Fall!

Lisa said...

I tried petting the screen but it just didn't do it for me. I think, though, if that bag could purr it would.

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