Monday, December 17, 2007

10 Simple Tips from a Felt Addict

Different people addicted to different things whether the thing is an object; shoes or ice-cream or an action such as shopping or surfing internet. As for me, my object of addiction is felting, felting purse especially.

I am relatively new to felting. I started felting about 4 months ago when I saw my neighbor Ann took a ‘Learn to Knit’ class in a local yarn store. Ann learnt the basic of knitting, such as cast on, bind off, knit and purl stitches. She also learnt to knit and felt a bag. I saw Ann’s purse before it was felted and I was puzzled and confused. The knitted version looked so fragile, the stitches was so loose and it did not look practical and sturdy at all. But when I saw the purse again after it was felted, I was amazed by the transformation. I could not help but wanted to make a purse myself.

My very first purse was a pattern I found on the internet. It was very simple and a relative small in size. The purse only requires one skein of yarn. For my first try, I did not want to make a big one because I did not want to waste money and time if any disaster strikes. I knitted the purse rather quickly and tried to felt it by following the felting instruction came with the pattern. Unfortunately, the instruction was written for top loader washing machine and I could not get my purse to felt in my front loader. It was discouraging. Instead of figure out how to do it in my machine, I ended up asked my friend, Wendy, to felt the purse for me because she has a top loader machine. Even after all the misfortune of trying to felt my first purse, I was hooked after Wendy handed me the felted purse – my first felted purse. The purse looked so cute and beautiful (at least in my eyes it was) that it made me forget all the bad experience.

How can you tell I am a felt addict, especially felted purse addict?
Let me count the ways:
1. I found excuse to go to yarn stores to search and buy feltable yarn.
2. I have basket and basket of feltable yarn in all brands, weight and colors.
3. I keep buying purse hardware even though I have no idea when I will use it.
4. I borrowed and bought ton of books about felting and purse from library and book store.
5. I knit in big fat needle.
6. I knit during my trip to my sister-in-laws cottage instead of enjoying the great outdoor.
7. I have felted purses hanging in my deck to dry all the time.
8. I have my neighborhood ladies called me the purse lady

The list can go on and on. I do not mind people call me the purse lady. I love making purses and I am proud of it. My neighbor, Karen, saw me and Ann knit that she herself started to knit and felt as well. Karen knows how to crochet and knitting is rather new to her. But after her first purse, she was also hooked. Karen starts to ask me questions about felting. I am no expert but I made enough mistakes along the way that I could share some of my experience in felting to her so that she did not need to go through the mistakes like I did. And now, I would like to share my 10 felting tips to anyone who is interested in trying out the beauty of felting.

Tip 1: Find a pattern and get your supply
For a new felter, I would highly recommend to find a simple pattern to start. Follow the material and notion sections to get your supply. There is not a strict rule to get the same yarn that mentioned in the pattern especially if the pattern only calls for one main color feltable yarn. However, if you are working on a pattern that required more than one feltable yarn, then try to stick with same brands yarn for all colors.

Tip 2: Get to know your yarn
Not all yarns are created equaled; hence, all yarn felt differently. When buying yarn for felting, you would like to choose yarns that are feltable. Yarn such as 100% Wool or Alpaca will felt beautifully. There are also other yarns, such as Soy/Wool blend yarn and mohair will felt beautifully as well. DO NOT use superwash yarn even though they are 100% Wool. Superwash wool is treated to be used in washing machine.

Tip 3: Do not Mix and Match yarns in one project unless you are sure
I am going to say it again, ‘Not all yarns are created equaled.’ Even though the label says 100% Wool, but different brands of 100% Wool felt differently; they can be different in gauge, felting time and even felted surface. If there is a reason why you will need to use different brands of feltable yarns in one single project, make sure to do a switch for each of the desire yarn and felt them to make sure the felted results are compatible before using them in a project.

Tip 4: Try not to be too caught up by the sizing information on the pattern
The sizing information on the pattern is always an approximation. The final felted sizes usually depending on the yarn, the way you knit (tight or loose) and the length of the felting process. There are a lot of factors come along with felting. If your felted item is smaller or bigger, it is really no big deal. If the sizing of the purse is important to you, I would recommend knitting a switch before started any project; hence, you can adjust the number of stitches and needle size before starting.

Tip 5: Do fix your knitting mistake before felting
A lot of people will tell you that felting is very forgiving. If you made a mistake; such as drop a stitch or have a hole on the purse, you don’t really have to fix it because after the purse is felted, the hole will not show up. The statement is not always true. It is true that felting is very forgiving, it helps to hide a lot of mistakes; however, a hole is a hole, in a case where you have a hole on your knitted piece, you will like to fix it because the hole will still show up after felting.

Tip 6: Do not attach any hardware before felting
If you are making a purse and would like to attach a pair of wooden handles or apply D-ring to the purse. Do not attach them until the felted purse is completely dry. You can always attach them by using yarn or sewing thread (hand quilting thread works the best) and sewing needle later.

Tip 7: Pay attention during felting process
Depending on the machine you use, the felting time varies. The most ideal scenario is to have a top loading machine because you can adjust the water temperature and level; it also shorten the felting time. However, as the front loading machine is more energy efficient and most likely, you will have a front loading machine. Not too worried, a front loader does felt; however, it takes much longer to felt. If felting with front loader, you would like to set the machine to hot/cold cycle, put your knitted piece in a zip pillow case, a little hand soap and a pair of old jean. A lot of time, it will take at least a full cycle or two to felt. Be sure to check your item often to prevent too much felting. One key thing, do not let your felting item to go through the spin cycle because the spin cycle will change the shape the purse. I also like to recommend using a color catcher when felting especially if you are felting a very light color item and you have a pair of old blue jean in the machine in case of the color of the jean bleed.

Tip 8: Shape the felted item before it dry
Most likely, after the felting process, the felted item will change its shape because of the washing and spinning of the machine. Hence, make sure to stretch and pull the felted item to the shape that you want. When the felted item is wet, it is OK to stretch it. The felted surface is strong enough to endure any kind of stretching. You would also want to cut a piece of plastic to put at the bottom of the purse if a flat bottom is desired. Put an empty box (according to the size of the purse) inside the purse when drying is very effective to shape the purse. For any reason if the shape of the purse is not what you wanted after it is dry, you can always make the purse wet again and reshape it.

Tip 9: Do consider lining of the purse to give it a finish look
After the purse is felted, it should be strong enough to carry around especially if using double strands of yarns during knitting. However, you might want to consider lining the purse. The lining does not only give the purse a more finish look, but also increase the duration of the purse. You can also add heavy interfacing to the lining fabric to increase the sturdiness of the purse. The lining of the purse can be time consuming because of the hand sewing work but it’s not rocket science. If lining is not your thing, I will higher recommend using a piece of plastic (plastic canvas work the best) and sew it in the bottom of the purse to give it a more firm bottom. Even though lining is time consuming but consider all the benefit of lining; it will make the hard work all worth it.

Tip 10: Show off your purse
After all the hard work you put in to the purse, you should always show it off. After all, if you don’t use the purse, why make it at the first place!

I must warn you, felting is addictive. Once you start, it will be hard to stop. And you might turn into a felt addict just like me!

Happy Felting!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Purse Purse Purse

It’s been a while since my last post. But I have been busy. Busy to design, knit and felt purses. I am also busy to actually sit down and write all my design patterns. I thought it’s easy to write a pattern but I was totally wrong once I started to write a pattern. Writing pattern is hard! Not only do I have to follow the standard for pattern writing, but also need to remember what I did when I was knitting the purse. I have a really bad habit of altering my design as I knit and not recording my changes in my design notebook right away. So I did take me forever to sort everything out and record everything.

But I finally did manage to get all my patterns written down and have the owner in a local yarn store to proof read them to make sure I got the format and wording correctly for a knitting pattern. And yes, I am excited to have a couple of local yarn stores to carry my design patterns. I felt like my design dream is getting somewhere. It’s a good feeling.

I have attached a few of my designs for anyone who might be interested. I design inspiration come from all sources. I named the purse after the person who inspires me during my design purse.

1. Jenny Purse

2. Karen Purse

3. Liz Tote

4. Kimimae Purse

Thursday, July 5, 2007

This is my first posted design pattern - Wendy Tote

This is my very first time... so hopefully you guys understand what I trying to say... also, please let me know what you think!!!

Wendy Tote Bag

This tote bag is made with Ella Rae Classic, but it can be subsitute with any felt-able Aran/worsted weight yarn. The decorated flower is made with both MC and CC and the leaves and stem is made with Brown Sheep Nature Spun yarn.

MC – 2 skein of color Cherry or other feltable Aran weight yarn (approx. 280 yards)
CC - 1 Skein of color Bungandy or other feltable Aran weight yarn (approx. 200 yards)
CC2 – about 25 yards for 2 leaves and stem

A pair of 10.5 straight needles
One 10.5 24” circular needle
4 markers
Tapestry Needle
Magnetic Snap
A pair of 6.75” * 3.75” oval handle
Lining Fabric (Optional)
Heavy Interfacing (Optional)
Sewing thread (Hand Quilting Cotton thread work great) – Optional
Plastic Canvas (Optional – for purse bottom - but highly recommended)

The sizing for this purse is only for reference. The final size of the purse is very much depending on the knitting style of the knitter and the length of the felting process.

Size before felting: 13W, * 15H * 5 D (Without the purse handle)
Size after felting: 11W, * 9H * 3 D (Without the purse handle)

The Wendy tote bag is knitted in a round, the purse bottom is made separately and the purse body is knitted by picking up sts from the purse bottom. The purse handle tabs are made by picking up sts from the top of the purse body. This pattern is written for 4-rows stripe version, if you prefer a single color version, just simple double the MC yardage and ignore the color change in the direction for purse body.

Purse Bottom:
Purse Bottom is knitted using garter sts. To start, use MC and cast on 40 sts. Knit for 24 rows, end with WS row.

Purse Body:
Purse front is knitted in a round using St st and the sts are picking up from the purse bottom. To start, with WS facing up, start by picking up 40 sts from the cast on side, place marker (pm), pick up 12 sts from the side, pm, pick up 40 sts from the cast off side, pm, pick up 12 sts from the side, total of 104 sts.

Before starting row 1, you will need to fix the yarn to the correct position to start. After picking up sts, the yarn tail is actually on the left-hand side, in order to start knitting in the row, bring the yarn to the front, slip marker (SM) to the left, then slip the 1 sts from right-hand side to left-hand side, bring the yarn to the back, then slip the 1 sts and marker back to the right-hand side.

Start row 1 by using MC and knit in a round for 3 rows. Please be sure to move the marker along while knitting so you know where is the start of the body and where are the sides of the purse. After 3 rows in MC, switch to CC and knit for 4 rows (4-rows stripe). These 7 rows are the set up rows for the purse.

The main potion of the purse body starts with * 4-rows stripe in MC and follows by 4-rows stripe in CC, 8 rows total. Repeat * 6 times for total of 48 rows. AT THE SAME TIME, work increase by following the increase instruction on the first row of these 8 rows. At the end of these 56 rows, 24 sts will be added and there will be 128 sts on the needle.

Increase Row:
Slip marker (sm) to the right, Inc 1 sts and knit to the next marker, inc 1 sts before marker, sm to the right, knit to next marker, sm to the right, inc 1 sts and knit to the next marker, inc 1 sts before marker, sm to the right, and knit to the end.

The idea is to increase a st each at the beginning and at the end of one side of the purse body. At the end of this round, 4 sts will be added.

To knit the top potion of the purse, start by using CC and knit for 8 rows, work increase for the first row of these 8 rows by following the increase row instruction. 4 sts added with 132 sts total. After 8 rows of CC, follow by 3 rows of MC. The next row is the start of the turning ridge. The turning ridge row is used to firm up the top edge of the purse.

Turning Ridge:
Row 1 (WS): Knit
Row 2: Knit
Row 3: Purl
Bind off all 132 sts

Fold on the turning ridge toward the WS of the purse, sew it in place. The double thickness on the top will give the firm up the top edge of the purse and help shape up the top of the purse.

Handle Tabs (Make 2):
Lay the purse flat so that RS of purse front is on top, use MC to pick up 28 sts in the middle of the purse. Knit in St st for 15 rows, ending with WS rows. Bind of knitwise.

Turn the bag around to the purse back and make the handle tab same way as the front.

I have made the flower into 2 tones to bring out the red and the burgundy from the purse. If you prefer, you can knit it in one single color.

Use MC, cast on 10 sts:
Row 1: Knit
Row 2 and all WS: Purl
Row 3: Knit in the front and back of each sts, 20 sts
Row 5 (CC): Knit in the front and back of each sts, 40 sts
Row 7(MC): Knit in the front and back of each sts, 80 sts
Bind off using CC.

Roll on the cast on side and form a flower, use MC and tapestry needle and sew the flower so that it will not change shape. Once the flower formed, sew the flower onto the purse, you can sew the flower anywhere you like on the purse. If you would like the flower on the corner of the purse, make sure to sew it at least 2” from the top.

Once all the component is in place, the purse is now ready to felt. I would recommend to use a safety pins to pin the leaves in place, both of the stem and the outer part of the flowers. Use Hot/Cold water setting with the lowest water level, put the purse in a zip pillow case or mash laundry bag along with a pair of old jean, use a little bit of hand soap instead of detergent and start the washing cycle. Be sure to check the progress frequently, the felting length will vary depending on the machine. For the front loading washing machine will take a little big longer in compare to top loader machine.

After the purse is completely dry, you can line the purse by using some matching fabric and attach a magnetic snap to the purse by following manufacturing instruction. I would highly recommend using the plastic canvas for the bottom. It will give it a little bit of body. I like to line my purse to give it a better shape. Also, you can go crazy with the fabric, it will give your purse a little bit more characters.

St st - Stockinette Stitch
RS - Right Side
WS - Wrong Side
MC - Main Color
CC - Contract Color
K2Tog - Knit 2 Together
SKP - Slip 1, Knit 1, PSSO (pass the slip stitch over the knit stitch)
Dpn - Double pointed needle
K, P - Knit, Purl
pm, sm - Place marker, slip marker

Happy Knitting!!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

So what bout this blog

I would like to create this blog to share some of my idea in knitting... I am no expert. I often refer to beginner knitting guide for basic stitches... but I just like to knit. I like to create thing and come out with new design. My crafty sister-in-law called that 'Silkieize'.
I have never written any pattern before, so it might take me awhile. But stay tune, I will start posting pretty soon.....