How to Make a Felt Bag

by Ragtimelil

Here's a basic tutorial on making a cute little bag that you could use for a cell phone pouch. It uses the seamless resist method.

Wet felting is an ancient technique of making a sturdy material for everything from bags, clothing, padding and even shelters.There are many, many versions of how to make felt. I would say that most if not all of them work. This is just the way I do it and it works for me
Felting is the process of making a fabric. That is the first step. Fulling is the process of hardening the felt. The popular craft called knitted felting technically isn't felting at all. The fabric is knit and then the item is fulled to shrink and harden it.

Supplies

supplliesYou will need some supplies:

  • non-slip shelf lining or bubble wrap
  • sheets of plastic bigger than your project
  • towel, sponge or rags
  • pattern cut from plastic or linoleum or cardboard wrapped with plastic wrap and duct taperesist
  • hot water
  •  soap - I make my own glycerine bar. Most soaps work, but some work better than others.
  • sheer curtain material
  • Wool - either card some batts of wool, or pull tufts of wool from roving.

Here's a tip that took me a long time to learn. Not all wool will felt. Some breeds of sheep have what is called down fleece. These do not felt well if at all. Breeds of this variety are the Suffolk, Dorset and Southdown.  Merino is the softest grade of fleece and the fastest felting. There are some charts online and in books that rate the breeds of sheep and their fleece.

Setting Up

If you are a total newbie to wet felting, I suggest you try making some “snakes” first. It helps to get a feel for how the felt hardens.You can also use one for a handle on your bag.I have instructions for that here.

ready to make feltI first put on the water to get hot while I set up materials. If I’m doing a large piece, I lay out a towel to catch any drips that might escape. Then I cover the towel with a square of plastic sheeting, otherwise, I just soak up wet areas with a sponge or towel.

 I then lay down the non-slip shelf liner that will be larger than my pattern. Another piece of plastic goes over the shelf liner so the fibers don't get stuck in it. I tape it down to keep it from moving around. 

Resist Pattern

There are two ways to use the resist pattern. You can either have part of it stick out so that the end stays open. That would be the opening for the bag. The other way is to completely enclose the resist in the felt. Once the felt is made, you cut the end and gently felt the raw edge to finish it. This is the way I’m doing this little bag.

Lay down your resist to use as a pattern. Pull your wool in to tufts and start to cover the resist. Layer your wool tufts in one direction for one layer, then at 90 degrees for the next. Lay down 4 to 6 layers or until it feels thick enough. It will feel thicker when it is dry. Feel for any weak spots and add more wool. Let the ends of the wool overlap the pattern just a tiny bit.

First Layer
First Layer
Second Layer
Second Layer

Starting to Felt

 Cover with the sheer material. Dribble hot water on the wool until just wet. Add your soap. Rub the bar or dribble liquid to just the point where it is slippery. Not too much soap here and don't rub too hard. You want the fibers to latch onto each other and not be pulled apart. Keep gently rubbing the wool, lifting the sheer cover from time to time to prevent it from sticking to the wool. Leave the outer edges dry and fluffy. We’ll be dealing with them soon.

As soon as the wool holds together, flip the whole thing over so the resist is now on the top. Gently start folding the raw edges over. The trick here is to not fold it over itself, but to make a ripple along the edge, sort of like a pie crust. Add more wool to cover the center. Only let a tiny bit extend beyond the resist. Cover with the sheer material and work this side as above. Now flip it again and fold over the edges as above. Now keep rubbing and flipping until it holds together like a fabric.

In the picture I found a piece of bubble wrap to rub the felt with. You can also use it underneath for more abrasion.

                                                                                         

Cover and Wet
Cover and Wet
rubbing with bubble wrap
rubbing with ...
Checking
Checking

Needles and Scissors

Once the felt is solid, carefully cut the top of the bag and slide the resist out. With a little soap on your finger, rub the raw edge to seal it shut.

 

patching

If you find a thin spot once the felt has set, use a felting needle to add some wool to the area. I use a strip of foam that I can push up into the bag. Sometimes it looks better to turn the bag inside out to mend it, then turn it back right side out for the final fulling process.

 

Fulling and Finishing

This is my favorite part of making something out of felt. There are all sorts of fun ways to full your bag. If you have a piece big enough, you can slap it on the counter. You can shock it with hot and then cold water. You can beat it with a meat hammer. You can roll it. You can roll it in a bamboo mat or roll it with a rolling pin.

The only requirement is that you roll it one way, then turn it 90 degrees and roll it that way. It will shrink in the direction you are rolling. Turn it and stretch it periodically.

Rinse the felt out with water and a splash of vinegar to neutralize the soap.Stretch it to the shape you want. Roll it in a towel or hang it to drip dry. You now have a felted item that can be machine washed and dried.

felted bag
felted bag
Fulling one way
Fulling one way
Fulling the other way
Fulling the o...
Felted and fulled
Felted and fu...

If any of your projects don't turn out, the felt is never wasted. If it doesn't felt well, it can be used as a pre felt, or cut up for embellishments. I've made lots of pretty flowers and butterflies out of felt that just didn't gel the first time. I learned not to get discouraged. It's all about letting your fingers tell you when it's right, and that just takes a little practice.

Have you ever wondered how spinning, felting or soap making was discovered? Here' s my fantasy of how ancient people learned about them.
Fall is the time for pumpkins. Here's how to make a cute pumpkin out of wool. It's easy and fun.
Updated: on 09/14/2012, Ragtimelil
 
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Ragtimelil on 10/13/2012

Yep. There's always a use for a little bag.

2uesday on 10/13/2012

I saw a bracelet on sale the other day made of long felted bead shapes stitched together side by side it looked good. Projects like that and the bag here are a great way to use up left over bits of wool roving.

Ragtimelil on 09/23/2012

That's great! Send some picutures!

katiem2 on 09/23/2012

My daughter is so going to enjoy this activity. :)K

Ragtimelil on 09/15/2012

I know exactly what you mean. I find that I work in cycles. I can't fight it, have to go with the flow.

2uesday on 09/15/2012

I had a little experiment with felting this winter, with some wool that I had, and it was fun to do. The colors of the wool roving here are nice and would be fun to experiment with. Trouble is I need to finish the things I have started before I begin a new craft hobby.

Ragtimelil on 09/15/2012

I know exactly what you mean. And thanks.

BrendaReeves on 09/15/2012

Great tutorial Lil. There's a lady on Etsy that makes the most beautiful felted bags. I was going to learn to do it, but I've told myself I just can't do everything, so for right now I'm sticking to knitting and watercolor. I make myself crazy trying to do every craft,art etc. in the world.

Ragtimelil on 09/14/2012

Too funny. The reason I like wet felting is that I'm just too slow of a knitter. I can felt a bag in an hour or two. I could never knit one in that amount of time.

Guest on 09/14/2012

I like to throw my knitting projects into a hot wash, and I usually enjoy the outcome. Nothing I knit usually turns out as expected. I "followed" instructions for a lunch bag, felted it in the wash, and ended up with a nice hat. One of these years, I'll learn how to knit. But I'm saving that skill for much later in life.



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