They’re forgiving of a beginner’s uneven yarn, offer options for combining yarns, and the same basic strategy can be used to make a small cozy for an MP3 player or a messenger bag.
Any worsted or heavier weight yarn will work well, and a single or plied yarn will be fine for this project. Coarser wools will typically felt more than softer wool, but most wool will shrink 25-40% in the felting process. Avoid using superwash wools, and consider test felting wool blends prior to knitting. If the finished size is critical, consider taking time to knit and felt a swatch. Size may be a more important consideration in a laptop bag or cozy than a purse.
This schematic offers a basic plan for knitting a bag of any size, with several variations in strap designs, overall appearance, and function.
The gauge swatch:
Your gauge swatch should be knitted in stockinette, on the needle size you intend to use. Felted items are most often knitted on rather large needles, so depending upon your personal gauge and the yarn you’ve chosen, a needle between a 10 and a 15 may be appropriate. Felting is very forgiving, so this is very much a project that will allow you to use what you have. The bag will require a circular needle of an appropriate length, so consider that when swatching. Measure your finished gauge swatch carefully, and then felt as desired. Felting may be done in the washing machine or by hand, as you prefer; however, do felt your swatch the same way you intend to felt the final product. Block and measure your felted swatch. This will provide you with the gauge information you require to make a more exactly sized bag or cozy.
Beginning the bag:
Multiply the stitches per inch x desired unfelted width of the bag. If you have opted not to swatch, add approximately 30% to your desired felted width. This will provide you with the appropriate number of stitches to cast on. Use the cast on method you prefer, and knit all rows to the desired unfelted depth. This can be done by eye for a more casually designed bag, or by multiplying the rows per inch by the desired depth measurement.
If you’ve opted to use your circular needle to knit the flat bottom of the bag, there’s no need to move your stitches; however, if you are working on a straight needle move your stitches to an appropriately sized circular (or in the case of a very small project, double point needles). Pick up stitches along the vertical edges, one per row and along the horizontal edge, one per stitch, placing stitch markers at each corner. Knit in the round to the desired height.
Bag Design Options
While the bag can be knit straight, with no additional styling or shaping, this basic pattern will allow you to vary your bags with ease. This particular version holds my uninteresting change purse style wallet.
An A-Line Bag
Decrease before and after each stitch marker on alternate rows or every third row as you approach the top of the bag to the desired size.
Messenger Style Bag
After binding off one widthwise side of the bag and assigning stitches as needed for the desired handle, use remaining width of the bag to knit a flap in stockinette. Hand dyed yarns may pattern differently than they did in the body of the bag, but the end result is attractive. Buttonholes or loops can be added to the flap as desired. The length of the messenger style flap is purely an issue of personal preference.
The most basic handle for this type of felted bag is to bind off the front and back of the bag, leaving both side section stitches live. Simply knit one side section back and forth (you may wish to use garter or seed stitch in lieu of stockinette) to the desired length and graft with kitchener stitch or do an inside out three needle bind off on the other side of the bag. Stockinette stitch alone may roll, so stabilizing your strap or handle with a more stable stitch may be helpful.
Icord can make a charming alternative, either twisted or braided. Again, leave both side sections live and knit the desired number of icords. Braid or twist and graft to the other side after felting.
Do allow, when knitting the strap, a bit of space for stretch. Your felted handle will stretch with time, especially on a large bag, bearing heavy loads. Knit the finished strap a bit smaller than you would like for such bags.
Bind off all stitches and attach a purchased purse handle as desired.
Stripes may be added as desired.
Novelty yarns can be carried along with the wool, particularly for edging.
Bags like these may be a fine use for a playful or particularly creative handspun, if all the fibers are feltable. This can offer you the opportunity to create interesting beaded or otherwise embellished felted creations with no additional effort.
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