Thursday, February 16, 2012

Free Felted Purse Tutorial

Felted Purse with Sunflower Pin.
Felted purses are quick and easy...almost instant gratification!  They  require ZERO savvy with a sewing machine and are virtually failure proof.  Accordingly, it was the perfect project for the Newbie Felters that gathered at our last Fiber Guild meeting.
The ladies in attendance shared the felting tables and worked out a synchronized rolling routine that had us all laughing....particularly when the shortest amongst us looked down and noticed that her ample chest was water soaked from the endeavor.    It seems that she had colored her hair that day and it was a "radical-for-her" look that had her husband teasing her about looking younger. Her plan was to go home and tell him that she had entered a wet T-Shirt contest.  You go, girl!
Hmmmm...who had the wet T-Shirt?  I'll never tell!
The evening was filled with fun, silliness, food, and a wee bit of wine.  The ladies were so pleased with their crafty creations that I thought I would share the tutorial with you! 

Basic Felted Purse Tutorial:
Materials List:
Bath Towel
Wool Roving/Wool Top  (I used Merino bits and pieces that I had laying around the studio)
Silk Top for embellishment
Bubble Wrap/Felting Mat (I used a piece of Pool Solar Cover that I cut to size)
Pool Noodle (Yup...a pool noodle.  I cut mine in half.)
Piece of Netting (I buy Toile by the bolt from JoAnne's using my 40% off coupon)
Plastic bag (a gallon size zip lock baggie will do the trick)
Olive Oil Soap Solution (I cut up a bar of Kiss My Face Olive Oil Soap,  put it into a jug, pour 1/2 gallon of boiling water into the jug and shake.  Voila!) 
An empty plastic bottle (I use a vintage glass bottle with holes punched into the lid, but a gatorade bottle is perfect, too.) 
Three ties (I used three strips of an old cotton shirt.  Old knee highs will work equally well.)

Ready?  Let's go!

Put your towel on the work table.   l use a high-ish table to make my back happy.  It is easy to convert a folding table into a felting table.  I cut some PVC pipe into 12 inch sections and when I am ready to felt I simply put the PVC risers on the table legs----cheap and easy!    Not that industrious?  No worries....your kitchen counter is probably the perfect height.  Put the bubble wrap on the towel, bubble side up.  Fill your bottle 2/3 of the way with hot water, and then add the soap solution to the top.

Now the fun starts!

1.  Pick up the wool top and lay the end of it down on the top left edge of the bubble wrap.  Put one hand on the wool to secure it and gently pull off tufts of fiber with your other hand.  If it is difficult to pull, then move your hands further apart. The wool should separate gently and easily…no major effort should be expended!   This is called “Shingling.”  The wool will shrink by about a third, so consider this shrinkage when determining the size of your purse.  The back of this layer is important as it will form the back of the purse as well as the purse flap, so make it real purty.
 [Note:  a bit about the felting process.....wool fibers are protein fibers.  They have teeny tiny barbs that you cannot see with the naked eye.  When the fibers get wet, they expand, and as we agitate the fibers using hand pressure, the barbs will hook up with one another, forming a durable fabric.  It is like'll see!]

2.  Lay down a second layer of fiber using the shingle method.  The second layer should run perpendicular to the first.  Now lay down a third layer, perpendicular to the second.    Your should have a fluffy bit of fibery goodness staring up from the bubble wrap.   Make sure that you do not see any "bald spots."  Bald husbands are acceptable, bald purses are not.   Do not extend the fiber over the bubble wrap.  This is one time where it is better NOT to color outside of the lines.
Third layer--puffy with no bald spots
Edges of fiber should be baggie free!
3.  You now have the basis for the back of the purse and the purse flap.  It is time to form the front of the purse.  The challenge is to create the purse Front without permitting the purse front to felt into the purse Back, which would leave you with a thick piece of felt but no purse.  This is where the plastic bag comes in.   You will use the baggie to create a resist, which will serve as a barrier between the two layers.   In the picture at left I taped two bags together to get the size needed.
Make sure the top of the bag is peeking out!
4.  Create three shingle layers of fiber, as described in Steps 1 and 2, covering the sides and bottom of the baggie.  It is important to leave the edges "baggie free" so that the fiber will seam together, serving to adhere the Front of the purse to the Back of the purse.  Be certain to leave the top of the baggie peeking out; otherwise you will wind up sealing the plastic bag inside the felted fibers, lost forever in a fibery version of Edgar Allan Poe's  "The Tell-Tale Heart."   This is the time to add any silk embellishment for additional sheen.     Remember that silk will not needs wool to serve as glue.  If you pile on too much silk it will fall off.  A little silk goes a long way.
5.  Cover the puffy pile with the netting and sprinkle liberally with warm, soapy water.  Press down on the fibers in an effort to push the water throughout the fibers.  Do not rub or pat.  Simply press down firmly to help the water migrate through the fibers.  The plastic resist will impede the process so feel free to cheat a little by gently lifting up the resist to add additional water.
I needed my right hand for the camera....Pretend the micky hand is mine.

Create a fiber jelly roll.
6.   Once the fiber has been fully wet down, it is time for the physical labor to begin.  Pick up the pool noodle and wrap up the entire project--bubble wrap, fiber, netting, pool noodle--like you would a jelly roll.  Secure with the ties. 

Edges are neatly tucked over.
7.Roll the bundle gently back and forth 100 times with light pressure.  Time to take a peak!  Unwrap the roll and gently pull the toile netting away.  The wool might tend to stick to the worries, just pull it off.  You are in charge.  Take a minute to smooth out any creases that may have developed and fix any stray fibers that have gotten out of place.  See how the colors are starting to blend together?  M'mmmmm....I usually feel kind of dreamy and color drunk at this point in the 'bout you?

 8.  Once you are satisfied with the positioning of the fibers, cover them with the netting, role the bundle, and secure with ties.  Roll another 100 times, using a bit more pressure this round.    If you are working at a low table, your back is probably starting to really hurt about now.  Move to the kitchen counter!
9.  Unwrap the package and take another look.  Felt shrinks in the direction that it is rolled so you will notice that while the purse is getting shorter, it is not getting narrower.  Wrap up the package from the side this time and roll 100 more times, exerting lots of pressure.    Unroll the package and re-roll from the other side.  Do another 100 rolls, continuing to exert a lot of pressure.  Tired yet?  We are almost done! 

Rub briskly with your fingertips

10.  The fiber should look pretty solid at this point but you still need to go through one more step---Fulling.  “Fulling” refers to the process by which you agitate the felt to shrink it.  The agitation forces the fibers to become more entangled, compressing them and forcing out the air between them.  This will cause the fabric to shrink and become stronger.  Start the fulling process by rubbing the material against the bubble wrap.  Squeeze out the excess water and throw the fiber against the bubble wrap.  You will hear a satisfying "thud" and relieve some stress.  I told you this was fun!

11.  Rinse out the soapy water and take a look at what you have created!
Ooooh!  Ahhhh! 

 12.  Considering turning the purse inside will have a very different look.
Wow!  What a difference!

Stay tuned---I will be adding handles, a pocket, and some sparkly Swarovski embellishments in the coming weeks.  Feel free to shoot me an email with any questions.

Crafting is uncomplicated joy---pass it on!


  1. I love your Tutorials Pat! So inspiring, I look forward to trying it.

    1. Thank you! I am determined to follow your lead and master the spinning wheel that stares at me balefully from the corner of the sun room. What can I say? It intimidates me....

  2. Thanks so much! It looks like a swell afternoon of play for another day! Hugs Galore! Becki

    1. You are so very welcome! Please, please, PUHLEASE send pics if you give it a go. It is always so much fun to peek!

  3. This blog is really nice and is really informative.

  4. Wow, I'm definitely color drunk right now. Those are my colors!!!! I love the look of this. I think I need to add it to my list of things to learn this year!

    1. Shirley...we have a love of beads and bread in common, so it is probably inevitable that we add felting to the mix!

  5. Pat, you were wearing the cutest green sweater/jacket on the swarovski tape. I wish you would give a tutorial those of us that are somewhat new to felting, how to do a sweater/jacket. I have somewhat of an idea, I just can't quite figure it out completely. It was so beautiful.

  6. Hi, was thrilled to have found you on Pinterest this morning and the felted purse tutorial. It is so helpful and encouraging I really want to make one. Would you be able to tell me where part two is for the handle and finishing it with the sunflower, etc? Thank you so much your work is absolutely stunning!

  7. I've had a lot of fun today making this. My question is when do you take the plastic bag out before you full or after?

  8. What did you use for the strap? It looks crocheted, but what fiber? Very cute bag.

  9. I love this. I have been wanting to get back into felting and this has inspired. Thanks. Have you considered videoing? The plastic bag? Do you put the wool IN the bag or on top?

  10. I love this. I have been wanting to get back into felting and this has inspired. Thanks. Have you considered videoing? The plastic bag? Do you put the wool IN the bag or on top?