A Sweater Story…..Can You Help?

At the start of February last year I posted that I had had a go at felting a sweater with designs on turning it into a bag.  I had purchased it in a charity shop for the princely sum of £1.  It had a lovely cable pattern to it, and it reminded me of the sweaters my Mom used to knit for people for some extra money.  I remember being in awe that she could complete a sweater within a week,  not being a knitter I assume now that this is not really an awe inspiring thing after all……..the wonderful innocence of youth!  When they were finished she would put them under the seat cushions on the sofa for us to sit on and ‘press’.  She tried to teach me to knit but I don’t know whether it just didn’t sink in or I was too young to be bothered, I think it was probably the latter…….

The sweater went in on a 40 degree wash, just to be cautious, and it didn’t felt enough, so I did a second wash at 60, still not good enough, so it went in again at 90, luckily it had felted sufficiently at that point as I didn’t really have anywhere to go from there!

So then I had a felted sweater and I couldn’t figure out how to re-figure it into a bag shape.  Luckily I have a friend who is more of a sewer than me and she helped at this point, by cutting it in the correct places to maintain the pattern in a symmetrical way, and sewing it up using un-ravelled wool from the arms.  She also made a clever deep internal pocket by utilising one of the cuffs.  I am sure I would have just hacked at it randomly, she thinks deeper and in a more practical way than me.

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I wanted the bag to be an over the shoulder, sitting on your hip type of length and unfortunately the arms were of no use for this.  I came up with the idea of a bead/felted ball type of handle and sourced these lovely wooden beads online, and made forty felted balls, I think I used Corriedale wool.

BEADS AND BALLS

I had made the balls pretty tight, so it was a bit of a struggle to push a long, strong needle through them all, using wool salvaged from the sweater.  I didn’t line it as I wanted to see the cable pattern on the inside too.  Here is the outcome.

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Or I should say, it was the outcome for a short while…………I used it a couple of times then one day I had just arrived at a car park, I put the bag over my shoulder and SNAP! one of the lengths of wool sewing all the beads and balls together broke, and there I was scuttling around the car park trying to retrieve my wooden beads that were rolling in every direction! laugh? nearly!!

Now this is a sweater that has felted beautifully and I do want it to live life as a bag so Plan B is necessary.

I did like the felted balls with the addition of the beads.  However, if I am being really honest, the design didn’t sit the best on my shoulder……I really wanted a handle to compliment the soft, natural colour and pattern of the bag.

I thought maybe of producing a length of felt and encasing it in a pretty fabric, as I did here for my flower meadow bag that I made a while back.

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Or perhaps I could use a twisted cord such as these but in a much better colour.  These examples are white with a blue fleck, black and a nice cobalt blue.  Or maybe two twisted together for thickness ?

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If I could knit, one solution would be to buy more wool and create some handles that way,  but this is not an option unfortunately as I do not have the desire to learn.

Those are the only ideas that I have come up with this far, so it’s over to you please, do you have any bright ideas to make my ex-bag into a loved bag again?

What would you do?

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25 Responses to A Sweater Story…..Can You Help?

  1. nancywilder says:

    Hi
    That is a very pretty bag!
    What about a leather strap? You could get one online or maybe source one from another bag from a thrift store.
    For me, the straps have always been the hardest part of making a bag.
    I do like your felt strap idea. I’ve made 1/2 inch fat cords in felt and sewn them on too. They have pointy ends which extend a few inches beyond where attached.
    ~ Nancy

    • tracey2008 says:

      Thank you very much Nancy! A leather strap is a very good idea, especially if I source one from another bag as you suggested. That would make it even more of an up-cycled project! I have made felt ropes in the past but I haven’t thought of the pointy ends – nice! Thank you for your ideas.

  2. Antje says:

    Hi
    I love the various beautiful patterns on the bag, but I t doesn’t have a typical tight ‘cable’ stitch pattern so maybe this would be an opportunity.
    You could try making long ropes to the prefelted stage, ditto two strips (allowing for shrinkage). Use the ropes to create an impression of a cable stitch (plenty of designs online) on top of each of the strips, if necessary needle felt a little to hold the design in place. Then completely felt the strips.
    They could then be attached by sewing, again a pattern could be employed in a darker ‘shadow’ colour and even decorated with a large rustic type button as would have been used had the original been a jacket/cardigan.

    Good luck. Whatever you do I hope you will post the finished result.
    Antje

    • tracey2008 says:

      Thank you Antje, what a marvellous suggestion! You have definitely given me food for thought there. I had wondered about incorporating buttons. I have two very nice ceramic ones but maybe in the wrong colour. I actually have a piece of beech stem drying out right now as I was also thinking of making my own beech buttons at some point. These are sort of destined for a felted woodland bag I fancy making at some point.

  3. Ellen Greenberg says:

    I have a similar bag that I love with a brown leather handle. I got the handles at Goodwill where I often go just to use the handles/straps from the purses.

    On Sunday, February 18, 2018, feltingandfiberstudio wrote:

    > tracey2008 posted: “At the start of February last year I posted that I had > had a go at felting a sweater with designs on turning it into a bag. I > had purchased it in a charity shop for the princely sum of £1. It had a > lovely cable pattern to it, and it reminded me of the s” >

    • tracey2008 says:

      Thanks Ellen. Glad you have a bag that you love. I must look more carefully at charity shop bag handles in the future.

  4. Nice looking bag. If you still have the arms from the sweater you could cut them into strips, sew them together to make them long enough and then sew them into a tube for handles. I like the leather handles from a used purse too.

  5. linda says:

    Beautiful bag! I have made wet felted “snakes” and they work great for handles. I sew them on with strong thread and needle felt over that. Good luck.

  6. It’s a shame the bead handle broke – it looked so lovely with the softness of the bag.
    Perhaps make flat braid/plait(s) from 3 different colours of fabric?

  7. Debbie says:

    Search the local thrift shops for leather belts, handles from purses (as previously suggested), neckties, belts on other sweaters, suede or leather skirts. All make great straps for felted purses.if you use a necktie, consider creating a covered button for a closure to coordinate the strap.

    • tracey2008 says:

      Thank you Debbie, how very ingenious of you! I would never have thought of neckties or suede or leather skirts. I really need to open my mind – and eyes – when I am next in a charity (thrift) shop!

  8. Janet Morton says:

    I think your bag is fantastic and really liked the ball handles. Shame it broke. I would get several wool strands and plait them. Run a long cotton stitch through the length to hold sides flat and then felt the handle. Stitch on with a button as though its through a button hole. X

    • tracey2008 says:

      Thank you Janet that is so kind! Another great suggestion. I think I am coming round to some sort of plaiting combination. I don’t want anything too stark, and your idea would compliment the body really well. Thanks very much!

  9. Karen Lane says:

    Great bag Tracey! I would be inclined to go for a simple felted cord as there is a lot of pattern on the bag itself and it’s that which I would want to emphasise.

    • tracey2008 says:

      Thanks very much Karen! Yes I very much agree about keeping it simple. I have received a lot of lovely ideas from you all, I just need to try to fit it in when I am not making something else! If it turns out well (!) maybe I could post an update about it. I don’t think it would be a particularly long blog mind you, but maybe the Studio ladies wouldn’t mind.

    • Karen Lane says:

      I love to see finished work so count me in!

  10. Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

    Great recycling Tracey. I’m sorry your first attempt didn’t work out, it was beautiful. I’m not sure I have any suggestions, the only time I’ve made a felted bag I felted the strap in the bottom and sides for stability. I’m a shoulder bag person. But I’m sure you’ll figure out the handles it looks like you have some good suggestions..

    • tracey2008 says:

      Thanks Marilyn, yes it is a nice bag, it turned out really well. If I am going to a craft fair as a visitor I like to go with a hand made bag, you feel part of the team! I have had some great suggestions, I won’t be stuck for an idea anymore.

  11. ruthlane says:

    Great post Tracey and you got so many wonderful suggestions. I made a bag strap with a long strip of resist in the center and wool on both sides. Once partially felted, I took out the resist (left the ends dry and able to felt back in) and then felted it into the bag. The bag handle then felted down with the rest of the bag but was a flat strap like you see with leather handles. That way it isn’t as uncomfortable on your shoulder. I actually hate the feel of the felt cord handles as they dig into your shoulders.

    We’d love another post about the results of what you decided to do.

    • tracey2008 says:

      Thanks very much Ruth. Yes wonderful suggestions from the clever crafters on this forum! That is a great idea, I like that. I would have to sew the handles on and I am liking Janet’s idea of a faux buttonhole. Here’s a little secret – the bead handle I made just kept rolling off my shoulder, I was forever shifting it back on! 😉

  12. Beth says:

    Have just reread this post & wondered if I missed your final decision fo the handle! The bag is lovely.

    • tracey2008 says:

      Hi Beth, thanks very much, glad you like it. I am afraid that life took over and I still need to rescue this lovely bag, especially as the weather is improving and this is when I really enjoy using hand made bags.

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