Felting is paradoxical.
Really, there's no other word for a process that can cause both joy and feelings of depression in your average crafter. How may times have we, as a social subset, threatened death on our washing machine for shrinking a piece of work to Barbiesize when all we wanted to do was freshen it up a little?
But, on the flip side, we have the utter happiness that comes from a well - and intentionally - felted piece.
That's what I'm attempting to do here.
I procured a set of children's clothes at my local St. Vincent De Paul shop. The lable says they're pure merino lambswool, but since they're far from soft, I reckon it's probably pure merino grannywool. But, not to worry, it's still €8 well spent, so far.
As you can see, I have cut open all the seams, to give me the biggest area possible. This will be different for different clothes. At this stage, your best bet is to stare at the jigsaw before you for as long as you can stand it, tetrising them together to see which combination would work best with minimal trimming. Remember: Measure seven times, cut once.
Once you have your measurements written down, clothes trimmed and labelled, get out the old sewing machine (in my case, it actually IS quite old - it's a 1970's model) and sew securely. Or, better yet, find a nice, matching (or interestingly contrasting) woolen yarn, and use that as a design feature, to be felted along with your bag. I'm using self-dyed homespun that's been knocking around for ages. I have no idea if the colour will stick on the yarn, but sure, that's the joy of homecraft - always a mystery.
I was lucky with the shape of these children's clothes. I sewed the hem of the front and back pieces together, to make one long continuous strip, trimmed a few bits off to smooth it out a little, and then added the sleeves as sides of the bag, the curve of the shoulders at the bottom, to make a nice roundy bag. It looks quite big at the moment, but that will hopefully change when I have it felted.
So! after 2 washes in my front-loading machine, the first with a shampoo bottle full of water (to agitate the fabric), a pair of jeans ('cause they needed a wash...) and a 60 degree wash; the second with the bottle still in, no jeans, washing up liquid and a 90 degree wash, the bag has felted down nicely. The yarn... did no stay that perfect shade of pink, however.
I believe a top-loader, with washing up liquid and a tennis ball to agitate is a much more efficient felter, but I'm not lucky enough to have that.
The small mirrors that had been all over parts of these garmets have been left sewn where they started (I have a bit of a laissez faire attitude to things like that), and are now interestingly, on the bottom of the bag.
In a day or two, I'll be tidying this up, adding embellishments with the unused, felted fabric, adding a strap, and will spend time deciding how to line it, and what pockets to install.