I like to teach felt bag making to incorporate designs on the body of the bag. For this reason I make my bags inside out so that the designs remain fresh until the final shrinking takes place. The other reason for this is to eliminate any ‘welt’ on the outside fold of the bag if the fibres may not have been wrapped over the edge of the template tightly enough. If this happens the extra thickness on the ‘seam’ of the bag would be on the inside and therefore unseen.
Design your bag shape and cut the resist, which should be of a material that you can ‘feel’ through the wool layers. It should be 30% larger than the bag and will be the shape of the bag with the flap opened.
On bubble-wrap lay your resist and design using pre-felt, yarns, coloured fibres, remembering that you need to lay wool fibres on the resist first if you are using a fibre that does not felt, such as silk. Cover your design with a layer of fibre for the background. Cover with bubble-wrap and turn the resist over and repeat this but only take the fibres up to the opening of the bag.
Write two columns on paper, 1, 2 and 3 for each column marked Front and Back.
Lay your wool fibres in one layer on the side with flap, crossing the layer below, which was the background to your design. Leave an overhang of fibres in the direction you are laying (not necessary on the flap). Spray a small amount of felting solution in centre, cover with a very thin sheet of plastic pressing down in the centre to hold fibres in position and turn the resist over carefully. Wet the area under the overhang. Pull fibres around the resist tightly, using more solution if necessary. Fibres on this side laid in opposing direction remembering the overhang. Repeat as before.
Repeat this process on each side and mark off your numbers as you go. Make sure the fibre layers cross each other. On the front edge lay an additional layer for about 3-4 cms to strengthen the opening and repeat the process for the flap, crossing the fibres again to ensure the correct direction. If a handle is to be attached make this separately leaving the ends dry. These will be laid in position spreading the dry ends and crossing them with an opposing fibre layer.
Cover with second piece of bubble-wrap and begin to felt the bag starting with the edges.
Work the bag until the surface has become well felted. Roll up in the plastic in a bamboo mat or towel and roll 100 times in each direction. Repeat the process but without one of the sheets of plastic. Finally remove the plastic and roll as before until the resist buckles and pokes out from the top of the bag.
Remove resist and turn bag inside out. Roll the bag again as before but just in the towel. Make sure all edges are well felted and smooth. Cut the flap to suit. Throw bag onto a textured surface (towel) for 5 minutes and roll again. Bag can be rolled on itself to increase shrinkage making sure that all sides are rolled to keep the proportions correct. Wash well using very hot and then cold water. Roll up to extract water or spin on a spin cycle in washing machine. Leave to dry in the air.
Something firm but flexible for use as a template such as cardboard or thin foam underlay
Olive oil soap