Buttonhole Bag Before:
(Teacup is for scale.)
Blurry Buttonhole Bag After:
I saw a bag similar to this, but more Funky and Downtowny, at Downtown Yarns last week. Jen, one of Rita’s amazing employees, designs a lot of felted bags and teaches a class on felting (which of course I’ve never taken, being scrupulously self-taught and innocent of all knowledge). She happened to be working on the day I admired the bag. Grabbing a couple of skeins of Lambs Pride, I asked for the pattern. Jen rolled her eyes. Not in a snotty way. In a complimentary way, as if to say, ‘C’mon Kay, you’re up to winging this one.’ So she pointed out a few of its features, such as the handle: “The handle is, um, a big buttonhole.”
I love this bag because it stands up firmly and steadily on its rock-solid double-thickness bottom. Also because it’s so cute and satchely. It looks like the kind of thing you’d throw your keys and wallet into for a night at the movies or a casual dinner out, assuming I ever did either of those things, and assuming I could part with the giant Poppins-esque reticule that I call “purse”. It would also be great for a small knitting project. I intend to just look at it for a while.
Details: Lamb’s Pride Bulky, doubled (yes, DOUBLED) on No. 15 needles. You knit an oval bottom in garter stitch (starting with 3 stitches and increasing to 9, then knitting straight and decreasing at the other end when it’s about 20% longer than you want the bottom of the bag to end up). Then you pick up stitches all around the oval and knit in the round. After the first round, you do an increase row, in which you do ‘M1, k1, M1’ on both side edges of the bag. Then you knit a round, and then you do another increase row. Repeat these two rounds one more time (total increase of 12 sts). Knit straight for about 8 rounds. Then work a round in which you decrease 4 stitches by doing SSK, K1, K2tog at each of the sides. Knit a round straight and then repeat the decrease round, for a total decrease of 8 sts. Knit 2 more rounds straight. Then make a centered buttonhole that is 9 stitches wide, by binding off 9 stitches in the center of each side of the bag (between the shaped edges) and then on the next round, casting on 9 stitches over the ones you bound off. Knit two more rounds and bind off the whole thing. Change the colors when you feel like it. The whole thing takes about 5 minutes. OK, rilly it took me 2-3 hours one evening while chatting at book club and watching t.v. Doubling this yarn makes you fly through the skein, though.
The bags in the store were not quite as felted; you could see the fuzzy stitches, which looked cute but still made for a dense felted fabric. I felted mine a bit more, so that you see vague vertical lines where the stitches are, but can’t make out the stitches. For blocking, I followed Norma’s excellent tip of loosely placing rolled-up washcloths inside the bag to shape it and to absorb the moisture overnight. I blasted it with a few shots of steam from Rowenta the Great, and went to bed. The next morning, I awoke to a new day and a standalone mini-valise. I will categorically deny that I borrowed Hubby’s razor to shave off some excess fuzz. That is a damnable lie, I tell you!
My philosophy of felting is that I never felt anything that I am worried about shrinking too much. I felt it until I like the fabric, and don’t care what size it ends up. This makes it fun and stress-free. Someday, perhaps in the Felting Season of 2006, I might try those fabby Fiber Trends clogs that I’ve seen by the dozen out there on the blogs. I like the idea of that double sole, and they look so Alpine.
Ya-hoo! Thanks, Jen, for rolling your eyes at me in that friendly way. I love this bag.