Crochet - Wet Felted Shoulder Bag

created Nov 10, 2019

After years of pondering and wanting, I finally have my own, homemade, cross-body shoulder bag that I can use for birdwatching, travel, etc. It's smaller than I want, but that's okay. It's good enough for birdwatching, and I can make more. I'd like to make one that's a little larger.

I began this project on Mar 30, 2019. I crocheted off and on. More off than on. Then I wet-felted the pieces in the washing machine in the late summer. I considered using rivets to attach the strap to the bag, but that failed. I probably need a better rivet system than the cheap kit that I bought.

I wound up hand stitching the strap to the sides of the bag. That was a long, tiring process, probably because of the two layers of wet-felted wool, a dull needle, and the 30-pound Berkley braided fishing line. And I positioned the strap at the bottom of each side of the bag. I probably only needed to place the strap one or two inches down each side. And in the future, space the stitching further apart. My right hand was inflamed with soreness and stiffness after stitching the strap to the bag.

Shoulder bag resting flat on the table.

Viewing down in the bag while it's standing upright.

Relative size compared to scarves, cowls, and shawls.

Raw notes

These are my raw notes that I recorded in a notebook throughout the process. The notes have been lightly edited.

Crochet and wet felt wool cross-body shoulder bag.

Dimensions of green medic canvas bag that I bought many years ago from the Army-Navy surplus store. I have used this bag a lot for travel.

Need to allow for shrinkage of 10 to 30 percent. Will machine felt in washing machine.

My Chromebook dimensions: 10.25 in x 7.0 in x 0.5 in.

I think that I'll crochet 12 x 10 x 3 and see how much it shrinks. If it ends up 11 x 9 x 2 after shrinking (felting), that will be fine.

I will crochet rectangles and stitch pieces together. Will this shrink differently compared to crocheting the rectangle in the round all as one piece with no seams? I tried this recently, but I ripped out. The sides and ends wound up uneven and warped. I added too many stitches when crocheting around the rectangle swatch.

Basically seamless is crocheting a flat rectangle piece. Then added stitches to one corner and crocheting around all four sides of the rectangle piece with multiple stitches in each corner. This will create a little wall. Then it's simply crocheting one stitch in every stitch, going around the rectangle basket. This causes the sides to go up or for walls to form. It could be a basket, except for a shoulder bag, I would stop going around at some point and along one long side, I would crochet back and forth to make the front flap. Seamless rectangle or at least oblong-shaped bag. The only seams would be the addition of the ears added to the top of each side.

Do the stitched together rectangle pieces provide more strength than crocheting as one piece? Seems like it would, but maybe it does not matter, since the bag will be wet-felted. Seams might be stronger if not wet felted. The bigger question might be whether a seamed bag shrinks differently than a seamless bag.

Would the one piece, seamless bag shrink more evenly? Seems like it might. I wonder if seams impact felting consistency. That's why this first time is a learning experience.

Hook that I will use: I / 9 / 5.5 mm

Yarn: Bartlett from Maine. I bought it in the summer of 2015, during our vacation in Maine. I bought two skeins. One was a medium grey color, and the other was a medium green color. Both seem a bit tweedy. I no longer have the labels, but I remember the labels describing the yarn as Aran weight. When I checked the Bartlett website, I don't see any yarn with that description. The yarn diameter seems slightly larger than a size 4 yarn. It's a tougher wool too. It's not soft, but it should be durable, which is good for a bag. And it was inexpensive yarn. I think that each skein contained over 200 yards of yarn.

I started by crocheting the bottom or the base of the bag.

Chained 40 = 12.0 to 12.5 inches long, depending upon stretching force.

SC into 2nd ch from hook and SC across to end, which meant that I made 39 SC stitches.

After one row of SC, it measured 12.5 inches long.

After second row, it measured 13.25 inches. Odd. This has always been annoying aspect of my crocheting. Maybe I need to switch to a different method for chaining. This is too long for this first time.

My other canvas bag measures: 10.0 x 7.5 x 4.0 inches.

I started over with my base triangle.

CH 32 = 9.25 to 9.50 inches long. 31 SC stitches in the first row. After 3 rows, it was 10.50 inches long.

Rows crocheted for the base or bottom rectangle = 9. The rectangle measured 10.25 x 2.75 inches.

Number 2 - 9 rows - 10.0 x 2.5 inches.

Number 3 - 9 rows

Front - approx 27 rows is the goal - after 27 rows: 10.0 to 10.25 inches wide and 7.50 to 7.75 inches tall.

For the back that was big enough to also cover the top and be the front flap, I added button loops for the front flap.

For this rectangle, since it was a CH 32 which meant making 31 SC stitches per row, followed by a CH 1 to start each row, then I did the following for the two button loops.

I made 9 SC stitches, then I chained 7 and skipped one stitch, then I made 11 SC stitches, then I chained 7 and skipped one stitch, and then I made 9 SC stitches.

On the next row, I made one SC into each stitch as usual, except when I came to the loop where I made 7 SC stitches into each loop. This will depend upon the size of the buttons that will be attached to the bag.

Then I seamed together all rectangles with some restarts, due to alignment issues. I used the whip stitch. I would pull off a length of yarn that was two to three times as long as the length of the rectangles being seamed together.

Flap too long for some reason. All way down to bottom of front panel. Unraveled and removed 3 to 3.5inches of rows. Redid the button loops, of course.

Sat, Jul 13, 2019 Pre-wet felt measurements:

Measured seam to seam.

For wet felting, I used instructions mentioned on page 95 of the book "Crochetopedia."

Actual: I used Dawn dish soap because that's what we had on hand. I added two small pairs of blue jeans that I bought at the Goodwill. I placed the crocheted bag into a zippered fine mesh bag.

After two wet feltings:

By my calculations, the bag shrank 15 to 20 percent after two wet feltings.

The seams disappeared after two wet feltings.

I'd like to wet felt one to two more times, but the bag would end up being too small for what I want for now.

After two wet feltings, I can still barely see the SC stitch pattern. With one or two more wet felting processes, then the wool would probably smooth out to the point that the stitch pattern could not be seen.

The mesh bag was probably pointless, since someone, the bag removed itself from the mesh bag. I suppose the agitation unzipped the bag.

Now to the strap.

Goal after wet felting: strap should be approx 1.5 to 2.0 inches wide. I think that's probably a decent size. For the length post wet felting, to make the the bag rest at my hip bone, the strap should probably be 50 to 55 inches long. Need to fasten the strap down the side a few inches, therefore that length needs to be included in the overall length. Will probably have 3 to 4 inches down the side, which means have 7 to 8 inches of additional length to play with.

Plan for strap dimensions before wet felting.

Plan to do two wet felts.

For the strap, I chained 230. Need to be approx 60 inches long post wet fetling.

Actual strap dimensions after crocheting and before wet felting:

I ran out of yarn. Not enough for one more row to make strap approx 2.0 inches wide.

After first wet felting, the strap was approx 80 inches long, which did not make sense. It got longer.

After second wet felting for the strap:

After 3rd wet felting:

Strap curled toward the chain row, I think. Banana curve. The strap did not shrink length-wise, which surprised me. I crocheted the strap rows length-wise.

Next time, I should crochet a strap length of 60 to 64 inches long. I would like to have the strap to be 50 to 52 inches long when measured from the top of one side of the bag to the top of the other side. Of course, I would need to fasten the strap at least 4 inches down on each side of the bag.

Stitching strap to the bag:

I finally stitched the strap to the bag late at night and early in the morning of Sat-Sun, Nov 9-10, 2019. Deb and I attended the Ohio Young Birders Conference on Nov 9, which was held at the Toledo Zoo. The conference was magnificent and inspiring. Deb and I attended a conference-related field trip stroll at Oak Openings Metropark on Sun, Nov 10. I used my new shoulder bag to hold a field guide and other items.

Since the strap was too long even with stitching the strap along the entirety of both sides of the bag, I used scissors to cut off a chunk of the strap. Since it was wet-felted, it would not unravel. Plus, I was going to stitch the strap to the bag.

Earlier in the fall, I tried to use a cheap rivet set to fasten the strap to the bag, but that feeble attempt failed miserably. I would probably need a much nicer system or method for using small rivets.

Even after cutting a piece off a piece of the strap, I still attached the strap to the bottom of each side of the bag. I'm guessing that in the future, I probably only need to stitch the strap down the side of the bag about 1 or 2 inches. I don't need to stitch the strap 4 to 7 inches down each side of the bag.

I used a needle and 30-pound Berkley braided fishing line to hand-stitch the strap to the bag. I made my stitches very close together. And in the future, I probably could get away with spacing the stitches 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch apart. The tight stitching that I made this time made my hand very sore. The needle was not super sharp. The braided fishing line might be too thick for this application. Then obviously, I had to stitch through two thick layers of wet felted wool.

After attaching the strap, I stitched on the flattish, wooden buttons that I purchased at the yarn store in Gladwin, MI.

For a first attempt, the shoulder bag looks and functions fine.