Sunday, June 24, 2007

She Felt Fine, I Felt Dreadful!

Oh I am furious! And I'm depressed. Yes you can be both at the same time. Sort of raging around the place while simultaneously trying to hide in a corner with your arms over your head. My lower lip is stuck out so far you could range several pots of strawberry jam on it. Whatever made me think of trying that French Market Bag? Whatever made me think felting was comparatively simple? Oh woe, woe, and B*S*T and D*M*N!

It doesn't help, IT. DOES.NOT.HELP that darling Lene has posted pictures of her second fabulous FMG, even lovelier than the first. With lining AND with embroidered butterflies. It's so lovely that you'd snatch it up in a heartbeat and run off with it. Is she doing this solely and specifically to upset me, wreck my weekend and quite possibly the rest of my life? Possibly not. Now that I force myself to consider rationally, I realise that she has no way of knowing how appallingly my own attempt turned out. But she should have. She should have known that by posting the perfect result, she was condemning SOME of us to everlasting torments of resentment and regret.

I wouldn't mind, but her bag, pre-felting, looked extraordinarily like mine. Here's my hideous UFO:

Now go over and look at hers. Go on, I'll hang around here glowering and muttering under my breath.

See? Almost identical, isn't it? But that, alas, is where they parted company. You saw, I presume, how hers turned out.

Here's my poor little tragedy.

OK, ok, you can stop laughing now. Of course this bag did suffer from refrying, being twice brewed, even bis-cuit, if you're a Francophile. The first time round I used what I thought was a rather handy little kit I discovered in the same shop where I found the tiny sock knitting machine.

I hadn't come across these before (can someone enlighten me as to their common use?) but I immediately thought they'd be rather handy for felting, in that they would be bound to provide some additional friction. I accordingly packed the voluminous knitted balloon into the mesh bag, added the four plastic balls, and shoved it into the wash.

Well, it worked for some bits of the bag. Trouble was, it didn't work evenly or throughout. Because the bag was slightly compressed, parts of it felted together and the bits thereby tucked out of sight and out of mind didn't felt at all, whilst the outer bits most certainly did - and how. I managed to ease most of the stuck sections apart - only had to repair one small bit that got ripped through over-zealous separating - and then there was nothing to do but toss the poor victim back into the next washload. Nothing to lose anyway, that's for sure.

And you have seen the result.

I was kind to it. I hung it up nicely to dry out, and talked consolingly to it. I told it that not everybody was made the same, and it would be loved and cared for just as if it were the prettiest little Finnish embroidered bag. So I lied. What would you have done?

La Princesse Natasha de St. Petersburg (who is so tiny she is almost one of the original sleeve Pekingeses) said she thought it would do very well for those occasions upon which she left her yurt and required a palanquin to convey her to the best shops. But she would like some embroidery upon the outer sides, please. Preferably butterflies.

Et tu Tasha?

Speak to me no more of felting. The iron has entered Celtic Memory's soul. Never again. So much work, so much effort, so much anticipation - for this? No, no, let us close the subject.

This morning a new resolution was adopted. It occurred to me that apart from socks there was a singular absence from my wardrobe of any items of a home knitted nature. And this when I had been knitting for more decades than I care to remember. So where are all the results? (Look in the WIP basket, I hear the shrieks, all right, all right, if you're so clever, how's your own WIP basket doing?)

From now on, it was decided, projects would be selected under the following strict criteria:

One: Will this suit me? (Forget how cute it looks on the model in the magazine, will it suit me?) If there is a shadow of doubt, then forget it.

Two: Can I imagine seven different occasions when I might wear it? Again, if relying on girlish dreams of being invited to the New Year's Eve Ball in Vienna, or for cocktails at Harry's Bar, then forget it. You gotta be able to wear it anywhere, get that?

Three: Is this a key item which has been missing from my wardrobe? Is it the essential I don't have? (Have I ever thought that carefully about anything, let alone what I wear?)

With these criteria in mind, I sat down to work out what I tended to look for most frequently, and what came up, surprisingly enough, was some sort of lightweight sweater that could be pulled on first thing in the morning and worn all day if elegance was not demanded. It would have to have:

a) A wide loose neck for ease of pulling on. Struggles at an early hour are aggravating.

b) Pockets - can't survive without them. (And why designers think women don't need pockets I can never understand. In trousers particularly. Men, yes, they get lots of them, but women - zilch. OK, so we have handbags, but handbags aren't always a good idea - like in the red light district of Ulan Bator, for example.)

c) Extreme washability - with three dogs, that's a given. Even if they only get one cuddle each per day, plus one snatching up out of a fight/food bowl row/toy confrontation, that's quite a lot of doggy smell, not to mention hair.

Looked as though what I needed was some sort of smock thing. Except that smocks are too darn twee, and also act like strait-jackets when you wriggle into them. Impossible to get out of. So I'm designing my own Celtic Memory gansey-smock-thingy.

Here's the back. I made it in that nice denim cotton slub which Peg used for her lovely top, but I wanted quick gratification so I used it double on a 6.5mm Colonial Rosewood circular (the make of needle isn't relevant, I know, but it's so nice to work with, so smooth and warm in the hands, that I thought I'd mention it). Went a bit mad with patterning on the yoke, in the Guernsey style (sort of warming up for another attack on Starmore sometime soon, when I can get someone courageous enough to knit along with me on Eriskay). There will be slits at the side, in true gansey style, and the front will have a slit in the yoke. I might put on a squared collar to add to the smock look. The idea is that this will be the most useful and used item in my wardrobe, able to withstand muddy doglets, gardening, cooking, and constant laundering. More to come on this one!

(Yes, I realise it's a new project. But I'm using stash, and it's an essential for my wardrobe. Who knows the provisos and exceptions on New Projects as laid down in the Kashmir Knitting Summit? Angeluna? Dez? Isn't there an entry about 'essential items without which the knitter cannot survive'? Or something?)

Somebody (was it you, Pacalaga?) raised a doubtful query as to whether I was really knitting Pomatomus at the Arctic Circle. Shame upon you, Pacalaga (I know perfectly well it was you, I was just being tactful up there, and giving you time to own up). Here, you doubting Thomasina, is proof positive that the lovely Pomatomus is indeed on the needles.

This really is a beautiful pattern. Mad about it. Want to make more and more and more pairs. This pattern is to me what Monkey apparently is to everybody else.

And just to show I do wear my FOs:

here are the Mad Bluebell Dance seen only this morning, while wearer was knitting on the denim smock thingy and simultaneously meting out Sophy's daily dose of wuv. I love this Bluebell colourway from Silkwood - got it from Gill at the Woolly Workshop.

To clear the head, and remove any - any - memory of felting, took Sophy out for a walk this afternoon, near Inchigeelagh, a few miles from home. We parked the car and walked down a grassy lane towards the ford across the river.

They're very atmospheric, these old fords. You can almost hear the creaking of carts and the splash of hooves and shouts of the carters urging their teams across the swiftly flowing water.

It's a surprise ford too, this one near Inchigeelagh, because when you get right down to the bank -

- you discover that there is a castle on the other side.

A tower house, to be more accurate: this is Ballynacarriga, or 'the settlement on the high rock', which is a fairly accurate description.

Actually there is a footbridge across the river, which is just as well, since it is quite deep at this point.

The lane on the other side, where the trees meet overhead, and last year's leaves lie undisturbed on the ground, is peaceful with a car a rare occurrence. Perfect for wandering with a small dog and a free mind.

You get nice views of Ballynacarriga from this side too

and there are gates to lean on and meadows to gaze at. Perfect for unwinding.

(and for forgetting felting disasters.)

Will you STOP remembering that? Banish it from your mind. NOW!

(Maybe if I asked Lene for advice?)

No! Nobody must know of this disgrace!

(Oh. OK. Right so.)


(All the same, though...)


Anonymous said...

OH! JO!!!!!!!
How funny! Felting is a strange thing. I knit a bag.....I "doctored" a pattern to suit myself......and it was cute, until I felted it!!
It's not a purse at all.....more a bowl with a strange handle!! LOL!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I feel your pain!
I knit a pair of the Fiber Trends felted clogs for myself. Finished them beautifully with the double sole sewn on and the rolled top edge in a 2nd color. All made from recycled wool from thrift store sweaters. I was so proud. I loved the color. I washed them... and washed them...

And found out that just because they put "hand wash, lay flat to dry" on the label does not mean that the wool is not SUPERWASH.

I laughed. But it hurt.

I think you should embroider little Jolly Rogers all over it, line it in black and call it the Pirate bag. (and I saw the gorgeous market bag with little butterflies just before I came to visit you. I had dreams of making that bag, but I don't think I could do it now. My heart would be broken before I even began.)

Ruth said...

Piffle to pfelting!

where you live is soooo lovely that you do not need a pfelted bag!

pacalaga said...

Jo, dear, yes, it was me, and now that you post a close up I can see the diagonals in the pattern, and they were confusing me. I do apologize, most abjectly. ;-)
Also, I think your felting issue was the wool. Clearly it was the wool. And also the creepy little felting balls. I don't know what those are supposed to be, but clearly they mangled your work and should be tossed in the heap at once. Don't give up on the felting until you try some good felting wool. I don't know what Lene would recommend, but 'round these parts, many use Cascade 220. I made two little Sophie bags and they felted nicely, when thrown in the washer on HOT with DH's jeans. (Not mine, heavens no - my jeans shrink enough without help, thanks. It must be shrinkage, otherwise why don't they fit anymore?)

pacalaga said...

I meant to say, the bags were placed, one at a time, in a zippered pillowcase and thrown in the wash with DH's jeans...

LaurieM said...

While it's wet, you must ruthlessly shape the thing to suit your purpose.

Even Anne of Green Gables (she whom you quoted "the iron has entered my soul") was known to give someone, or something a second chance.

Thank you for the lovely pictures. It looks like you had a lovely walk. Are you relaxed now? Still pouty?

Try wetting your bag and ruthlessly, viciously shaping it. Stuff it full of plastic bags and force it to stay the way you want it. What have you got to loose?

Lion's Paw said...

Gather up your strength and pick up that poor French Market bag and pop it right bag in the washer with a pair of jeans. (forget the little balls) wash it one more time. And then when it comes out -- tug and pull on it HARD. Find a box or bowl or other object to stretch the bag over and it will smooth out. Don't give up!

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

Jo, Jo! I think the bag might have been too small and did you stay in the laundry room? Felting is not for the weak of heart me thinks!
I am loving the gansey in the blue slubbed denim!

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

Me again, Jo! I mean the bag you put the knitting in may have been too small and I would leave those little 'balls' on the top shelf where only giants could reach them!!
As pacalaga said, it may have been the wool you used!!
Blame it on something dear, but not on yourself!

Ronni said...

Lovely gansey-esque sweater! I need something like that too. I've only got the one dog but she can reach the shoulders without jumping much (if at all) so washable is good.

I'm sorry about the felted bag. I wouldn't give up quite yet either. Everyone I know who has felted has said the same thing about shaping it after it is felted. I'm working on the French Market bag myself. When I get it finished (which will take me much longer than it did you) I'll see if I have the same problem I guess.

As for those laundry balls, I think they might be the ones that are supposed to be used instead of soap. According to "The Straight Dope" they are unlikely to work for that purpose though. I've also seen something similar that was advertised as to be used instead of fabric softener sheets in the dryer. The idea being that the balls would keep the clothes soft. My clothes have never once come out of the dryer hard though.

Angeluna said...

Split my sides laughing!!! I should have warned you when I saw the yarn you were using, it didn't look promising. It was white, white doesn't felt. First, I think you need to refelt, not in the bag, no balls, just a pair or two of jeans. You can also dunk it in cold water when you first take it out to shock it, more felting. Then take it out, shape it and pack it with something that will hold its shape. Bags of beans that you put inside plastic bags, baloons, inner tubes, anything that will mold and hold it. Then, if that doesn't work well, once your fabric is felted, you can cut and stitch it and reshape it.

Next time, choose a yarn that you know felts well. Cascade 220, KP Wool of the Andes, Elann's Peruvian Highland. Fleece Artist Kid Aran felts like a dream, like cast iron. Several other tried and true yarns out there. And for example, I would hesitate to mix two different brands as they can felt very differently and cause you grief. Double the worsted weight on big needles. If in doubt, felt a test swatch. And stay on top of it. Check every 5-10 minutes to see where you are. I go from naught to heavy felt in about 10 min. on my clogs, sometimes 12. Any more time than that and they would become too short. Depends on your water temperature, your yarn, your machine, is it a full moon?

I count myself lucky, felting has always been magic for me. But I am very picky as to the yarn I use. Those Fiber Trends clogs have always been spectacular. Don't swear off felting, just keep some rules in mind, no white yarn, no superwash, check constantly. You will have a good experience next time.

Love your denim jumper. Love your Pomatomus. Walking in the woods with rivers and castles and a small dog? Life is good.

Anonymous said...

I felted for the first time recently. It came out OKish, not quite OK, but OKish. ;) I think my washing machine was on an extreme cycle or something. Water was too hot, spin cycle to spinny. You could say that mine was overfelted. Hopefully you haven't given up - I'm game to try again!

Lene said...

Oh Jo, I'm sorry. We will talk about this sometime later --- maybe? Much later, when you are healed.
You list sounds like mine, the very first post of Dances with Wool said that WEAR THY KNITTING... and its like when I wrote them down, I right away forgot about that. If it makes you feel better, there is no way to wear a is useless.

Lynn said...

And further thoughts on felting: I'm thinking that the others are right, and that the third time's a charm. You could also take perle cotton and run gathers through the bag or pre-smock it and then tidy it with lovely embroidery wool or silk. Me? I'd embroider the Green Man's face on there and call it a design feature.

White yarn doesn't felt? White fleece sure does: I made several purses with white batts, 20 years ago. I wonder why the difference, and I bow to Angeluna's experience.

Roggey said...

Oh you poor thing - the disappointment must be the worse of it. Can you cut it apart and sew up in another style of bag?

Anonymous said...

Rarely-commenting lurker... Ok, despite never doing any felting, I've read a lot about it [g]. Books, articles, and advice from places like the rec.crafts.yarns.textiles newsgroup. Distilled wisdom:

White yarn from commercial companies tends not to felt because they use chemicals on the wool to make it really, really white, instead of the natural cream. That's why the colored yarns felt better. They haven't been subjected to those chemicals. There are some white yarns out there that will felt, as have been suggested; but I don't know more about any other current brands than have already been suggested. I'd suggest Googling for white yarns that'll work, too, if you have difficulties laying hands on the brands mentioned.

Otherwise, go for the natural or cream-colored yarns. You'll still need to check if the brand of yarn is good for felting or not.

Felting capabilities also depend on the kind of fleece; long-wool and meat breeds tend to have wool near-impossible or difficult to felt. Fine-wool breeds, some fleeces will felt if you look at 'em wrong. The spinning method can also have an affect on felting. I learned in spinning classes that one reason for spinning worsted-style was to cut down on the chance of felting. Woolen-spun yarns felt more easily.

Handspun - depending on the fleece and spinning method - is a really good option for knitting items to be felted. Plus you can ask the spinner about it!

As pacalaga said, zippered pillowcases are good things. Felted items need plenty of room to spread out so all parts get equal agitation. To prevent things like the sides of a bag felting together, I've heard that pinning some sort of plastic inside helps. And check every 10-15 minutes for progress!

(One of these days I might get to using all this info... But can you imagine mucking up an apartment laundry-room washing machine while felting something? I don't think the managers would be too pleased if stray fiber killed a machine, so I've refrained. So far. [g])

Tracy said...

Now, Jo, you're making me nervous! Just like you, I was inspired by Lene's posts to begin a French Market Bag--yikes! Despite my trepidation, however, I will soldier on...

I love the pictures you posted about the lovely lanes near your home. I spent a wonderful holiday in that area eight years ago, and you are reminding me of some very happy memories!

SueJ said...

Maybe its British & Irish washers that are the issue? None of this 'look after 10 minutes' stuff, once its in, its in! I am sure you will knock it into a great bag with all this wonderful advice!

Anonymous said...

Yes, felting is a strange, capricious activity.
Shall I tell you about my collection of waste paper basket liners that were meant to be hats? Don't give up!

Anonymous said...

I'm not going to mention the M***** B** because I know how upsetting things like that can be. You need time to heal. I'm just going to say that that is a lovely place to take a walk, I burning up with jealously!

To get a little of my own back, tell your talented, picture taking spouse that I have several families of quail in my yard every day with their charming chicks and a couple of roadrunners passing through most mornings.

Anonymous said...

It seems like you aren't in a mood to see the beauty in that bag. Honestly, if you tried to get it to look all sculptural like that, you would never be able to do it! I'm with the others who say throw it in the wash again and block it mercilessly. It can be saved!

Angeluna said...

My first thought was even a mother couldn't love that bag, but in looking at your bag again, it does have a sculptural quality. Most people couldn't achieve that if they tried. Sort of Japanese, shibui, minimal. Can you think of a use for it? Tasha obviously has already.

The reason I said to felt it again without a bag on it, is that since you have felted it twice already, you have probably lost most of the loose fibers so it shouldn't kill your machine. I think perhaps it didn't have enough room in the bag. You could also try hand felting it in boiling soapy water with some sort of beater, wooden spoons, potato masher (should have some of those in Ireland, no?).

As Monicapdx mentioned, some white might felt, and yours has already done so a bit, so try again.

One of the things I really loved at Abundant Yarns in Portland...they had felted up a little bag or bowl in every felting yarn they offered (lots) and you could compare the different felt qualities. Noro felts, but never thick and stiff. Cascade felts superbly, almost all of their different yarns. Etc. I saw it elsewhere, but Fleece Artist Kid Aran felts thick with a lovely nubby thing going on. My absolute favorite. Cat Bordhi uses it in a lot of her felting. And her felted boots look like Lene could wear them out in her snow. I think they are discontinuing that yarn, unfortunately.

Bridget said...

I think felting is a lot like bread baking: you have to abuse it to make it come out right. I second the suggestions to wet or wash it again, then block it all to h*ll and gone!


Anonymous said...

Oh, Jo, I'm sorry but I was stuck between laughing uproariously and feeling absolute empathy. Haven't we all a little pile, or maybe not so little, of items that didn't quite work?

You're a strong woman for showing us all, and you will overcome your anti-felting feelings. Maybe.

Hey, it's only wool - get back on the bike and start again!!! You can do it!

ps I love your pictorial walks too.

Kathy said...

Okay, I laughed and laughed because I had seen Lene's this morning. Oh but the dog looked cute!

By the way, I have an ugly, hairy envelope purse that has neve made it out of the house.

Anonymous said...

obviously you need a new washer - it isn't you. and the dog makes the bag cute anyway. karen

Holly said...

That pain is indescribable, when you look at something and it is just not the way you wanted.

Any colour of wool will work, but I have never been successful at felting properly anything below DK weight.

(we will leave out the discussion of husbands, handknit socks from delicate handspun and washers, now won't we?)

The denim sweater is wonderful, the scenery beautiful. And the pup needs the market bag because it is never going to do what you want.

Unless you are looking for an object from which to make coasters. Coasters are good.

Fiberjoy said...

I'm loving the idea and looks of your gansey-smock. Can't wait to see the finished results, and perhaps a pattern?? :-) Pockets? Yes!
Creative urges are not in the same league as not starting new projects!

The few felted items I've made were simply tossed in the machine with a pair of jeans. Manipulating the wet fabric is a must.

Thank you for another splendid walk, especially the river views and wooded lanes.

Rosie said...

That's not a mis-shapen bag, that's an astoundingly trendy piece of shibori. Just embroider a few circles around the bits that bulge out and then flog the finished item to a fashionable boutique!

Anonymous said...

I was laughing so hard as I read, because I have just been to Lene's and swooned over her emroidered FMB and decided I had to do one myself. And then the voice of reason spoke in my head as I read about your poor FMB. Perhaps my ardor has cooled a bit. I will not abandon the current socks for a fling with a FMB. Felting is fickle!

I love your description of fords as "atmospheric." Where I am, I listen at fords for Indian families' voices, and the creaking of covered wagons.

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain. I made several felted bags of my own design this spring using up Lopi, and although each one has nice features that felted up beautifully, not one of the bags turned out nicely enough that I will use it in public. As well, my dogs are too big to fit in any of them. My felting mojo has been taken from me.

Dez Crawford said...

Oh, dear Jo. I'm late chiming in because my ISP would not talk to your ISP for a couple of days; I have no idea why!

First, the felting: Your main problem is the mesh bag! My experience is that the best felting happens when the item is dumped in the washer with a couple of pair of jeans OR a bunch of dead tennis balls (if you don't play tennis, ask a friend to save them for you) For jeans, be sure the zippers are firmly UP so they don't snag on the knitting.

Second problem -- is your machine a front loader? Some people have better results with felting in a top-loader because they agitate better. However, in a front loader, tennis balls are again your friend.

Third: I always use soap when I felt, it strips the wool of any commercial oils or lanolin that may be present.

Fourth: Felting is affected noticeably by hard vs. soft water. Which way does your H2o lean?

Possible solution: Soak the thing in a mixture of 1/2 water, 1/2 white vinegar overnight, with a generous squit of hair conditioner mixed in thoroughly. The next day, rinse it with room-temperature water, then tug, pull and beat it into the shape you want -- stretch it out over a bowl, ball or pot of the right size. This may help the bag, and also your frustrations.

LOVE your new Gansmock! Love the color. Can't wait to see the finished item. You might want to write up the pattern and submit it to Knitter's Magazine: call it a Traditional Irish Ale-Brewing Smock, who will know except us?

Also love the Pomatomus.

And? It's crystal clear that Dawn Brocco wrote the proviso at the Kashmir Knitting Summit regardling an exception for essential items to fill holes in your wardrobe not occupied by handknits. Don't make me drag out ALL the minutes of the summit -- it's at least 1500 pages -- but I think it was somehwere under Article 47(a).

Thanks again for a lovely hike through the Irish countryside with you. I feel cooler already.

Moorecat said...

Hi Jo -

I'm a latecomer, via Jean's Knitting.

The other thing you can try to tame a misfelted item is a steam iron. Throw the bag on the end of the ironing board and push that shot-of-steam button for all you're worth. Tug, and pull, and tug again until it bends to your will. Then stuff it with plastic/bubble wrap, or stretch it over a tub or tin of a suitable size, and *leave it* for at least two days.

All is not lost and you've got some good advice here in your comments.

I remember your part of the world fondly from a holiday 8 years ago, although the Ring of Kerry hid its charms well in the fog and rain the day we went around it :C

We're actually having very Irish weather Down Under in Melbourne, lovely after so many drought years.