How to hand felt:
Although I like the idea of felting, I’ve never much liked felting in practice. My washing machine is in the basementa dreary, poorly lit, creature-ridden area best avoided. And my washing machine, which came with my apartment, is on its last legit barely agitates which means that it takes several wash cycles before the felting process begins in earnest. Machine felting means that I have to sit on top of the dryer with a flashlight to read by while I wait for a wash cycle to end so I can stop the machine, turn the dial back to the beginning, and start the process all over again. It sometimes takes three or four tries to get whatever it is that I’m trying to felting to even begin the shrinking process.
Recently, however, I discovered felting by hand. A revelation. In my well-lit and comfortable kitchen, I fill a plastic dish basin with hot, hot water (not so hot that I'll burn myself) from the tap and add a tiny bit of dish soap. I take the basin to the dining table and place it on a dishtowel. There I sit in comfort, and while I watch a movie or listen to a book on tape, I start to knead and squeeze my felting project. Within 10 minutes, lo and behold, the fabric starts to shrink and stiffenfelting is underway. I continue to knead and squeeze, and occasionally rub the piece a little, until it’s felted as much as I want. The beauty of hand felting, in addition to comfortable felting conditions, is that once the process begins, you can control how and where to concentrate on the felting, and you can stop when you’ve got your piece exactly where you want it.
For my Falling Leaves Bag, when I had the fabric fully felted, I rinsed the piece in cold water, rolled it loosely in a bath towel and laid it flat to dry overnight. The next day, I upended it over a chair back and put the window fan on it. It was dry by late afternoon.
At that point, I had a rude surprise. I noticed that although both sides had felted, the blue side had shrunk more than the brown side. I had read in Beverly Galeska’s book, Felted Knits (Interweave Press, 2003) that different colors of the same yarn could felt differently. Here was proof.
Out came the sewing machine. I determined the dimensions of the blue side, turned the bag inside out, and sewed up the side and across the bottom of the brown side until it measured the same as the blue side. I trimmed the seam, turned the bag right side out, and it was ready to embroider.