How to Make a Machine-Embroidered Felted Wool Totecomments (15) September 7th, 2012
In the back of my mind, I've been meaning to try felting wool sweaters-shrinking one of my favorite cardigans in the wash was just the push I needed to give it a try! I was devastated when I realized that I had mistakenly thrown my merino wool cardigan (with a cute velvet tie) into the washing machine. It came out two sizes too small for me, so I decided to wash it again on HOT with another favorite that sprung a hole. Now my cardigan was a miniature replica of the original (sooo cute). The other sweater that I had washed was a brown lambswool pullover...it needed another HOT cycle so it could felt some more. I ended up with some beautiful black and brown felted wool to use to construct my hobo bag. I designed a roomy tote that I could throw all my stuff into when I feel the need to be a Girl Scout...complete with a zippered pocket in the lining. If you would like my hobo bag pattern (with complete instructions) visit www.jsterndesigns.com. You can also use your favorite bag pattern.
How to Embroider on Felted Wool
Embroidering on felted wool is like embroidering on a towel. It has a nap, so you need a wash-away topper. I like Super Solvy from Sulky. (You can download free instructions on how to use this wonderful stabilizer.) Depending on the thickness of your felted wool, you might be able to get away with a tear-away stabilizer on the back. I love Stitch n' Wash stabilizer for projects like this. It provides firm support that tears away from the edge of the embroidery really easily. You don't have to worry about picking at little pieces that are left behind because it has a crispness that allows it to tear smoothly away. The stabilizer under the bobbin thread stays put to keep the design looking great wash after wash!
After you cut out your bag pieces, use chalk to draw guide lines on the pieces that you want to embroider. I am going to stitch a border design across the front of my bag. Mark the center of the pattern piece, then draw another line where you want to position your border or individual design.
I like to use the no-fuss, no-muss method of centering my border design. I started with one design that was 3 inches wide. Measuring the front of my bag, I determined that I could fit five designs across if I positioned them tip to tip. Then I checked to see how many designs I could string together in my longest hoop. Happily, I can fit three in a row. So, I am going to embroider three designs in the first hooping and the last two in the second. Here's the no-fuss, no-muss part: After I positioned the three designs in a row on my screen, I placed the front bag piece in the hoop so that the first of the three designs was centered in the middle. After embroidering them, all I have to do is stitch the remaining two designs on the opposite side of the center motif. If you don't have a machine with a super-long hoop, embroider the center design by itself, then group two designs (if they fit) and start embroidering on either side of center. Working from the center outward eliminates the possibility of running out of room on one side, making your border look off-kilter! If you run short on both ends to fit the last design, your border is still centered-you can leave it or add a smaller design to reach the end of the fabric.
Hoop the Stitch n' Wash and use 505 Temporary Adhesive Spray to adhere the felted wool into position in the hoop. Remember to lay a piece of Super Solvy over the area where you will be embroidering. The topper will keep the stitches from sinking into the nap of the felted wool, and it will also support the wool from stretching out of shape while you are embroidering.
Here is my completed border. The three designs on the right were the first to be embroidered, then I added the two on the left to finish it up. I pulled the wash-away stabilizer away from the outside edges of the embroidery. There is stabilizer in between the stitched areas. I'm going to throw my completed bag in the wash to felt it one more time and remove this stabilizer.
After you finish embroidering, put your bag together according to the pattern directions. If your pattern doesn't have a zippered pocket, I think it's well worth the time to put one in...and they're easy to do! I learned how to do this zipper technique from my friend Debbie Quinn. She is the owner and designer of The Patrick James Collection. You can see her beautiful quilted totes, purses and quilts at www.emmastreasures.com.
Determine how long you want your zippered opening to be. Make sure you have a zipper that is a couple of inches longer than the opening handy! Cut two pocket bags that are 3" wider than the opening of the pocket. I like to round the bottom corners of my pocket bags so little stuff doesn't get lost there. I interface all of my lining and pocket pieces so they last longer and offer more protection to the felted wool bag. Using a ball point pen, draw a rectange centered 1" from the top edge of the pocket bag that measures the length of your zipper opening and is 3/8" in width. (Make sure you are drawing your rectangle on the interfacing side of the pocket bag.)
Position the pocket bag, right sides together with the lining. It's best to position the pocket so that the bottom edge is not at the bottom of the bag or tote.
Shorten your straight stitch to 1.5 mm and stitch along the line. The shorter stitch length will make it easy for you to pivot neatly around the corners. Using a sharp pair of scissors, cut down the center of the rectangle and into the corners. (Yes, you're cutting through your lining.) Push the pocket bag through the opening and press it flat in the back. You will have a nice finished window. (I forgot to take a photo of the window, I apologize.)
Position the zipper behind this window. Center the ends so they extend past the window on both ends. Put some Wonder Tape (double sided washaway sticky tape) on the twill of the zipper to hold it in place--or use some pins. To sew the zipper in place, start along the top edge about 1 inch from the end. Stitch 1/8" along the opening through the lining, pocket bag and zipper. As you stitch across the opposite end, hand walk your machine so the needle doesn't break on the zipper teeth. When you get within two inches of the final end, sink the needle into the fabric, lift the presser foot and unzip the zipper so that the pull is behind the presser foot. Put the presser foot back down and continue sewing around the final end overlapping you start point by a 1/4".
Turn the lining over to the wrong side and trim the excess zipper off both ends.
The final step to finish your zippered pocket is to sew the pocket bags together. Starting somewhere along the top edge, stich all the way around the outside edge. The only trick here is to make sure you don't catch the lining in your stitching.
After you've finished making your zippered pocket, put your bag together using the pattern instructions.
After you make this project, show off your work to other members!
Post your project in the gallery
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