Well kiddo, I had quite an evening trying to get the bag to felt. I took lots of pictures because I was planning a funny little photo essay to accompany the triumph of the finished product that I was going to show you today blocking on a couple of waxed food service boxes I have, but something funny happened on the way to the forum. So here's my list of tips should you attempt this project after me, because I have done it, and I know where I went wrong, and hopefully you can benefit from my mistakes.
First of all, do not listen to your husband when he says that you should just throw it in your washing machine, because even though he knows better about everything else in your life (like how to brown a turkey or how to fill out the tax form) he doesn't know about fiber.
Second, remember that the directions in the magazine are whoosy. The "gentle" agitation between hot and icy cold water doesn't do sqwat. The fabric gets a little fuzzy, but the stitches just grow and the thing threatens to stretch out of recognizable shape from the weight of the water. Gentle doesn't work, even after forty minutes of constantly recharged hotness and icyness.
When you resort to a more vigorous technique, pushing the fabric against the bottom of the water-filled basin and squeezing all the hot water out before you put it in the cold water so as not to warm the cold up too much (even rinsing the bag with cold water to keep the temperature of the cold bath more, uh, cold) you will notice that the bag begins to felt a little bit better, and you will feel even more empowered to rough it up a bit. In felting, this is what's known as the soft felt stage: when the fibers begin to reach out for each other and begin to strengthen as a fabric. Roughness is best reserved for after you've achieved this stage.
Then you can get some exercise. I even wore through my rubber gloves during this part. But this is when I began to get impatient. I had been at this for about an hour and a half, so I thought about the dryer.
At this point, it is very important to not listen to your husband when he suggests that you should just throw it in the washer. "After all," he says, "don't you always say that felting requires heat, agitation, and WATER?" Remember--and you may have to say this aloud--he is a smart and loving man and is only trying to save you the better part of your evening so that you can get back to your knitting, but he doesn't know about fiber like you do. Remember that it was this gentle and wonderful guy who accidentally washed your Eileen Fisher cowl-neck sweater, and just because he felted it, that doesn't mean he knows what he's talking about when it comes to felting this bag.
So you can try putting the very wet bag in the dryer with a towel and put the timer on for 10 minutes. It will do pretty well. You then might put it in for another ten minutes, and examine it closely. Maybe now you might think that nothing new has happened since you had taken it out from the first dryer run. You begin to doubt yourself. Maybe the dryer isn't working and the little sense of accomplishment you had after the first tumble was a lie.
This is when it is really important to not listen to your husband when he suggests that since the bag is being such a brat and refusing to budge in the felting department, then what harm can five minutes in the washer do? Remember that he loves you and he only wants you to be able to get to sleep sometime tonight, and even though he has watched you fiddle with stuff like this for ten years, he really doesn't know what of he speaks . It is especially important to trust your own resistance to the mechanical at this point, to trust that it would be better to put the bag in some plastic and give it another go tomorrow, because it is at this point that you are likely to do what I did.
That's right. Put it in the washer. This is when even five minutes of hot water tumble action will erase all the intarsia and seaming and handle futzing and *&%$@ embroidery stem-stitching that you have paraded about on the internet will be turned into one fuzzy distorted lump of wool, and you will have to eat humble pie. Humble pie tastes like dryer lint and vinegar. It's not good.
I haven't looked at it since last night. I don't have a picture because I can't bear to go down into the basement and look at it. My husband put the bag out of my sight until I could face it again, and figure out how much of it is salvagable. I might have a nice little zippered makeup bag in the making, or maybe fabric to be cut and seamed for a teddy bear. I dunno. I can't get excited about it right now. I may not even knit today, that's how bummed I am.
But after all of this, you know what? This is nothing in the greater scheme of things. There are millions of people around the Indian Ocean with nothing left of their lives. So really, what's a little felting disaster?
Think positive thoughts, enter the new year with big plans and high hopes, and be thankful for this great life. Peace.