Now that Christmas day is over and all of the presents have been opened, I can make the final reveal of the Christmas gifts.
For my friends Zena and Alison, I made the Strawberry Clutch from Knitscene Spring 2007. It's knitted in Cascade 220 which was held double and then felted. This is the same yarn that I used for the Christmas decorations. The Christmas decorations actually came about because of a swatch I knitted to test the felting process. I felted the swatch by hand and it was such a pain I decided to have a go at felting my finished strawb's in the front loader. The first photo shows Strawberry No. 1 before felting.
This was my first proper go at machine felting and with the complication of the front loader I was more than a little nervous about it. I did some experimentation with the washing machine and managed to work out how to stop the machine mid-cycle (by turning off the power to the machine!) and with great trepidation I threw the first strawberry in with an old pair of jeans. I remember reading in a felting book to use the highest temperature available on your machine, so I set the machine at 95 degrees Celsius and turned her on. I stopped the machine quite a few times to check the progress and each time I did this I would have to re-start the wash cycle, hence adding a bit more water. The result was water all over my kitchen floor! Also I should have realised that 95 degrees was way too hot. The colour ran quite a bit, the white dots had become pink. Anyway, it felted pretty well and here is the result.
The gap between the columns of stitches is still visible in some places but I just couldn't seem to get rid of them. I had the same problem with my swatch. Maybe it has something to do with my guage. The pattern specified 9mm needles which I don't have so I used 10mm ones. I didn't think it would make much difference but maybe it did.
The next photo shows strawberry No. 1 felted and strawberry No. 2 before felting. You can see the difference in the colour of the yarn after felting quite well in this one.
Before felting the second strawberry I made two decisions. Firstly to drop the water temperature in the machine from 95 to 60 degrees. This worked out quite well as the colour did not run nearly as much. The second decision was to not stop the machine. The first strawberry took much longer than the machine's cycle to felt so I thought it would be safe to let the machine do it's thing and then when the wash cycle was over to check the progress then and restart the machine. This decision unfortunately did not turn out to be such a wise one. During the first wash cycle the strawberry got all scrunched up and must have stayed this way as the creases became permanent and in the depths of these creases the felting process got left behind. Even after I removed, flattened the piece before the second cycle, these spots never caught up and the creases were never really removed. It wasn't a complete disaster, but is definitively a lesson learned. You can see what I mean in this photo.
So the moral of the story is, 60 degrees is more than sufficient and check your felting progress regularly!
With the felting process over, the last thing to do was to sew in the lining. Did I mention that I found a little craft store in down town Abu Dhabi? It's a funny little shop called the Green Branch. It has oil paints, pencils, a few balls of yarn and knitting needles, some patchwork fabric and even buttons (a big container of miscellaneous buttons!). Much of the stock looks like it has been there forever. For example the steel press-studs had gone rusty on their cards. So with the help of the Green Branch, Chi Wai helped me chose some fabric to line the bags, and this it what it looked like....
All in all, I pretty happy with the end result, and I hear that Alison and Zena are pretty happy with their Christmas present too! Merry Christmas girls!
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