How to Use a Resist, Ball and Tumble Dryer to Make a Wet Felted Handbag

Updated on November 18, 2016
sallybea profile image

Sally Gulbrandsen Feltmaker: Her tutorials & techniques are as individual as she is — unique, experimental and always interesting.

A Wet Felted Bag on a Ball Project

A wet felted handbag with a matching scarf
A wet felted handbag with a matching scarf | Source

Felting With a Tumble Dryer!

Felt which is created inside a tumble dryer is always a lot more firm than felt which can be made from rubbing or rolling the fibres by hand. This makes it the perfect choice for creating a handbag which will get a lot of use.

Add a simple template and a soft squishy round Gertie ball to the mix and you have the perfect project for making with small groups of adults or children.

The Gertie ball can easily be inflated or deflated using the small tube which is provided by the Manufacturer and sealed with a long plastic plug. Gertie balls can be stored flat and used multiple times over with or without a tumble dryer. They are great for projects just like this one and are often used in hat making, especially when making felt hats with children.

Things You Will Need to Complete This Project.

  • A tumble dryer
  • A circular template which can be made from plastic packaging or bubble wrap with a diameter of about 17 Inches. (43 cm)
  • A quantity Merino wool roving embellished with silk for the top layer of the ball
  • A quantity of red Merino wool roving (or in a colour of your choice)
  • A Gertie ball
  • A bamboo blind
  • A handbag frame, which can be new or recycled from an old handbag
  • Dish washing liquid or grated Olive Oil soap which has been diluted in hot soapy water.
  • Strong thread and needle for sewing on the bag frame.

The finished weight of the bag is a total of 400 grams. This is the approximate amount of wool roving which you will need to do make this project.

Merino Wool Roving

Merino wool roving, some of which has been enhanced with threads of Silk
Merino wool roving, some of which has been enhanced with threads of Silk | Source

Step 1— Draw the Template

  • Draw the template on bubble wrap or recycled plastic packaging. I used some which came from the Pickford Van Removals Company.

A Template with a Diameter of About (43 Cm) or 17 Inches

17 cm Template made from Packaging Plastic.
17 cm Template made from Packaging Plastic. | Source

Step 2— Lay Out the Fibres

  • Start on the outside edges and work into the middle.
  • The fibres on the outer edges should overlap the template so that they can be neatly folded around the edges when the template is turned over.


Start by adding the fibres to the template.  Work from the outside in.
Start by adding the fibres to the template. Work from the outside in. | Source

Step 3—Cover the Template With Merino Wool Roving

  • Cover the template with the red wool roving taking care to make sure that no thin spots are left anywhere.

The template has been completely covered in an even layer of merino wool roving.
The template has been completely covered in an even layer of merino wool roving. | Source

Step 4—Wet the Fibres with Hot Soapy Water

  • Sprinkle the fibers with hot soapy water and cover with a sheet of bubblewrap

Wet the surface of the wool with the hot soapy water
Wet the surface of the wool with the hot soapy water | Source

Step 5—Cover and Wet the Surface of the Bubble Wrap

Wetting the surface of the bubble wrap helps your fingers glide easily over the top.


Add a little hot soapy to the water to allow your fingers to glide over the surface smoothly
Add a little hot soapy to the water to allow your fingers to glide over the surface smoothly | Source

Step 6—Rub the Wool Fibres

  • Push down on the bubble wrap so as to disperse the water throughout the project and right up and until the loose edges.
  • Rub the surface firmly until the fibres are laying flat.

Remove the bubble wrap once the water has penetrated the top surface right to the edges of the template.
Remove the bubble wrap once the water has penetrated the top surface right to the edges of the template. | Source

Step 7—Turn the Project Over

  • Flip the project over and use the hot and soapy water to help neaten the edges.

The second side ready to have the loose edges folded in.
The second side ready to have the loose edges folded in. | Source

Step 8—Smooth the Surface

  • Fold the loose fibres over the edges of the template. Use your fingers and a little hot soapy water and bubble wrap to smooth the surface.

Smooth the surface and neaten the edges using the sheet of bubble wrap and a little water.
Smooth the surface and neaten the edges using the sheet of bubble wrap and a little water. | Source

Step 9—Neaten the Edges

  • Use the sheet of bubble wrap and a little surface water neaten the edges and the top surface.

Neaten the edges so that the fibres are resting right up against the template edges.
Neaten the edges so that the fibres are resting right up against the template edges. | Source

Repeat Steps 2—8 Using Plain Red Merino Wool Roving

Cover both sides with a second layer of red wool fibres.

Step 10—The Final Layers

  • Cover the final two layers of the template with a decorative layer of wool roving which should be opened out flat as is shown below.
  • Run your fingers down the length of the wool roving and they will open them out, after which you can spread them evenly over the surface of the template.

Silk and Merino Wool Roving Opened Up

Silk and Merino wool, a decorative layer for the top surface of the handbag.
Silk and Merino wool, a decorative layer for the top surface of the handbag. | Source

Step 11—Wet with Fibres with Hot Soapy Water

  • Sprinkle the fibres which have been laid out on the surface of the template with hot soapy water.

Add hot soapy water to the surface of the opened out wool and silk fibers.
Add hot soapy water to the surface of the opened out wool and silk fibers. | Source

Step 12—Cover and Rub

  • Cover the Merino/Silk layer with bubble wrap and add a little surface water to the top.
  • Disperse the water throughout the project by pressing down firmly.
  • Rub the surface of the bubble wrap, leaving the overlapping dry fibres on the edges to be folded over when the project is flipped over.

Cover the fibres with bubble wrap and add a little surface water.
Cover the fibres with bubble wrap and add a little surface water. | Source

Step 13—Remove the Bubble Wrap

  • Remove the bubble wrap and flip the project over.

Step 14—Neaten the Edges

Turn the edges neatly over the edges using a little hot soapy water.

Fold over the edges and wet with hot soapy water.
Fold over the edges and wet with hot soapy water. | Source

Step 15—The Final Layer

Add the last layer of flattened wool fibres to the template.

Step 16—Cover the Project with Bubble Wrap

  • Wet and cover the final layer with bubble wrap and rub the fibres below using hot soapy water.

Cover the fibres with bubble wrap and a little surface water.
Cover the fibres with bubble wrap and a little surface water. | Source

Step 17—Remove the Bubble Wrap

  • Remove the bubble wrap when the fibres have been firmly rubbed.
  • Flip the project over and neaten the edges as described previously.

The smooth wet fibres below the bubble wrap
The smooth wet fibres below the bubble wrap | Source

Step 18—The Final Layer

  • The last layer is now complete and is ready to be rolled inside a bamboo blind.

The template covered in 2 decorative layers of wool and silk
The template covered in 2 decorative layers of wool and silk | Source

Step 19—Roll Inside The Bamboo Blind

  • Put the project inside a large bamboo blind and roll it up carefully.
  • Roll gently at first without putting any downwards pressure on the fibres below.


Roll inside a bamboo blind and rotating the direction in which you roll the project.
Roll inside a bamboo blind and rotating the direction in which you roll the project. | Source

Step 20—Change the Direction of the Roll

  • Keep on checking the contents of the bamboo blind.
  • When the fibres start to firm up change the direction in which you roll them.
  • Keep moving the template around inside the bamboo mat to prevent uneven shrinkage from taking place

Put the project inside the tumble dryer and tumble for about five minutes.
Put the project inside the tumble dryer and tumble for about five minutes. | Source

Step 21—Put the Project Into the Tumble Dryer

  • I used the heat setting when the project is being tumbled inside the tumble dryer.
  • When the fibres have firmed up but are not completely felted put the whole project including the template into the tumble dryer and tumble it for about 5 minutes.
  • Keep on checking the contents of the dryer and when the project looks like the image below remove it from the dryer.
  • It should not take more than 10 minutes to get to this stage but nevertheless don't leave it in for this period without checking it regularly.

The project with the template still inside.
The project with the template still inside. | Source

Step 22—Flatten and Cut the Bag Opening

  • Flatten the project and choose which edge you would like to use for the opening.
  • Cut a straight small line with a pair of sharp scissors.
  • The hole should be only large enough to to make it possible for you to remove the template from the bag.
  • Bear in mind though that the hole will shrink a little too when the project is inside the tumble dryer.

Cut a small hole into the side so as to be able to extract the template from the bag.
Cut a small hole into the side so as to be able to extract the template from the bag. | Source

Step 23—Remove the Template

  • Remove the Template from the bag by gently easing it through the opening.

Remove the template
Remove the template | Source

The Gertie Ball Inflated Resting on the Project

The Gertie ball laying on top of the project showing how much shrinkage still needs to take place.
The Gertie ball laying on top of the project showing how much shrinkage still needs to take place. | Source

Step 24—Insert the Gertie Ball

  • Deflate the Gertie Ball and insert it through the opening on the Bag.

Push the ball through the hole.
Push the ball through the hole. | Source

Step 25—Inflate the Ball

  • Inflate the ball inside the bag using the small pipe provided and seal with the plastic plug.
  • Put the bag back into the tumble dryer and tumble it for a further 5 minutes.

The Bag Beginning to Show Signs of Shrinkage

This image shows the initial shrinkage which took place inside the tumble dryer.
This image shows the initial shrinkage which took place inside the tumble dryer. | Source

Step 26—Keep Checking the Amount of Shrinkage!

  • Keep checking the contents of the tumble dryer.
  • As the bag begins to shrink watch carefully to ensure that no folds begin forming on the surface of the loose felt.
  • If you see any signs of folds being formed simply wet the ball under a tap using warm water and apply a little soap to those areas. Rub and they will soon smooth out beneath your fingers.
  • Return the project to the tumble dryer until enough shrinkage has taken place for you to complete the bag.

Almost there!

Further shrinkage!
Further shrinkage! | Source

Step 27—Fully Shrunk!

  • When the felt has shrunk against the ball the project is ready to be fitted with a purse frame.
  • You will need to deflate the ball and remove it from the bag in order to complete the stitching.
  • The hole should be made large enough to make it easy to remove the ball whilst still being the right size to fit the purse frame.
  • The cut edges should be rubbed with hot soapy water and the project rinsed under hot and then cold water.
  • Once the purse frame has been sewn onto the project you may wish to return the ball to the bag to help keep its shape while it is drying.
  • Put it on a cake rack or similar to allow the circulating air to dry the bag.

The Gertie Ball Still Inside the Handbag

The bag with the ball still inside.
The bag with the ball still inside. | Source

Step 28—Fitting the Frame

Fit the frame to the purse.

Cut the opening where necessary and sew on the frame with strong thread using a sewing needle.

The Completed Handbag

The completed handbag.
The completed handbag. | Source

Felting With a Tumble Dryer

Would you like to see more projects made with a tumble dryer?

See results

Wet Felting a Hat on a Gertie Ball

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Sally Gulbrandsen

    Comments

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      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        19 months ago from Norfolk

        teaches12345

        It pleases me to know that you found this tutorial useful. It is always so nice to receive positive feedback on one of my Tutorials. Thank you so much!

      • profile image

        teaches12345 

        19 months ago

        This is so valuable and useful to all home makers. Thanks for sharing this wonderful idea.

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        19 months ago from Norfolk

        Devika thank you so much! I love this creative art form and very much enjoy sharing my knowledge.

      • profile image

        DDE 

        19 months ago

        Awesome! Informative and you are brilliant at it.

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        20 months ago from Norfolk

        Hi Martie, It is easy once you learn how the wool responds to the different techniques, definitely no exact science but such a wonderful medium waiting to be explored! Thanks for taking the time to comment, it is much appreciated.

      • MartieCoetser profile image

        Martie Coetser 

        20 months ago from South Africa

        Amazing! You make it look so easy, Sally!

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        20 months ago from Norfolk

        Blond Logic

        The bag looks pretty good in the flesh even without a liner but definitely, yes, you could add one.

        It would probably enhance the beauty of the bag but would depend very much on the choice of fabric!

        If the felt is a little thick to fit under the purse frame I think you could attach the liner with blind stitches or even hot glue without seeing the stitches.

        The bag can easily be washed and reshaped on the ball so either way, it does not make a lot of difference, in fact, it would be easier to wash without the lining. If for any reason it became a little stained, no problem, the wool will easily dye using acid dyes.

        I still find it a small miracle that one can create 3d items from just a few fibres, add a little hot soapy water and lots of friction and there you have it.

        Be careful, you could get hooked on this thing that we call Wet Felting!

      • Blond Logic profile image

        Mary Wickison 

        20 months ago from Brazil

        I used to sew quite a bit and I was always amazed that with a pattern, fabric and stitching I could create clothing, toys etc.

        You take this to another level. To start with the fibers and turn it into a beautiful purse, is fantastic. I didn't even know about this before reading your hubs here. Would this need a liner and if so, is this added after it is completely dry?

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        20 months ago from Norfolk

        FlourishAnyway, Sounds like a neat idea!

        If you visited my Master Class on Making Boots you will see that I drew around a pair of Wellington Boots achieve the basic template.

        https://feltmagnet.com/textiles-sewing/Wet-Felted-...

        If you use that template and felt the Xmas stocking to that stage and maybe a little more so that they are completely felted you have your Xmas Stocking Tutorial. Simply keep the shape flat instead of shaping the stocking around a foot or shoe last as I did. Enjoy!

        Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, it is much appreciated as always.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        20 months ago from USA

        Nice job, Sally. You have wet felted your heart out here on HP. The tumble dryer seems like a good way to go. It would be neat to see an Xmas stocking.

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        20 months ago from Norfolk

        My thoughts exactly Nell Rose, I know exactly who will be getting this little number for Xmas. Glad you like it. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 

        20 months ago from England

        Wow! so clever! and so patient too! I really love this, and what a great present it would make!

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        20 months ago from Norfolk

        So are you MsDora, just the Best! Thank you so much.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        20 months ago from The Caribbean

        Another beautiful project, Sally! And such a Christmasy look. You're the best.

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        20 months ago from Norfolk

        ChitrangadaSharan

        Lovely to see you gracing one of my pages again! Glad you like this one and I hope you enjoy making this sweet little bag.

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        20 months ago from Norfolk

        Billy you are such a charmer! Thanks for being the first as usual.

        Happy Weekend to you and yours.

      • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

        Chitrangada Sharan 

        20 months ago from New Delhi, India

        Very nicely explained in details and your pictures are lovely and helpful !

        I would like to try this one for sure. Thanks for sharing your creative work!

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        20 months ago from Olympia, WA

        Listen to her, folks! This is a craftsman speaking to you and she knows what she is talking about.

        Well done, Sally, and Happy Weekend to you!

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