How to make a boiled wool purse

Written by joanne thomas
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How to make a boiled wool purse
(wool yarn image by Catty from

A boiled wool purse is exactly what it sounds like--a wool purse felted by boiling it in water. Boiling felts the wool, making the fabric shrink and become thick and dense. Any purse that is knitted or crocheted using 100 per cent wool yarn can be boiled to turn it into a felt purse. You must start with a purse that is considerably larger than you want the finished felted version to be. The boiling process is simple but requires constant attention to ensure successful results. Make your own small, boiled wool purse knit in stockinet stitch with knit handles.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Pot (large enough to contain the purse)
  • Wooden spoon
  • Circular knitting needle
  • Straight knitting needle
  • 100 per cent wool yarn
  • Stitch marker
  • Stitch holder or scrap yarn
  • Yarn needle

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  1. 1

    Choose a circular knitting needle that is a few sizes larger than the needle size recommended on the yarn band. Cast on 100 to 200 stitches, depending on how large you want the purse to be. Place a stitch marker at the beginning of the round and join the stitches for circular knitting.

  2. 2

    Knit every stitch and continue knitting in the round until the purse resembles an oversized, loosely knit version of your desired finished boiled wool purse.

  3. 3

    For the next round, knit five to 20 stitches for the handle, cast off the stitches for one side of the bag; knit another five to 20 stitches for the handle on the opposite side of the bag; then cast off the rest of the stitches for that round. Transfer the second set of handle stitches to a stitch holder or length of scrap yarn.

  4. 4

    Knit the first set of five to 20 handle stitches back and forth, alternating knit and purl rows to maintain the stockinet pattern of the body of the bag. Stop knitting the handle when its length is in proportion with your desired finished bag size.

  5. 5

    Transfer the live stitches from the stitch marker to the straight knitting needle. Flip the purse inside out and join the two sets of handle stitches using the three-needle-bind-off technique. Sew the bottom seam with the yarn and yarn needle. Weave in any loose ends.

  6. 6

    Fill the pot about two-thirds full with water and bring it to a boil on the hob. Meanwhile, fill your sink with cold water.

  7. 7

    Place the purse into the pot of boiling water and submerge it with a wooden spoon so that all of the knit fabric is saturated. Allow the purse to boil for a few minutes, constantly supervising it, then lift it out of the water with the wooden spoon. If the purse is still larger than you want it to be, replace it in the water and continue to boil it. Keep checking the felting progress every few minutes until the purse has shrunk to the desired size.

  8. 8

    Remove the purse from the boiling water and immediately plunge it into a sink full of cold water. This will halt the felting process and stop the purse from shrinking more than you want it to. When the purse has cooled down, gently squeeze out the excess water and allow it to dry naturally.

Tips and warnings

  • If you don't know how to use the three-needle-bind-off technique, graft the handle stitches together with a yarn needle instead.
  • If you want to be really exact about the size of your bag, knit a gauge swatch and measure it. Boil the swatch and measure it again. This way you can calculate the exact shrinkage and adapt the knitting pattern for your bag.
  • When you need to wash your boiled wool purse, use cold water and wash it by hand to prevent any further felting.

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