How to Make Boiled Wool Bags

Written by andrea hamilton
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How to Make Boiled Wool Bags
This macro wool has a felted appearance. (macro blue wool image by green 308 from

Boiled or "felted" wool is a durable and time-tested material, with a smooth finish in which the weave is practically invisible. It was commonly used in military uniforms and liveryman's coats, and returns periodically in high fashion as well. You can create a low-cost on-trend boiled wool bag of your own. You first knit or crochet the material, then boil it. You can then add a statement button or a rustic toggle to finish off the look.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Woollen yarn
  • Knitting needles or crochet hook
  • Large pot
  • Water
  • Stove
  • Tongs
  • Needle
  • Thread
  • Tape measure
  • Drying surface
  • Scissors
  • Clasp

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  1. 1

    Knit or crochet a 5 by 5-inch sample square using the woollen yarn you have selected. Keep in mind that thicker yarn and bigger needles or hooks will shorten the time needed to make the pieces of the bag, but will shrink faster in boiling water than if you use thinner yarns. However, because they cannot be left to boil as long, the stitch pattern you use will oftentimes remain visible.

  2. 2

    Bind off the stitches and fill the pot halfway with water. Set the pot to boil, then drop in your sample square. After about two minutes (one and a half for bigger stitches), remove the square from the water using the tongs. Check to see if it has reached the thickness and appearance you want before you measure the sample. It is important to judge whether it has shrunk more one way than the other, as your bag will have the same ratio of shrinkage.

  3. 3

    Knit or crochet your yarn, keeping the shrinkage of the sample square in mind. If your sample shrank from 5 inches to 2.5 inches in height, you will need to make the pieces twice as long as you want them to be after boiling. However, if your sample shrank to 3.5 inches in width, you will only need to multiply the width of your desired final measurement by 1.43 to achieve the proper size. A rectangular messenger bag is a simple yet effective style, and can be made by first knitting or crocheting a long rectangle to fold in thirds and sew down the sides, leaving the last third free to act as a fold-over flap. However, you may wish to create your own style of bag.

  4. 4

    Knit or crochet a long, thin piece of material for a shoulder strap, keeping the shrinkage ratio in mind.

  5. 5

    Sew the larger of the two knitted or crocheted pieces together at the sides, leaving 1/3 of the fabric free on the end. On the edge of the inside pouch of the bag, sew in the shoulder strap ends, using the seams as perpendicular guidelines. Make sure that the strap is not twisted before you sew.

  6. 6

    Place the bag into boiling water and let it sit for two minutes, or the time that made the felt look best after testing your sample square. Agitate the bag in the water to ensure that all of the fibres sink into the water, if necessary.

  7. 7

    Remove the bag from the water using the tongs, and place it on the drying surface until it dries.

  8. 8

    Cut a slit into the outer flap of the bag and stitch reinforcing stitches at the corners to prevent unravelling. Sew a button or toggle onto the outside of the pouch to complete the bag.

Tips and warnings

  • Be sure to use woollen yarn, as acrylics or other synthetics will not shrink as does wool.

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