Saturday, 13 April 2013

Phoebe's Felted Crochet Satchel Pattern

My niece Phoebe would have liked a smart leather school satchel.  Instead she is getting a rustic, woolen one.  
Why so cruel? 
Well, I bought a Zwartbles fleece on eBay and I cannot love it.  Lovely deep brown wool with golden tips, but it has a spongy texture. This is my third fleece and I wanted to practice spinning more fine and even wool.  Carding the Zwartbles  just felt ych a fi.  That is what Welsh women say when babies throw up or their nappies prove inadequate.  It is pronounced uck a vee, most expressive syllables. 

The Zwartbles sheep originated in Holland and its fleece is described as good for beginner spinners, with a staple length of about 10-12cm.  The fine crimp may be why it has such a spongy bounce.  I was a bit dismayed to have 2.5kg to use up, even though it did only cost £5.

Flick carding is done by roughly brushing out the tips and base of the locks of wool, a stiff dog brush works.  You can then fold the locks over your finger and spin from the fold.  This method minimised the handling of the Zwartbles and produced thick, lumpy wool which I double crocheted into a 20 stitch and 10 row tension gauge on a 9mm crochet hook.  After a 95 degree C machine wash, I had a nice, deep brown, dense fabric, too heavy for clothing, but could be right for a satchel.  I suggested it to Phoebe, who reckoned this was cool.  My own offspring did point out that she is not the kind of person who would willingly wound an aunt's feelings.

To make a pattern, I copied the picture and dimensions of the Cambrige Classic Satchel
shown on This is 38cm wide (15") 25cm high (10") and 10cm deep (4").  I have made lots of crocheted bags, though smaller and not felted.  The principles of designing your own are straightforward. Draw out the separate pieces you will need and decide on the measurements you want. Crochet a square of the wool you want to use, then wash it, hot if you intend felting.  Use the piece as a tension gauge to work out how many crochet stitches you will need to make the first row the right length for each piece.  By luck, once washed, my wool gave double crochet stitches 1cm wide.

Decide which pieces you need to make first.  I did the front, then the base and sides.  Once I had the base and side piece length about right, I secured the final crochet loop without casting off, so I could add a bit or unravel a bit when I saw how the dimensions matched in real life.  

Joining two pieces of crochet at right angles is easy. With the wool at the back, push the crochet hook through the edgemost hole in the first piece then the matching hole in the second piece and pull up a loop loosely. Push the hook through the next matching holes in the two pieces and draw up another loop. Continue, leaving a flat row of crochet seam visible on the top surface, or you could do the same from the back for an invisible seam.

It is safer to leave fastening off until you have put the pieces together so you can adjust them til they fit and look right.  Double crochet is wonderfully forgiving like that.  I did the front pocket and its base and sides next, then joined them on to the front piece.  Then I got most of the back and top flap piece done and joined that on before deciding by eye how long the flap needed to be.

The buckles and rings I used for the strap came from a handbag I bought in a charity shop for a couple of quid.  The crochet pieces to join the buckles and side loops on and make the strap bases are all the same shape.  Chain three, make two double crochet into the first loop and chain one.  Turn.  Make two double crochet into each of the two stitches and chain one.  Turn.  Double crochet one stitch into the first stitch, two stitches into the second and third stitch and one stitch into the fourth and chain one.  Turn.  Double crochet once into each of the six stitches.  Then reduce in the same pattern, continuing straight on two remaining stiches until you have enough to fold over the buckle and fasten back behind, or long enough to make the strap for the upper piece.  The shoulder strap is just a great length 4 stitches wide, plus a shorter part on the other side with two rings on it to make the length adjustable.

Commit the bag to the washing machine for a hot intensive wash.  As you can see from the before and after photos, this scoured my greasy old raw Zwartbles wool at the same time as shrinking the bag about 30%.  How labour saving is that, compared to scouring each ball before working with it!

Despite being denser after felting, this big bag was a bit too floppy to stand up like a satchel should.  It needed some reinforcement to hold its shape better.  I had some leftover thick upholstery material which I folded double into a 10cm strip and sewed in along the base and sides.

You can fit plenty of things inside.
Hope she likes it.


  1. (From Phoebe) I love the satchel!! Its really quirky and just how i pictured it, Thankyou so much for all your hard work and effort getting it made, tis lush :)

  2. My pleasure, I was rude about the sheep, but really I enjoyed doing it a lot.

  3. Is that a hampster in the side pocket?

  4. Yes, he had been AWOL for a couple of days and was getting much loving attention from his owner during the photo session.