Friday, 3 May 2013

Larch Bark Dyed Wool Felted Knitted Bag Pattern

Once upon a time, last January, long, long ago, when she had no fleece, no spinning wheel and not even a spindle to call her own, a wool freak became restive and desperate.  Spying a fallen larch tree in the snow, she savagely tore off a branch (before the Council could come along and clear it away) and dragged it back to her lair.  Twigs flew about the sitting room as she peeled every inch. The bark went into a bucket of water to soak for a week, then got simmered for several hours.  At last, she had a winter dye bath, powerfully tree smelling and deepest brown.  

In went all her wool - two 400g cones of aran weight 100% Wool City Wool from in two consecutive lots.  To prolong the excitement, she added vinegar in which rusty nails had been festering, just to see what iron would do to the colour.  Lots and lots of balls of lovely brown wool in two harmonious shades.  Finally, one last pale ball eked out the end of the spent dyebath.

Along came a handsome Jacob X Texel fleece and stole her heart away. She finished with him, moved on to his friend, messed up a relationship with a perfectly decent Zwartbles, then swooned over a Jacob, only to find she had miscalculated.  He wasn't providing the yardage for her wild ambitions.  Now she had no project to be knitting, with a whole day conference looming on Friday, plus a long car journey to the Wonderwool festival at the weekend.  Only then did she remember her poor, neglected, larch dyed aran stash.

Regretting her foolish ways, the wool freak reconsidered her true needs.   A small, portable project to tide her through til the glories of Wonderwool.  A chance to practice knitting in the round, which she hadn't done for years.  A present for a friend's birthday in May. Another go at felting - how she loved the all or nothing peril of the hot wash. Thus was the Larch Bark Dyed Felted Knitted Bag designed and created.


5.5mm circular needle
Main colour aran wool 170g = 280m
Second colour aran wool 43g = 74m
Third colour aran wool 7g = 12m


18 stitches and 20 rows to 10cm square

My knitting is loose and shrinks more in height than width.  When I knitted a tension square and put it through a 95 degree machine wash, it shrank about 30% in height and 15% in width.  The big surprise was that the colour changed from grey brown to ginger.  I sewed all three shades of the larch bark dye and also a bit of left over blue woad dyed and green nettle overdyed with woad, to see if they would all change. Only the larch bark wools did.  My best guess is that the hot wash took the iron modifier back out of them.  The woad and nettle/woad had had no modifier. I had no idea an iron afterbath would wash back out!  I think I like the ginger brown better.  This was an incorrect assumption - it wasn't the iron - see below.


Cast on 60 stitches in the main colour and knit to and fro 20 rows stocking stitch.  Put a small safety pin on the first stitch and knit across the 60 stitches, putting a large safety pin on the last stitch. With the right side of the work facing you, pick up 10 stitches from the 20 rows along the side. Pick up a stitch from each of the 60 cast on stitches, putting a large safety pin on the first and last stitch.  Pick up 10 stitches from the 20 rows on the other side.  Total 140 stitches.  

Turn the work so the wrong side of the base is facing you and knit 5 rounds.  At first, it is a bit tight coming round the corners on a circular needle, but it will loosen up once you have a couple of rounds done. When you arrive at the small safety pin, ready to begin the sixth round, slip the stitch above the safety pin on to the right needle, knit one stitch in the second colour and pass the slipped stich over it.  Move the small safety pin up to this stitch. 

Knit the second stitch in the second colour and continue knitting 2 main colour then 2 second colour stitches, as in the pattern above, remembering you are reading it right to left.  When you are one stitch before the column of the second, large safety pin, knit 2 together and move the safety pin up to this stitch.  Knit 10, keeping the pattern going.  Now you are above the third safety pin, slip one, knit one, pass the slipped stitch over and move the safety pin up.  Knit til you are one stitch before the fourth safety pin, knit 2 together and move that safety pin up.  Knit 10.  Continue the seven rows of pattern as shown in brackets on the chart. When you reach row 13, reduce in exactly the same way.  

Each reduction is of four stitches, as the pattern is only four stitches wide, you just keep doing the same sequence.  Complete six bands of pattern and on the seventh, miss out the alternate single stitch pattern round in the second and third colour and stick to the main colour for this and the following two rounds.  Do a final reduction round, leaving 108 stitches, then one last plain round.
From the small safety pin marking the beginning of the round, knit 54 stitches, bringing you to the third safety pin.  Cast off 44 stitches.  Knit 10 stitches and transfer them off the needle onto a large safety pin, completing the round.  Knit 54 stitches, turn and purl 10 stitches then transfer them off the needle onto another safety pin.  
The remaining 44 stitches will be the top flap.  Purl one row, turn and continue to and fro in stocking stitch for 12 rows.  With right side facing, knit one, slip one, knit one and pass the slipped stitch over it, continue knitting until three stitches from the end of the row, knit 2 together and knit one.  Purl one row. Continue reducing in every knit row in this way until 20 stitches remain.  Cast off.
For the handle, rejoin the yarn to the 10 stitches on the right of the flap and knit row after row in stocking stitch until the handle is 50% longer than you want it to be after felting.  I made mine 110cm. 

Cut the wool leaving a 50cm end and thread it onto a blunt needle. Carefully slide the 10 stitches off the needle and lay them opposite the 10 stitches from the safety pin on the other side.  Graft the ends together by copying a knit stitch in and out of each loop twice, then fasten off.

Machine wash at 95 degrees, with some old towels in there to help with the felting. Shape the bag while damp.  Look how my larch dyed wool changed colour!

Choose a button, cut a slit in the front flap for the button hole and sew the button on.

The wool freak did go to the Wonderwool ball and has sighed over the torment of finishing off this bag.  A beautiful Gotland called Elinor, who has long curls and is not like the other fleeces, has captured her heart. Elinor is now hidden away in a high tower, in a bucket of water, where the wool freak intends she should suffer a sea change, into something rich and strange.  Bank Holiday heaven.


Earthnut on the Ravelry website told me that the colour change was unlikely to be the iron washing out and likely to be the effect of the alkali pH of washing powder.  She was absolutely right.  I took strands of a few herbal dyed wools and soaked them in a jam jar of water with enough soda ash dissolved in it to get a of pH10.  No heat or agitation.  Sure enough, when I took them out and dried them, the larch bark dyed wool had gone ginger.  I think this is well worth knowing, as I often use vinegar to acidify dye baths. 


  1. Replies
    1. ooo, I just saw this and now I've gone all shy. A particularly nice boost this morning. Thanks :)