The Animator's Wife is on a strict budget since deciding to become a stay-at-home mom, so when her carry-all tote bag began to disintegrate, she decided to do what any craft girl would do--make its replacement!

Of course, the big problem with crocheting a purse is that it's usually nice to sew in some sort of lining so that smaller objects don't fall through the stitches. But with having to chase a toddler around all day, she simply doesn't have time for such things. What's a busy mom to do?

The answer is felting! In the crochet world, felting is the process by which a crocheted woolen piece is submitted to an abrasive procedure that causes the fibers to shrink and matt together, creating a solid "fabric." It often happens accidentally when a woolen sweater marked "dry clean only" gets thrown in the wash, thereby ruining a perfectly good sweater. But it's a great thing to do with purses and pouches--projects where size doesn't matter too much--to create a thick, smooth, solid fabric in which the crochet stitches are discernible. For projects such as purses, it eliminates the need for a fabric lining because it closes all the holes between the crochet stitches.

This is the bag The Animator's Wife made, pre-felting (we'll share the pattern for it with you next week!).

And this is it after:

Notice that the bag is smaller after felting. The felting process shrinks the project by 75-95%; this is why size can't be essential to the project you're felting. You could try to get scientific about it and felt a gauge square to see by what percentage it shrinks, but your finished project may or may not shrink by that same amount, so it's best to be content with not being exact.

So how do you go about felting your projects?

1. Use 100% wool yarn. Do not use any wool labeled as "superwash." Superwash wool is specially processed to make it machine-washable, so felting won't work on it. Also, I would not recommend using hand-dyed yarn, as the color may fade during the felting process.

2. Wash the project in the washing machine with hot water on the setting with the most agitation. The more agitation, the better. Feel free to throw a pair of jeans in with it to increase the agitation. Adding a tablespoon or two of baking soda to the water also helps to increase the abrasiveness of the environment. You may need more than one wash to get the desired degree of felting.

3. Once the project is felted to your satisfaction, lay it out on a flat surface. Press it with your hands into the desired final shape, and leave it to air dry.

4. Once dry, brush the project gently with a soft boar bristle brush to ensure all the fibers lie in the same direction.

And you're done! Treat your final felted project with care, as any additional machine washings may felt it further. If it must be cleaned, I would recommend washing by hand.