Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Stained Glass!!

People talk about instant gratification a lot, but the delayed kind has its merits too. :-)

I am getting to experience it firsthand today, because I just finished the Ravelympics Stained Glass felted bag. FINALLY. It admittedly needed only a lining and handles at this stage, but it had also been sitting around here since *February* waiting for me to get those two jobs done. The problem was that I needed to clear a solid block of time for the cutting and sewing, preferably during daylight hours, and that simply proved impossible in the springtime, while school was still in session. Hooray for summer knitting. "Tantantara! Tzing, boom!"

Technical procedures were as follows...

The lining would have posed a nice little challenge for any seamstress, what with no real pattern and all those fussy curves to consider. But I had been thinking it over for the last several months and came to the task as a Woman with a Plan. Focusing on the basic shapes first, and leaving room both for seam allowances and for eventually trimming the top edge to fit, I began by cutting out two rectangles 18” wide x 12” tall, and a circle roughly 12” in diameter to match the popcorn can on which the bag had been stretched to dry after felting. After sewing the rectangles together to form a tube and pressing both side seams, I attached the circle to the base of the tube with another seam running around the lower edge. Then I cut two strips of fusible interfacing to go across the top edges, between the side seams. The designer’s instructions suggest using an old CD to help create a pattern for the scalloped outline on the interfacing, and that technique worked well, with a little fiddling. Once I had positioned the interfacing and fused it to the wrong side of the lining (and NOT to the press cloth, as I have mistakenly done once or twice before), I trimmed the top of the lining fabric along the established curves, but just outside them, to form a seam allowance. Last, I carefully hand-sewed the lining to the inside of the bag, folding the raw edges under and making the stitches as neat and well-nigh-invisible as I could.

Truth be told, I might have wished the measurements and shaping to be even more precise than I managed, but thankfully the process was forgiving, and the end result actually looks quite professional, if I do say so myself. I think the lining compliments the felted wool nicely, both in texture and in color. So I promise to keep my perfectionist grumbling dialed down to a minimum. Here are some photos, including one that shows the side and bottom seams, as described. For a closer peak at any image, just click on it, as always.

Then came the handles. I weighed my options at first but ended up making i-cord, as per the original specs, although I used 7 stitches instead of just 6 for something just a tad more substantial. Each strap measured 32" before felting and 28" after, which is the perfect length IMHO. The Brown Sheep wool always felts beautifully, and it was very convenient to deal with the handles separately from the bag, as my extended time-frame demanded, because I could easily soak them for as long as necessary to make them good and solid, with virtually zero stretch. Anchoring them in place with black button thread was a mere bagatelle by comparison with the stitching required for the lining, and then suddenly the project was finished. Voilà.
A footnote: before attaching the handles to this bag, given its shape, one must first decide how the fan shapes across the top should be aligned when it lies flat. In all the designer's photos for the Bar Harbor Shell Bag (this pattern) and the Stained Glass Fan Bag (which is very similar), the midpoint front and back comes at the low trough between two fans. The latter is often highlighted with a button closure, and the handles are attached in the adjacent troughs. It makes for a very pleasing arrangement, but as a result the fan in each upper corner, left and right, is folded in half, wrapping around the side of the bag. I decided, however, that there should be three full fans uppermost, rather than two fans and two halves, in order to show off the vibrant pinks and reds of that top row to best advantage. So I opted to place troughs at the side edges instead. That leaves a bump in the middle and no convenient spot for a button, but I don't mind, because I was planning to leave the top of the bag open anyway. I should add that the project galleries on Ravelry for both M. Langan bag patterns show a WIDE variation in the type of handles used and in their placement, which means that I am not alone in taking some minor liberties.

In conclusion, I have been gratified and humbled by the positive feedback that this project received both during and after the Ravelympics. Then again, speaking for myself I almost cannot believe how amazingly well the color scheme turned out. It is every bit as elaborate and subtle and harmonious as I had imagined it could be. Yet for all that, and as much as I will cherish this bag and enjoy using it whenever the opportunity arises — starting this weekend at my 25th HS reunion — I would be loathe to make another one like it.

Don't get me wrong: Madeline Langan's design is a marvel of shape and texture and clever construction, even just from a technical viewpoint. But she calls for only two colors per fan, not FIVE, as I had throughout. I am still in recovery from weaving in all those ends!! So if I were ever to repeat the pattern, I would choose a narrower color palette, and I would seriously consider using single shades of Brown Sheep (or the equivalent), as I did with my zippered accessory pouch, instead of the multi-colored Noro Kureyon, so as to avoid having to carve up skeins and sorting through all the random, tiny snippets. But whereas that is a distant, hypothetical possibility, and no more, I now have a brand new knitted treasure to enjoy, and it is right here in front of me. Mmmm. :-)

And then there were... *ELEVEN*...


  1. This has to be one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
    Ah, to have your patience and perseverance! The thought of all those sewn-in ends makes me feel faint.

  2. What a gorgeous bag! Great job on everything.

  3. WOW!! That's absolutly beautiful! Great job!

  4. Well done! The scalloped edging of the lining is fantastic! To tell the truth I would have chickened out and made do with a straight edge all round, letting the curved shapes rise above the straight line. I would have expected the scallops to be too fiddly.
    But this is so much more beautiful and pleasing to look at! You must be very proud of a job very well done!