I hope you’re all keeping warm during this unseasonal cold snap – it really is bitterly cold out there at the moment! I’ve been keeping warm indoors by spending most of my time frantically decorating over the past week, but have also squeezed in some time for knitting.
At the Spring Knitting & Stitching Show (which ran from 14th-17th March at London Olympia) I fell in love with a bag by Toft Alpaca.
Gorgeous, isn’t it? Unfortunately it was well out of my price range, coming in at a grand total of £122. Ouch! However, the very helpful woman running the stall told me that they sell kits (which include the yarn, pattern, kntting needles and giant button) for £100. That’s still pretty expensive in my book, and frankly if I had that much money to spend on a kit then I might as well spend the extra £22 to get someone to knit it for me. Mercifully she also said that they sell the pattern and buttons on their own. Aha! I left the show that day and immediately started the hunt for a suitable yarn substitute.
A yarn substitute was the most important part of the planning process, as it’s the cost of the Toft yarn that’s the real killer. It’s beautiful, and it’s proper alpaca yarn bred and manufactured here in the UK… but it’s £25 per 200g ball. The pattern reckons you need 800g of their chunky wool… you do the maths.
So I needed to find a pure wool, suitable for felting, which was of the same weight (the Toft stuff is labelled ‘chunky’ but is actually more like ‘super chunky’). I hunted around online and eventually found some yarn I thought would work, so I ordered some of that (more than I thought I’d need, just in case!), then went to the Toft site and ordered the pattern, button and needles. I then waited rather impatiently for everything to be delivered.
I’ll be honest, the knitting needles scared me a bit when they first arrived – they’re HUGE! Still, despite some awkwardness to start with I soon got to grips with them and discovered that the pattern was very quick to knit.
I did have to use a small carabiner as a stitch marker, but that just adds to the charm of the project I think.
When I’d finished the pattern the bag was enormous and very loose… but not to worry, this bad boy was going in the washing machine for fulling/felting. It went in for one wash at 40 degrees, and this is how it came out:
It had shrunk a bit, but not enough, so it went back in for a second wash at 60 degrees.
Much better. I then stuffed it with carrier bags to help shape it, and hung it over a radiator to dry, and then once it was dry I added the giant button.
I love it. It’s turned out beautifully, and although it’s more textured than the Toft bags I do actually prefer it this way. It was really good fun to knit, and a wonderful birthday present as my lovely fella paid for the yarn and notions for this project. My birthday isn’t until April, but hey – if you have to knit your own present you might as well have it early!
I enjoyed the knitting of this project so much that I’ve since made and felted a second, and currently have a third one on the needles. As soon as that last one is finished I’ll post another update, and will also be adding them to my shop as a bit of a change from notebooks