I did it! I did it!
After looking at my huge 22" square bag (pre-felted) for many months... sometimes wondering if I should just add sleeves and call it a sweater, I did the deed: I threw it in the washer. I decided that it was doing no good lying around, and that it was never going to be a sweater, so just do it.
I tried washing it in the kitchen sink, first a hot soak, then a cold soak, then back again. After about 5 times going back and forth my hands started to ache, and the bag didn't look any different, so off to the washer we went. My washer is a side loader, and locks during the wash cycle, so it is a complete act of faith to put an item in, while praying for the best... and so it was! I couldn't have been happier when I saw it come out of the washer. It was perfectly felted.
I couldn't squeeze the 1/2" dowel in, so got a 7/16" one and that worked. Brought home some wooden beads from Hobby Lobby and hubby drilled them open to fit on the dowels perfectly. It's so nice! It took over 3 days to dry because of all the knitting: A double bottom to hold in a sheet of stiffening fabric or plastic canvas; a divider that could have been made a little smaller than the width of the purse, so it would pull in better; and a side pocket to keep items handy. I am happy with this project. I made a mental note to face felting fears in more of a timely manner...
Floral Felted Bag after