It actually worked. I can't help but feel a bit smug - it's just so damn pretty.
It shrunk from 19" x 9" x 7" deep to 15" x 7" x 5" deep. The fabric is wonderfully firm and dense, and my lazy end-finishing (that is to say, none at all) seems to have been completely masked. Just as everyone else who's made this found, the suggested hand-felting instructions are total bullocks; it took two cycles in the wash for the magic to happen.
I blocked it on a padded portfolio pilfered from a long-ago conference, bent and folded to accomodate the flare of the sides:
It needed some rather aggressive pulling and shaping and pinning to even everything up, but it seems to have resulted in a perfectly flat, smooth, heavy-but-drapey felt. Backed with interfacing, it'll be perfect.
Lining shopping today, and then some investigation into sources for some of the hardware I need (hint: Googling "leather straps" does NOT give you purse and handbag supplies, gah).
While the wash ran, I gave some more attention to The Fair Isle Project. I've come up with a pattern:
based on a jumper in the Shetland Museum:
I am completely besotted by this sweater, totally and wholly in love with it. I've taken some of the motifs from it, and am planning to work them as shaded bands of dark-pattern-on-light-background on a natural white canvas, punctuated with threads of currant red for a little visual wink. The yarn is wound:
and swatching has begun:
That edge is the product of cutting a tubular swatch. They're telling you the truth - it won't unravel. Could it be a real possibility to scissor gaily away into an unreinforced sweater, without madness or a mind otherwise diseased? The idea is starting to flirt rather dangerously with my brain.