How to Make a Bag Using Whatever

Dear Kay,

When I wrote last week, I had developed a serious case of Bag Fever. Thinking about our new Cocoknits leather handles and what to do with them sent me down a deep hole of distraction.

I was sending you texts of schematics for a log cabin Four Corner Tote. I was cutting up old nightgowns. It was a scene.

Bag drunk.

As I cast on 160 stitches to make a mitered square Four Corner Tote, I sobered up. To make a knitted Four Corner Tote, I would need to crank out a square almost three feet square. It was going to take a while. I didn’t want to take a while to attach my handles.

I wanted to attach them soon.

The Fast Solution

Surely to Pete I had some piece of knitting somewhere around the house that could be pressed into service as a bag to attach to my beautiful Cocoknits leather handles.

It didn’t take long.

I had some criteria for what sort of yarn is appropriate for a tote bag. One, actually: it had to be sturdy. No wool or otherwise elastic yarn. It had to be cotton. Or linen.

Bingo: I knew exactly what would be fun to play around with.

What you see here is a project I began back when we first introduced our Euroflax Mini Skeins. The pattern is our beloved Chevron Stripes Hand Towel. I was making this venerable pattern into a scarf—basically a hand towel that just kept going—using as many colors of Euroflax Mini Skeins as I could.

I used 15 colors, from the Fire, Earth, Forest, and Sea sets. (St. Lucia and Santa Fe hadn’t been born yet, but wow they would add some zing.)

Anyway, I would have kept going except for the 5,000 other projects that leapt into my life, so this half-done scarf marinated for a long while.

Until the handles.

How to Turn a Half-Finished Scarf into a Bag

1. Knit an unusually long Chevron Stripes Hand Towel using Euroflax Mini Skeins in whatever festive color combination you like.

2. Don’t worry about weaving in the many ends—I just knotted them together, firmly, and trimmed the excess.

3. Fold the scarf in half. Assess whether it’s the right size to be a bag. My thought was: I am not going to undo a single stitch of this scarf—that was hard work, randomly picking colors! This would be a very vertical bag: 18 inches tall x 14 inches wide.

4. Seam the edges. I used this brilliant tutorial by Knit Purl Hunter to remind me how to do mattress stitch in garter stitch. It’s so simple: frowns and smiles. The video shows how garter stitch bumps look like either a frown or a smile. To join them, you sew into a Frown on the left edge, then a Smile on the right.

5. Attach the handles. This takes about six minutes because I tried a couple of positions for the handles and arrived at this placement.

6. Put stuff into your new bag. Despite the unyielding nature of linen, the yielding nature of knitted fabric means your bag will stretch quite a bit. It’s a floppy thing, really. But it’s linen: it will not fail you. It will last for decades.

7. Bonus Show-Off Option: Add a lining. If you’re feeling supertidy, you can sew in a lining using a beloved souvenir tea towel to give structure to your bag. It will appear a miracle and marvel when you fill your bag yet it stretcheth not.

I did this years ago with good results.

Belinda had sent me a London tea towel, so I stitched it into Heidi Kirrmeier’s Medano Beach Bag. Here’s how that went, back in 2010 when hope was high.

I am not going to line this bag. At least for now. I’m happy with it as one of those experiments that turns out without much fuss. Assuming, of course, that you have a half-finished linen hand towel/scarf stuck in a drawer somewhere. And a set of leather handles begging to be attached to something.



Links to things:
Leather Handle Kit
Chevron Stripes Hand Towel Pattern
Euroflax Mini Skeins

Categories:   Knitting