Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Don't Shoot The Messenger (Bag)

North Lincolnshire is currently buried underneath snow. It's the lovely, light, fluffy kind of snow that doesn't form snowballs, much to the distress of MikeyFox & the relief of yours truly.

I'm not letting myself worry about the cost of heating up the Shack In The (Frozen) Marshlands, or whether or not I'll get to Sheffield to restock the shop I supply (after spending the last two days making up all the stock), frozen water pipes or digging out the car every morning. I am, instead, wrapping myself up warm & burrowing my way through the drifts and walking through the fields every day & enjoying the rare pleasures of snow. The great expanse of white that was a field of rapeseed, that makes little white sparkles dance in front of my eyes if I stare too long. The tree-lined path to the church dusted with snow, prettier than any Christmas card. The snow-topped cottages of the village looking like icing topped gingerbread houses. The Cavalo Nero in the garden, the deepest green you could imagine against the crisp whiteness. Little pleasures that make it worth getting up in the morning.

Okay, enough reverie, I promised knitting patterns!
Last year I was all about bags. All sizes, all shapes. But my favourite was the messenger bag. I loved the simplicity of it, the way it knitted up quickly in a few days & it's a really good way of showing off whatever fancy or unusual textured wool you have, or any new stitches you've become partial to.
Alas, this isn't really a pattern, more of a guideline that you can adapt to your needs.

Your average bag will need about 3 balls of yarn. If you're making a little purse-style bag, you should be able to get away with one or two balls. The basic process is to knit a long strip of - um - knittery, and fold it like an envelope. Your one strip will become the front, bottom, back & flap of the bag. Then to knit a thin strip of - uh - knittery which will become the handle and sides of the bag, which you stitch in place at the end.

Your first step is to figure out what size you want your bag to be. Do you want it to be a laptop bag? Something to carry folders in? Or the mountain of detritus that seems to build up around you wherever you go. Or a little bag for the essentials.
Next, choose your yarn. It's worth adding here that the thicker the yarn, the quicker it knits up. Stuff suitable for 8mm or 10mm needles will take no time at all to make. Variegated yarn can bring out really nice random patterns in the finished bag, and textured yarn will give an interesting finish.
Knit yourself a little tension square. Yes, it's not nearly as fun as actually making something, but if you want to make something a certain length, you'll need it to figure out how many stitches you need to cast on.
Okay, so now you have the arcane wisdom necessary (or have just cast on until it feels like enough), get knitting. You can use any stitch you like, rib, stockinette, garter, moss, whatever takes your fancy. I'd stick to garter stitch if you're using a fancy, fluffy or bobbly wool.
Knit until it's 3 times the intended size (height, I mean) of your bag (so, if you want a bag that's 25cm/10" tall, you'd knit it 75cm/30" long). This isn't set in stone, though. If you want a short flap, reduce the length accordingly.
Next, you'll need to knit your strap. This can be as thick or as thin as you like. You can make it really skinny or really thick. Or somewhere in the middle. As for how long it is, well how long do you want it? Once you know the answer to that question (if it's a shoulder bag, use a tape measure to see how long you need it to be. Don't forget to include the extra you need to make the side panels of the bag). Remember that knitting stretches, so err on the side of caution.

Once you've knitted your strap, you need to sew it in place. Place the knitting wrong side up on a flat surface & lay one end of your strap alongside the edge that you're about to sew. Make sure you're measured up right & stitch away. Sewing onto the strap will turn your big lump of knittery into a 3 dimensional bag shape. Woo! Position the other end of the strap on the other side (making sure it's not twisted) and repeat the process. Turn inside out (well, it's actually rightside round now!) and huzzah! You have a bag!

The bag on the left is Wendy Origin yarn in the less-appealing-than-it-actually-looks colour petroleum knitted with 5mm needles. The bag on the right is Wendy Viva yarn in Delph with 10mm needles.

Of course, if that sounds a bit too complicated, you can sew up the edges of the bag without these side panels, and knit up a strap to attach for a flatter bag.

Next pattern will be an actual patterny-pattern. promise!

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