This bag was originally inspired by Vivian Hoxbro and her fascinating technique of domino knitting, with all its angular possibilities. Throw in a great bag shape that we'd drooled on in expensive leather at our local crafts fairs. Tumble finally with a bulky easy knit yarn, another great Barbara Walker stitch, and our fondness for fulling in general. What we end up with is a cute bag that's able to carry a real load.
The surprise comes in when you unhitch the top of the bag and reveal an area of different yarn in the opening section. This is of course less of a surprise if you use an eyelash that peeks out the sides in the finished product :-). Still, it makes the whole thing more interesting.
M-XXXL (but adaptable within reason via fulling). Will hold letter-size paper items, or a whole sweater's worth of yarn.
before fulling: bag 14"x 18", strap 2" x 75"
after fulling: bag 11" x 16", strap 1.5" x 72"
MC: Crystal Palace Iceland,
color: 5329 celadon; 4 balls. [Do NOT substitute any non-wool
or Superwash yarns!]
SC (optional): Crystal Palace Splash, color: 7189 tidepool; 1 ball.
Or: Crystal Palace Labrador, color 7266 tidepool. 1 ball.
- zipper (plastic teeth preferably) or snap tape, about 10" long
- 1" button or larger, or hook and eye
- 1" D rings or sliders (optional)
13 st and 10 rows for 4" in plain stockinette (NOT pattern stitch!). Don't stress too much here, you can adjust the size later as you full.
This is from Barbara Walker's 'Second Treasury of Knitting patterns', she calls it 'diagonal scallop stitch' and very correctly describes it as a quick-knitting texture pattern that gives a nice firm fabric.
Work on multiples of 4 sts plus 2:
Using double-pointed needles, cast on an odd number of stitches, or usually in this case just pick them up from an existing edge. We'll be using a consistent 23 stitches to start each domino. Knit row 1 Purl every even row, slipping the first stich (or better yet, if you know how, don't drive yourself crazy turning all the time but knit that row backwards, from left to right). Every other odd row: sl 1, knit till one st before the middle, slip 1, k2tog, pass slipped st over it, knit till end, purl last st.
You can try to mark the middle, which is hard because it shifts, or as Anna Zilboorg advises in Knitting for Anarchists you can just -look- at what you're doing :-), and keep the decreases vertically aligned. When you get down to a single stitch, either cut it off or immediately pick up the next domino along the edge.
In our case, we'll be making a garter-stitch border on the outside of each domino. Instead of purling back, knit back for the first 3 times, so you form 3 ridges of garter stitch at the outside of each square.
Because we're going to be doing a lot of picking up from edges, it'll be helpful if you pay attention to making them neat in all cases. Always purl the last stitch of every row, and slip the first stitch, no matter what the pattern. This will give you a very easy to maneuver edge chain.
Cast on 34 stiches. Work in pattern stitch for 14 rows.
This makes for a fairly narrow bag, mostly because I take the bus a lot and find it easier to maneuver with a flatter profile. If you are more of the fat-bag school, or really want more holding capacity, feel free to make the bottom rectangle deeper, as long as you add in multiples of 4 rows (warning: you will have to adjust the size of your final dominos).
When you get to the end of a pattern row, start picking up all around the bottom rectangle, then keep working in pattern. Make sure you pick up multiples of 4 st (-2) from each short side. Things should line up smoothly all around :-). If not, mark the worst side and make sure it later becomes the back... It's a bit hard to knit the first couple rows of this section, what with corners and all, but it all starts to go better in a few rows, don't worry. Work in pattern stitch for about 6" from the bottom. Note that in this section, since you're going around you're knitting the plain alternate rows, not purling them, to get the same stockinette ground.
Mark the middle of a long side, which will become the visible back part. After a plain stockinette row work to the marked middle, and start purling back. You're now going to purl all the way back to the marker, and stop right at the center. Turn, ssk, and work in pattern stitch all the way back, k2tog at the last stitch. The end product of this section will be a triangular wedge wrapped all the way around the base cylinder. Decrease at the beginning and end of every pattern row, then purl back. If you do your decreases correctly, the angle of the edge of the bag will be the same as the one formed by the stitch pattern, so watch you don't get too far off course. Stop the wedge when you still have 5 stitches on the needle, put them on a yarn holder.
Switch to dpns, and start to pick up stitches on both sides of the bottom of the wedge to start making the first domino. Pick up 11 stitches from each side, and make sure to pick up an extra stitch right at the bottom, between the stitches where you started going back and forth for the wedge. Then work a regular domino, doing a double decrease in the middle every other row, and making 3 ridges of garter stitch at the outside edge. When you're done with that one, start from its tip, pick up along its edge (11 stitches again), one in the join, and 11 more up the original wedge edge, and work another domino. Then go back and make another one on the right side, and finally a last one at the top, which you will stop when you still have 5 stitches on the needle and put on a holder like you did in the back. You now have 4 dominos filling up the wedge in front, and with the same shape as the big wedge at the back.
Now turn the bag 90o, and start making more dominos in the remaining (smaller) wedges. This time, you're (optionally) going to carry some of the SC along with the MC for the first 6 rows, while you do the garter ridges. Just break off the SC and finish the domino in stockinette with the MC as usual after that. Or just skip the SC if you don't like the hairy look, and do these dominos just as usual. Finish with 2 right-angle triangles so that you get a flat edge on top, and keep all those stitches on a holder. Turn the bag 180o and fill the other wedge with dominos and triangles in the same way. When you're done, pick up all those dangling stitches on the circular needle, knit one row, and cast off purl-wise.
If the Splash is too much for you, too hairy or something, then instead of carrying it along you can substitute printed Labrador for the MC. It'll give a color contrast and a mild texture enhancement, but won't be quite as aggressive.
There are several possible options here, but in my mind the most important is to get a strap that doesn't stretch, as I find that makes a bag nearly non-functional. I also prefer a single-piece strap for structural strength, and also because I think bags stay on better when the straps are attached at a single point between the shoulders.
Start by measuring yourself, or more to the point by measuring your favorite backpack's straps, as long as the finished size is roughly the same as this one. Add some slack to allow for slight shrinking and final tying. Sideways crochet won't shrink much at all with fulling, maybe 3", but lengthwise knitting will shrink a lot (8"?).
What I did was to use a crochet hook and the MC, make a chain about 2 1/4yd long, and sc for 4 rows. I didn't have to turn it constantly while working, and this direction is a bit more stable. Weave ends in.
If you don't know how to crochet, you can knit a strap, by making a 4 or more stitch idiot cord. It'd be best to use at least 8 stitches, and finish the resulting ladder with a crochet hook as Meg Swansen does for her idiot-cord finger gloves. But then if you can handle a crochet that well you really should just be crocheting the strap :-).
Finally, I'd recommend what I originally intended: if you can find some leather or Ultrasuede to match, simply sew a strap the final desired size, folding over at least 2 layers of material together and topstitching through at least once.
Keep the bag and strap separate till after you're done fulling, because the strap should have a lot more fulling. Also, if you've fulled before be careful with this - merino fulls brutally quickly. For that reason we don't recommend a washing machine.
Weave the ends in however much you like to, because you won't be able to afterwards. If you want a more distinct shape to the bottom, sew in something fulling-resistant and somewhat rigid to the inside of the bottom. Using either synthetic yarn or cotton string, or anything but wool, roughly sew the edges of the bag together, so the 2 hairy triangles face each other, ie perpendicular to your back. Don't make the seam too tight so the edges don't full together (although they can be cut afterwards), but keep them close enough to prevent the edges from deforming. Also make sure the ends of the seam don't boing out in any way.
Use very hot water and real soap (not detergent) to prime the wool for fulling. Refer back to our fulling article, if you need to before you begin.
Put the bag and strap in a bucket with very hot water, rub them with a bar of soap, and start agitating with a toilet plunger. Flip the bag over and rotate it in between every few swoshes. We obtained the desired results in less than 10mn. You need some fulling to control bag stretch, you want as much as will give the look you like, you must not have so much that all your hard work and stitches will be obliterated. Remember that things will look less distinct when dry, so squeeze water out when you're evaluating the look, don't just look at what you see in the water. Take the bag out then give the strap alone several minutes more, till you feel like you can't stretch it lengthwise any more.
Don't wring the results but pat the bag dry in a towel. Manually shape the bag the way it should be, ie not twisted or lumpy, with the opening straight and well-aligned. Put on a sweater rack to dry, don't hang. If you're burning with impatience, take a hair dryer to it, but don't put it in the dryer where much more fulling than you intended will instantly happen.
Sew in zipper/snap tape along the opening, pinning carefully first to make sure you're doing it evenly and centering the whole thing well. If you're going to be using a hook at the center top of the back, be sure to sew in the zipper so the slider is at the bottom when the zipper is shut. Then put a ring on the slider, so you can hook the bag up with the zipper shut. Otherwise, if you're going to use a button for a closure make a loop. Either crochet a chain and one row of single crochet, or make a 2-stitch idiot cord. Sew the loop securely at the bottom of the opening, where the zipper meets. And of course sew the button or hook at the other side of the zipper. You cannot sew these things on too securely - just try not to have it look too messy.
Sew on the strap. Center it on top of the back of the bag, fold it over so it's symmetrical, and sew as securely as you can. You can use a sewing machine and regular thread, or you can use the same yarn with a yarn needle by hand. Note that if like me you tend to make your initial chain a bit tight, you can transform this into a Design Feature: make sure the tight side is on the side nearest the bag, and you have instant contour straps.
Make more loops as the button loop above, and sew them just above the back corners of the bottom piece. Or you can sew on some D-rings at the same spot. Both ends of the strap can now be tied to the loops or D-rings you sewed at the bottom of the bag. If at this point you find that the straps are too short, you can just sew them on to the bag directly, although the bag won't be adjustable any more. If on the other hand they straps are too long, you can just hack them off and overcast the ends with a bit of yarn.
You may do a very small bit of judicious fulling of all that new sewing, or just trust it to happen with wear.
With the SC Splash leftovers, cast 16 stitches on size 15 needles, work straight in garter stitch till you have a matching scarf ;-).
Thank you to Crystal Palace for permission to use their original materials.
First published: 17 mar 03
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