Box, Box, Bag, Bag!

April 8th, 2006 | View Comments

Before I get started telling the story of my latest UFO sighting, I have a few announcements to make.

There is commentary about the latest developments in the stitch and/&/’n bitch saga at girl from auntie.

If you donated to the knitting proposals at Donors Choose after reading my entry–thanks so much! If you haven’t yet, please consider it. One of the proposals is only $165 away from being fully funded. To the donor(s): You rock!

Ok, now that’s out of the way, it’s time to tell the story of the Eggplant Bag.

The Christmas after I learned to knit, my mother gave me a gift certificate to a LYS near my parents’ house called The French Knot II. It’s a little shop with some great stock for its size. I wanted to make Meema’s Felted Marsupial Tote from Stitch ‘N Bitch so I set off for the store in search of some worsted weight wool.

This is when I discovered Cascade 220. I love bright colors and being able to mix and match bright colors. When I saw the wall of Cascade 220 in the LYS, I was hooked. After spending some time picking out colors, I marched out of the store triumphant, carrying 5 skeins of the Cascade 220, and also the ZarOne I used for my friend’s scarf and hat set.

Closeup of colors and textures in the Eggplant Bag

Per the pattern instructions, which called for 3 skeins of a main color and 2 skeins of a contrasting color in Lamb’s Pride Worsted, I bought 3 skeins of a deep purple (#8886) and 2 skeins of a lime green (#7814).

Per the pattern instructions, I double-stranded the yarn and cast on sixteen stitches on US 15 circs and started knitting 44 rows while in the airport waiting to fly home after Christmas break at my parents’ house. I finished the base of the bag quickly, held it out and…it was small.

If you look at the picture of the felted tote in the book, it looks quite large. The measurements in the book say 13.5″ across and 10″ high post-felting, which is smaller than it looks, but is still a decent-sized tote. Unfortunately, the base of my bag suggested that the finished item would be 13.5″ across and 10″ high pre-felting, and…no. So I frogged it and started over.

Based on the shrinkage estimates I found online (if you read my Rogue entry you should know that I am not big on swatching nor pattern-reading), I wound up casting on some number of stitches and knitting some number of rows (my notes, sadly, do not give the actual numbers) that resulted in a bag base that was 7″x12″.

I still tried to follow the instructions for the marsupial tote to some degree but eventually gave up after I couldn’t make the right twists stop laddering–I still can’t make twists without ladders–and after I took a closer look at how the handles were constructed and realizing that basically I was making a giant buttonhole rather than the kind of handles I wanted.

So I wound up abandoning the pattern, picked up stitches from the base, knit in the round until I’d used up all the purple yarn, knit in the round until I’d used up a skein of the green yarn, bound off, and grafted on some garter stitch handles. The pre-felting measurements were 7″x12″x23″ with 33″ handles. It looked like an eggplant costume for a three-year-old, hence: The Eggplant Bag.

I pinned it inside a pillowcase and chucked it in the wash with some detergent and towels. This is where I learned that I really ought to have a zippered bag to hold felted items because otherwise, I’ll wind up with towel lint felted into my bag, and picking it out is not fun. But otherwise, the felting went smoothly.

The bag shrunk down to 7″x9.5″x13.5″ with 27″ handles, which is pretty much the size tote I wanted to begin with. I blocked it on an box covered with a plastic bag.

Eggplant Bag, post-felting

I sewed some big snap closures onto the bag, and voila! Done. Or so I thought.

Turns out, garter stitch might not be so good for handles, because it’s stretchy even after felting. I had mental images of the handles getting longer, and longer, and loooooonger until finally they snapped. I felt that I had to reinforce the handles somehow before I could really use it, and also that lining the bag would be good. I made a mental note to make a trip to a fabric store…sometime.

That was over a year ago. See, I don’t have a car, and there are no fabric stores nearby. I did take the bag out yarn shopping a couple times, but was always plagued by that fear of doomed stretchy handles. So the bag sat in a corner by my stash, sad and neglected.

Until I discovered The only problem was, I had not done any real sewing since about 7th grade, when I made a duffel bag for my home ec class and had not done any hand-sewing since about 3rd grade, when I did some embroidery for a Girl Scout badge. I did not know what kind of fabric to buy or how to sew a lining properly.

Problem #1 was solved after a quick consultation with my mother, who did a Master’s in textiles and thus is my go-to person for all my fabric questions (she recommended a cotton broadcloth for my bag lining).

Problem #2 was solved after a quick consultation with the giant 1970s needlecraft book I “borrowed” from my mother, which taught me how to backstitch and finish seams. So I bought a yard of purple broadcloth for the lining and two yards of purple and green grosgrain ribbon for the lining.

I used an existing tote bag (the result of my 6th grade home ec sewing project) as a template and attempted to draft a paper pattern. That didn’t turn out so well, since I hadn’t used the correct measurements for my Eggplant Bag. But it did prove to be a useful exercise, since I now knew what shape of fabric to cut out, and where to sew. So I got out the fabric, cut, and sewed, without the benefit of a paper pattern.

Sewing detail on the bag lining

It took me a week or so from start to finish, particularly since I was being picky about finishing and pressing open the seams properly. My sewing won’t win any prizes at the county fair, but it went pretty smoothly with no sewing mishaps. The lining fits the bag and the ribbon makes the handles feel much more sturdy. And if I do say so myself, the finished tote makes a really, really cute knitting bag.

Finished Eggplant Bag

As you can see, I’ve already loaded it up with the materials for my next project, a stuffed turtle from World of Knitted Toys for a co-worker who is having a baby.

CogKnition posted this on April 8th, 2006 @ 5:41pm in Bags, Finished Objects | Permalink to "Box, Box, Bag, Bag!"


  1. Jane says:

    this bag is AWESOME! i’m going to have to check out knitting.

  2. Yvonne says:

    So a series of database restorals wound up losing my original response. So, in short:

    1) Thanks!
    2) Knitting = sanity
    3) Let’s knit next time I’m in SoCal!