Thursday, April 17, 2008

Grandma's Got a Brand New Bag

During the month of April I'm knitting these market tote bags with a group of knitters from Ravelry. I've got five done towards my goal of a grocery trip using only these bags and being plastic free and "Green". I'm really enjoying the knitting and how quickly they finish up compared to my normal sweaters. If I ever wanted to start a cottage industry these would be the choice I'd make. I'm having a hard time holding on to them, as everyone keeps suggesting I give them out!! So like the Little Red Hen, I offer to help them knit their own... but none have taken me up on the offer. As you can see, I've got several different sizes and have developed the pattern a bit further with each bag. I've knit them all in the round and four are closed with a three needle bind off. The nylon can tote was bound off with off the two knitting needles with a crochet hook because the fiber was a bit stiffer to work with. I've made two with flat bottoms and I think this is my preferred choice as it will keep any smaller items from falling through.

Here is a look at the different yarns I've tried so far. They are all cotton except the top one which is nylon. I've enjoyed seeing how each behaved and tend to be drawn to a mercerized cotton over the more common sugar n' cream yarn. I really like the smooth finish and the slight sheen it provides.

I've also altered how I do the iCord handles. The original pattern calls for two handles, each knit across the entire width of one side. I did notice on most knitters blogs that they felt the handles left the top opening too small. So on the first three I adjusted the pattern to leave several stitches on each side of the tote outside of the iCord and this worked fine. It allowed me plenty of access into the bag without pulling the top to tight. Many who knit the bag flat solved this by leaving a few rows open along the side seam. One of the worst parts of the iCord handles is the Kitchener Stitch closing. Even after doing it eight times so far, it still ends up a bit bulky and doesn't look as finished as the rest of the bag. I solved this by knitting the iCord handle in one piece. I start as instructed, with the cord attached to one side and then begin the detached cord as instructed. When the free portion is long enough to go around the edge of the bag, I then reconnect it to the back side of the bag (being sure not to twist it) and complete the the second side of attached cord. Then off to the other detached portion of the handle and finish by closing with just one set of kitchener stitches. I'm very happy with this change and will be doing it on the remainder of my totes. Here's a look at the two handles, side by side.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

CAN you take another Tote??

I'm starting to get obsessed with this tote!! I'm half way through the month working with the Ravelry KAL and I've really started to 'get' this bag. I've been knitting in the round, changed up the handles, and really like the bottomed version. One thing I've noted is the tremendous stretch when you load these totes. My goal is to be able to use this at the grocery store at months end and it's was very obvious that something as heavy as canned goods just wouldn't work in any of my previous bags. They would definitely be big enough but I would never be able to expect them to lift the weight without dragging on the ground.

I decided to switch up the yarn and tested this one in nylon. My local craft store stocks a yarn from Hilos called LaEspiga #18. It comes on a spool, is 100% nylon and states its for "fishing nets, bags, macrame & handicrafts". I'll be the first to admit, it's not the most pleasant to knit with. I thought cotton was stiff until I worked with this puppy. IT DOESN'T give at ALL!! But I figured that was the reason it might be able to carry canned goods and I was right! Yippee for the little people!! Truth be told, I wish I had about four more made with this stuff. If groceries are your intended target, I'd suggest giving it a try. I'm sure I'll use it again for this pattern.

So, here's the facts: Knit in the round on 81 stitches with six repeats of the four row pattern. It looks funny when it's empty as it only measures 8 inches flat. I knew I wanted it shorter then the others as it was only holding short cans of food. When it's loaded though, it stretches out just right. When it came time to close the bottom, I laid the two needles side by side as if to do a three needle bind off. I then worked the crochet hook through front and back needle to bind them together with a single crochet. This is stiff stuff and it seemed a better choice than knitting the stitched together. I also made sure not to pull the stitches too thigh so that the bag wouldn't draw up at the bottom, I wanted it to have enough ease to be able to fit several cans inside.

I worked the handles in one piece, as described here. I totally love this handle alteration and you can see I also left 6 stitches open along each side seam, both front and back. Twelve stitches total between iCords. It lays open just right and can easily hold six cans and I'm guessing up to eight with no problem.

Know off to solve the bread and eggs bag!! Any suggestions?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Jumbo Stripped Tote

OK, this is number four and my all time favorite tote so far. This one is knit with Crystal Palace's Biwa yarn. It's 100% Pearl Cotton Mercerized and it has a love tight twist. It comes in smaller balls of 93 yards with a recommended needle size of US 6-7. For this tote I knit on size US9 as the pattern recommends up sizing for a lacier feel. The bag took 5 balls: One for each color strip, one divided between the flat bottom and upper knit edge, and about half to do the handles.

This is knit in the round and started at the flat bottom following this technique. I wanted a bit larger bag this time with enough size to hold a few boxes, like cereal and pasta. So this started with 61 stitches across the bottom edge. The base is worked first in garter stitch and then stitches picked up on the remaining three sides. These are knit in the round in stockinette stitch before the pattern work begins. I knew I wanted this to be a striped bag so I allowed the height to be determined by each yarn ball. After the stripes I decided to add several rows of stockinette stitch to increase the turquoise color at the top. I really wanted the color to balance out a bit more than just using the blue for the iCord handle.

I also drafted a new way of working the handles. I really am not pleased with the way the Kitchener Stitch closing, as it keeps looking too bulky at the bags edge. So I worked the this as a one piece handle that caught up both edges, leaving enough floating iCord to allow the bag to lay wide open. I started as the pattern instructs, with the attached portion and then the free iCord. But instead of closing it off to the begin, I moved to the other edge and reattached it. I worked a second attached edge and another matching length of free iCord before finally meeting back up with the original cast one edge. This is a perfect handle now. I stores flat with the bag, allows plenty of room for loading and is long enough to swing over the shoulder. Now, if I could just get that darn kitchener to look nice! I'm thinking it might have something to do with it's location also.... there is alot of stress where it meets the bag. Off to try one more, this time something to hold heavy canned goods!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

One Down, Two to Finish

OK, I've got the Blue Bottom done and really liked the results. I read several comments on Ravelry about the top being too small so I ended my handles before the side sections (those that came from the squared off base). This one is knit with the smaller handles also, because I envisioned it being more of a carry bay for my knitting during the summer. The yarn was Sinfonia by Omega and was stranded (like embroidery floss). It was listed as sport weight calling for size US 4, but I knit it on size US 9 circulars with size US 4 DPN'S for the handles. I totally LOVE the bottom! It acts just as I hoped it would. This is also a Mercerized Cotton, so it has a slight sheen.

I took the other yarns with me during this weekend's car trip and actually got two other bodies done.

The pink is a yarn from Patons called Grace and is also a Mercerized Cotton. This I knit in the round and did a three needle bind off on the inside. I ripped back the first bind off I did on the outside because I thought it looked a bit rough with this dainty yarn. I knit this until the end of the first skein (136 yards)on size US 8 and I needed to use magic loop, because the stitches didn't move across the cable smoothly. I thought I'd knit it a bit longer, but found the small yarn knit with a large needle actually stretched out to over 12 inches. This one is now awaiting its handles.

This is the Sugar N' Cream yarn and I have one handle on so far. This is by far my least favorite yarn. It's so heavy to work with after the two finer yarns and without the polish is feels a bit dull. It does do a great job of showing the stitch detail though. I did the same inside three needle bind off on this one and knit it on US 9. I also held off the side stitches to make the opening easier to enter. This is shown by the stitch markers in the photo. I just saved four stitches on each side from the side seams. Oh, on this one too, I did two iCord stitches in each open yarn over space to keep the front a bit bigger. I noticed on the blue bottom bag that the iCord really pulled the edge in tight.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I Think a Fairy Just Came By and ......

I think a fairy just came by and pricked me with a spinning needle!! Honestly I do and I think I will remember it's sweet sting for years to come. Wait, maybe I'd better give you a piece of the story just before this.

I'm pretty sure this fairy thing has happened before in my life just with different tools. You might know what a dream catcher looks like - a circular hoop with a web in the center? I'm kind of like that but what seems to get caught in my web are new skills. I get ahold of an idea or something I want to learn and before you know it I own every tool and book required to master the thing. It has long been a part of my DNA and I'm putting the blame on those darn Fairies!!

So, all that said, I've been eying with a bit too much interest the idea of spinning some wool into yarn. It's just so darn pretty and the idea of peacefully pulling fluffy roving into small straight lines and then plying it into yarn sounds like something I'd love to try. The one draw back is knowing that it will mean more tools and time. I'd love to just test my hand it first. So when a friend keeps adding all those lovely photos of her spinning I just stare and drool. I commented this morning on her work and I thought I'd share her response:

That's how it starts, Diane. A gnawing need. Then every fair, museum, park you go to for about a year, you mysteriously stumble upon the one person spinning. Around the corner of an old farmhouse in Prospect Park, Brooklyn; in the early morning sun in an out of the way house at the Cooperstown Farmers Museum; under an awning at the NY State Fair between livestock and the midway; in a hithertofore devoid-of-spinning-materials yarn shop. In tracing your genealogy you learn one 17th c. someone paid his family's transport fare by weaving sails for the British navy and so you know someone in that family did a fair amount of spinning as a livelihood. It's in your genetic code, your blood; it's insidious. You buy a drop spindle and a little bit of roving. You pull and twist and experiment, and before you know it you're sending off to New Zealand for a brand new wheel. Folks you thought were your friends egg you on, damn the expense! ... Not that it's addictive at all. lol Chances are there's a spinner near you, closer than you think possible!

I'd love to have you over. Nudge you on over to our side! :)

Did you feel it? That ever so sweet prick from the needle administered by a wee tiny Fairy? Yup, me too!! Who could resist? I'm thinking, Not I!!

Blue Bottomed Bag

Oh, I’m so excited about this project. I have visions of finishing several of these useful bags. I bought two colors last week, got them photographed, read all the post on Ravelry and printed out the pattern (in duplicate – so I would have no excuses about it being at the other place!). Yup, I was P-r-e-p-a-r-e-d with a capital “P”. Until I got to work this morning and realized, as I pulled the calendar page off, that it was TODAY!!! Oh, man!! Everything was left at home except my camera (of course) and my extra copy of the pattern. After my lunch meeting I finally got around to looking through my office for an appropriate skein of cotton, hoping that I had something here that would work. Yup, she shoots and scores – Ultra marine blue cotton by Omega called Sinfonia bought before Christmas from the bargain bin. Four balls each with 218 yards gave me way more than I needed. A quick call to my daughter even brought me the loan of her needles for the day. So here is this afternoon’s work on my first bag, which you can see is a bit different. I decided to make the bottomed version I found on Ravelry and finished the base off before it was time to pack up and head home. I’m going to start the sides this evening with the regular pattern stitch and hope all will go well. I didn’t make a swatch of this piece because size didn’t seem to be an issue so I hope it continues going well.

One comment I saw often in the Ravelry comments and blogs was about knowing what row you are working on when you lay the piece down and return. I wondered how others marked rows and tracked their pattern. With only four pattern row repeats I’m wondering if it’s that hard? How is everyone else doing? I saw that 18 had signed up!

EDIT: The Ravelry project for the bottomed bag is here, and here is her blog post for the project. She used the direction for the bottom of this bag. For my bag I cast on 41 stitches and knit in garter stitch for 3 1/2" before picking up stitches around the edge and working in stockinette stitch for 8 rows. I'm sorry not to have included this yesterday and didn't mean to make you search for it.