22 Apr 2013

The problem with plastic

Last year, our local county imposed a charge on the use of plastic bags in shops. The shop owners worried that their customers would be upset by the imposition of the bag charge. Instead they found that most people valued the incentive to carry their own bags as a very tangible way of dealing with the problem of plastic in the community. 

Of course, in the "olden" days before the single-use plastic shopping bag was introduced, it was standard practice to carry bags to the shops and no-one would have thought about being given a bag of any kind, even a paper bag, to carry their shopping home. 

But all that changed in the 70's and 80's with the introduction of plastic shopping bags. Many stores even frowned upon customers using their own bags and soon it became standard practice for all shops to provide bags at their checkouts for everyone to use. 

However, by the turn of the century the problems from this usage were becoming apparent: landfills were filling up with plastic, bags were polluting the waterways and rivers, and animals both on land and in the sea were being injured. 

It was a medium-sized shopping trip of my own in 2007 that made me want to do something about this. I returned from the supermarket with just a moderate shopping load. 

However, I counted the number of plastic bags that the store clerk had given me and there were 23 plastic bags! The box of eggs were in their own bag, each pot of milk was doubled-bagged etc. Twenty-three bags for just one outing....

On the next shopping trip I took 3 linen bags with me, but soon became aware of their limitations. For a start, I didn't have enough of them, so really needed to carry more. However, when I started carrying a larger number of linen bags I saw they are actually quite heavy, so add a fair bit to the weight you need to carry if you are on foot.

And lastly, while they are fabulous for transporting heavy items they are quite hopeless for the bulky and awkwardly-shaped items that make up quite a large part of a regular shopping visit.

So I went home and got out my knitting needles. Two days later I had my first knitted shopping bag and by the end of the week I had three to carry to the supermarket. Brilliant. Not a single plastic bag on this trip and everything accommodated with ease. 

I made a number more to give to friends and family, and increased my stock so that I had lots of bags in different colourways. Well, why not!! I then submitted the pattern to Knitty and it was published 5 years ago in the Summer 2008 edition as the "BYOB - Bring Your Own Bag" pattern. 

Since then I have had so many great comments and suggestions and have now published an updated pattern, the BYOB 2.0. The chief difference in this version is that it now uses 100% natural yarns. That was something that troubled me with the original design: that I had used a cotton/acrylic yarn. There were lots of good reasons at the time, as the brand I selected was easily available and came in a range of lovely colours. It was also soft yet strong – both really important qualities for a bag yarn. 

However, if you're trying to knit an eco-bag then you do want it to be able to return to nature at the end of its life. That is, after all, the main point of the exercise. So the BYOB 2.0 is worked in a crisp 100% cotton yarn.

I have also added a range of sizes so that you can select the size that will work for you. I like longer bags that go over my arm so that I can carry multiple bags but still leave my hands free. However, I know that some people prefer to carry their bags in their hands so might prefer a smaller, shorter bag. So hopefully having a few different size options will work for everyone. 

So please click here to download this latest version of the BYOB 2.0 pattern.

Happy Earth Day 2013!


Last Blogpost: Two Book Bags

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10 Apr 2013

Two Book Bags

In my last two blogposts, I have been extolling the virtues of knitted bags with linen liners and today I want to add the final two bags in the set. The whole collection has come from a very simple idea: to take plain craft-store tote bags and with very little sewing turn them into something stylish and unique. 

 The first two bags in the collection, the Back-to-Nature Bag and the Sarasota Shopper have almost no sewing at all, just needing the top facing to be turned to the inside and caught down into place. 

The book bags that I am featuring here have a small amount more sewing as they each feature long straps so the bags can be easily carried on your shoulder. 

The first is the Falmer Book Bag with strong graphical bands of red set into a black basketweave background.

And the second is the Southampton Book Bag from where the collection takes its name. 

This is worked in a single navy colour with contrasting straps and liner, which makes it a little easier to knit. The liner was dyed at the same time as the Sarasota Shopper using Dylon dyes in "Bahama Blue".

Inside, the bags include a inner tab with an attached carabiner — very useful for clipping on a set of keys or your library card. Carabiners come in a wide range of colours and sizes to suit all types of colourways. Here, the black and red carabiner used in the Falmer Book Bag perfectly matched the black linen tote liner and the exterior yarn colours.

The bags can accommodate a good number of books and DVD's to transport home from the library, or for more general shopping.

I was using the Southampton Book Bag as a camera bag the other day and it was really good for that. I kept the camera on its shoulder strap along with the bag straps, so that the camera just dangled inside the bag. The lenses were then easy to locate underneath. I put a spare battery and memory card into a small carrying pocket and clipped that to the carabiner and was good to go. I love bags that don't look like camera bags!

The knitting patterns for these two book bags are available separately in my pattern store, or as part of the set: the Southampton Collection. All the patterns are available for instant download. 

I do hope you enjoy making and using these bags, and adapting them for all your various activities.

Happy Knitting!


8 Apr 2013

The Sarasota Shopper

In my last Blog post, I introduced a new set of knitting patterns all based around a simple idea — to take craft-shop linen tote bags and turn them into something really special. In that posting, I detailed the first bag in the collection, the Back-to-Nature BagNow, here is the second of the bags, the Sarasota Shopper.

This is such a versatile bag and has been in almost continual use since it was completed. In fact, I was using it to transport my next knitting project to the airport one day while the needles were still attached to the top facing! A sure sign of a winner.

In this bag, I dyed the store tote liner and was pleased to see how well it dyed up. It was quite economical too, as one sachet of dye was easily enough to dye two separate bags. The colour used here is Dylon "Bahama Blue" and gave a shade very reminiscent of the turquoise waters lapping the Florida coast.

For the Sarasota Shopper, I used a dye colour to suit the yarn I had chosen, but a contrasting colour could be used instead to add an extra degree of "zing" to the finished result.

The design features bands of Basketweave texture set into a background of Double Moss Stitch. Both of these stitches are favourites of mine and were taken from our new book, Reversible Knitting Stitches.

The final bag has a wonderfully understated elegance — just perfect for a trip to the shopping mall. It would also be an excellent choice to carry all the essentials for a day at the beach.

The patterns for all four bags are available for instant download from my website, either as stand-alone patterns or as a collection, the Southampton Collection

I will upload photos of the final two bags, both book bags, next time. 

Happy Knitting!


Website: www.wyndlestrawdesigns.com

Our book: Reversible Knitting Stitches

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7 Apr 2013

Introducing the Southampton Collection

I was wandering around my local craft store a short while ago when my eye was caught by a set of linen tote bags. These were just plain and simple bags but looked to be a very useful size — not only for shopping at the supermarket but also as general project bags or for carrying to the mall. 

I thought about it for a moment and then realized that they would make excellent liners for knitted bags. After all, knitted bags are great but lack the sturdiness of linen. By making a linen-lined knitted bag you'd have the best of both worlds.

Before I knew it, my shopping basket had filled not only with the tote liners but also with enough yarns and dyes to complete a whole set of four bags. I have just uploaded all four bag patterns to my pattern store and you can either buy them individually or as a whole set, the Southampton Collection.

So here's the first bag in the collection! This is the Back-to-Nature Bag. The colourway for this was inspired by the idea of a "Return to nature", the cream colour at the top gradually giving way to the gentle green of a misty spring morning at the base.

The exterior is worked in a crisp cotton yarn and features a neat stitch that almost looks crocheted. This is Embossed Check Stitch, a reversible stitch taken from our book, Reversible Knitting Stitches. Although you don't see the reverse side of this stitch when it has the liner inside, the interlocking ribs give this stitch a lot ot character and resilience.

Inside, this sturdy little bag has enough capacity to carry home bottles of milk or heavy cartons of juice, or be used to transport all the heavier vegetables home from the Farmer's market. 

And all this with minimal sewing to complete the item!

I will post the details of the other three bags over the next few days, or please visit my website to see all my bag patterns.

Happy Knitting!


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