28 Sep 2013

Market Bag Knit-along #7 - Handles and Finishing

Today, we are going to finish up our BYOB Market Bags and look at handle options — both knitted and purchased. If you would like to go back to the start of this series and review all the sections so far, then please click here for the start of these Tutorial/Knit-along posts and follow the links at the bottom of each posting.

In the last blogpost we were working the central openwork section of the bag and so by now you should have arrived at the top band. If you are working to the same dimensions as I am, then your bag should now measure 30cm/12 ins from the middle of the base to the current round of knitting, and you will have 130 stitches. So, change back to your shorter-length 4.0mm/US #6 ndls and work the following round:

     Rnd 1: [K1, p1] to last 2 sts, knit into the front and then the back of the next stitch (kfb), k1. (131 sts)
     Rnd 2: [P1, k1] to last st, p1.
     Rnd 3: [K1, p1] to last st, k1.
     Rnd 4: As Rnd 2.

Rep these last 2 rnds until the top band measures the length you want it to be. I am going to make my bag 35cm/14 ins long, so the top band will be 5cm/2 ins deep.

Double Handles

Now it is time to add the handles. For this bag, I am going to work two long handles with a button overlap detail on each. If you'd like to do the same, work the following round next. You will need 3 stitch holders as you work this round:

     . Wk 23sts in patt, 
     . BO 19, wk 11 sts and place these onto a stitch holder (SH), 
     . BO 25, wk 11 sts and place these onto a 2nd SH,
     . BO 19, wk 11 sts and place these onto a 3rd SH,
     . then BO 24 sts. Do not cut your yarn.

You will now be at the point marked by the red arrow in the diagram below, ready to work the first handle: 

     Working over these first 11 sts:

     Row 1 (RS): Wk 11 sts in patt.
     Row 2: Sl1, wk to last st, sl 1.
     Row 3: K1, k2tog, wk 5, SSK, k1. (9 sts)
     Row 4: As Row 2.
     Row 5: K1, wk to last st, k1.
     Row 6: As Row 2.
     Rep Rows 5-6 until handle is length required (see below).

This shapes the base of the handle smoothly from the top of the bag, giving it a small "shoulder", and the edges have a neat selvedge stitch. See back to the post on selvedges for more info on this.

Length of Handles

Handle length is a very personal thing. Some people like very long handles so that their bags hang at hip-height, others much shorter. Measure an ideal bag that you currently own and see what works for you. 

The longer the knitted handle though, the more it can stretch, so you might need to back your handle with cloth or a woven tape if you find that is an issue. 

I want my handles to be a total of 60cm/24 ins long, and I am going to work them so that they overlap with an attached button detail at one side. So I will make the first side of the handle 40cm/16 ins long plus a small amount for a button tab, and the 2nd side 22.5cm/9 ins long. This will give me 2.5cm/1 in for an overlap to sew the two handles together.

I used some vintage-style buttons, from an original 1941 design. You may have something just right in your button box! The ones I used measure 22mm or 7/8 ins wide. You will need 2 buttons in total, 1 for each side.

So for the first part of the handle, work in the pattern as set until it measures 40cm/16 ins when slightly stretched, ending with a WS row. Place a marker at either end of this row, then:

     Row 1 (RS): K1, SSK, wk to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1. (7 sts)
     Row 2: Sl1, k2, p1, k2, sl 1.
     Row 3: K1, SSK, p1, k2tog, k1. (5 sts)
     Row 4: Sl 1, k1, p1, k1, sl 1.
     Row 5: K1, SK2P, k1. [SK2P = Sl 1 st to RH ndl, k2tog, pass slipped st over] (3 sts)
     Row 6: Sl1, p1, sl 1.
     Row 7: SK2P. (1 st)

Cut yarn and pull through the last stitch. Finish off neatly on the WS. This forms a nicely pointed button tab at the end.

Replace the 2nd set of 11 sts onto the ndls, join in a new yarn end and work this strap in the same way. Continue until this measures 20cm/8 ins and then place a marker at either end of the row. Work a further 2.5cm/1 in and BO all sts, leaving a long tail of about 50cm/0.5 yd for finishing the handle.

Position the button tab over the strap just worked, matching the markers. Sew around the button tab, bringing the yarn through all the layers to secure well.

Take the yarn end to the WS and loosely oversew the open edge of the under-handle. Thread the yarn through to where you would like the button to be and secure into position. Finish yarn end off. Then do the same for the 2nd handle on the other side.

Other options: a) Single Handle

f you prefer to have a single handle on your bag, then you can modify the instructions above to work just one handle going from one side to the other. Either leave it plain, or back it with cloth or a woven band for extra strength. 

b) Linen or Rope Handles

Or perhaps you would like to use a purchased handle of some kind. There are many available in the stores, or you could salvage an interesting handle from an old bag.

Alternatively, you could use linen straps or rope handles. Have a look at the Falmer Book Bag and Southampton Book Bag patterns as examples. These are knitted bags using craft-store linen tote liners. I replaced the standard handles with longer straps so that they can be carried on the shoulder. A similar approach could be used with these market bags, attaching the straps to the base and sewing straight through the knitted fabric.

Or a length of cord or rope in a matching or contrasting colour could be fixed at the base and then woven in and out through the openwork section for a decorative effect. Knot them at the top for an easy and strong set of handles.


Sew in all the remaining ends neatly on the inside of your bag making sure to secure them very well and then block into shape. And you're done!

I will post one final blogpost in this series with details of this BYOB Market Bag written up as a separate pattern so that you will have the instructions in one place. Thanks for the messages so far — I am glad you are enjoying making these bags. Make lots and give them to your friends too! The fewer plastic bags we all use the better.

Happy Knitting!


Next Up: Market bag Knit-along #8 - The BYOB Market Bag

Website: www.wyndlestrawdesigns.com

Our book: Reversible Knitting Stitches

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