28 Sept 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. 

So, change back to your shorter-length 4.0mm/US #6 ndls and then follow the pattern, making any adjustments for your own gauge and stitch pattern. 

Then continue until the top band is the length you want it to be. I am going to make my bag 35cm/14 ins long, so I want the top band to 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. So on the next row, we are going to work across the stitches, binding off the sections in-between the handles and leaving the handle stitches on three stitch holders ready to work later. 

So go ahead and follow the pattern for the next round, making sure you do not cut your yarn at the end of the round. 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, follow the pattern to commence the handle. You will see that the pattern gives a gentle shaping to form a small rounded "shoulder" from the top of the bag.

You will also see that the edges have a neat selvedge to either side. Please refer back to the post on selvedges for more information on this, and as always if you have a selvedge method that you prefer, then please substitute it for the one I have suggested here.

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. 

However, the longer the knitted handle 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. Please have a look at the Weymouth Shoulder Bag  pattern on my website as an example of a bag where I have added a fabric backing for extra strength. The material was fairly lightweight in that bag, but worked really well to make the handles less stretchy yet still remain nicely flexible.

I want my handles to be a total of 60cm/24 ins long with an overlap so I can add a 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 second 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 ⅞ ins wide. You will need 2 buttons in total, 1 for each side.

So work your first handle to the length that you require and then follow the pattern to form a shaped decrease for the button tab at the end. Cut the yarn and pull the end through the last stitch. Finish off neatly on the wrong side. This forms a nicely pointed button tab at the end.

Replace the second set of 11 stitches onto the needles, join in a new yarn end and work this strap in the same way. Continue until this measures 20cm/8 ins or the length you require and then place a marker at either end of the row. 

Work a further 2.5cm/1 in and bind off all the stitches, 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 wrong side 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 the yarn end off. Then do the same for the second handle on the other side.

Other options: a) Single Handle

If 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) Fabric or Rope Handles

Southampton Book Bag by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

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 woven webbing for the handles. Have a look at the Falmer Book Bag and Southampton Book Bag patterns on my website as examples. These are two designs from the Southampton Collection and use canvas totes as liners. For these two book bags, I replaced the standard tote bag handles with longer cotton webbing straps so that they could be carried on the shoulder. 

A similar approach could be used with these market bags, attaching the straps to the base and then running them up to the top, sewing straight through the knitted fabric. My daughter Anna did this on her Nokomis Beach Bag with the straps exposed on the outside, forming part of the design. 

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!


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