Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Reusable Market Bag

When the local grocery stores were announcing that they would charge for the use of the plastic bags, I started buying the reuseable bags that most grocery stores sell anywhere from $1.00 - $2.00.  I thought this was getting a little expensive and some of them weren't even that sturdy.  So I decided to make my own reusable market bag with the thought that I would make a bunch of them to use in place of plastic bags at the grocery store.  After seeing a pretty cool looking one at the Farmer's Market last year, I was inspired by the one I saw a woman using that looked like it was made out of some really stiff material, which I later I found out was hemp.  I'm not really into knitting with hemp, for one it's very stiff and I knit very tight and working with this material would be hard on my hands.

So I searched the web and came across a market bag - Green Living Tote, on Lion Brand's website, that used their cotton yarn, an aran weight that isn't as stiff but is just as sturdy. It's also an easy design that knits up fairly quickly.  I haven't made many, but the ones I have made have become widely popular with my friends and family.

My first attempt at this bag, I thought, 'wouldn't it be nice to add a little texture to it?' Something that would break up the mesh a little. And so, I searched my stitch books for a pattern that I could add to the market bag, and this was the result:

Bag #1: added Horsehoe pattern at
top of bag with two rows of
purl stitch and then start the
handles portion of original pattern 
Horshoe Lace Pattern working in the round:
Worked in multiples of 10
Row 1: *k1, yo, k3, sl 1, k2tog, psso, k3, yo, k1, repeat from *
Row 2: knit
Row 3: *k1, yo, k2, sl 1, k2tog, psso, k2, yo, p1, repeat from *
Row 4: *k9, p1, repeat from *
Row 5: *k2, yo, k1, sl 1, k2tog, psso, k1, yo, k2, p1, repeat from *
Row 6: *k9, p1, repeat from *
Row 7: *k3, yo, sl 1, k2tog, psso, yo, k3, p1, repeat from *
Row 8: knit

I brought the bag in to work with me to show to my friends and I got requests right away to make them bags too!  I was a little taken aback by the response.  But, I couldn't say "no", because they were so stinking easy to make.  So below are two more versions of the bag that I gave to two friends, but I got a little fancy with the detail and added a Honeycomb pattern to break up the mesh in the middle of the bag and to keep the bag from stretching too much.

Bag #2: Honeycomb and Vine Lace Zigzag pattern
Honeycomb with Dainty Chevron added to top
Honeycomb Pattern:
Honeycomb stitch chart
I used the chart to the right for the Honeycomb pattern, but I modified it for the round by reading the even rows from right to left and reversing the stitch (for example if it said to purl, I would knit) because you are working in the round instead of flat (back and forth).

The following is the pattern I used for the Vine Lace Zigzag portion of bag #2, which I found in my copy of The Knitter's Bible by Claire Crompton:

Vine Lace Zigzag pattern:
Worked in multiples of 10
k = knit
ssk = slip, slip, knit (slip two stitches knitwise, insert left needle through front of two slipped stitches on right needle and knit).
yo = yarn over
k2tog = knit two together

Row 1: *k2tog, k4, yo, k1, yo, ssk, k1, repeat from *
Row 2 and all even rows: knit
Row3: *k2tog, k3, (yo, k1) twice, ssk, k1, repeat from *
Row 5: *k2tog, k2, yo, k1, yo, k2, ssk, k1, repeat from *
Row 7: *k2tog, (k1, yo) twice, k3, ssk, k1, repeat from *
Row 9: *k2tog, yo, k1, yo, k4, ssk, k1, repeat from *
Row 11: *k2tog, (k1, yo) twice, k3, ssk, k1, repeat from *
Row 13: *k2tog, k2, yo, k1, yo, k2, ssk, k1, repeat from *
Row 15: *k2tog, k3, (yo, k1) twice, ssk, k1, repeat from *
Row16: knit

Dainty Chevron Pattern: (Also from The Knitter's Bible)
worked in multiples of 8
Row 1: *ssk, (k1, yo) twice, k1, k2tog, k1, repeat from *
Row 2 and every even row: knit
Row 3: As Row 1
Row 5: *yo, ssk, k3, k2tog, yo, k1, repeat from *
Row 7: *k1, yo, ssk, k1, k2tog, yo, k2, repeat from *
Row 9: *k2, yo, sl2tog-k1-psso, yo, k3, repeat from *
Row 10: knit

My fourth bag I made for a friend who needed items for her Relay for Life auction.  Her team is raising money for the American Cancer Society and of course, again, I couldn't say "no". My Dad, my son's grandmother on his father's side, and my favorite Aunt all died of cancer or cancer related complications, so I felt it was my duty to contribute to this worthy organization.

Bag #4: Large Openwork lace pattern and
added reverse single crochet around
the handles for reinforcement
Large Openwork Lace Pattern:
worked over multiples of 4 (you may have to reduce your number of total stiches by knitting two together in row 1 to get a multiples of 4 within your total number of stitches)
Row 1: knit
Row 2: *yo, k4, repeat from *
Row 3: *yo, drop next loop from left needle (yo increase from previous row), slip1 knitwise, k3, pass slipped st over all three sts, repeat from *
Row 4: knit

My fifth, and favorite bag so far, went to the winner of an auction we hold at work every year to raise money for our holiday adopt-a-family program.  Another worthy cause and I was more than happy to make a contribution to the auction. And the winner was very happy with her bag.

Bag #5: Wasp Nest pattern with reverse
single crochet to reinforce the handles in a
complimentary color.
Wasp Nest Pattern:
worked in multiples of 8
Color A:
Rows 1: knit
Row 2: purl
Row 9: knit
Row 10: purl
Row 17: knit
Row 18: purl
Rows 3, 5, and 7 (color B): *k3, sl 2 purlwise (yarn in back), k3, repeat from *
Rows 4, 6, and 8 (color B):  *k3, sl 2 knitwise (yarn in back), k3, repeat from *
Rows 11, 13, and 15 (color B): *sl 1 purlwise (yarn in back), k6, sl 1 purlwise (yarn in back), repeat from *
Rows 12, 14, and 16 (color B): *sl 1 knitwise (yarn in back), k6, sl 1 knitwise (yarn in back), repeat from *
Embellishment: Using Color B: I reverse single-crocheted around the borders of the handles for reinforcement.

Even though I only made one for myself, I really like that I've had the opportunity to make bags for worthy causes and for friends who are enjoying their bags.  I will be making more of them because they are very handy to have when you need to make a quick trip to the grocery store, or to the farmer's market, or even to the library, they stretch to accommodate a lot and yet are very durable.  I hope you will enjoy making these for friends and family or just for your own use.


  1. Those are nice bags! I like the last one w/ the brown accents. I've made a few and bought a whole cone of cotton yarn to make more too. This is the pattern I used and it goes really quick!

  2. Thank you...and your reusable bag is a great design. I might give that one a try too!

  3. I like it. I plan on making a drum bag with some leftover chunky Noro Iro is that is I ever get around to knitting again. Too busy with the spin.

  4. Spinning is fun...I haven't had much time with all my knitting to get any spinning done, but I'm hoping soon I will get back to it.

  5. Those are very nice bags. My favorite is the one with the brown accents.

  6. Thank you Pam and Michelle. They are really great bags, very durable and fun to make!