Vickie, being an extremely nice person, said “People are going to want the pattern for that bag!” Pattern? What? I just kind of improvised it. I’m actually pretty bad with crochet patterns – reading them, that is. The abbreviations and symbols and complete lack of explanation as to why I have to add that weird increase on Row 10 – this stuff still boggles my brain all the time, and I’ve been crocheting five years.
Finally, it dawned on me: this little made-up bag is exactly the kind of project I would have liked to encounter when I’d reached the point where I was getting competent at crochet, tired of making scarves, but not ready to take on more complex patterns yet.
So I decided to write up my process of improvising, and Caron was nice enough to send me some more Sheep(ish) to play around with. (I’m working with Pumpkin(ish) and Camel(ish), to be exact. The turquoise is one of the many mystery yarns from my garage.)
OK, so, to begin, you need one rectangle of crochet. What gauge? What size? Don’t worry about it! What stitch do you like best? Make a base chain that’s a little shorter than the width you want the finished bag to be. Then start crocheting. Continue until it’s the length you need. Then stop. Block it if you need to, and weave in any ends.
You can use literally any stitch pattern here. If you look up above, you’ll see one I made with alternating stripes of double and single crochet. You can use a lace pattern meant for thread – that’s what I’ve done here. Nobody can send you to jail for that. If you have a scarf pattern you like, make just a section of it. Play around. Change colors. (One thing I love about Sheep(ish) is that it takes repeated frogging beautifully.)
Next, fold your rectangle in half, so that the side of your crochet design that you like best faces out. Don’t worry about what the “right” and “wrong” sides are supposed to be. Just pick what you like. You can even turn the pattern on its side if you like. The striped bag up top there, I made with what’s supposed to be the wrong side facing out, and I turned it on its side. I liked how it looked better. Crochet needs to get over its own rules sometimes.
Also, remind yourself once again how nice it would be if you remembered to apply hand lotion before taking photographs.
Now we’ll seam up the sides of this bag. Single crochet works great for that. If you’re crocheting into the sides of your rectangle, as I am here, it may be difficult to see where, exactly, you’re supposed to put your hook through. Don’t worry too much about it! Try to space your single crochet fairly evenly, putting your hook through the rectangle wherever you need to in order to do that. If you use a color that matches your rectangle, it won’t show.
If you aren’t familiar with single crocheting a seam, this how-to is excellent.
Once you have both sides seamed up and the ends of the seams woven in, it’s time to add a flap to your bag. Look at the top opening, and decide which edge is the back. Then, start a new row of crochet along that edge. You can use any stitch you like here – I usually use half-double or double crochet. (This is all U.S. terminology, by the way. Do not get me started on why stitch names in the U.S. and U.K. are so confusingly different.)
Crochet your flap until it’s almost the length you want. If you want a buttonhole in this thing, you’ll need to add that into the second-to-last row of stitching.
…And to do that, you’ll need to know where the center of your flap is. That’s not hard; just count how many stitches you have in this row.
If it’s an odd number, the center point will be a stitch, as shown here.
If it’s an even number, the center point will be the spot between two stitches.
Either way, life is good. Put some kind of marker there.
Then, on your next row, you’ll skip a stitch or two on either side of that center point. Make a chain for each skipped stitch. Then continue stitching as normal.
How many stitches do you need to skip? Well, that depends on the size of the button you want to have on this puppy. Take a moment and rummage through your button stash and find a beauty. How big is it? Your buttonhole should be just a little smaller.
When you add the last row of stitches, just stitch into the opening you made. Since I skipped three stitches here, I made three half-double crochets into the opening. Or, you can make more stitches into the opening and create a little shape there. Try stuff – it’s good for you.
Since we’re working without a pattern, we can improvise anytime we like. Sometimes improvements are an additive process. See how the flap came out a little too small here? I could have frogged it and tried again, but instead…
…I added a border. Problem solved!
Remember, you can add a crochet edging anywhere. You can switch yarns anywhere. You can do anything you want.
If you’re using a lace pattern, or planning to carry something that can poke itself out between the crochet, then you might want to line your bag. I just make a simple fabric bag that’s slightly smaller than the crochet, pop it in, and hand-sew the top edge to the crochet. Then sew on the button and you’re done.
Is this show-quality construction? Nope. But that’s not the point. The point is, you made this without having to rely on a pattern. It’s your original creation! What else can you make patternless?
A few notes on the yarn:
I’m really liking this Sheep(ish). It’s 70% acrylic/30% wool, and has a pleasing handspun look. It’s extremely soft and makes a nice, drape-y fabric, even in single crochet, and even as tightly as my Type-A hands like to crochet. The color range is gorgeous! Very retro and saturated.
You can find this stuff at indie stores, Jo-Ann, and some Michael’s. (There’s a handy map on Vickie’s website.) I just scored some in those blues and greens above to make a new blanket. Without a pattern, I might add. Stay tuned.