Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tote Recipe

Since several readers had questions (as well as very nice comments – thank you!) regarding my Building Blocks Tote, I kindly provide below how I got from here to there:


700 – 800  yards of worsted weight yarn (I used Cascade 220 and Cascade 220 Quatro)
Size 7 needles (or size appropriate to get gauge desired)
Size G (4.25 mm) crochet hook
1 yard fabric of choice
Tapestry needle
Sewing needle and thread
Buttons or other embellishments of choice (I used shank buttons of varying widths, plus one 1” shank button for closure)


Determine which blocks you would like to make for your tote. I used 4x4 Pulled Rib (p. 19) and Fairy Leaves (p. 102) for the main body, and an altered version of French Braid (p. 181) for the gusset.

Knit the main tote body blocks first. When completed, block each to a 10 x 10 measurement. (Note that my Fairy Leaves were kept in pieces and blocked to 10 x 5.)  It is important to block your tote body’s blocks first, because there will be some shrink-back once off the blocking pins, and the final measurement is key to making an appropriately sized gusset.

Next, determine the placement of your blocks. After some deliberation, mine went something like this: 

Knit the gusset. I altered the French Braid block as follows: cast on 30 stitches and work in braid pattern for approximately 45 inches (or length required to fit your blocks), then bind off. Block gusset.

To determine the length needed for gusset, measure main body blocks once, post-blocked, they are placed in desired position on the two sides and bottom. Add these measurements. The sum of these measurements is the required length you should knit your gusset.

Post-knitting Finishing

Sew blocks together to form the front and back pieces of your tote’s main body. I utilized the slip stitch crochet method with a size G hook (insert hook into stitch of each block, pull up a loop and through loop on hook). Once together, sew any embellishments desired to each side of bag. Position button on front of bag to be used for closing. Sew in place

With right sides of front and back pieces as well as right side of gusset facing each other inward, pin front and back pieces to gusset. Sew main tote body pieces to gusset.

Create handles for the bag. I created two crochet handles, each 1” x 25”, using single crochet and post double crochet stitches. Block each crochet handle.

Cut a piece of fabric 44” x 25”. Fold in half with right sides facing, so you have a 22” x 25” rectangle. Allowing a ½” seam on each side, sew each short side seam. Turn your fabric right side out. You will now have a rectangle with three closed sides and one open side (the top). At each corner of the lower edges of the lining, sew a seam 2” from each corner to form a triangle. Then tack the corners of each triangle to the bottom of the lining. Turn the top edge of lining over ½”.

With wrong side of lining out, fit into bag, with right side of bag out. Whip stitch top of lining to top of bag, just inside top of bag pieces.

Pin handles to bag in desired position. Seam to bag.

With crochet hook, determine the middle top on the back of the bag. Work 8 slip stitches in the middle of the back of the top of the bag. Using post double crochet stitches, work until 4” in length. On next row, create a button hole over the middle 4 stitches. Work two more rows of post double crochet stitches. Fasten off.

And voila! A tote is born. Remember, these are my design choices. You should feel free to look at this recipe and make any substitutions that fit your fancy. Also keep in mind that these directions assume certain knowledge of knit and crochet on the part of the reader. If you have any questions, of course I'll do my best to answer them. 

I hope you enjoy creating and using your tote!


  1. Thanks for sharing. For my personal crafting, I actually prefer "recipes" to patterns so this one has inspired me to think about a bag I would like to make.

  2. I love how your mind took parts and engineered a creative and fun tote.
    As for your thought-provoking question, I would love to write a children's picture or chapter book involving knitting. How'd I go about it? I dunno.

  3. One great nonfiction book I had read and kept is Geisha, a Life by Mineko Iwasaki. Geishas have always fascinated me. When I had read Memoirs of a Geisha, I had thought it was real but realized it was only fiction. So I had found Mineko's biography and loved it.

  4. Your recipe sounds clear and encouraging. It is inspiring to see how you started with pieces and created such a lovely new item!