Want a quick and easy project that can be whipped up in no time? This cute tote bag is the perfect make. Worked on circular needles and using double strand jute it will grow before your eyes. Check out the step-by-step tutorial below and get those needles clicking.
Jute is a fab material to use for creating strong durable projects. It can be a bit hard on the hands, but use a large gauge needle and work a loose stitch to make it easier.
Here’s what you need
Jute/Garden twine (we used 2 x 250m balls)
We purchased this jute at our local Wilkinsons. At present, it is unavailable online, but you should be able to pick it up in store.
Circular knitting needle (we used a 10mm, 80cm in length)
Wool darning needle – to sew in ends
large eyed buttons
stitch marker and row counter
Here’s what you do
You will need to have knowledge of knit and purl stitches and be able to use circular needles for this project. Working with circular needles sounds a lot harder than it is, so even if it’s your first time, why not give it a go.
The bag is worked throughout in double strand of jute/garden twine. This makes it stronger and it won’t stretch too much once things are put inside. Please note though, that due to the nature of jute, there is some give in it, so it is not advisable to load the bag too much or put heavy items inside.
As the bag has a ribbed effect at the top, you will need to start your stitch count so that it is divisible by 4. Our bag has 60 stitches, but if you want to make your own size, just keep this in mind or your rib won’t continue in the correct way.
To start make a slip knot and using double strand of jute and a 10mm circular needle, loosely cast on 60 stitches. The stitches should cover most of the 80cm’s of the needle.
The bag is worked in continuous rounds of knit stitch. It’s a fab way to work stocking stitch, without having to do the purl rows. Make sure that the cast on stitches aren’t twisted and insert the needle into the first stitch that you worked at the beginning of the cast on row. Work a knit stitch here and insert a stitch marker, this is the first stitch of the round. You need to know where the start of each round is to keep track of how many you have worked. We are using a stitch marker that also doubles up as a row counter. You can purchase them here
Continue with the knit stitch for this round and once you are back at the marker, turn the counter to show you have completed round 1.
Continue working the knit stitch in rounds for a total of 35 rounds. Don’t forget to add to your counter each round and also make sure you move your stitch marker to show the 1st stitch each time.
We completed 35 rounds, but of course, you are free to choose the length of your bag. Once you are happy with the length, you need to work the top of the bag. This is worked in the rib stitch of (knit 2, purl 2) and the sequence is followed the whole round. You will see that the final 2 stitches of the round are purl 2 (if you made your stitch count divisible by 4) so you are ready to start the next round with the correct sequence of knit 2.
The rib section is folded in half so that the top of the bag is stronger and it finishes the edge of nicely. You can make the rib as deep as you want. Ours was 11 rows of rib.
Once you have worked your chosen number of ribbed rows, cast off loosely. If you cast off too tight, it will make the top of the bag narrow and your stitches may not line up for sewing. A top tip is to cast off the stitches as they have been formed. Cast off the knit stitches knit wise, and the purl stitches, purl wise. It’s not essential as the join will be hidden on the inside of the bag.
Once you have cast off all the stitches, cut the yarn and pull through to secure. Make sure you leave a long enough strand to sew the top edge to the inside of the bag.
To finish the bag, the first thing to do is close the bottom of the bag. With the right side outwards, hand press the bag together. Sew along the bottom seam to close it. This is the part of the bag that will have a lot of pressure on it once it has things inside. Make sure that it is sewn up well and you may want to sew along this edge twice to strengthen it.
The bottom of the bag has been sewn closed and is nice and strong.
To secure the top edge, first turn the bag the wrong side out. Fold the rib back down over the ribbed stitches. You want the top edge of the bag to come down to the first row of the ribbing. Line up the ribs so that they match and aren’t twisted.
You can see in the picture below that the rib is sewn to the first row of the k2, p2, rib. Sew the top edge down, all the way around and keep checking that your ribbing is lined up. Sew in the end to neaten.
Turn the bag the right side out and press into shape with your hand. If you haven’t done so already, sew in any ends. Weave them back and forth so that they don’t pop out.
As we mentioned, jute does have a tendency to stretch with time. You could knit the handles if you prefer, but we made plaits for ours. It reduces the stretch and looks great too. You can make the plaits as thin as you want, but bear in mind that they will sit on your shoulders and may dig in. We made ours nice and sturdy and to do this, we cut 36 1 metre lengths of jute. Each strand of the plaits is then made up of 12 strands of jute.
Once you have cut all your lengths, lay them down together and tie a length of jute near to one end to secure. Decide how big you want the tassels at the end and take this into consideration when placing the tie around.
Once you have secured one tie, stick the lengths down. Make sure that you do this on a surface that is suitable. You don’t want to ruin your best table or work surface.
Separate the strands so that you have 3 sets of 12 strands.
There are two actions when plaiting and they are: ACTION 1
Bring the right hand strand over the top of the middle strand to replace it. Put the middle strand out to the right, to replace the one you have just bought over to the middle. That is the first part done.
Now do the same but on the left. ACTION 2: bring the left strand over the middle strand to replace it. Move the middle strand to the left to replace the one that has just been brought to the middle.
That’s all there is to it, but wait……. you need to keep an even tension to get a neat plait. We want our plait to be fairly flat, so don’t pull the strands too tight. Just let them lay naturally, but make sure you keep them looking even as you go down the strands. Continue with action 1, then action 2, action 1, action 2 and so on until you get to the bottom of the strands.
Once you get to the bottom, tie the plait to secure as you did with the top. Try to get the distance at each end roughly the same.
Make another plait in exactly the same way. It is important that they measure the same or your handles will be uneven.
To finish the plaits, trim off the ends to neaten.
To attach the plait to the bag, place it on the bag to see where you want it to go. We found that it sat better if it was placed on the purl stitches and it was also easier to sew in place.
Using a large eye needle, sew the button on top of the tassel and through the bag. It is really important to make sure that you go through the tassel and the top of the bag to make the handle strong. Again it should be noted that this bag will not be suitable for heavy items.
To further secure the handle, sew the plait to the ribbing at the top of the bag. Again, make sure that you go through and around the plait and completely through the ribbing.
Once you have sewn one side, position the other side to match. Take care to ensure that the handle isn’t twisted or it won’t sit right on your shoulder.
Your attached handle should be as below.
Now all you need to do is attach the second handle to the other side. Make sure that it is directly opposite the first one. Your bag is now finished and ready for action.
These are perfect for that quick trip into town and can be used time and time again. They would make fab bags to give pressies in and then doubles up as something the recipient can use.
Jute is cheap and gone are the days when the only shade is a murky brown. Craft shops have lots of different colours so keep a look out for it when you’re next there.
We love seeing your creations and makes, so don’t forget to tag us #CraftyCoCreations
The Crafty Co