The Cursed Hobo Bag


By all measurable things, I’m an expert knitter.  I tried something this week that I never thought would make sense…knitting a bag would involve a lot of seaming, and I hate seaming.  It would also require felting to prevent little things from falling out through the stitch holes.  That’s why I’ve never tried to knit a bag before.  I don’t like the look of felted wool.  But after I saw the fun Parisian Tote patterns at I decided to give it a try.  These are not intended to be felted.  The pattern is available for download (though at a whopping $6.30 which seems pretty high for something that doesn’t cost anything to publish).  Most sites that offer patterns in both a download and paper form charge significantly less for the download.

My first attempt to make the bag didn’t turn out well for two reasons.  One, I used yarns that were too high-contrast (Great Northern Yarns’ Mink/Cashmere in black, plus HipKnits Aran silk in sky blue).  The other reason was that the rectangle knitted for the base of the bag was really small!  I’d thought the pattern was for a hobo size bag.  I emailed the designer and she said that by making the base rectangle larger, and then following the pattern from there, I’d end up with a properly-dimensioned bag, but larger.  So I frogged the first rectangle and gave it another try.

The fabric looked much better on the second try.  I kept the mink/cashmere (a yarn I don’t really think is all that; it doesn’t even feel as soft as a good merino or an alpaca) and added in two strands of black Karabella Manipur.  This is a laceweight silk ribbon yarn that I’d ordered a few weeks ago and found it to be much too (a) scratchy and (b) unruly to be a repeat purchase.  I was looking for something to use it up, and this bag was it.  Ditto the mink.

To this combo I added a strand of Trendsetter Antico in Grape (an eyelash yarn with a black base and purple, gold, turquoise and green metallic eyelashes) and a strand of Berroco Lazer FX in Gold/Black.  This last is a sequin yarn – really it’s a sequin thread – and the sequins are holographic.  Go, Berroco!  We love holographic stuff!

So you might think this is going to be overwhelming.  I worried about that too, but I needn’t have.  It’s a gorgeous, goth, sparkly fabric.

Well…I knit the base rectangle fairly quickly (without the Lazer, since that’s an expensive yarn and I wanted to really glam up the sides of the bag).  Picked up the stitches around the rectangle, added in the Lazer, and started following the pattern.

If you’ve ever knit with multiple strands you know that it’s very easy to drop “part” of a stitch while you work.   The chances of getting the needle through all five of those little loops every time is pretty remote.  In the first couple of rows I probably made this mistake 5 or 6 times.  An Addi lace needle would have helped tremendously, but nobody around here had them in size 11.  But by the same token, having fluffy eyelash yarn (and a lot of black) in your project helps hide a multitude of sins.  I didn’t sweat the mistakes too much, just fixed them up as I found them on the next round, and it’s impossible to see the fixes.  Everything looks pretty good.

The bag pattern relies on regular increases as you work from the bottom of the bag up.  By the time I’d increased my 80 stitches to 240, the thing was looking like a beret for an elephant.  There were still plenty of increases written into the pattern but I stopped increasing and simply worked straight for about 25 rows.

Meanwhile, I was still missing out on the occasional loop.  And sometimes I’d drop a strand from my handful of working yarns and have to tink back and pick it up again.  And the Manipur kept tangling like a very tangly thing and I had to keep stopping to unknot the messed-up yarns in my basket. 

So I ran out of Manipur – no worries, I had more skeins in my stash – and the new skeins knotted up and tangled while I was trying to wind them into balls.  Finally got THAT sorted out.

Back on the project, knitting like billy-oh, and I realize I’m running out of my stash of Antico.  But I do have some Antico black – which is exactly the same except the purple bits are black.  The metallic bits are the same colors.  So I thought, OK, I’ll alternate rows, one row Grape, one row black.  This worked fine for a while (but the Manipur started tangling again) and then I realized I had plenty of Antico purple upstairs in the stash bin!  I tried taking out the Antico black and putting the purple back in on every row, but then I had a section that looked weak because it appeared that the eyelashes were missing.  (They weren’t, but being black, they blended in with the base of the fabric.)  Back to alternating rows.

Then I had to set the work down to let Bickie come in, and when I returned to the chair I sat on the working yarns (inadvertently) and the tension pulled a bunch of stitches off my needles.  Patiently fixed that and moved on.

Ran out of mink.  But I had anticipated this and bought a skein of Lion Brand black worsted wool yesterday.  It’s an OK match for color and texture, but it ITCHES like, yes, a very itchy thing.  I knit and knit and had to keep stopping to scratch my arm where the working yarn ran across it.  I’ve never bought Lion Brand before because it’s too déclassé, but for this bag it was suitable.  Won’t ever buy it again, either.

Ran out of grape Antico.  No problem, switched to all black.  It’s OK because it is visually more colorful at the bottom of the bag, eliminating a top-heavy look.  It looks like I simply added the grape Antico halfway down the bag.

Then I started thinking about the size of this bag.  At 3 stitches to the inch, with 240 stitches, yeah.  It was 80 inches around!  That’s A Bit Much for a handbag!  So I started working a decrease row.  All this time I’d been working a pattern of k4, p4 around.  So my decrease row was k4, p, p2tog, p around.  This still left me with a ridiculous number of stitches, so I worked a few rows even and then switched to a k4, p2tog, p around.  This would have been a great idea except that I got up in the middle of a row to do something, and when I came back I forgot it was a decrease row!  I finished the row with no decreases and didn’t remember about this until I got to the beginning of the row.  But again – this is a forgiving bundle of yarns – so I just worked around to the point where I’d forgotten the decreases, and worked them on the next row.

By my then-calculations I still had about a 60-inch bag opening, which I didn’t want.  So I did another decrease row – k, k2tog, k, p2 around.

Still too big.  After today’s work was finished I’d gotten down to a pattern of k2, p2 around.  I’m going to work this until the Lazer runs out, then work a few rows for the top edge of the bag, and bind off.

The pattern calls for a fabric lining to be stitched around the top inside of the bag and it also has a flap on the bag.  I don’t want to make a flap, so I’m going to make the fabric lining come out and over the edge, then put grommets in it and run an i-cord drawstring through the grommets.  The i-cord will be Valley Yarns black silk (20/2) stranded with a K1C2 gold lame yarn I have, but I don’t remember the name of it.  Lumina?  No, that’s the Berroco yarn that looks just like it.  I have to go to Jo-Ann tomorrow to look for a suitable lining.  Would love to find a holographic gold lame, but I don’t really expect to get that lucky.  Wish there was a good fabric store closer than Jo-Ann’s.  Jo-Ann’s is the Lion Brand of fabric stores!  Ha ha.

Ah yes.  The pattern suggests making either an i-cord strap (??  I can’t imagine that holding up very well) or braiding long lengths of the yarns used, to make a strap.  Neither of these really appeals to me, and besides, this bag looks so goth that I wanted to do something dramatic with the strap.  I bought two black webbing belts at Fred Meyer’s – the kind with a double row of grommets on them.  I had to buy two because they weren’t long enough for a cross-body strap.  My plan is to cut off the buckles and sew the buckles to the sides of the bag, then sew the two cut ends of the belts together and buckle them into the buckles.

Many of the bags shown on have brooches pinned on them.  I have a blood-red velvet rose pin that I’d bought for a hat trim a few months ago, but never found a hat base that I liked.  I’m going to pin the rose on the front of the bag where the drawstring ends hang down – sliding the drawstring ends between the pin and the rose for security.  No, there’s no red on the bag, but a blood-red rose goes well with the goth look, so I might as well.

So my question is…back in my designing days I remember hearing that if you took someone else’s copyrighted pattern and changed at least 10% of it, you were not breaking copyright.  I don’t know if that’s actually TRUE, but I know I’ve changed more than 10% of this design!

I continue this post a few days later after I’ve finished the knitting.  What I did was get down to the basic k2, p2 around, and worked it until I ran out of Lazer.  Then I bound off the stitches.  Coincidentally I ran out of Antico and Manipur at that time too!  Well, I had a few yards of each left.  Not much of the Lion Wool left either, maybe 30 yards.

This bag is a disaster as far as shaping.  When it sits on a table it is a big giant circle with a little flap folding over the top.  When I pick it up and hold it by the bound-off edge, it sags like a bag of onions.  It’s not yet lined or drawstringed and doesn’t have the straps yet, and I don’t think I’m going to waste more time & resources on it.  I can’t see how this is going to arrive at any kind of happy shape, lined or not lined, and then, putting the straps on it is going to pull it longer. 


It reminds me of the cat mats Mom and I made, back when I was learning to knit.  Basically a giant beret.  And I could easily just throw this thing in the garbage – or use it for some non-bag purpose – except that I really regret the Lazer.  It’s a wonderful yarn and it would be murder to frog this project just to get the Lazer back. 

OK, back after about half an hour of thinking…I’m trying to felt it in the washer.  Who knows, it might spring into some kind of reasonable shape; on the other hand, it can’t get much worse!

Wah.  After washing it and tumble-drying it, there is absolutely no change.  So, if anyone has an idea of what this could be used for, please let me know!  The only thing I can think of right now is a cover for a hanging basket, ha ha.  I put it over my spinning wheel’s main wheel…my spinning wheel is a monster, and it fit…

Hello Again

Hi to all friends & family.  Yes, I’m yo-yoing back to a different web address for the blog.  Reason?  I don’t want to keep paying the annual fee and maintaining two Windows Live IDs.  Too confusing.  So, I’m keeping the free one that most of my things are associated with, and canceling the Kaleidocherry account (soon).  This blog entry is just a placeholder for the new blog.  I’ll post on both when I have a firm date for the transition.