The seed for this project was planted when I found a photo of this lovely red-flecked pink cord in a spread in House Beautiful. (I think that was where I saw it.) Then I found the giant knitting Nancy and after that, the knotted water bottle cover. The next thing I knew I was gluing some large popsicle sticks (or maybe tongue depressors) onto a big embroidery hoop and the rest, as they say, is history.
Did you know that you could knot your own basketball hoop? One of my library books on knotting has instructions for this and I learned that a similar technique could be used to knot a bag. So I went to Michael’s and bought a very inexpensive 12″ embroidery hoop that I could use to make a knotted bag and I realized I could just turn that hoop into a knitting Nancy and have that bag whipped up in no time. I was right. Here’s what you need to do the same.
- 12″ embroidery hoop
- 12 wide popsicle sticks or tongue depressors
- wood glue
- 24 clothes pins or other clamps
- 100 ft of 5/32″ polypropylene cord (Lowe’s has several fun colors sold in 50ft pieces)
- 10 – 12 ft of polyester or nylon braided rope (for drawstring)
- one or more small loose-leaf book rings
- RIT Dye (optional)
Step 1 – Make Knitting Nancy
Use a measuring tape to measure the circumference of your hoop and divide by 12 to determine where to center your sticks. Not rocket science – doesn’t have to be exact, but use a pencil to mark these 12 (approximately) equidistant points on your hoop. You can also make a pencil mark on the sticks themselves 1-3/4″ from the top. Use both marks to place the sticks on the hoop and attach them with a little wood glue. I used one clothes pin on either side of each stick to clamp them in place for 30 minutes and then I let the whole thing cure overnight.
Step 2 – Knit Your Bag
Let an approximately 12″ tail extend down through the bottom (from the top) of your knitting Nancy. The other end of rope (on top of your Nancy) is your working end. Use it to start winding one loop around each stick. I like to work toward the left. To do this, wind from the right back of your first stick around the back to the left, up across the front to the right and then to the back again and ready to continue to the next stick on the left where you will do the same thing until you make it around all 12 sticks. Be sure to mark your hoop, so you know where your first stick is. That way you will be able to tell when you’ve completed an entire round. My embroidery hoop has a tension screw on it, so I just used that as my marker. When you get back around to the first stick, make the same kind of wrap around it again and then lift the first loop you made around that stick up and over the new loop and the stick itsself and keep continuing on in this manner until you have worked an even number of rounds with about 100 ft. of cord. Take a look at the video here and you’ll see what I mean. If you reach the end of one length of cord and need to join another, just leave a tail from the first length and begin knitting with your new piece. I’ll tell you how to knot the two tails together later. Just be sure you always leave 8 – 12″ tails when you begin, join lengths, or finish knitting.
Step 3 – Form the Bag Bottom
As you can see from the photo above, I did this step a little early. This is where you use one of those book or binder rings or even a split key ring to hold each of the loops that formed at the bottom of your knitting round together. Just open up your ring and slip the loops on it. If only everything were so easy.
Step 4 – Join Ends and Knot Tails
Knitting with cord and rope requires different finishing techniques. You can’t simply weave in your ends, so this is where knotting comes in handy. I used two separate pieces of cord to knit my bag, so I had to knot their two tails together. I suppose a regular square knot would have worked, but I went for something I thought might be a little stronger that I read about in the DK Handbook of Knots (highly recommend this book) called an Ashley’s Bend. Then I used something called a Buntline Hitch to attach the bottom tail to my book ring at the bottom of the bag. Finally, I used a Packer’s Knot to tie the top tail to an adjacent portion of knitted cord that wouldn’t get in the way of my drawstring.
Step 5 – Attach Your Drawstring
I hoped to find a piece of red rope to use as a drawstring, but I just couldn’t find any red at the hardware stores. I did, however, find a lovely nylon or polyester braid (not sure which!) that is very soft and pliable and just what I had in mind – other than the color. So I decided to pick up some red RIT dye and see what would happen even though synthetics don’t typically dye well. Indeed, some of the braid picked up color and a lot of it didn’t, but I think the end result works much better than a solid red.
You can’t really tell from the photo at the top of this post, but I’ve got two separate pieces of braid (rope) running in opposite directions to create the drawstring for this bag. I cut my length of rope in half and ran one piece through the first loop that was left on the knitting Nancy (remove it and the others first) all the way through and out again at the last loop. Then I took the other piece and ran it through the opposite side (6 loops back from the first), so both its ends lie directly opposite the other piece’s ends. This makes a drawstring that really cinches nicely. I made a knot in each pair of ends to form a loop.
Step 6 – Finish Cord and Drawstring Ends
Because I used all synthetic materials, I was able to melt the edges where I cut my cord (about 1/2″ from knot) with a flame from a lighter (hair pulled back, over the sink). Same thing with the braid I used for the drawstring, though I left about 2″ from the knots for those. If you’d like to wear your bag as a backpack, simply use two more small binder rings or some similar device to clip each drawstring to either side on the lower edge of the back of your bag.
Do note that this bag is a real shape shifter, and that its shape will largely be determined by what you put in it. It stretches both vertically and horizontally, but mostly vertically. If you decide to try it yourself, have fun both making and using it. Be sure to let me know if you have any questions about these instructions.