Friday, 1 June 2012

Tutorial: Free People-esque Shimmer Bag

Finally! At last! Here is the tutorial for the Free People-esque Shimmer Beach Bag! It was my intention to have this tutorial posted in my first week of blogging (which was only last week), but I had some trouble tracking down the supplies and getting the dye job right. Here is a link to the inspiration for this project. It's definitely not a dead-ringer, but I wanted to incorporate knitting a bag from scratch without coming up with my own knitting pattern (the one used is mentioned below). 

There are a lot of things I would have done differently with this bag, but it was loads of fun to make. I especially like the ever-so-popular ombre dye job. As I said, I had a hard time tracking down the materials for the project. I've just moved out to Somerset from London, and I'm really loving the internet right now. So much so that I'm building a website to selling crafting (mostly knitting) materials. Watch this space!

It was also my intention to give the bag away after writing the tutorial, but we might go to the beach in Devon next weekend if the weather warms up again - and I've gotta have a beach bag! 

A knitting or crochet pattern for a stringy bag. I used the Hexagonal Market Bag pattern written by Laura Dianiska, which is available on Ravelry or on her blog.
3 balls of Rico Creative Cotton Aran
Hesta Prynn, Can We Go Wrong 
  • Circular knitting needles as required by your pattern. I used 4mm and 6mm.  
  • 1 yard/metre of shimmery fabric.
  • 2 yards of 2" unbleached woven cotton tape.
  • 1 packet of fabric dye. I used Dylon in Denim. Rit has the same colour.
  • 250 grams of dye salt.
  • Thread to match your dye.
  •  About 2 feet of gold fringe.
  • Several brass studs. I used exactly 32, but they were sold in a packet of 100. 
  • A hammer or mallet.
  • A measuring tape.
  • Fabric scissors.
  • A sewing machine.
Step 1. Knitting
changing needle sizes, knotted yarn, bottom of the bag, finished top of bag

As I said above, I used the Hexagonal Market Bag by Laura Dianiska, making the following changes:

I knit the mesh pattern for 10 inches before switching back to the smaller needles. Then I knit for 6 more rounds before casting off and securing the end of the yarn by tying a knot and it in (as seen in the last photo above). Please note that if you use a few balls of yarn, I suggest attaching them with a simple knot. I tried the Russian join as it is a popular method for lace, but it just doesn't suit thick cotton yarn in my opinion.

Step 2. Dying
dye bath

There is a very thorough tutorial on the ombre technique over at the Rit website. I followed their instructions pretty much to the letter. Don't forget to dye the 2" cotton tape as well. I added mine to the dye bath during the last 15 minutes of the process. If you find it difficult to submerge, place the tape under the bag to keep it under water. The entire dying process will take about 45 minutes **Top tip! Do NOT lay your bag flat to dry after dying. It is inevitable that there will still be some dye left over after rinsing, and it will soak down, leaving the bottom layer of your bag darker and very un-ombre-like. If you hang your bag to dry, it will come out looking something like this: 

on the washline
Step 3. Assembly
diameter of bag, bottom lining, height and width of bag, second lining piece
Now we're getting into the nitty gritty of the tutorial - the assembly of the bag. Measure the bottom of your knitting. The bottom diameter is 9 inches, so I used a 9-inch salad plate to trace around on my shimmery fabric. Be sure to leave yourself at least 1/4 inch around the plate for a seam. 

Then, measure the height and width of your bag. My dimensions are 10" tall x 12" wide. I wanted the bag to be very roomy, after all the kniting will stretch considerably, and that's the whole point of a string bag. However, my shimmery lining fabric isn't very stretchy, so I cut it to larger dimensions than my bag. Cut out a shimmery rectangle that is at least 12" tall and 30" wide. You can go bigger for a roomier bag. 

folded lining, pinned lining, sewn lining
Fold the rectangular piece in half and pin the ends together with right sides facing. Sew together, creating a tube. Next, pin one end of the tube to the circular bottom piece, again with right sides facing as shown in the second photo above. Sew the two pieces together, allowing at least a 1/4" seam. Turn the bag inside out, and your lining is complete!

attach the lining
Place the shimmery lining inside your knitted bag with the shimmery part facing out. The two bags are only attached with a seam around the top. The lining will be bigger than the knitted edge, so it is necessary to place create small pleats evenly all the way around. Do this by pining right side of the lining to the right side of the bag. Fold the lining half on the left side and fold the knitted bag in half of the left side. Match up the folds on the left side of the lining and the bag (see left photo). Then start creating pleats to take up the excess fabric around the top (see right photo).Sew the lining to the bag just under the cast off row.

measure tape, sew tape to bag, et viola
Measure and cut off two 6-inch pieces of cotton tape. Decide which sides of your bag will be the front and back. Pin a piece of tape to the top front of the bag so that 1 inch hangs over the outside of the bag and one inch hangs over the inside (as in the photos above). Do the same of the back of the bag. Sew the tape in place.

The next step is the trickiest! You're going to pin the remaining woven tape to the top of the bag to create two long handles. Select a spot on the bag between the two pieces of tape already sewn on. Pin one end of your long tape to the top of the bag. Continue pinning along until you reach the beginning of the tape that is already sewn on (Point A). Here you are going to create a handle folded in half that is about 23" long. Pin the end of the handle back onto the bag at Point B. 

Pin along the top of this side of the bag until you reach the Point A equivalent on the back of the back. Repeat the process to create another 23" handle. Pin the remaining tape along the top and overlap it with your starting point if possible. **If you have too much tape left over, cut some off. If you don't have enough tape to run around the entire top of the bag, adjust your handle lengths accordingly. Just be sure to shorten both handles so that they are the same length. 

Don't sew just yet!

pinning fringe, sewing fringe, adding studs
 Before you sew the tape onto the bag, take some time to add a few decorations. To imitate the Free People Bag, I added a few inches of gold fringe and studs. Decide where you'd like to add your decorations and carefully unpin this part of the tape. Pin the fringe on. I added two layers of fringe right on top of each other because the stuff I bought was really wimpy. Sew it on to the TAPE ONLY, not onto the bag. Next add a row of studs. I don't have a soft mallet, so I hammered them in. Be sure you aren't hammering into a delicate surface that the top of the studs could damage. Once the decorations are secured, pin the tape back into place. 

Now it's time to sew again! 
Pick up the end of the tape that overlaps the beginning. Turn under about 1 cm and sew it down. This will keep the tape from fraying. Now pin it back over the starting point and begin sewing the entire piece of tape in one go - all the way around the bag without stopping. 

You might notice that the long piece of tape doesn't quite cover the ends of the short pieces of tape. I resolved this untidy issue by going back over the handles with another row of stitching. 

It's kind of difficult to see the two rows of stitching in this photo because the thread is such a good colour match to the dyed tape. Can you see them? 

And that should be it! Now you're ready to enjoy your new shimmery beach bag that you made all by yourself. Hopefully you saved a bundle of money and had a great time. Enjoy!


  1. Love your pattern and your tutorial. Thank you much for you generous share. :-)

  2. Wow, thanks for sharing such an excellent tutorial! I've been wanting to make a new market bag, and your post is the perfect inspiration!