How exciting to be nearing the finish on this project! I’m thrilled with the finished bags I’ve seen so far, and very happy people are succeeding with this project.
Today I’d like to discuss making the flap for the handle, attaching the handle to the bag, and then joining the front and back with a slip stitch seam. The flap is simply a piece of fabric we make along the top edge of both the front and back of the bag. It will fold over the handle and then be attached to the inside of the bag near the top edge. For the bag to hang correctly from the handle, the flap must start out the same width as the top edge of the bag. It needs to be long enough to fold over the handle and reconnect with the top of the bag again.
[Editor's note: click here to see two wooden purse handle options--perfect for this bag--that are available on LionBrand.com.]
First, join yarn to the right top edge of either the front or back piece, not at the very outside edge, but one row in, before the all-bobble row (row 17), in other words, at the beginning of row 16. Work evenly spaced single crochet stitches along the top of the bag (32 stitches in all), ending at the end of row 16 on the left side. In my original, the handle is very close to the same size as the top edge of the bag, so I decreased only once, on row 3, to make it a bit smaller. Rows 4 – 6 are the part of the flap that will fold over the handle and are worked even. In the pattern, the decreased stitches are added back again on row 7. Here’s a look at my finished flap:
Several people in the CAL group on Ravelry have used handles that are not as wide as mine. If you want to go that route, you can still work the flap as in the original. When you fold the flap over the handle, the fabric will gather a little, which is perfectly OK. Or, you can make the flap a bit smaller by decreasing at each edge of the handle on rows 2 and 4, working two stitches together at the beginning and end of each row, just as is done on row 3. Work row 5 even, then make sure you add on the stitches again by making an increase on each end on rows 6, 7 and 8, ending with 32 sc on row 8.
Once you’ve completed the flap, fold it around the bottom of the handle, then pin it on the insider to the bottom of the first row of the flap. With a tapestry needle and yarn, sew the flap down to the inside of the bag. Then do the same exact procedure for the second handle on the bag’s second side. It’s a lot easier to do this before connecting the two sides of the bag–trust me!
Our last step is joining the front and back. It’s done with a simple slip stitch seam, worked from the Right Side of the bag. I generally prefer to seam with the Right Side of the work facing, so I can tell exactly how my finished seam will look.
What’s important in making a nice-looking slip stitch seam is 1) matching stitches on the two pieces to be joined 2) controlling tension on the slip stitches. Hold the Front and Back together with their Right Sides facing out. Using safety pins, pin them together at a few points – each end, the center, and a couple more. To begin your slip stitch seam, leaving a tail of about 6″ (which will be used to secure the seam), draw the yarn through the first stitch on the front AND back pieces.
Now insert the hook into the 2nd stitch on both pieces, yarn over, and draw a loop through. Depending on how tightly you pull the tension of the yarn as you draw it through, the slip stitch will be larger or smaller. You want it to be just slightly tighter than the tops of the stitches you are working into, but just a bit. If you make the slip stitches too tight, it will distort the edges of the bag. Use your eye as a guide. Work your way all around the bag in this manner, and after the final stitch, end off leaving another 6″ tail. You’ll see that the seam is visible and rather attractive, in my opinion.
The beginning and end of this seam will get a certain amount of wear and tear, every time you open and close the bag. For this reason, it’s wise to make the ends very secure and tight. Place one tail on a tapestry needle, and work a short little seam along the top edge connecting the bobble on the front to the bobble on the back. You can make the stitches here tight and close together, as they should disappear into the fabric. Reinforce the last stitch by working into the same place 3 or 4 times, then weave in the end securely. Repeat on the opposite tail and voila! You’re done!!
I hope you enjoyed making this bag, and that you’ll get even more pleasure from using it!
Like many other crocheters, items that require sewing skills with needle and thread can be daunting to me. To find a no-sew way of lining this bag, I consulted my friend Leslie who is an expert sewer and finisher. She suggested the two items that make this lining easy: felt for the actual lining, and Stitch Witchery, which is a type of fusible interfacing, or, in plain English, a super thin material that melts into glue when heat is applied. Black felt comes in 9 x 12″ sheets at many craft stores. That size should work with this project. If your half bag is larger than the specified measurements, you can buy felt by the yard in many fabric stores. Stitch Witchery is also widely available. Here’s what you should do before making the lining of the bag.
Before making the flap for the handles, steam each half bag piece into its final shape and dimensions. This kind of blocking will work on wool, and even on acrylic in many cases. Remember not to directly touch your iron to the acrylic. I recommend this technique instead of wet blocking, as the latter may alter the bobbles and posts more than is desirable in this design.
Once you have the final shape, the next step is to cut the felt and Stitch Witchery into the same shape as half the bag. There are several ways this can be done. In the accompanying photos, you can see how the bag was pinned to the interfacing, and used as a guide for cutting it, then the interfacing was used as a guide to cut the felt.
If you prefer, you can use chalk to trace the outline of one side of the bag on the black felt. Or, you can cut a piece of paper to match the bag and use that as a pattern to cut the felt to size. Any of these methods is fine, so use whichever you find easiest. After cutting the felt, trim it down by about 1/2″ all around. Then cut the same shape in the Stitch Witchery. You should end up with two half medallion pieces of black felt and two pieces of Stitch Witchery, all the same size.
The next step is to get your iron ready for steaming. Carefully place the Stitch Witchery between the felt and the bag.
Apply steam slowly and carefully, allowing the Stitch Witchery to melt and the felt and bag to fuse. Keep in mind that too much heat and pressing will cause the bobbles and post stitches to flatten, so go slowly and gently until the fusing happens.
After you’ve done this, you can puff up the bobbles and posts by hand. Follow this procedure for both sides of the bag. Once this is done, you can make the flap at the top of each half, for attaching the handles to the bag, which we’ll discuss next week.
Editor’s note: For those who would prefer a traditional sewn lining, please follow the directions in the pattern for tracing out your fabric lining and sewing it in.
As most of you know, post stitches are not worked into the tops of other stitches, but rather are worked around the post of a stitch in a previous row. By being worked in this manner, they tend to be raised from the surface of the work and can therefore be used to create some very interesting textures, such as basketweave. In this bag, the treble and half treble post stitches frame the bobbles.
Remember to work these stitches fairly loosely, so that they don’t pull the work out of shape. You can experiment with your tension until they look right. Please remember, there is no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to tension on these stitches, just trust your eye! When they lie nicely on the surface, not pulling at the work, they’re just right.
In the first series of Front Post Stitches you encounter in this design, you have two post stitches worked into the same stitch. You mark the stitches in row 4 so you can find them when it’s time to do the post stitches in row 6. You wrap the yarn the indicated number of times — 3, since it’s a treble stitch — and insert the hook from front to back and then out the front again in the indicated stitch, then finish the stitch as usual.
Then you work the specified number of hdc before working the second FPtr, which goes into the same place as the first. Make sure you skip an hdc where instructed to do so. To place the second post stitch correctly, insert your hook BELOW the point where the earlier post stitch was made, as shown in the photo here.
The next Post Stitches occur in row 8. They are worked around the posts of the earlier post stitches, which are very obvious. Note that they are half trebles, and are worked off as described in the Special Stitches instructions.
The third group may seem a bit tricky, because you are working two FP stitches together. Keep in mind, however, that it’s just like any other instance when you are working two stitches together: insert the hook where indicated, work off 2 loops on the first FPtr leaving the last loop on the hook, then insert the hook in the next indicated stitch, work off 2 loops, then yo and work off all the loops. Again, these should be worked quite loosely.
Some people have noted that the post stitches don’t seem to frame the bobbles on their projects. It’s possible that this is caused by miscounting of stitches on previous rows. Pay attention in particular to which stitches are skipped in the rows before, as this will also affect the alignment of post stitches. As mentioned in the last lesson, it’s important to count stitches at the end of every row, and check that each half of the row is a mirror of the other — this will insure that your bobbles and posts are in the correct place.
When I worked the project, my bobbles were nicely framed by the post stitches, and in one or two cases I moved the post stitches by hand around the bobbles. Feel free to do this if necessary (as in this example below).
Most crocheters have worked in the round and know the “standard” formula for increasing to make a circle: you add the same number of stitches in each round. You might start with a round of eight stitches, for instance, and in the second round you put two stitches in each stitch, in the third round two stitches in every second stitch, in the fourth round, two stitches in every third stitch, etc. This bag follows a similar plan, but some variation was necessary, for two reasons: Firstly, it’s a semicircle, and secondly, we have a decorative pattern that calls for special stitches in some rows, which effects how we count stitches and how the increases are placed.
To make a semicircle at this gauge, I figured out after much experimentation, I would start with 4 stitches and increase 4 stitches on each round. Basically, this pattern follows the standard formula — adding one more stitch between increases on each row, except for the rows where there are special stitches. But, as I experimented with the design, I saw that if I followed that method in this half circle shape, it wouldn’t come out symmetrical: wherever your increase points are, you get little “points” in the circle shape, and they would end up in different places on the right and left sides of the semi-circle — no good! So I had to figure out a solution for that.
What I did was make a center stitch in each row, and the increases are mirrored on each half of the bag. For example, in row 4 of this pattern, you need an increase every 3 stitches. The pattern has hdc, hdc, 2 hdc, hdc, hdc, 2 hdc, then a center stitch (also an hdc), then on the second half of the row you have 2 hdc, hdc, hdc, 2 hdc, hdc, hdc. Up to the halfway point, the increases come at the end of the group, after the center stitch they come at the beginning of the group.
That same method is used on every row of the bag. I think if you take note of this, it will make stitch counting much easier. You might want to place marker in that center stitch and check that your rows look symmetrical on each side of the marker. Keep in mind that the ch 2 that starts each row is counted as the first stitch (as noted in row 2 of the pattern).
On the rows with Bobbles (Clusters), I followed the same plan. The Clusters count as one stitch in the row. Let’s look at row 5 closely and you’ll see what I mean. In row 5 the increases happen every 4th stitch.
Row 5 (Cluster Row): Ch 2, turn, sk first st, hdc in next 2 sts, (5-dc Cl, hdc) in next st, hdc in next 2 sts, 5-dc Cl in next st, 2 hdc in next st, hdc in next st, 2 hdc in next st, 5-dc Cl in next st, hdc in next 2 sts, (hdc, 5-dc Cl) in next st, hdc in next 2 sts, hdc in top of beg ch – 21 sts at the end of this row.
Ch 2 at the beginning is one stitch, then there are two more hdc, and then we need an increase, because we are at the 4th stitch. Since that’s where the first Cluster goes, we need a Cluster and an hdc in that spot. We work hdcs in the next 2 sts, a Cluster in the next stitch, and now we’re at the 4th stitch again, so we work 2 hdc. The next hdc marks the center of the row, and after that we do everything in reverse: 2 hdcs, then a Cluster, then hdc in next two stitches — that’s our first group of 4. In the next group, hdc and cluster in the same spot and 2 more hdcs for the next group of 4.
In this way, the two halves — right and left – are mirrors of each other. Is it starting to make sense?
In the rows with post stitches, I departed from the grand plan described here. In row 6 for example, I knew we would need 8 post stitches to go around the 4 Bobbles. So, when making 4 of them, we also work into the hdc behind the Post, which makes 4 increases in the row. On the other 4 Post stitches in the same row, we skip the hdc behind the post.
Now, I know this leads to some long lines of instruction, but perhaps understanding the designer’s “logic” can make it easier to follow.
Editor’s note: This is the first blog post by Dora Ohrenstein, designer of the Half Medallion Bag, and our host during this crochet-along. Join Dora each Thursday, as we work on this purse together!
I’m thrilled to be hosting a crochet-along at Lion Brand, a company that is truly committed to crochet!
What to expect during this crochet-along
For this Half Medallion Bag (click here to get the pattern), I wanted to create a three dimensional effect that radiates out from a center point. Bobbles and post stitches create this dimension.
Rather than a full circle for the bag, I decided on a half circle, because I think it’s such a pretty shape. While none of the stitches used here are difficult, in order to make the proper increases for the bag while also maintaining the 3D design, stitch counting on each row will be important. I’ll cover that in a future post.
For a bag to be practical, it needs to be lined. Obviously, the holes in crochet fabric are not conducive to carrying items like lipstick and glasses! The lining also helps the bag keep its shape, and provides greater stability and firmness in the fabric. I’m not an expert sewer, so I consulted my friend Leslie who is. She taught me a great way to line a bag with no sewing whatsoever! We will be exploring that later as we proceed in our bag.
Speaking of which, you may be wondering about the timeline for this crochet-along. Over the next 5 weeks, we’ll be working through gauge, counting stitches and placing increases, long post stitches, lining the bag, and then finishing the bag (seaming and attaching the handles). As with all crochet-alongs, you’re free to work at your own pace, since all of these blog posts will stay online.
But first…yarn selection
I was eager to try out the new Martha Stewart Craft™ Extra Soft Wool Blend for this project. It’s lovely to work with: soft and pliable, making the post stitches easy to execute. Other Lion Brand options to choose from are Vanna’s Choice®–always a great value–Wool-Ease®, another wool blend with a very different color palette, Fishermen’s Wool®, for those who like 100% wool, or Cotton-Ease®, for those who prefer a cotton-blend. You’ll need the following amounts depending on your yarn selection:
|Yarn||Number of Balls|
|Martha Stewart Craft™ Extra Soft Wool
|Approximate yardage needed||325-350 yards|
For the first part of our CAL, let’s talk about how to get gauge for this project. If you were to make a gauge swatch with rows, you might not get the same size stitches as when you work this semi-circular design. For that reason, work the first few rows in pattern, and measure them for gauge. Here are some shots of my gauge swatch, worked in the same yarn as the finished bag but in a different color.
With the recommended hook size, a J-10, I worked rather loosely to get this gauge.
Since this is not a wearable item, you may think precise gauge is not important. Here is why I think it is: firstly, when a designer gives gauge, they are telling you what gauge creates attractive looking stitches in the yarn being used. You know how sometimes stitches look all tight and bunchy, and other times they look scrawny or limp? These are gauge problems! So, if you want your finished design to look like the original, please do pay attention to gauge.
Another reason gauge should be considered for this project is to determine how much fabric and interfacing you’ll need. If your project turns out bigger than the size given, you may need to buy a bit more of both.
Now it’s time for you to select your yarn and start swatching. Also, please say hello in our comments section, tell us a bit about yourself, and don’t forget to come back next week for the next step in the crochet-along!