Heirloom String Bag

Introduction: Heirloom String Bag

My great-grandmother made the string bag on the left. She used it on a regular basis before WW II and I am still using it regularly today. The chain stitches give this bag it's versatility, but it requires additional types of crochet stitches. I made a bag pattern for people ( like my mom ) who could only master the chain stitch. It is the one on the right.

String bags have the following advantages:

  • Contents visible
  • Adapts to oddly shaped items
  • Gym and swim gear air out
  • Doesn't bring back sand from the beach

Additionally this crochet pattern has the following benefits:

  • Only requires chain stitch
  • Minimal counting
  • Self adjusts to fix any irregularities / mistakes

Supplies

  • String
  • Scissors
  • Crochet hook

Step 1: Drawstring

Doing this step first makes a good warm-up for the rest of the bag. After making the drawstring, the muscle memory built up in your hands will be able to chain stitch on auto-pilot.

Start by making a slip knot onto the crochet hook. The short end of string is the tail and the long end is the "active" end. Use the hook to pull yarn from the active end through the loop on your hook. This will form a new loop on the hook. The previous loop will be your first chain stitch. Keep making chain stitches until you have a the desired length. Three feet is good for a small bag.

Step 2: Anchored Chain Stitch

The chain stitch you used to make the drawstring is a free chain stitch. The other type of chain stitch you will use is the anchored chain stitch. This anchor is still just a chain stitch, but you make it around a previous spot in the chain. You do not need to worry about inserting your hook into the chain or counting stitches. The chain's anchor point will slide somewhat freely along the chain.

Here you can see a short chain on the hook and another chain. Keeping the "active" yarn on top of the other chain, stick the hook underneath the long chain. Use the hook to grab the active yarn and pull it all the way through the look on your hook. This is just like the free chain stitch, except you have anchored it to another chain.

At this point you can see one leg of string wrapped around the other chain. Make a free chain stitch and you will see a second leg of string wrap around the other chain. These two legs (or loops) will slide along the previous chain, but will keep your current chain attached. This is the only other stitch you will need to complete this bag.

Step 3: Chain the Foundation

Start a new chain with a slip knot. Then make the foundation chain. A chain about 6 inches long will make a small bag. You do not have to worry about counting the number of stitches in your chain. You also don't need to worry about keeping it straight or even. One of the great features of this bag is the stitches will straighten out on their own when you start using it.

Step 4: Looping the Foundation

After you have reached the right length, make chain stitch using the tail instead of the active yarn. This closes the loop. Next chain 5 more stitches with the active string (not the tail). You should have one long loop of chain with a short chain. sticking out out from the circle. Pull the tail tight and wrap a knot with tail to keep the base circle in place.

Step 5: Anchoring the First Half Round

Now it's time to anchor this short chain into your main loop. You may wish to refer to step 2. Stick your hook under a side of the large loop. Use it to grab the yarn from the top side of the chain. This gives the first leg. Make a free chain stitch to see the second leg. Make another 5 free chain stitches. Anchor this second short chain the same way.

You should see a large loop and two small loops. Keep making and then anchoring these small loops of 6 stitches until about half of the main loop is covered. For the small bag, I use four loops.

Step 6: Chaining the Second Half of Base

The second half is similar, but the anchor anchor stitches will wrap around both sides of the foundation loop. Anchor at the spot between loops.

Step 7: Second Round

The next round uses chains of 6 stitches. Anchor two chains in each small loop. For this example, I had 8 loops anchored around the foundation chain. After the second round, There are 16 small loops.

Step 8: Third and Fourth Rounds

Third round Anchor one chain of 6 stitches in each loop.

Fourth round

Mark a few loops evenly spaced around the third round. Choose 4 for a small bag (like the one shown here), 6 for a medium bag, and 8 for a large bag. You can use safety pins to mark these loops. Anchor one chain of 6 stitches into each unmarked loops. Anchor two chains of 6 stitches into each marked loop. In the last photo, the loop marked with a safety pin is highlighted in yellow. The purple highlights show two anchors.

Step 9: Moving on Up

One the next round, increase your chain length between anchors to 8 stitches. Anchor one chain of 8 into each loop. Keep going round after round until your bag is big enough.

Step 10: Topping It Off

Once you are happy with the height of the bag, you will make one more round of smaller loops for the draw string. Make chains of 5 stitches and anchor two per loop. The beginning of the top round is shown highlighted in pin,. When you finish this round, draw a good length of string through your final loop and cut it. Knot it off and weave the end in. This means hiding it in the chain with a crochet hook or needle. Do the same for the original tail on the foundation string.

Weave drawstring in and out through the top row of holes. When you knot the ends of the cord together, you will be finished.

Step 11: Final Thoughts

This bag works best with string. Do not use wool as it will get felted and stop adjusting around odd loads. I would avoid using acrylic yarn or anything fuzzy that would easily snag. My aunt tells of using ones my great grandma made from fishing line. She says they were strong and light, but hurt to carry. You could use fishing line for the bag and then use a different cord for the handle.

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