Today, we are going to pick up the stitches around the base of our bags so that we can start working the sides.
How many stitches to pick up?
So the first thing you need to do is to calculate the number of stitches you need for your bag:
- First decide the width you would like your bag to be. Have a look at bags you already have and then see what fits best with your ideas for your new Market Bag.
- Then for the circumference, you will need 2 x this width.
Now you will need to refer back to your gauge swatch so you can see how many stitches you have in 10cm or 4 ins. I actually find it easiest at this point just to divide that up so you have the number of stitches per cm or inch. That just seems to make the calculation simpler. So if, say, your gauge was 18 sts:10cm/4 ins, then that is 1.8 sts per cm or 4.5 sts per inch. Then:
- Multiple the circumference for your bag by this gauge and see what that comes to. If it is an even number, then add 1 more stitch as we need a repeat of 2 stitches +1 for Seed Stitch. If you are using a different stitch pattern, then make sure you have the right number of stitches for that.
- Compare that number to the pattern and then make any adjustments you think you will need for your bag.
Oh and a note on gauge – do remember the old adage: "Your first piece of knitting is a large tension square!" I suppose we more typically say “gauge swatch” these days but the idea is the same.
The gauge of your main piece of knitting can often vary considerably from your original small sample, so remeasure after a bit just to make sure you end up with the right size of bag. You can always make some small adjustments after a few rounds.
It is best if each round starts at the side of the bag where it is least noticeable. There is often a slight jog where patterns change at the start of a round, and it is also best if new yarns are joined in at the sides too, so they will not be seen. So we need to work around to the middle of the side and then start our new rounds from there.
In the diagram above, we are currently at #1. The last WS row of the base has been worked, and a long‐ish circular needle is ready to commence the pick‐up.
So follow the pattern along to #2, then fold the base in half and place a pin or safety pin at the half‐way point of the first short side, marked as #3 in the diagram. This will be the start of all subsequent rounds in the bag.
I like to use a crochet hook to pick up stitches, as I find it gives a neater finish. Just make sure to use a hook that has a solid shaft, not one that has a handle on it! Insert the tip of the crochet hook into the space under the first selvedge stitch and draw a thread through, then continue to do the same until you get to your pin‐mark.
Place a marker for the start of the round and then continue to pick up stitches down the side, picking up one stitch for each selvedge stitch. Slip these onto your knitting needle, making sure that the stitches are not twisted.
Hopefully that will give you the total number of stitches you need for the bag, but don’t worry too much if you are still a few stitches short at this point. It is easy to add a few more at each corner on the first round of the pattern. That actually gives a nicely rounded corner for the bag.
Unzipping the Provisional Cast‐On
Now pick up a spare needle and return to the Provisional Cast‐On at the bottom edge. Open up the waste yarn (WY) chain and pull this gently until the yarn end comes free (#4 on the diagram above). Loop this yarn end over the needle and secure it behind with another safety pin. This is the first stitch.
Gently pull the provisional cast‐on chain again and capture the first loop as it becomes detached from the WY. Work across in this way until you have all the stitches on your spare needle.
The next part of the pattern can be a little tight to work, so use the "Half Magic Loop" method to draw out a small section of circular needle cord just behind where you are working to make this easier. Then follow the remaining instructions for the "Transition Round" in the pattern.
So now is a good time to double-check your numbers before you get going. Have a look at the pattern again and you will see how I increased at the corners of my bag to get to the number of stitches I needed. See how your figures are working out and plan how many more stitches you need at this point too.
And off we go!
And then you're all set. Continue in your pattern until the lower band is the depth you want it to be. For my Market Bag I wanted to have a long central openwork section to give a nicely flexible bag able to accommodate awkwardly shaped vegetables at the Farmers' Market, so the base of my bag is fairly shallow. However, please feel free to adapt this to your own preference.
Then on the last round you’ll need to decrease or increase the number of stitches at the end of the round so that you have a multiple of 5 sts +0 for the central openwork pattern. Again refer back to the pattern so you can see what I have done and then plan what you need to do for your bag.
When we come back next time we will be work the central openwork pattern and I am going to introduce a new technique for working the SSK / Slip, Slip, Knit decrease. See you next time for this "Two Row SSK"!
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