Wave of Colours: Knitting the Striped Beach Bag from Rowan Magazine 73

Just finished! The striped beach bag from Rowan Magazine 73 – now that summer is well and truly over! Extremely bad timing on my behalf!

I love knitted bags, which is why I decided to knit this bag, designed by Anna Hull. Also, I thought it would be a relatively easy project as there would be no need to worry about sizing and getting a good fit. However, I found this project to be both challenging and satisfying.

The suggested yarn is Rowan Handknit Cotton, using the shades Sea Foam, Turkish Plum, and Celery.

Rowan’s Knitted Beach Bag knitted in the shades Sea Foam, Turkish Plum and Celery.

I decided to change Sea Foam to Ice Water and Celery to Cloud but keep the Turkish Plum shade. So, all blue shades in a wave of colours. I do love blues! Or choose from the 28 shades below and make up your colour combination.

The bag is quite large, with the finished dimensions of approximately 42.5 cm tall and 116 cm in circumference. Such a large bag, and one that is not felted, means that it needs to be lined for practicality and durability, so you will also need to buy lining fabric, pelmet interfacing, and a magnetic clasp for secure fastening – all amounts are included in the pattern instructions. I bought the interfacing as suggested, a couple of magnetic clasps and some cotton canvas lining in a mid-blue colour.

The bag is knitted from the bottom up starting with the oblong-shaped base. You then pick up and knit stitches all around this base and knit in moss stitch in the round. Once I completed the base and started on the body of the bag I did begin to tire of the moss stitch and the never-ending knitting round and round. It was a highlight when I had to change to the next band of colour. I sometimes like settling into a long section of knitting that does not require constant attention to the pattern but this was a bit too much!

With the body completed, resulting in a seamless one-piece 3-dimensional striped floppy bag, the handles are knitted separately – two oblong shapes of moss stitch. When the oblong shapes are finished you iron on similar shapes of iron-on interfacing and sew the row-ends of the knitted fabric together. The interfacing gives the handles strength and stability.

You are then instructed to sew the handles onto the body of the bag. I did not think this was a good idea at this stage. Why? Sewing the handles onto the knitted fabric alone would cause the knitted fabric of the bag to stretch out of shape once you added any weight to the bag – as you can see in the photo below.

I thought it best to sew the handles on after I added the internal bag interfacing sewing through both the knitted fabric and the interfacing. As you can see from the photo below, when my beach bag is carried with some weight inside, the handles do not pull on the knitted fabric of the bag.

Going back a step – adding the interfacing and the lining – this is a little more challenging. The instructions are somewhat lacking here and if you do not have good sewing skills you may struggle to construct a strong lining for the bag. Luckily I do have some dressmaking skills which helped and I decided to work out the best way to add the interfacing and lining to the bag myself. So, using the pelmet interfacing, I cut an oblong shape and sewed this by hand to the inside of the bag’s oblong bottom. That gave a nice strong base. I then cut some softer interfacing the same size as the body of the bag and sewed it together to form a tube shape. I sewed one edge of the tube to the base, again by hand, and tacked the upper edge in place to the knitted body making sure it was a few millimeters shorter than the height of the bag’s body.

I decided that this was now the best time to add the handles. Going back to the instructions, I placed the handles as suggested and sewed them in place by hand making sure I went through both the knitted fabric and the interfacing. I was happy that I waited to add the handles at this stage as the attachment seemed strong and secure.

For the lining, using the blue cotton canvas, I cut an oblong shape the same size as the bag’s body and sewed it together to form a tube shape. I sewed this tube shape to another oblong shape the same size as my bag’s base, which I had cut out earlier, to make the inside lining. With the right-side facing, I placed this lining inside the bag and secured its base corners with a few strong stitches to the base corners of the bag, making sure I took the stitches through the blue canvas lining, the interfacing and the knitted base. To finish the lining, I sewed the top of the bag to the lining as described in the pattern instructions, taking the stitches through the cast-off edge of the bag, the blue canvas lining and the interfacing. Finally, I added the magnetic closures.

Striped blue beach bag open

Phew! For someone who doesn’t like a lot of sewing – me – that was a lot of sewing! As I mentioned earlier, this was both a satisfying and challenging project – the finished project is satisfying but adding the interfacing and the lining was challenging, which I think is mainly due to the somewhat inadequate instructions in places.

However, if you love knitting and sewing, this is a great project to combine the two crafts. You can buy the Beach Bag pattern by Anna Hull and the yarn from Rowan’s website here. And just because summer has gone, unless you are one of my Australian or New Zealander readers, why not choose to make the bag in another 3 shades and use it for something less seasonal? Or maybe you have already? Please let me know by leaving a comment – scroll down to “Leave a Reply” below.

Happy knitting!

Esther x