You can alter this basic bag in a number of ways. By changing the details, adding a pocket, or using more than one color, you can create entirely different bags. You can even alter this pattern a bit to make a pillow — just leave off the strap and stuff it!

Use a different stitch pattern

You don't have to knit this bag in garter stitch. Instead, try stockinette stitch, a combination of garter stitch and stockinette stitch, or any of the stitch patterns presented in Chapter 5 (see the sidebar "Substituting one stitch pattern for another" for tips). Remember that textured pattern stitches show up better in a smooth-plied yarn. Consider knitting your project in one stitch pattern and then knitting a pocket for it in a different stitch pattern.

Try a different cord

To make a tubelike cord, cast on 4 stitches, knit Row 1 (RS), and purl Row 2. Repeat these rows until the cord measures 44 inches (or as long as you'd like it to be). Because stockinette fabric rolls to the wrong side, the strip will form a tube and you won't need to seam it.

If you want to save yourself a little sewing, rather than knitting a separate strap that you have to sew onto the bag later, pick up 4 stitches at the edge of your bag and start knitting on those to create a tube strap. At the end of your cord, you can graft the stitches to the other side of the bag opening. Chapter 16 tells you how to pick up and graft stitches.

For a closed tube cord, you can work a cord in the round on two double-pointed needles. Cast on 4 stitches and follow the instructions for making I-cord in the sidebar "Elizabeth Zimmerman and her idiot cord (I-cord)." Use a needle the same size or one size smaller than you used in your bag.

Make a different closure

For the tubelike button loop, cast on 2 or 3 stitches, work in stockinette stitch for 2 inches, and then bind off. Center the loop on the bag flap with the ends 1 inch or so apart, and sew on with yarn.

Embellish your bag

Work embroidery on your bag before stitching it up. Add beads, fringe, or tassels.

Make a pillow instead of a bag

Cast on 63 stitches. Work in garter or stockinette stitch until the piece measures 16 inches from the beginning.

Join a second color and continue working in garter stitch until the piece measures 15 inches from the color change.

Bind off.

Fold the piece so that the two edges overlap in the center of the work by 2 inches.

Using mattress stitch, sew the side seams together (see Chapter 16).

To make button loops, cast on 2 stitches and work in St st until the piece measures 2/4 inches. Cast off.

Substituting one stitch pattern for another

If you decide to substitute a different knit/purl pattern for garter or stockinette stitch in any of the projects in this chapter, don't start knitting until you've mapped out how the pattern will be centered on your project piece. You want to be sure that your pattern will come out symmetrically. Use graph paper and plot your pattern by using knit and purl symbols to see that it begins and ends symmetrically. Remember, to be symmetrical, a pattern with a single center stitch needs to go on an uneven number of stitches, and a pattern with 2 center stitches needs to go on an even number of stitches.

Fold the loops in half and sew the ends of the button loops evenly spaced along the overlapping edge of the pillow. Or try working five eyelet buttonholes (see Chapter 17) evenly spaced across the row about 1 inch before you bind off.

Sew buttons under the button loops or buttonholes, and button up! Make or buy a 14-x-14-inch fabric pillow form for the inside of the pillow.

Felting the bag

Felting knitted fabric makes it much more dense, so there's less chance that your lip gloss or keys will poke through the stitches if you have a tendency to fill up your purse! You felt knitted fabric by putting it into your washer on a hot wash/cold rinse cycle. Yes, hot then cold! You're deliberately shrinking it, so don't put any good sweaters in the same load.

Felted knits lose more length than width when they shrink. To keep a felted bag the same dimensions as its knit-only counterpart, you need to knit about a third more rows . . . sometimes even more, depending on the yarn. So, if you're supposed to knit the bag piece 22 inches long, you should knit about 28 to 29 inches instead. It should only shrink a little bit widthwise, but to be safe, add an extra 5 stitches to the cast-on width.

If you seam the sides with yarn before you felt the bag, the sides will be stronger than if you sew them together afterward. And if you want a felted strap, don't attach it before felting the rest of the bag — put it in to shrink unattached. Straps can get caught on the center agitator of your washing machine and pull out of shape very easily.

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