Recently in Chicago Bag Category

Red Line Is Boarding!


Not much knitting tonight as I spent most of the evening eating well (Saussy on Grand Avenue... just two words... pesto gnocchi) and finishing up the pattern for Red Line. Inspired by all your kind comments, I put everything together. If you scroll down you'll see that just below Blue Line I've added a button for ordering Red Line.

Maggi asked about the difference in dimensions for the bags... here they are:

WidthDepthHeightStrap Length
Blue Line11.5"5.5"4.5"18-30"
Red Line9"3.5"5"13-16"

Blue Line is wider and shallower, Red Line is taller and narrower.

Claudia asked about whether the shape could be scaled up. Most definitely! It just requires a little graph paper and a compass. However, felt is a lot less stiff than leather so you'd need to re-inforce the bottom if you didn't want it to get sack like when you carry things around in it.

Wanna see what I got in the mail today?

Pretty Knitting Visitor Bowl

Inspired by an idea in Melanie Fallick's Weekend Knitting, I wanted to have a knitting bowl in my living room. The idea is to put some needles and pretty yarn in a bowl where guests can get to it. When knitting friends visit, they can select a yarn they like and add to a small scarfy project. Over time it grows into a long chain of knitted memories. I asked my dad if he could turn me such a special bowl... and you can see the result. (That lovely dark blue/black yarn is a new arrival from Melissa who kindly shared the Peace Fleece she had left over from her Banff. I'd never been able to lay my hands on Peace Fleece before. It's really lovely! Thanks, Melissa!)

Here's a look at the inside...

Insdide the Pretty Knitting Bowl

The inside is so smooth and beautiful it's almost a shame to cover it up with yarn. I'm just in love with this bowl! Thank you so much, Dad! I can't wait to set it out in my living room with a complement of pretty yarn to welcome knitting visitors.

P.S... I just realized that I put the wrong info in the form submission code for Red Line (when you tried to add it to your cart it told you it had added Blue Line instead). It's fixed now. Sorry to anyone this may have been confusing for.

Return Trip on the Red Line


I didn't time it this way, but Red Line's second debut coincides with my 300th post. Certainly a good mile marker, as far as I'm concerned!

I finished the knitting for the bag tonight. Here's a shot before she hits the bath:

Red Line Prepares for a Swim

Before felting, this bag is 13.5" wide by 5" deep at the base and 9.5" tall with an 18" strap. The flap is 6".

Here she is after a couple of trips through the wash:

From the Front

After felting the bag is 8.5" wide by 3.5" deep and 5" tall. The strap is about 13" and the flap is about 4-1/4". This is a small bag --a wallet, keys and a small cell phone are about it's capacity.

I decided to stick with the longer flap, although the pattern will include instructions for a shorter wider flap if that makes you happier (I kind of like the more elongated flap, and the extra length helps hold the flap down so that you don't need a closure if you don't want one. I also modified the flap shaping so that the edges are much smoother. I think it looks much better than the flap on my green model.

In Profile

I'll be taking more pictures in the daylight because the swatch picture (below) really doesn't do these colors justice. The blue color is a beautiful combination of blue and green and purple that looks stunning in person and goes well with the heathered lavender.

The Swatch

I was pretty pleased with the instructions I put together. I found a few small changes that I want to make, but otherwise, it's almost ready to go. The pattern will be for sale sometime later this week.

And almost on cue, my All Seasons Cotton for Rogue arrived at my door... as soon as my 4.5 mm AddiTurbos show up I'll be ready to roll with Rogue!

P.S. This little bag is going to live in Columbus... and I am pleased to say that I am going to get to hand deliver her this weekend. Julie and Bonne Marie and I are going to hit the open road and meet up with the ThreadBears and a good friend of mine. I can hardly wait!

Just a Little Bag

Everything But the Handles and the Flap

I had hoped to get this bag finished tonight, but it just wasn't to be. No matter, I wouldn't have had time to felt it tonight anyway. But I am eager to see how the colors look when they are felted. I find myself very into this shade of purple, and I am hoping it felts up well.

So far I am pleased with my first draft of the pattern. I haven't found any obvious mistakes, and my counting seems to be correct. If all goes well, this pattern will be available by the end of the week.

Since I find myself without anything more to add here, I leave you with a picture of my Beezle, who can't resist anything that looks like luggage:

Alternative Uses for a Laptop Bag

Yes, I know, he looks peaceful... but he is really a dangerous yarn terrorist in disguise. But he does have the right idea I think. Time for a nap!

Back on Board the Red Line


A big thanks to everyone who left nice comments about those crazy pants. I wore them a few times over the weekend and must say that I like them a lot. Gravity is having a small effect on them, but not much, which is surprising to me given their weight. I can't wait to see all the different pairs that will be springing up around and beyond the ring. I hope everyone has as much fun with the project as I did!

During the weekend a lot of projects passed through my fingers. I had been hoping to get a spring project started, but both of my swatching adventures led to the realization that I didn't have any US size 7 AddiTurbos. A quick "trip" to KnitPicks fixed that problem, but left me wondering where I was going to go next.

Even if I wanted to, I couldn't spend all my time on my lace jacket. It takes too much concentration -- I can do 6 rows (105 stitches/row) in about an hour. I like my needlepoint "cushion" (that will become a wall hanging), but I'm enjoying working on that a little at a time as I come home from work. I've got a pair of socks that is a carry along project, but with spring coming, I'm not in a wool sock mood.

So it seemed like a good time to return to the Red Line version of my Chicago bag. I'd set it aside for a while, and put the pattern out of my mind so that I could try to knit it "fresh" and be critical of the pattern instructions.

Here's the colors I am going to put together:

20040229_Cascade220in 9336and9324.JPG
Cascade 220 in 9324 and 9336

The blue yarn (it really is more blue than green) has purplish highlights that I think will look lovely with the light purple when the bag is felted. The nice thing about Red Line is that it really is a quick project.

Another Red Line Begins

I finished up the base of the bag in a couple of hours and I am just about to switch to the contrasting color. I may not have the bag finished by tomorrow, but it will definitely be done by Saturday, when I'll be making another trip to Columbus, Indiana

Take the Red Line


When we last left our heroine, she was bravely preparing an unsuspecting knitted item for a trip into some serious hot water. Did the bag return victorious from its transformation? See for yourself....

Chicago, Red Line Edition

This is that natural light picture I wanted to get. The colors are pretty close to true. This little bag just wanted to happen. Normally it takes me two washer cycles to get something to the size I'm expecting. This time, it took one -- granted, I did the "heavy" cycle (which just runs longer) so maybe that made the difference. Final felted dimensions: 9" wide, 3.5" deep, 4-3/4" tall. The strap is 16" long. Perfect size for a wallet, a cell phone and a few other little carry along items.

Chicago Variations

Red Line is shown in this picture with Blue Line to give a sense of size and perspective. I like the shaping of both bags, but Red Line is actually closer to what I was striving for when I was first trying to put my vision on paper. Red Line's is a little more circular, Blue Line is a little more angular.

Red Line from the Side

The side tapers more gradually than the side of Blue Line did, and some pinching is required to pull the shape together. The slight bulge in the front is due to the fact that I stuffed it with some cotton towels and hadn't quite gotten it prodded into the shape that I wanted yet. (As an aside, this bag needed a bit more manipulation than Blue Line to get it into a shape I liked, it's not obnoxiously fiddly, but it does require taking a look at it in multiple directions).

Front and Flap Detail

And this is an up close shot of the area under the flap. For some reason I am particularly pleased with this little detail even though it won't be noticed much in normal usage.

On the overall, I'm pleased with the result. The shaping worked and my new flap design almost turned out the way I wanted it to (see below for more on what I didn't like). I love the dark olive color yarn felted. It has faint fuzzy yellow flecks that give it a lot of depth. The jury is still out for me on the 9460. I go back and forth between liking the grey marble haze and thinking it makes the bag look dusty. But I think the combination is good.

So what didn't I like... well, take a look at the closeup of the flap...

Snaggletooth Flap

There are two issues for me here. One is that the edges are a little jagged instead of smooth. This, as you might have guessed, is due to where I did my decreases. When I did a test felting of this shaping, the edges weren't so pronounced, but I also felted the test piece down a little harder. The second, and by far the most serious, issue is the little indentation on the left side near the tip. I think this is more due to felting pixies than to the design, but I don't like it at all. I'm thinking there might be some scissor action that needs to go on here -- that's the great thing about felt. It's just another fabric.

Fortunately, I think a very slight modification to my flap design will solve this problem -- I need to add a selvedge stitch and do my decreases inside this stitch.

Would You Buy a Used Car from This Woman?

I just couldn't leave you without putting this goofy image up. I couldn't help but laugh at it, so up it had to go. Perhaps I have a future in used car sales? The picture does serve a purpose, too, because you can see the bag holding my wallet and phone.

So, I'd love to know what everyone thinks -- good and bad. Don't be shy and don't be afraid to be honest!

P.S. If you haven't checked out Janet Scanlon's felted designs lately, now's the time to check in. Her new Mercury bag is incredible! And she has a free pattern for a very cute felted bag that could be used to hold business cards or a little treasure if you're in the need for a quick project.

The Chicago Red Line Enters the Station


Just a warning... today's entry ends with a wooly cliffhanger...

The other project that spent a lot of time on my needles over the weekend was the second of my "Chicago Variations". Red Line is meant to be a small go anywhere hand bag that knits up quickly and fits into even modest yarn budget.

Red Line Shapes Up

This pic shows off the before felting shaping and how I decided to use the color. I wanted coloration that was suggestive of a two-toned leather bottomed bag. To create a little more continuity for the flap joining area, the last two rows are done in the same color as the bottom of the bag.

Double I-cord Goodness

I changed the straps a bit. I didn't want to do a pair of single I-cords again, instead I wanted something with a flatter quality. Julie had shown me a bag where she used "double I-cord" for the handles. It gave the handle a flatter, less round quality that I thought would be perfect. So, I thought it might be reasonable to give it a try here.

It Wouldn't Be Chicago If There Wasn't Some Graft

I kept the handle short -- makes for both easier knitting and a trendy look. This is the model just before the grafting process. Lately I'm very into Kitchener. Once I figured out that I shouldn't pull the yarn too tightly when weaving the grafting strand in and out, Kitchener went from something just useful to something I think is very cool. I weave loosely and then go back and snug things up after I've grafted all the loops together. That means I can make the stitches look exactly how I want them to.

Sassy Little Flap

And here's the bag after the grafting was completed and I added the flap. I changed the construction of the flap so I could get a different shaping effect. All said and done I had over half the skein of the light colored yarn left over and I think I've got a 1/3rd of a skein or so of the dark color. So in terms of time to knit and amount of yarn required I definitely met my goals with this project.

Now you're probably expecting an "after" picture to go with all this before stuff. And I have to admit, the washer experience has occured. But one of the hazards of posting to my blog late at night/early in the morning is that I don't have the benefit of good natural light. So stay tuned... tomorrow the results of my little experiment will get revealed in the the bright light of day.


Bits and Pieces

Chicago and Siena

I was feeling scattered today and you can see it by the stuff on my desk. In the foreground is the next version of Chicago. I'm working my way towards the shaping, but the base of this bag doesn't have too much shaping to speak of. Behind Chicago is the left front of Siena. I probably would have gotten farther on this, but I got annoyed with juggling two balls of yarn after I decreased to create the ruffle and set it aside.

In the far back of the picture is something that is not knitting, but is fun. For Christmas Mom got me a stocking stuffer -- a Kirigami Calendar -- which is the Japanese art of folding and cutting paper. You can check out this site to play with a virtual Kirigami tool (be sure to read the instructions before you head into the program... it will make it a lot easier to play with). Since it's early in the year yet, all the shapes have been pretty simple to fold and cut. All I need is my fingers and a pair of little scissors. As they get more challenging I will probably need an exacto knife. When I am not playing with yarn, it's an awful lot of fun to play with paper.

Speaking of playing with yarn... guess what I got in the mail yesterday?

Plassard Merinos and Louinie

Isn't this fab? It hopped across the ocean with a skinny rabbit. The lovely fuzzy stuff is Louinie -- the stuff Becky used when she was constructing the brim of her perfect black bucket hat. I just adore the color -- and the nice note Becky enclosed said the Louinie color was a special run that's not likely to be made again (they didn't even make labels for it). So I will have a very special hat indeed -- made from lovely yarn from a very nifty new knitting friend. How could such a project not have good vibes?

Louinie Up Close

One thing I think is important to say about the Louinie -- it's not your average novelty furry yarn. It has a very sophisticated quality to it. And rather than the eyelash being a separate strand wrapped around a wool core, the eyelashes are somehow a part of the wool strand. Very cool and very classy indeed.

Once I finish Chicago, I think it's going to be Bucket-O-Chic time.

Chicago Variations


So. There I was, working on Siena when wet wooly vibes started to radiate out of my stash containment area. I have a lot of goodies to be felted right now, so that, in and of itself, is probably not surprising. What did surprise me is that the wool that started to talk to me was not all that Manos del Uruguay, but some humble but lovely Cascade 220 that came back with me from Columbus.

After my first success with a full sized version of Chicago, I knew I wanted a somewhat smaller version of the bag. But, since I have almost no patience for repeating the same pattern twice (even if it is a pattern of my own creation), I didn't really want the medium-sized version to be just a scaled down version of the first one. Scaling is just about math. I decided that I wanted to play with the shape a little more to create something narrower at the base and taller.

And I wanted to play with more color.

Cascade 220 in 9460 and 9448

These colors are a little more dynamic in person, but still have a subdued, reserved feel. The 9460, while light, is definitely not bright and punchy. It has greyish highlights that I can't wait to see felted. The 9448 is a heathered version of a classic dark olive. My husband has a suit in this color. I think the two look very classy sitting next to each other here on my desk.

So I took the ideas that were banging around in my head, downloaded some knitters graphpaper and started to play around with curves and colors. By early evening I had the shape together, had figured out how I wanted to do the strap, and I re-engineered the flap using seed stitch so that I could get a little bit more coverage than I would if I stuck with the short rows. (I still have to felt my test swatch... I'm curious about what it will felt like and if any of the texture will remain after felting). And then I put it into a document format that I could knit from.

Usually when I put a lot of effort into something, I like to put it aside for a little while and let it simmer. But this one I just couldn't. I really want to see how it's going to turn out! So an invisible cast on and some odd garter stitch rows later...

Could it Be Another Bag Bottom?

I know. It's not interesting yet. But it's not a big bag, so hopefully it won't take me too long to get the fun parts.

Wild Chicago


I am one extremely lucky felting lady tonight. Guess what I finished up?

A Finished Stripey Chicago

Yep yep yep I had enough yarn. I had decided after my last bag that I wanted to try one with shorter handles. Nothing like desperately wanting to finish a project with the amount of yarn I had on hand to motivate me to try that idea out for real. The first bag started with 34" handles. This bag went into the washer with 19" handles.

Successful Kitchener

I was pretty pleased with my technique execution as I connected the handles. If you didn't see the dramatic difference in striping colors, I bet you couldn't tell I had Kitchenered those pieces together! That little piece of yarn to the side of the handles, attached to the needles is exactly what I had left over. And after I sewed in the ends, I had this little pile to contemplate:

The Pitiful Leftovers

I'm just so pleased when I can be so efficient with my yarn. I am also pleased when I can figure out a way to handle a problem in an elegant way. In this case, the problem I had: get two handles the same length and the piece I need to graft to the other side. The solution... knit from both ends of what remained of the last skein. I knit up one i-cord to a reasonable length, then knit the other to match. Then I just kept going on both sides until I was pretty sure that I would have just enough to finish the piece to be grafted. This had the extra added benefit of having both i-cords end in a similar color.

So, so far, so good. This bag can be knit in three skeins of Kureyon if you don't mind shorter handles. If you want an over the shoulder thing or you're really worried about color matching, you're definitely going to want 4 skeins.

Of course, even though it was 11:30 CST I just couldn't resist throwing this project into the washer. I'd show you the results even if I didn't like how it turned out (probably especially if I didn't like how it turned out), but I'm pretty pleased. After two cycles through the wash, I think I can officially give Kureyon a thumbs up for this bag!

Wild Chicago

The garter stitch in the flap didn't quite full to completion. I hope the lighter colors of this bag make it easier to see what I did with the binder clips. Like the Cascade 220 version, the flap on this bag will need a little post drying manipulation. Here's a side shot that gives you a better look at how I am pinching the sides of the bag to create the shaping.

Check out the Wild Side

I'm two for two on getting bags with even handle lengths. That's the thing I was most worried about with the Kureyon. The Kureyon fabric is a little drapier than the Cascade fabric, but I think it will still do the trick. In case you were interested here's the starting and final dimensions:

Pre FeltPost Felt
height (side)10"5"
flap width9-1/2"7"
flap height6"4-1/2"

A little drying and a little steaming and this specimen will be ready to go on it's way. Another Chicago roadtrip to Indy!

A Second Visit to Chicago


In case it isn't incredibly obvious, I'm pretty psyched about my little bag design. Thank you to everyone who has left suggestions, nice comments or inquired about when the pattern will be available. And a special big thank you to Steph who did a very successful test felting using Patton's Classic Wool. For the time being, you can pick up a hard copy from ThreadBear. Once I figure out PayPal, you will also be able to buy the PDF version directly from me (hopefully by the end of the week).

A number of people have asked/mentioned "What about a Chicago in Kureyon?". Well, from a color perspective, I love Noro Kureyon and all that magic striping action. And it occurred to me that the perpendicular stripes in the flap and the body of the bag could produce an interesting look. But when it comes to felting Kureyon, I feel about it the way I once felt about an old boyfriend: I dearly love it, but due to past history I know it can't be trusted. (No, I am not referring to John... I love him dearly and have always trusted him!)

I've done/seen several felting projects with Kureyon. I've seen both good results and bad. When I used it for a pair of Fuzzy Feet, I discovered that I loved the fabric it made and the subtle shading that developed, but that I wasn't so keen on the fact that it didn't seem to like to felt in all dimensions. In fact, it was very difficult to get the stitch definition to fade. When I do a felted/fulled project, I don't like to see the original stitches. I also like the fabric to have a nice thick slightly stiff quality, and Kureyon tends to be a little drapey after felting. Maintaining the shape of Chicago post-felt requires a reasonably stiff felt.

Lately I've had the priviledge of seeing several of Julie's felted Kureyon projects up close (if you haven't seen Lily yet, you really should take a look) and I've been more impressed with the felting results from Kureyon. I don't know if they've changed how the yarn is processed or if the dark colors just behave better than the lighter ones (which is not uncommon). But I'm a little more comfortable now with the yarn being likely to "do the right thing".

And since there's been a lot of interest in doing this bag in Kureyon, I thought the most responsible thing for me to do would be to try to test felt one myself. That way I could pass on anything I learned along the way, or let everyone know that Kureyon is definitely a "felt at your own risk" operation with my pattern.

Noro Kureyon #52

Here's the lovely colorway that I am going to test out -- this also came from ThreadBear, and, if successful, will return to ThreadBear in the form of a felted bag. The big mystery of the week: will 3 skeins be enough?

At the Base of Chicago

I did the base last night (and picked up stitches) and I finished the body of the bag tonight. This is actually a pretty quick project when you don't run out of yarn in the middle of it. I'm very into the blues, purples, greys and browns in this colorway. Tomorrow night I'm hoping to get the flap and the handles completed. I'm a little worried about yardage, though. Here's what I have left:

How Far Can I Go?

I have a nasty suspicion that this is going to be enough to finish the flap and maybe start the base of one of the handles but probably isn't going to be enough to get me to the home stretch, even if I opt for short handles. I've really got to get better at doing these sorts of estimates.

Revisiting Chicago


It might not have looked like much, but one of the things I was happiest to see in my last package from ThreadBear was a skein of Cascade 220 that matched the nice charcoal color I had started my Chicago bag in. You might recall that I grossly underestimated my yarn requirements because I forgot some rules of basic geometry. I should have been paying better attention when the teacher told me I might need this stuff someday.

Like all felted stuff, it doesn't look like too much yet. But now I've completed the entire bag part and the shaping is a little clearer. For those of you who aren't familiar which Chicago or Chicagoans, we like to orient ourselves with landmarks. We drive towards the Lake, we live near Wrigley Field, or in my case, not too far from the United Center. So I'm taking you on a little trip around my bag from a Chicago perspective. Fasten your seatbelt... sometimes I drive a little fast.

Chicago from the Lake

Here's the front of the bag. There's a lot of beautiful things on the Chicago lake shore -- many, such as Buckingham Fountain, were meant to be viewed from Lake Michigan. Believe it or not, some of the city planners of long ago believed that Lake Michigan would be one of the major access points for the city. So this is the view of the bag from the Lake side. It will be clearer when felted, but the front and back of the back are roughly hemicircular (or as hemicircular as a knitted piece can easily get).

If we take a little trip up Lake Shore Drive (did you know that, technically, it is illegal to drive any vehicle registered as a truck on LSD? ) we can get a view of Chicago from the north side of the city.

Chicago from the North Side

The shaping of the sides of the bag is a little like that of the John Hancock tower -- which you can get a lovely view of if you drive south down LSD from Lincoln Park. (The John Hancock has a lovely restaurant on the 96th floor, called The Signature Room. Pricey but nice and panoramic views are available. If you aren't up for dropping a lot of cash, but want to enjoy the view and a drink, take the elevator up one floor more and check out the bar on the 97th floor).

One of the special elements of this bag is going to be the handles. Rather than just a flat band of fabric, the strap is going to be composed of two i-cords running in parallel.

Chicago's Loop

Here's a close-up of the set up for the "Loops" in my Chicago (click here for some info on the origins of "the Loop".) I guess you could also see it as the antenna that spring up from the top of the tower. Two-4 stitch i-cords are going to start from this point. I hope this design element will work out the way I think it will. I'm a little worried that the straps will end up different lengths... but no guts, no glory! as my dad would say.

If you want to check out a little more of Chicago the city, check out Chicago Uncommon Photographs. This site/blog is full of lovely images of the city that aren't just your typical tourist perspectives. Check out the Wicker Park section if you want to see some images from my 'hood.


A Little Back Shaping

Before I started what I'm posting here, I did a miniature 1/2 size version of this bag to see if the shaping would work the way I wanted it to. It did. I was happy. It took a little less than 1/2 skein of the main color. So I thought "cool! only one skein of each color". Word to the wise... doubling the width and height of a project does more than double the yarn required (area) for the project. I know this should have been obvious to me (Julie will be laughing now for reasons too detailed to explain here). Now it should be clear why I am a biologist and not a mathematician...

Anyway. The picture above is the the shaping on the long edge of the bag. The white lines were added by me to make the shaping clearer. This is about 2/3 of the way up. Try to imagine hemi-circular.

Side Shaping

There's also shaping to the sides, but it's more gradual than the shaping on the front and back.

And that's as far as I got before that lovely charcoal colored yarn ran out. So now I've got to track down another skein of Cascade 220 in 4002. Keep your fingers crossed for me that the ThreadBears have a skein of the stuff stashed away.

Good thing I have some other things to keep myself busy with while I wait.

The Foundations of Chicago

The Base of Chicago

Every project has to start somewhere. This one starts with a rectangular base knit in garter stitch. In retrospect, it was probably a poor choice to use the charcoal colored Cascade 220 to do my demo project in, but I wanted this bag to have a wintery stylish quality, so the black/grey combo seemed like a good call.

The ugly turquoise colored strip is scrap yarn used for an invisible cast on (in case you care, it's Cascade 220 Quattro in a color that felts up like old carpet padding and is incredibly unattractive... all it seems to be good for is scrap yarn). I prefer this cast on to picking up stitches at the edge because I think it results in smoother bag edge, at least in my hands. In case

Invisible Cast On In Action

Here's the bottom right before picking up the stitches in the invisible cast on. That ridge of black stitches is what I am going to pick up -- with the non-working needle. Like so:

Picking Up Stitches in the ICO

After you pick up the stitches, you remove the waste yarn. You can do it by a reverse Kitchener process or you can just snip the waste yarn. I have a serious fear of scissors near my projects for anything but snipping yarn tails, so I always opt for the manual approach of unthreading the last row of the invisible cast on.

All Picked Up

Once the waste yarn is removed, all you have to do is knit across that row of picked up stitches on the non-working needle. Et Voila! It's time for circular knitting to commence. And this is where the fun begins. This bag is going to be all about the shaping. It worked in the minature test bag I tried... so this double sized bigger bag will be the acid test.