Begal cat and project bag size comparison

Make a project bag for knitting

Last autumn, after a couple of years of mulling over knitting patterns, I bit the bullet and cast on some stitches. An embarrassing amount of time had passed since I last knitted anything [20 or so years ahem!].

Back then knitting had never grabbed my interest as much as sewing. So I treated my new-found interest with scepticism. I cautioned myself not to invest too much, in case this was a flash in the pan.

By December I was wearing my sweater (more details soon) and had cast on the next winter warmer. If anything my love of sewing has increased my appreciation of all things knitterly. I guess it’s because I now think of knitting as creating fabric.

But I digress. I quickly realised two things. First, I have a weakness for expensive yarn. If I’m going to invest my time, I want to use fabulous materials. Two, I needed a project bag. I wanted something as beautiful as the yarns I am knitting to store my works in progress.

My thoughts turned to the Grainline and Fringe Supply Co Stowe Bag pattern. And since it was coming up to Christmas, it seemed less selfish if I also made a bag as a gift for my friend Ali to store her tapestry projects.

Legal cat and project bag

Hector gives his seal of approval to my Nani Iro Five Senses bag

Fabric choices

My fabric choice for Ali’s bag was a Japanese navy cotton-linen printed with Sloths from Miss Matabi. They hang from branches, some showing cheeky pink tongues, others carry baby Sloths cuddled up. Keeping with the tropical jungle theme, I picked Cotton + Steel Honeymoon – Morning Dew in dusky pink for the lining.

For my own bag I took my inspiration from a shoal of golden sardines. The lining had to be Cotton + Steel’s From Porto With Love – Sardinha metallic gold. I stuck with the marine theme for the main fabric, choosing another cotton-linen canvas: Nani Iro Five Senses by Naomi Ito for Kokka in the crystal blue colourway. I love the painterly quality of the blues, greens and turquoises in this design.

Interior of project bag showing lining fabric and knitting project

Fabric printed with a golden shoal of sardines line my Stowe bag

The bags were straight-forward and enjoyable to make. I cut the outer shells in the canvas and cut the interiors and pockets from the Cotton + Steel quilting cotton. First I topstitched the upper edge of the pocket pieces and anchored them to the interior lining. Next, I measured and ruled the stitching lines for the individual pockets straight onto my fabric with tailors chalk. (If you do this, don’t forget to check that your chalk will brush away without leaving marks). This took next to no time and ensured straight stitching. I deviated from the basic instructions only to add extra reinforcement stitches to the pockets – triangles in each bottom corner and bar tacks at the openings.

Pocket detail showing bar tack stitching

Bar tacks reinforce the pocket edges

Constructing the lining

Dry Goods Design has an excellent post on how to line your Stowe Bag. This involves cutting a square out of the bottom corners of the completed lining to make it fit smoothly within the false gusset of the outer bag. I couldn’t get my head around this instruction, so tested first on a scrap of calico. I should not have doubted. It works perfectly.

Dry Goods Design also suggests reinforcing the bottom of the outer fabric with firm interfacing. I did not do this for the Sloth Stowe as I thought Ali might like to have a bag that folds away neatly when not in use. As I knew my bag was going to live next to the sofa (for knitting and Netflix), I used off-cuts of tailoring canvas to interface the bottom. As it turned out, the extra reinforcement does not affect the bag’s fold-ability and adds some extra body, so I will definitely do this for future Stowes.

I could have used the lining to face the raw edges of the handles and opening. But I really like the self-bound styling of the original pattern. For both bags I cut one-inch bias strips from outer fabric off-cuts to create my own binding. It doesn’t take long and the effect is so much nicer than shop-bought bias. I didn’t bother pre-pressing quarter-inch folds into the bias, I just put right side of binding to right side of outer bag and stitched a quarter-inch seam. I trimmed the seam allowance to one-eighth and folded the bias up and over to the wrong side, using plenty of steam and my tailors ham to ensure neat curves.

Collage of project bag details

Sloth and Five Senses project bag details

On the inside, I turned the raw edge of the binding under by a quarter-inch, then tacked, steamed and hand-stitched it in place. This allowed me to top stitch on the outside and concentrate on making it  look as good as possible. No worrying about catching the hem of the binding underneath.

The large Stowe measures 14 inches across, 7.5 inches deep and is 14.5 inches high. This is capacious enough to contain all the finished pieces for my latest sweater, still waiting to be sewn up, and the next knit on the needles.

Ali was really delighted with her project bag (phew!) and I’m getting an inordinate amount of pleasure from mine.

Mr Ginjer is a keen photographer and I have him to thank for all the fabulous bag images. You can follow his photographic adventures here and as for Hector, he just enjoys photobombing Mr G’s photoshoots at every opportunity.

Legal cat and project bag size comparison

Hector is big Bengal cat, which gives you an idea of the size of the large Stowe

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