Friday, 14 March 2014

Apple Bark Dyed Wool and Green Ginger Shopping Bag Crochet Pattern

A green fuse is running through the garden. Buds are exploding on the almond tree. Inspecting my new apple maiden whips, not much is happening yet. The wind was the force that tore down the fence, blasting the old apple tree roots.  
Safe behind the new garden wall, the young apples should sprout laterals, given time.  Apple bark can be peeled off cut timber, soaked in a bucket of cold water for a week, then simmered for a couple of hours to make a dye bath.  The wool does not need to be mordanted beforehand, because the tannins in the bark itself will make the dye bind.  I can take a pretty photo next to the daffodil shoots, but the resulting colour is undeniably beige.  Which is probably why a large quantity of durable, chunky Welsh Crossbreed wool yarn has been sitting in a basket for a very long time.
The balls are not so utterly dull.  I dyed yarn in two batches, kept one third of each the simple bark beige, gave another third half an hour simmer in an iron afterbath and the final third got half an hour in a copper afterbath. The iron takes the colour toward green, though my camera seems to miss picking out some of the green spectrum.  The copper brings up the ginger.  I already know these colours are stable, minimal fading since the day they came out of the bath.

What youth I have left is bent by the wintry fever, aching for spring.  A clear out to make space for fresh projects is the order of the season.  This yarn is hard wearing, but inelastic, heavy and harsh to handle, particularly after iron or copper afterbaths. Stiff as my sinews.  Got to transform it into something with a bit of give.

Here is the crochet pattern for a shopping bag I have called Green Ginger.  

Green Ginger Shopping Bag Crochet Pattern


Durable chunky yarn (8wpi) in three colours
Green 270m, Ginger 200m, Beige 200m 
670m total (this yarn weighed 1g/m so 670g)
7mm, 5mm and 3mm crochet hooks
Darning needle to weave in ends.

Tension and Final Size

In Three Colour Tweed Pattern, 13 stitches and 14 rows measure 10cm square
Final bag is approximately 33cm high, 28cm wide and 12cm deep when empty.

Front and Back Panels with 7mm hook

First starting row - in colour A, chain 42, turn
Second starting row - 1 dc into second chain from hook (1 chain, dc into second chain along first starting row) - repeat this to the end of the starting chain row.

From here on, use each colour yarn for a new row in turn, carrying the yarn of each colour up the sides of the work when it is needed again.

Row 1 Chain 1, 1 dc into first dc (1 dc round next chain space, 1 chain) repeat to last 2 stitches, 1 dc into final chain space, 1 dc into final dc, turn 
Row 2 Chain 1, 1 dc into first dc (1 chain, 1 dc round next chain space) repeat to last stitch and dc into last dc, turn

Work 28 rows.  On row 29, make gap for pocket by working first 7 stitches as Row 1, then chain 27, then complete last 7 stitches of Row 1.  On row 30, continue pattern across loose chain.

Work another 20 rows and fasten off yarn, weaving in the cut ends of all three colours.

To make the pocket lining, turn work upside down with the wrong side facing you.  Keeping the same colour sequence as the rest of the piece, working from the 27 chain stitch loose edge, crochet rows in the same pattern as above, until the pocket is as deep as you want.  Crochet or sew the lining to the wrong side of the work.  In the photo, my pocket lining changes colour, as I used up scraps of the same yarn from another dye bath.

Sides and Base with 7mm Hook

Take the beige yarn and make one dc through the top stitch of the left edge of one panel and make one dc round each open space, which occurs on every other row.  This will pull the edge in a little as the new row comes up shorter than the edge.  When you reach the last stitch on this side, dc into it, turn the work 90 degrees and dc into the same place.  Carry on along the bottom edge, working 1dc around each chain space, turn and come up the right side in the same way.  Flip the whole piece over and work back to the beginning of this row at the left top, making one dc into each dc.  As you work, let these new dc rows stand up at right angles to the back of the front panel. Change to the ginger yarn and make two more dc rows.  Carry the beige across the top edge of the side and make two more dc rows.  Carry the ginger yarn across and make one dc row.  Fasten off and weave in the ends.

Do the same to the other panel, but this time, do not cut the ginger yarn.  Holding the two side edges together, push the crochet hook through the middle of the first stitch on the other panel, then through the first stitch on the panel where the ginger yarn is attached and draw through a loop.  Push the hook through the next pair of matching stitches and draw up a loop of ginger yarn from the back.  Join each matching stitch in this way, so the two pieces are joined to make a bag.  

Continuing with the ginger yarn, make one dc into each chain space all around the top of the bag.  Being shorter than the tweed pattern, this row will draw the top edge in somewhat.

Handles made with 5mm hook and attached with 3mm hook.

To make a thick, dense cord that will not stretch too much, use a 5mm hook, make a loop and chain 5 stitches, joining the last to the starting loop with a slip stitch.  Chain 1. Work one dc into each of the five chain stitches then carry on working from the inside of the spiral, making one dc into the dc below.  Carry on til the cord measures 130cm and fasten off.  Make another one the same.

To attach each handle, hold one end of a cord against the middle of the bottom edge of one panel, at the line where it is joined to the base stitches.  Draw a loop of ginger yarn up from inside the bag by pushing a smaller, 3mm crochet hook through an outer thread of the cord and through a chain space on the body of the bag. Push the hook through another outer thread of the cord, through the next space 
along on the bag and draw the ginger yarn up from inside. Fasten off at the opening of the bag. Bring the other end of the cord round in a circle, to touch the fixed end. Work back in the opposite direction.  Sew the two ends together to complete the circle and neaten the join at the base. 

I took it shopping today.  I am satisfied that this yarn is robust and the crochet fabric is stretchy enough to make it capacious.  The pockets make it easy to retrieve purse and keys, no fishing around down the bottom.  They are also big enough to hold things I don't want squashed.
The sides of the bag draw in when it is empty, making it neat to have over my shoulder, but will concertina out as I hoped.  

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower, hooks my Green Ginger.


  1. What a great bag. It looks really sturdy. Crochet really does excel at this sort of project.

    1. Thanks. Chunky yarn and crochet also mean a really quick result. I do enjoy a bit of instant gratification in amongst the long haul of larger items of knitwear.

    2. You probably got "just" beige from apple bark because you simmered it for such a prolonged period of time. I have used fresh trimmings, in spring, simmered them for an hour or so. When I dyed unmordanted wool yarn I got warm pink whreas alum mordanted yarn got a nice yellow.

    3. Interesting. This bark was fairly fresh when I made the dye bath, now I only have stored apple wood, nearly a year old. Still, I will try simmering some bark for only one hour and see what happens. Thanks.

    4. I recommend prolonged soaking of the dry bark, followed by a short (an hour or so) simmering.

  2. I can acquire some apple tree prunings... Maybe I will experiment with soaking/fermenting the bark in sugar water for a few weeks and see what happens.

    The bag is so beautiful I might just work on improving my crochet skills to try it.

    1. Sugar water is new to me - is it especially for tannin rich dyes? I am glad you like the bag, the crochet is as basic as it gets - just chain and double crochet stitches. I am sure you won't need to improve much :)