Friday, 15 January 2016

The Macduff Bag Crochet Pattern

I first made this bag using yarn spun by a friend of a friend, from the fleece of her sheep up in Swansea. Doesn't look much, but the qualities of handspun wool and the colours it turned during my early plant dye experiments strongly appealed to me.  Though most of the colour has long ago faded and the handles have stretched, it is still in everyday use. To my mind, that bag launched my present life and it has certainly survived a thousand trips.  Making another from recycled balls of heavy superbulky yarn from the Huxtable jumper was a way of keeping my own first handspun wool in use and hopefully, creating a better advert for my new status as sole trader of Rich & Strange Silk and Wool Work. 

Crocheted up by eye, more by luck than judgement, this shape of bag in durable wool has turned out highly functional. With the handles over one shoulder, it tucks comfortably under the elbow, as shown in this photo of one I made for my friend BG. When in a crowd, I bring mine forward, so the purse and phone pockets sit securely against the side of my waist. Packed with shopping, it is remarkably capacious and sturdy enough to carry pints of milk and bags of potatoes.  Once full, I  just hold the two handles in my hand and let the weight of the bag hang down.  The one below, which I made for my sister, in Herdwick wool, shows the basic bowl shape.  Having just made two more, this time, I have written out the pattern.

Macduff Bag Crochet Pattern

~300m heavyweight, durable superbulky yarn (5-6 wpi)
15m strong aran yarn
6mm and 3mm crochet hooks
This simple pattern is easy to adapt to any thickness of yarn and hook size, just make sure it is a good strong, dense yarn, as smooshy merino puff won't last long in service.
My tension came out at 10 dc stitches and 11 rows to 10cm squared.
Bag size ~ 94cm diameter, 18cm deep
ch = chain stitch
dc = UK double crochet/US single crochet
Start with a magic ring, 8 dc into ring and slip stitch into first chain to close the circle. (8)
Every round hereafter should begin with a chain stitch, into which you place a crochet stitch marker (such as a safety pin).  Close each round with a slip stitch into this marked stitch, which also counts as the first dc of each round.

To make a saucer shaped base, dc into every stitch, putting two dc into some of the stitches in the following frequency:
1.  2dc into every second stitch (12)
2.  2dc into every second stitch (18)
3.  2dc into every third stitch (24) 
4.  2dc into every fourth stitch (30)
5.  2dc into every fourth stitch, which leaves 2 stitches at the end for one dc each (36)
6.  2dc into every fifth stitch, which leaves 1 stitch at the end for one dc (43) 
7.  2dc into every sixth stitch, which leaves 1 stitch at the end for one dc (50)
8.  2dc into every seventh stitch, which leaves 1 stitch at the end for one dc (57)
9.  2dc into every eighth stitch, which leaves 1 stitch at the end for one dc (64)
10. 2dc into every tenth stitch, which leaves 4 stitches at the end for one dc (70)
11. 2dc into every eleventh stitch, which leaves 4 stitches at the end for one dc (76)

The outer edge of the circle should be beginning to curl upward at this point.  If you are using a thinner yarn or want a bigger bag, just carry on adding 6 or seven stitches to each round until you get the base size you want, before steepening the upward curve by adding fewer stitches to the next few rounds. For this bag, add three stitches to the next six rounds as follows:

12. 2dc into every twenty fifth stitch, which leaves 1 stitch at the end for one dc (79)
13. 2dc into every twenty sixth stitch, which leaves 1 stitch at the end for one dc (82)
14. 2dc into every twenty seventh stitch, which leaves 1 stitch at the end for one dc (85)
15. 2dc into every twenty eighth stitchwhich leaves 1 stitch at the end for one dc (88)
16. 2dc into every twenty ninth stitch, which leaves 1 stitch at the end for one dc (91)
17 2dc into every thirtieth stitch, which leaves 1 stitch at the end for one dc (94)

For the next eight rounds, there is no further increase as the sides of the bag go straight up.  Add more rounds for a deeper bag.  To draw the top edge of the bag gently inward, on the next round, decrease three stitches, evenly spaced around the circumference like round 17 in reverse, then crochet a plain round, reduce three more stitches like round 16 in reverse, then crochet a plain round, reduce three more stitches like round 15 in reverse and finish with two plain rounds.  Break off yarn leaving a metre long end to sew the edge.  You can use the front or the backs of the stitches showing at the outside of the bag, as you prefer.  If using the neater front as the outside, roll the top round of stitches outward and sew them against the round below to create a rounded edge.

The bag handles are formed from one length of crocheted cord.  There are lots of options for making a cord, I think this spiral is the simplest.
Make a starting loop and chain 5 stitches, slip stitch into the first stitch to join.  Make one dc into each of the five chain stitches and carry on puting a dc into the outer thread of each dc stitch, round and round, endlessly spiralling upwards.  
For this bag, 170cm cord made my preferred size, pin your cord onto your bag and judge your handle length for yourself.

Place one end of the cord at the centre of the base.  Using the aran yarn and the 3mm crochet hook, push the hook through any loop on the cord, then through the front of a stitch on the bag and draw up a loop of aran yarn to the surface, keeping the other end of this yarn held hidden underneath the handle.  This will leave a chain of aran loops visible along each side of the cord, it's a fiddle at first, keep the loops large, it goes quicker once you have the hang of it.  Work along one side of the cord to the  top edge of the bag, across the width of the cord and down the other side, back to the centre of the base of bag.  Now place the other end of the handle at the centre point and crochet that against the opposite half to make one straight line.  Hold the bag up by this long single loop and find the middle.  With the bag upside down, pin the midpoint of the handle to the centre of the base of the bag, so that there is a handle loop on either side.  Crochet on the cord to make a cross shape at right angles.

Now double crochet oblong shapes to make pockets the size of your purse and your phone and sew them inside the bag, between the handles on opposite sides.  

Putting the bag through a 40 degree cotton wash cycle in the machine will felt it a little and even it out a lot.  The two bags in the photo show how the crocheted wool looks before and after the wash.  While it is damp, stuff the bag firmly with rolled towels to establish a nice round shape while it dries.
I have called my new bag Macduff, since its mid brown yarn was untimely ripp'd from a barely worn Jacob X Texel jumper with the dark brown yarn also ripp'd from another misguided project, a Black Welsh Mountain woolen hat that itched.  My Macduff came with me to the bank to discuss setting up a business account and its partner is now up for sale at Crafts by the Sea


  1. I really like these Fran, the Herdwick yarn is made for this kind of project.
    Any word from W'wool yet?

    Susan (Pembs).

    1. Ah, I realised I had bitten off more than I could chew, applying for a stall this spring. I'll be helping out with lambing, my friend has the whole flock delivering in March this year, so it is going to be full on, plus the logistics of growing enough young plants under cover and transporting them to Builth Wells was worrying me. Wonderwool were entirely gracious about allowing me to withdraw before they had made their selection, which has been a big relief.