NZ Woman's Weekly

Craft: Handmade handbag

This shopper is the perfect project to practise working in the round, as it doesn’t matter if your tension is a little tight or a little loose – this one-size bag fits all.


One size.

You will need

1 x 500g cone of super-bulky weight yarn, such as Hooplayarn (a yarn created from the selvedges of cotton fabric or cotton-mix jersey fabric), in red (Bright Red); 12mm circular knitting needles, 80cm long; 12mm crochet hook; 60cm strong cotton tape (optional).


Achieving an exact tension is not vital, as the finished size of the bag can vary.


K knit

LH left hand

p2sso pass two stiches over

SL slip

ST(S) stitch(es)

TOG together

Casting on with circular needles

Always choose the correct length of circular needle to suit the number of stitches being cast on. It is preferable to have a lot of stitches on a shorter wire, as you can always bunch the stitches together. Too few stitches on a circular needle  will become stretched. Before casting on, if the nylon wire of your circular needle appears twisted, dip it in hot water and then pull the wire to straighten.

Step 1. Cast on the correct number of stitches. Make sure that all the stitches are sitting straight on the needles and wire and check that there are no twists in the line of stitches.

Step 2. Knit the first stitch on the left-hand point of the needle to join the stitches into a round. Make sure you pull the first stitch tight to prevent a hole from forming.

To make the bag

Using size 12mm circular needle, cast on 56 sts (see instructions at left for casting on in the round). Working in the round, making sure you mark the beginning of each round so you know where the next round begins and ends, continue as follows:

Rounds 1, 2 and 3: K to end of round. *

Round 4: Wrap yarn around needle four times when knitting each stitch to end of round.

Note: You will have lots and lots of loops on the wire of the circular needle, as you have made four loops per knit stitch, where ordinarily there would be only one.

Round 5: * Slide the first 8 sts off the LH needle and unravel all the loops so that you have eight long stitches, pass the first 4 sts through the loops of the next 4 sts and place them back onto the LH needle, knit these 8 sts as normal, rep from * to end of round.

(See instructions given below for working this dropped stitch pattern.)

Rounds 6, 7 and 8: K to end of round.

Rep Rounds 4-8 one further time.

Rep Rounds 4-8 one further time, but on Round 4 wrap the yarn around needle three times.

Rep Rounds 4-8 one further time, but on Round 4 wrap the yarn around needle two times.

Shape base

Round 1: * K3, sl2, k1, p2sso, k2; rep from * to end of round. 42 sts.

Round 2 and all even-numbered rounds: K to end of round.

Round 3: * K2, sl2, k1, p2sso, k1; rep from * to end of round. 28 sts.

Round 5: * K1, sl2, k1, p2sso; rep from * to end of round. 14 sts.

Round 7: * K2tog; rep to end of round. 7 sts.

Break yarn, leaving a long tail. Thread yarn end through rem 7 sts, pull up tight and fasten off.

Weave in any loose yarn ends into the wrong side of the finished knitting.

To make the bag handles

Note: Chains of crochet make the strongest handles for this type of bag, as they can carry a lot of weight. However, if you prefer not to work the handles in crochet, then use lengths of strong cotton tape instead.

Crocheted handles

Using a 12mm crochet hook, join yarn with a slip stitch to any cast-on stitch on open edge of bag, work 1 chain, then * work 1 double crochet in each of the next 13 sts, work 18 chain *, miss 15 sts; rep from * to * once more, join with a slip stitch to top of first double crochet.Work 1 round of double crochet on these 62 sts.Fasten off. Weave in loose yarn ends.

Sewn handles

Cut two 30cm lengths of strong cotton tape – one for each handle. Pin the ends of each length of cotton tape to the inside rim of the open edge of the shopper. Stitch in place with reinforced stitching, working a rectangle with a cross inside, at each end of the handle.

Working the dropped stitch

Step 1 When knitting the dropped stitch, insert the right-hand needle into the first stitch on the left-hand needle, wrap the yarn around the needle the number of times specified – either four, three or two.

Step 2 Finish knitting the stitch in the usual way by bringing the needle through to the front and sliding the stitch off the left-hand needle.

Step 3 On the next round, when you reach the dropped stitch, unravel the loops from the left-hand needle to give one long loop.

Step 4 For this particular pattern, eight dropped stitches are worked in a group and you need to unravel all eight long loops at the same time. Once unravelled, divide the eight long loops into two groups of four.

Step 5 Pass the first set of four long loops through the centre of the second four long loops to form a cross.

Step 6 Keeping the stitches in this order, slide them back onto the left-hand needle and knit these eight loops in the usual way.

This shopper is really quick to knit, partly due to the chunky yarn it is worked in, which is available in a multitude of colours, but also because of the dropped stitch method used. After knitting so many projects where you must try to avoid dropping stitches,it’s very refreshing and fun to work in this technique, where holes in your work are a good thing!

Extracted with permission from Learn to Knit, Love to Knit by Anna Wilkinson, photos by Laura Edwards (Quadrille, $34.99). Available from

Issue 1541

Subscribe to the magazine

Simon Barnett’s 7 magic rules

In this week's issue of New Zealand Woman's Weekly magazine: Simon Barnett reveals his seven magic rules for raising girls.

New Zealand Woman's Weekly is the country's most-loved women's magazine, bringing a wide variety of news, stories, recipes and helpful hints to the home every week.

Subscribe now

Subscribe to our newsletters

Receive the latest celebrity news, recipes and beauty tips, delivered right to your inbox.