I’m one of those people who is not at all competitive. For me, life is all about being individuals and enjoying your own journey on your own terms – that’s how I get to feel like I’m winning at life, even when I’m not officially ‘the winner’! Of course, sometimes it’s nice to win, but I don’t NEED to win to feel good about me.
The reason I’m even mentioning any of this is because of this fun crochet shopping bag I made recently:
Yes, those are mouth-watering slices of lime and the word ‘Juicy’ written in surface crochet. Yum!
So I made this bag as part of Simply Crochet magazine’s ‘Hook to hook’ designer challenge. Here’s how it works: two designers are given the same yarn and brief, they create two different designs (hopefully!) which both appear in the magazine, and then readers vote for their favourite design. The competitive element didn’t really fit in with my aforementioned philosophy, but I liked the idea of only being able to use a limited amount of yarn – “sounds like a fun challenge,” said I.
The brief was to make a shopping bag using a nice King Cole Recycled Cotton yarn in two shades of green. I was told that the other designer was making a lacy rectangular bag so I went for a more solid fabric with a rounded shape and a long strap, which seemed to fit better with my bag for life’s intended use anyway.
As a vegan, I buy a lot of fresh fruit and veg, and I’m always astonished by the amount of plastic packaging involved – even foods that have a natural wrapper, i.e. a skin that we can’t eat, like avocado. It makes no sense! So I wanted to make a shopping bag that I could use for carrying home loose fruit and veg from the shops, with the aim of eliminating the need to put any of it in a pointless plastic wrapper.
With that in mind, I thought it would be nice to decorate the outside of the bag with some fruit and/or veg motifs. The two shades of green yarn I had in my hands just screamed ‘lime’ to me, so I started off by hooking some slices of lime. It took me four attempts to get to my perfect lime – that’s fourth lime lucky!
All the time while I was hooking these limes, I had the word ‘juicy’ running through my head, so I thought it would be fun to use surface crochet to spell out the word ‘Juicy’ and then surround it with the lime motifs. Unusually for me, I decided to sketch this out – my drawing skills are notoriously poor so it would be more of a visual guide than a real-life representation!
At this point, I considered leaving the other side plain, but I just couldn’t get the word ‘fresh’ out of my head. I always wanted the bag to work for both fruits and vegetables – the word ‘juicy’ seemed perfect for fruits but vegetables are more, well, fresh! So I decided to carry on and make the other side ‘Fresh’ with some vegetable motifs. With my paper and colouring pencils still out, I decided to make some sketches of other veggies I could try…
So I set to work making some of these – I made a pea pod, some kale leaves, an avocado slice and a mini marrow. They made me hungry for a nice vegetable salad, but none of them seemed right for the bag!
Eventually I made a cucumber slice and it finally seemed to work! Feeling a bit more confident in my drawing ability, I sketched out the ‘Fresh’ side. I thought it would be a nice contrast to have the ‘Fresh’ running along the opposite diagonal:
So now all I had to do was make some more lime and cucumber motifs – oh and actually make the bag! The bag itself was just a simple bucket shape, which didn’t take long. I decided on a wide, long strap that would be sturdy and practical for over-the-shoulder carrying – hands free is always best in my book.
Once all the crocheted elements were done, I was ready to put it all together. First up was writing the words with surface crochet, which is a technique I really like, but it can be a bit tricky on treble crochet fabric! I started with the ‘J’ of juicy and I think it took me all afternoon to get it right – at first it looked too straight and not organic enough, so I tried to make the letter shape more rounded and flowing, which worked better. Once I’d done that first J, the rest of the letters flowed easily on both sides.
Finally, I arranged and pinned the motifs into place – I tried to make it look fairly random and organic, and while I’m still not 100% happy with some of the positioning, I think it looks ok. ‘Organic’ was a key aim for me with this project and that approach also applied to the way I sewed the motifs to the bag. On the original lime motif, I’d worked long lines of light green yarn to divide the central dark green area into segments, like this:
But I realised that if I worked these lines on the motif while it was pinned to the bag (through the bag itself) that would be a neat way to join the motifs to the bag. This method also added to the organic 3D effect by leaving just a little gap between the edge of the lime motif and the bag, which created a nice bit of shadow that lifts the lime away from the bag and makes it look more like an actual slice of lime. I used a similar technique to join the cucumber motifs, but I still needed to add some stitches at the edge, so it wasn’t as good, but it’s ok.
So that’s my bag for life finished and if you’d like to make your own, the pattern is in issue 73 of Simply Crochet magazine, on sale now.
Oh but that’s not the end of the story – readers have been voting for their favourite design on Instagram here. Anyone who votes has a chance of winning the yarn needed to make the bag, which is a nice touch. Although, I don’t think it will be my bag that gets made because so far, it’s in second place! But I don’t mind that because I enjoyed the project, I’m really proud of it and I’ve had some lovely comments from people, which is amazing, so I already feel like a winner!