In Search Of The Perfect Knitted Mesh Tote Bag

Four years ago, my sister gave me a mesh tote bag she had made for me for my birthday. The bag is purple (yay!), made out of sturdy acrylic yarn, expands to hold several wet beach towels or a day’s worth of groceries, and folds up to fit in my pocket. Purple Mesh Bag
The bag that Liz made

This tote bag is one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten. Every time I use it, I think of my sister Liz and imagine her making it for me. It’s a little bridge over the miles, is that bag, expanding over time as well as over a bottle of wine, some bread, and a few apples. Um…Except that I was fresh out of wine when I took that photo, so the part of a wine bottle is being played with Oscar-worthy style by a bottle of gourmet olive oil.

The original bag is crocheted, but I was curious to see if I could come up with a knitted stitch pattern that would make a similar knitted bag.

It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, as I appear to have all kinds of voices in my head (ahem) wishing to advise me on the subject of The Perfect Mesh Tote Bag:

Rule 1: The bottom has to be solid, so things won’t fall out; but not so solid that you can’t fold it up into a reasonable, stash-in-your-pocket, bundle.

Rule 2: The sides have to be stretchy and meshy enough so that they can expand to surround lots of goodies, but the mesh has to be small enough so that said goodies won’t fall out.

And finally,

Rule 3: The handle has to be strong, yet flexible.

(I’m starting to sound like a paper towel commercial here. Quick: Where’s Fabio? I need a shot of him holding up a mesh tote bag, his hair fluttering in the wind…).

I started sketching, and realized my sketch was looking eerily familiar…like something I might have seen in a past issue of Knits magazine, maybe. A few minutes of searching, and there it was, in all its bag-ly glory: The Hemp Market Bag.
Hemp Market Bag

It has a solid, flexible bottom, the perfect meshy sides, and a strong, flexible shoulder strap. Plus: hemp. I love hemp, the kind of hemp spun specifically for knitting, anyway. It’s strong, the texture softens as you use it, but it stands up to use and spills like a champ.

Ya gotta love it—you start out thinking you’re going to have to invent The Perfect Bag and someone else has already gone and done all the math and swatching and ripping-out and muttering and starting over again and yet more swatching for you. Such a deal.

So, here it is, Jane Fournier’s Hemp Market Bag. Make one for your own sister, maybe (after you make one for yourself, of course!). And don’t forget to get a bottle of wine for when you want to take a photo for all of us of the bag full of goodies.

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