WWI Red Cross Knitting Bag

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

I'm putting together a educational display about knitting during the WWI. I don't have a lot of time to spare to sew a new outfit while I'm knitting away, sneezing out sweaters and mitts from the Pricilla War Work Book like a grandmother. However, I saw a red cross knitting bag on pinterest and knew it would be quick and easy project to make, in addition to beefing up my WWI impression.

The original. Looks to be made from some type of linen, unlined, and handstitched to the handle with spaced running stitches. I'm going to be changing some things around, using non-historically accurate materials for ease and affordability. 

I love cheap and easy projects, especially when I don't have to mail order from speciality shops. I bought a yard of silver Kona cotton, a half a yard of Kona red, a yard of Casa poly lining, and two 7" bamboo handles at Joanns. It cost around $25, with the pair of rings costing the bulk of the project at $10, even after coupon stacking. Lucky you if you got a pair in your stash. However, I do have enough fabric for a second bag, and if I can source cheaper handles, then the project would cost around $12 each in materials.

I decided to add a lining because one, the Kona cotton isn't heavy enough to resist having knitting needles poke holes through it, and two, the slippery material will keep the wool yarns from sticking to the cotton and I'll have less resistance drawing yarn while I knit. 

I measured a 18" x 18" square on the fold and gave myself 2" at the top for the handles. 

Then I traced out a 10" x 10" cross that was 3" wide on all points for symmetry, and added 1/4 seam allowance that I folded under and pressed with a hot iron. 

Before I sewed the bag together, I pinned the crosses and sewed right on the folded edge. 

I cut a 18" x 18" square of lining and sewed the side seams, stopping a few inches from the edge. However, once I added the handles, I realized it wasn't enough and couldn't open my bag. I ended up deepening the slit, to around 9" from the top. This gives me plenty of room to open my bag and dig around the bottom. 

With wrong sides together, I added the lining to the cotton exterior and then rolled hemmed the edges together for quickness and neatness. 

So, I ran into a little detour when I realized that these bamboo handles are meant for crochet bags. I couldn't figure out how to add them to my bag without handsewing. While the original bag was stitched to the handles by hand, I was afraid that running stitches wouldn't hold more than the weight of yarn. Knowing myself, I'd probably stuff all my modern electronics and cosmetics in it too! 

However, it wasn't much of delay. I asked my father to cut a slit on one side of the rings with a saw! It didn't crack or shatter like I feared, and the rolled hem slipped on the ring with ease. That's probably the extent of his involvement when it comes to my sewing projects. Thank goodness for fathers with power tools! 

I could've glued the ring back together, but why deal with all that mess when duck tape will do the trick? Yes, I'm a crazy cat lady, so my duck tape has cartoons of cats instagraming their selfies! After I wrapped it a few times, I just hid the ducktaped part into the rolled hem, and voila! A new bag for WWI events! 

Final Thoughts: It only took about two hours of cutting and sewing, and another hour of fussing with the handle. I think I did a good job, considering it's the first handbag I've ever made. Knowing what I know now, I'd probably would've used cotton twill instead of Kona cotton for dexterity, and maybe found some celluloid purse handles on etsy for more of a period look. However, it does the job and gives me a nice, roomy handbag to use during events.

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