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Archive entry for July 2018

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July 2018

Colourful Kit Bag


Kit bags are yet another thing I have a weakness for; I still have and use a floral one I bought from the Gap at its flagship store in Richmond in the 1980s. I think it stems from when I was a little girl finding my Father's military kit bag in the attic with "Delhi" and "Bombay" stenciled* on it - conjuring all kind of exotic ideas and possibilities. [All us kids also used this kit bag for camping with the Scouts and Guides in those days].

Kit bags are a bit impractical for any activity other than that for which they were designed, but smaller ones can be used more successfully as hand bags. This one seems to be of a more useful size, and you can really make it to any size you feel like. If you use "any thickness" of yarn as suggested then even the size of the base is really up to you. Designed towards the end of WW2, in an era of extreme shortages - where even the manufacture of yarn was restricted never mind the rationing - it is made from "oddments" or "pulled back" wool. The paper the pattern was printed on is flimsy in the extreme and there are sympathetic references everywhere to the inability to source the materials required.

* As well as the destinations, there was also my Father's name, army number, and unit stenciled on his kit bag, and I remember being amazed that he could just recite it without thinking - when in fact his army days were not so very far distant then and of course the only thing you were ever obliged to reveal were "name, rank, and number" - so not so surprising other than to a tiny child who suddenly had a glimmer of an idea that her Father had a life before she existed.


The bag is really a free format design and quite simple to make. It's the details that can make it rather splendid.
The base is made as a reinforced cup shape (in leather or felt) with a base and short sides (border) - not so obvious but seen as blue in the picture.


[Editor's note: Since you are working to a non-specified tension, you might want to do the crochet part first and make the base to fit accordingly.]

Cut 2 circles of felt, one 8½ inches, the other 10 inches in diameter.
Cut 2 circles of cardboard, both 8½ inches in diameter.
Place both cardboard circles together on top of the large felt circle; turn felt over on to top of circle and stitch from one side to the other across centre, pulling stitches taut. Place second felt circle over this and slip-stitch in place.


Cut a piece of felt 9 inches wide and 27 inches long; then a strip of cardboard 26 inches long and 4 inches wide.
Wrap felt round cardboard so as to cover both sides, oversewing the edges neatly and not touching the stiffening. Close the whole border to form a ring; place over base, and stitch firmly all round.

Crochet top

With double wool, make 140 chain and close to form a ring.

[Editor's note: Or *not* with double wool - as you prefer and depending on the thickness of the yarn you are using; in fact of you really are using scraps of different thicknesses you might use some of them double and some not. In the 1940s, sweaters were generally made in fingering (thin) yarn so the assumption would have been that this is what you would have had to work with.
Now would also be a good time to check out your tension - albeit in a free format kind of a way - does 140 chain look like it will go round your base? There is something to be said for maybe making your base after you have done the crochet top so you can make it to fit.]

1st round: Make 3 chain to form first treble, then work 1 chain, 1 treble all round, and link up with first treble.
2nd round
: 3 ch, then 1 treble in 1 treble all round, linking up with first treble.

Repeat 2nd round for about 8 or 9 inches, changing colour as required.

Now start decreasing by missing a tr 4 times evenly in round.
Continue to decrease, thus every round until 100 trebles remain.

Divide the work so that you have 36 trebles for back and front with 14 at each side. Work 12 rows of trebles on each of the 36 tr.
Finish off.

Turn down each of these 2 (36 treble) top hems and slip a piece of cardboard into each to stiffen before finally stitching.


With double wool make 70 chain and join to form a circle.
Work 3 rounds of trebles and fasten off.
Make another the same, then stitch each over a circle of old lengths of wool.

[Editor's note: You are essentially using the yarn as stuffing for the handles.]

To Make Up

Stitch crochet top to edge of base on inside of it, making it very firm. Sew handles firmly to stiffened tops.

Make a length of crochet chain with a small tassel at each end to thread through open sides at each side of handle.



I was sufficiently smitten with this that I actually made one up for myself, with some adaptations of my own.

Firstly I did stick with the idea of using oddments I already had, but I used mostly chunky yarns so I did not have to work with the yarn doubled - which can be a bit of a nuisance when doing crochet, even though many old and new patterns seem to suggest it. As I selected my yarns based on colour, some of them were used double to achieve the thickness I wanted.

I also changed the stitch - I used a 4mm hook with my chunky yarn, and worked in double crochet (American single crochet) throughout instead of treble crochet in order to achieve a firmer fabric; trebles provide a moderately open fabric, which, even with a lining, was not the effect I wanted. If you want to do that yourself, bear in mind that working with dc is not as quick; however, I find crochet in general works up very quickly (as well as thicker) when compared with knitting.

[Editor's note: Worth noting here that although I settled on using chunky yarn, in my opinion, the original fingering (or 4 ply) yarn is about equivalent to an Aran or worsted weight yarn when used double; I say "in my opinion" as opinions do differ on this.]

For the base, I used a rather thick leather (about 2mm) which was tough to work but made up surprisingly well. I bought it from leather4craft's selection of offcuts on eBay - but it did prove fairly expensive for all that. You could use a thin leather, or PVC, or recycled leather (which I found very easy to work with in the past) in which case you can treat it much like the felt although easing it may not be quite so easy.
If you choose thick enough leather, you might want to do away with the reinforcements of the cardboard, which is what I did, but I did line the inside of the whole bag with fabric.



I made the base to be an oval shape to suit the offcut of leather I had. I just took a rectangle about 12 by 8½ inches and rounded the corners (using a dinner plate as a guide), then attached the border in that shape; about ½ inch was used all round for the overlapping seam which gave a circumference fairly close to the original 9 inch circular base.
I made my crochet ring - in chunky yarn - to fit the shape (about 125-130 chain, or about 30 inches). The flattened circular shape actually matches the flattened effect of the top fastening and handles and I had to take that into account when positioning the handle flaps, for which I made rudimentary leather handles


Oddments of wool, any shade or ply.

A medium-sized crochet hook.
Corrugated paper or cardboard for base and handles.

Felt or leather for the base.
"Felt was used for the original, but it is scarce now."
("now" being 1944)


Dependent on the yarn and hook you use.

Size matters

The base of the bag is designed to be about 8½ inches.

Crochet abbreviations:

ch: chain
tr: treble
ss: slip stitch

Remember these are English crochet instructions where dc is equivalent to US single crochet - see "Terminology" in the side bar.

A Word on the Wool

I used some tough carpet wools in combination with any chunky yarns I could find in the right colours. I used a relatively smaller hook than usual for chunky in order to keep the fabric firm - and carpet-like.

I have seen some crochet work for sale at Woolfest using Herdwick wool which I liked a lot. It was similarly firm, making self- supporting small boxes. [I was less keen to try that out myself as I felt it would be quite tough on the hands.]


In transposing any pattern it is always a risk that errors will be introduced, in spite of dedicated proof reading.
If you have any problems with this pattern, please and I will try and assist.


So by now I expect you are thinking "...but hey! - what about that extremely snazzy and attractive belt she is wearing? where can I buy that?".
Well - good news! it's not a purchased item at all - it's a one-of-a-kind hand-crafted item you can make yourself! Here's how:


Again the materials are designed to be "make do and mend" oddments of old pulled-back knitting wool in any ply and any shade, worked with a medium-sized crochet hook.
You also need a piece of (faux or real) leather, felt or suitable material for the backing.

Each circle is made separately:
First collect together your most disreputable ends of wool and join them, a few strands at a time, to make the foundation over which the circles are crocheted.

Now make 6 chain and join into a circle closely.
1st round: Work 12 dc into ring, working over the foundation of the old wool.
2nd and 3rd rounds: 2 dc into 1 dc all round.
Pull this foundation from time to time to see that the circle keeps its proper shape and is flat.

Break foundation and working wool and finish off neatly.

[Editor's note: The intention here is to achieve a fairly solid roundel by working your stitches over a core of old yarn - as you might do in stumpwork embroidery or making a corded buttonhole. Obviously you can do as many rounds as you like to achieve the appropriate size.]

Arrange the 15 circles for front of belt as shown in photograph, and stitch to foundation material cut to shape.
Work 4 crosses in the centre spaces.
Six circles are used to belt round the back, and these are stitched to separate circles of foundation material and then stitched together so that they overlap.
Join another 6 for the second side, then make a hook-and-eye fastening at the back.

© Christina Coutts 2007

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