Crochet an Astres Tote

Right now I just can’t get enough of colour-blocked stripes, and mustard and cream, so this bag just seems like the natural next step!

A little touch of handmade style, but not so much that it still can’t pull off a clean, nautical inspired look. It’s big enough to carry everything you need for your day, from a laptop or notebook, to your current crochet project, and a small bag of snacks (because in my world, it is compulsory to carry a small bag of snacks everywhere you go. You never know when peckish hunger will strike!) The mini pocket inside is a nice practical touch to make it easy to use on a day to day basis.

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Although it’s not necessarily a quick project due to the size, it is a very relaxing project because there is very little increasing and decreasing, or even counting of your stitches. Most of your time is spent blindly single crocheting again and again in a spiral, which makes it a great relaxing project for some weekend Netflixing.

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WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • Durable cotton yarn – I used Abbey Road Kung Fu Cotton in Cream and Chartreuse. It is a 100% organic cotton that is soft by sturdy at the same time, and comes in a yummy range of modern colours. I used just over 2 balls of each, so buy 3 of each to be safe.
  • 5mm crochet hook (or appropriate for your yarn size)
  • Handles (I used a pair of cotton handles bought from Daiso – they often have different styles of cotton and pleather handles)
  • Strong polyester sewing thread; 1 colour to match the pocket colour (if you’re making) and 1 colour to match the handles.
  • Scissors to trim
  • Yarn needle to weave in ends, and finer sewing needle for the sewing thread

STITCHES YOU’LL NEED TO KNOW:

  • Chain – CH
  • Single crochet – SC (double crochet in UK/AU terms)
  • Single crochet increase – INC (Stitch 2 single crochets into the 2 stitch from the previous row)
  • Single crochet invisible decrease – DEC (Pick up the front loops of the next 2 single crochets from the previous row, and stitch these together)
  • Half double crochet, back loop only – HDC BLO (half treble crochet in UK/AU terms, stitching only into the back loop of the previous row of stitches, so that the front loop is still on display). Used for the borders of the bag and the pocket as simple edging.
  • Slip stitch – SLIP

Right, let’s get started!

MAKING THE BAG

For this project we create an initial chain, and sc up the one side of it, and then down the other. This creates a circle, which we then work around in a continuous spiral or rounds, rather than back and forth in rows.

Set up row: Using the contrast colour yarn (in my case, mustard) chain 39 to begin. For your first stitch of Round 1 we will stitch into the second chain from the hook.

Round 1: Inc, 36 x sc, 2 x inc, 36 x sc, inc (80 stitches in this round)
Round 2: Inc, 38 x sc, 2 x inc, 38 x sc, inc (84)
Round 3: 2 x inc, 39 x sc, 3 x inc, 39 x sc, inc (90)
Round 4: 2 x inc, 42 x sc, 3 x inc, 42 x sc, inc (96)
Round 5: 2 x inc, 45 x sc, 3 x inc, 45 x sc, inc (102)
Round 6: 2 x inc, 48 x sc, 3 x inc, 48 x sc, inc (108)
Round 7: 2 x inc, 51 x sc, 3 x inc, 51 x sc, inc (114)
Round 8: 2 x inc, 54 x sc, 3 x inc, 54 x sc, inc (120)
Round 9: 2 x inc, 57 x sc, 3 x inc, 57 x sc, inc (126)
Rounds 10-27: Sc all stitches (126)
Round 28: *Dec, 19 x sc*, repeat from * 6 times (120)
TIP: When you do the invisible decreases, try to stitch loosely. This will avoid these areas having a bit of a ‘pinched’ look if you pull your yarn tight as your stitch
Round 29: Sc all stitches (120)
Round 30: *Dec, 18 x sc*, repeat from * 6 times (114)
Rounds 31-33: Sc all stitches (114)

We are now going to change colours. In order to make the colour change less noticeable, I like to do 1 slip stitch with the first colour, and then change to do 1 slip stitch of the next before you start with the next round. It is a little fiddly, but it’s worth it in the end product (in my opinion, feel free to just change straight to the second colour)

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Now here comes the easy bit!

Rounds 34-76: Sc all stitches (114)
Row 77: Chain 2 to get to the height of a hdc (does not count as a stitch), then hdc into the back loop of each stitch from the previous round. When you get back to the beginning, slip stitch to the first hdc to close off the row (note this is a row, not a spiral round, to get a clean even finish around the top) (114)

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Trim yarn and weave in the end.

MAKING THE POCKET

This next part of optional, to create a little pocket to sew on the inside of the bag. If you’d prefer not to do this, you can skip straight to attaching the handles.

For the pocket, this time we will be working back and forth in rows, rather than in rounds.

Set up row: Chain 21

Row 1: Beginning with the second chain from the hook, 20 x sc. Turn at the end of the row (20)
Rows 2-29: Sc all stitches (20)
Row 30: Chain 2 (does not count as a stitch) and hdc into the back loop only of each stitch (20)
Finishing row: To neaten up the edges, we are now going to sc the 3 sides around the outside of the pocket. 31 x sc on the long edge, 2 x sc into the corner, 20 x sc into the bottom edge, 2 x sc into the corner, 31 x sc along the other long edge. Trim yarn and weave in both ends. (86)

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ATTACHING THE POCKET

Turn the bag inside out to give you a better view of what you are doing.

Line up the pocket on the bag to see where you want it to sit. Think about what you would most likely want to put in the pocket, and then line it up so that it would sit the correct distance from the top. In my case, I checked so that my phone would be the right distance from the opening – easy to reach, but not so close it could fall out.

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When you are happy, pin in place. Use polyester sewing thread to pick up the outer loops of the sc edging, and loops from the stitches below. I chose to use sewing thread here and only pick up part of the bag stitch loops so that you aren’t pulling any stitches which would be visible from the outside. As you stitch, keep checking the other side of the bag to make sure you can’t see the effect of your stitches.

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ATTACHING THE HANDLES

You could add any type of handle to this bag, depending on what final effect you are aiming for. For my bag, I chose navy cotton, as I am a sucker for the navy/mustard combo. However, if you want to make the colour blocked bag itself the focus, you could go with a more neutral handle in cream.

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Line up the handles, and pin in place. I recommend you also experiment with carrying it once you have pinned in place, to make sure it fits comfortably on your shoulder and under your arm before you attach. Also try putting some things in it and make sure it is still comfy – you won’t want to have to reattach them later if you discover it digs into your arm when full! (or worse, end up not using your wonderful bag!)

Exactly how you attach your handles will depend on what type of handles you bought, e.g. some already have holes in them for you to sew through. As mine didn’t, I again used sewing thread in the same colour of the handle, sewing the edge of the handles and picking up stitches from the bag below. Again make sure you don’t sew through the whole stitch, so that it isn’t visible from the other side.

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And we’re all done!  Enjoy your new tote, and I’d love to see some pics when you’re finished.  Just tag me on Instagram @the.artful.pea

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