August 7, 2009

The Incredible Mod Plush Handbag

Ever stand in front of a bin of on-sale yarn and think "Wow, that is cool! And such a good price. I could make something out of that." A few months ago, I ended up with six skeins of Beguile (yes, it lived up to its name) by Yarn Bee. Each skein was 3.5 oz/75 yards. It's made of 100% polyester, sold through Hobby Lobby ( and was regularly priced at $5.27/skein. I got it for $1.99.

I started out crocheting a scarf; but I've grown tired of working up scarves lately. I like making them more than wearing them, and no one I know wants me to make them another scarf anytime soon.

I've decided when a woman can't wear some of the outfits she would like to because even though they are beautiful theylookhorribleonherbecausesheisnolongerasizeseven -- then accessories are the way to go. Here's my new philosophy: stick with well-made classic clothes that Ac-cen-tuAte the positive, E-lim-inAte the negative, latch on to the affirmative, and don't mess with Mister InBetween ... okay, now I'm channeling Doris Day, right?

So, with these quality, flattering basics doing their best for our imperfect bodies, the fun comes in with the accessories: jewelry, hats, scarves, purses, shoes, etc., etc.

Those fortunate enough to have the feet and backs to handle beautiful shoes -- I envy you, sort of. Well, I envy the way your feet and legs look in those beautiful shoes. I cannot speak to the shoe obsession, and it's a bit embarrassing actually.

But purses, I love purses. Purses are perfect for creative Taureans who want to take all their wonderful stuff with them wherever they go. In fact, if I start traveling more, I might stretch the purse love to luggage love.

Anyway, I decided to use the Beguile yarn to create a modern purse. About halfway through it looked more like a plush pillow, but then I found a cool, sheer, black with colored polka dots shell top (given to me by my slimmer sister) in the back of my closet. I loved the material and design of it, but honestly, I'm not gonna be wearing that skinny top anytime soon. So, I cannabalized it to be the lining of my mod purse.

I can follow crochet directions, really I can. But I love making things up that I don't have to follow a pattern to do. It's very freeing and if I have to rip out and redo, so what? It's not a race. The more I crochet intuitively, the better I get at estimating what needs to be done.

For this purse, here are the basic statistics, if you want to try one on your own. The only stitches you need to know are chain stitch, single crochet, and slip stitch. It's that simple!

I used a US H 5.0mm wooden-handled hook by Susan Bates. (This is my favorite type of crochet hook because it is so comfortable, and keep the carpal tunnel syndrome that dared to visit me, years ago, at bay.)

I also used worsted weight yarn for the handle and top trim of the purse only. This yarn was pale yellow and was used to give strength to the handle. It was worked along with the Beguile yarn.

The finished purse is 13 inches wide at the bottom and 18 inches wide at the top. The handle is 30 inches long. The body of the purse is 12 inches from top to bottom.

1. Make a chain 13 inches long.

2. Double crochet into each stitch of this chain, to the end. chain 3 at each end, turn, and keep crocheting. (Note: I increased my stitches slightly as I went "up" the purse, so that it ended up being wider at the top. But if you prefer one that is the same width at top as at bottom, then count the double crochets and ensure your sides are even all the way up.)

3. When you have one side done, do the other side as well.

4. Single crochet the two pieces of the purse together.

5. For the handle: Starting with the yarn attached at one purse top, seam side, I made a chain, 30 inches long using Beguile along with the worsted yarn, crocheting with them both at the same time and connecting it to the seam side on the other side of the purse.

Then, I turned and chained three, skipped 3 stitches in the chain below, and singled crocheted. I did that all the way down the handle. Chain 3, skip three stiches below, then connect using a SC to the row below.

Make a total of three rows this way (the first row is your chain).

Then, to strengthen it, I started at one end of the handle, chained 3, then attached to the handle in a zig zag pattern (SC-ing it to the right, then the left, then the right) all the way up the handle to the other side. This was to provide some more strength to the handle. So, when you look at the handle, there are three 60 inch rows and over that is a zig zag row of a chain stitch, connected at the points of the zig zag with a SC.

6. When the handle was finished, I then (still using the two yarns) did a single crochet all around the top of the purse, just to give it a little finish.

7. I turned the purse inside out and the black shell almost fit it perfectly. I trimmed it off to fit and sewed it inside the purse. I even had a little leftover material, and with that I made a pocket inside the purse to hold a cell phone or keys.

8. I crocheted a clasp to hold the top of the purse closed, and sewed a button on each side of the clasp. (see photo).

I am not sure where I will take this Incredible Mod Plush Handbag, but I can fit my cell phone, iPod, Kindle, sketchbook, or even enough use it as a carry-on bag on an airplane, or as a marketbag. "Oh, the places we will go!"

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