When I was getting ready to move to Germany for several months, there were a lot of things on my packing list: power adapters and voltage converters for electronics, clothes for the conference I’m attending in March, my dissertation notebooks, the Lonely Planet guide to Berlin, five months’ supply of prescriptions… in other words, all the essentials. Because I was very conscious of the weight of my bags, I didn’t want to bring anything I didn’t need, or that took up extra weight or space, so instead of bringing along my usual cloth tote bags for groceries, I stuffed in a couple of the crocheted string bags I’ve been making on and off for a few years now.
While I knew the string bags would come in handy—they always do—I had not idea just how critical they would prove to be. At grocery stores here in Europe, they incentivize reusable bags not by giving you a discount for bringing your own bag, but charging you for any bags you do need. Because on any given day I may be grabbing a few things at the store on my way home from the U-Bahn station, having these puppies stuffed in my backpack or purse at all times has meant that I have not yet needed to purchase any bags. And I am consistently thanking my lucky stars that I brought these bags with me. They are so, so convenient, they can hold way more than you think they will, and best of all, I made them! Makes me feel proud every time I leave the store.
With the recent return to reusable bags, I have found that there are ever more patterns available online for crafty folk who want something more than that 99-cent plastic thing they’ll sell you at the checkout at Stop & Shop. Tipnut has a good compendium of patterns that includes cloth, knit, and crochet versions.
I’ve made several string bags, and my absolute favorite so far is this vintage Coats & Clark pattern from 1959. It distributes its stretchiness in the right directions, which is very important with string bags. Some crochet patterns I’ve tried that are otherwise quite lovely can be too stretchy up and down, which results in a bag that drags on the ground if you put anything heavy in it. This one isn’t fancy, but it works up fast and results in a strong, reliable bag with little bulk, which, as far as I’m concerned, is exactly what you need in a string bag. (Both of the bags in the above photo can fit into my fist easily.)
A few weekends ago, I lost one of the two bags I brought with me, which made me very sad indeed. Fortunately, we live close to a craft store, and I was able to go out a few mornings later and get crochet thread and a hook, and I have already finished my lost bag’s replacement. A brighter color this time, so that I don’t lose it again. (It’s the green one in the photo.)
Currently, I am working on this rather nice-looking bag. I’ll let you know how it works out.