This is a tutorial showing how to create strong and neat handles for a large retro granny stash bag or a smaller project bag. They can be any length you like.
This style of handle is better than my original design and I would recommend that you make the handles this way 🙂
After you have assembled the five granny squares into a box and have done one round of double crochet stitches (UK terms) or single crochet stitches (USA terms) around the top of the bag, this tutorial will take you forward beyond joining the lining (if you have made a box lining) to finishing your bag.
Skip to these links if you want to find out more about linings:
Making the top of the bag
You still need to make rounds of double crochet stitches (UK terms) or single crochet stitches (USA terms) to complete the top of the bag before you start working on the handles. If you are attaching a box lining you still need to finish off the edge of the lining with blanket stitch using either embroidery thread (used as it comes, don’t separate the strands) or DK wool. Sometimes its a challenge to find a needle sharp enough that has a large enough eye and if you like you can use an awl to make guide holes at regular intervals all the way round, as I did here.
In my seaside bag I did one round of dc (sc) border to the top of the bag in Stylecraft Special Chunky Parchment. In the second round, I joined through the loops of the blanket stitch on the lining to join it in to the top of the bag.
This is what my bag looked like at this point. If you wanted a stash box you could just stop here – with all the reinforcement I put in it, its sturdy enough to stand up and go under a bed, on a shelf or just in the corner looking pretty…
Making the handles
My next step was to complete three more rows of dc stitches (UK terms), sc stitches (USA terms) around the top of the bag using Stylecraft Special Chunky in parchment.
For the fourth and fifth rounds I changed to Stylecraft Special DK in parchment, held double with craft cotton, which is a very similar colour. Cotton does not stretch as acrylic yarn does, and I wanted to strengthen the top of the bag. You can hardly see, but even if you look closely, the effect is very pleasing.
NOTE – you can buy craft cotton on most markets, haberdashery shops or from hardware shops such as Boyes in the UK.
After this fifth round, I changed back to Stylecraft Special Chunky in Parchment and started the handles.
Positioning the handles evenly
To do this I placed stitch markers at either side of the front and back of the bag so that I had the same number of stitches between the markers on each side. I placed the markers 3 dc stitches in from the edges of the square below to give the bag as much stability as possible when it was being carried using the handles.
I made 100 chains for each handle on the sixth round, starting at the stitch before the marker and joining into the stitch after the marker. I was still using the Chunky yarn.
In the next round, I worked around the sides of the bag and over the top of the chain, making a dc (UK terms) or sc (USA terms) into each stitch all the way round, including into each chain stitch. You miss out the stitches between the handles in this round.
At this stage my bag looked like this:
At this point, I left the sides of the bag and around the top of the handles and concentrated my attention on the INSIDE of the handles and the fronts and backs. These now were three rows short of the rest of the top of the bag.
Working again with Stylecraft Special DK held double with craft cotton, I started at the base of the handle on the right, worked across the top of the bag, between the handles, and then up the handle, working into the other side of the foundation chain I had made for the handle
Then I switched to the Stylecraft Special Chunky yarn in parchment once more for two more INSIDE handle rows.
That produced handles with five rows in total, including a DK, cotton combo row running along the middle. The sides between the handles and inside the handles had the same number of rows – 6 in total.
So, the handles were now flat as were the tops along the circumference of the top of the bag.
At this point I put away my crochet hook and took up my darning needle.
I took a long length of cotton piping cord 6mm thick and started to enclose it within the first handle, sewing using Stylecraft Special DK in parchment using a big blunt darning needle. I went through both loops of each stitch, keeping the two sides of crochet evenly matched.
When I got to the bottom of the handle, I carried on sewing, curling over the top of the bag to meet the line of dc stitches where the lining had been joined. I carried on stitching all the way round, enclosing the piping cord completely as I went.
At the junctions with the handles, make the stitches so that the handles emerge straight up This is what they should look like from the inside of the bag:
And from the outside:
And the finished bag, with its lovely rope handles, which are also very strong – handy because I put LOADS of stuff in it!