Today’s featured project is what promises to be the most important accessory of the season the crocheted shoulder bag. It is a generously sized, multipurpose, long-lasting bag. Use it as a chic handbag, shopping bag or just use it to carry around your spring and summer needlework projects. This fun-to-make tote works very quickly using a large (size H) hook and the simplest of all crochet stitches: the single crochet.
Raffia is a durable vegetable fiber, meaning that it comes from a plant of some sort. The most common vegetable fiber is cotton. Linen and ramie are vegetable fibers more similar to raffia. These materials are usually mixed with fibers such as cotton to create a soft, long-wearing blend.
Raffia comes from the leaves of an African palm tree and, rather than being used for knitting or crochet, it is primarily used for weaving mats, baskets and bags.
Raffia is most commonly shown in the natural beige shade in our bag. When dyed, the colors of the raffia fibers are very muted, as the dye does not permeate the fiber.
Don’t confuse raffia with jute or hemp, which are somewhat similar fibers but are much coarser. Raffia is actually much softer and more pliable than you would imagine.
Instead of being provided as a continuous strand, like yarn, raffia comes in pieces of various lengths. Incorporate an interesting design element in your bag by leaving short joining ends on the outside of your bag. If you prefer, the strands can be worked to the inside to create a bag like the one shown here. The ends are easily joined by connecting one strand to the next. This is done by working one stitch with two strands before continuing on with the new strand.
The designer, Kristin Nicholas, director of marketing and product development for By Hand, the crafts division of the Classic Elite Yarn Co., says: “To stay current with fashion and create new excitement in the knitting and crochet market, I look for new types of yarn all the time. Using raffia for this bag really made me think about where fiber comes from and what other possibilities it has. I would like to create other accessories or items for the home using raffia and simple crochet stitches. This is a perfect beginner project.”
MEMO: To obtain directions for making the Raffia Bag, send your request for Leaflet No. 040796 with $2 and a long, stamped, self-addressed envelope to: The NeedleWorks, The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 419148, Kansas City, Mo. 64141. Or you may order Kit No. 040796 by sending a check or money order for $19.95 to The NeedleWorks at the same address. Kit price includes shipping charges, full instructions and raffia to complete the project in natural. Approximate size is 26 inches. For kit orders only, you may call 7 a.m.-2 p.m. weekdays to (800) 873-9537.