Knit Tote

I don’t know if it’s just a New York thing, but it seems as though the appearance of muslin tote bags is as sure a sign of spring as blooming flowers and chirping birds.

As the wintery skies lift and coats are shed, so too are those heavy leather bags. So in true New York spring fashion, I started digging around for my freshest, cleanest tote, and as I often do, I wondered how it was I didn’t have a knit version of this object, this thing I love and use every time the sun shines!

I dressed up this simple sack with Louet’s Euroflax, a naturally chic 100% linen yarn. This hearty, elegant linen pairs perfectly with Tunisian stitch for a gently textured fabric with a whole lot of simple grace. Use this pretty Knit Tote for your shades and a lipstick or even for the early spring peas and radishes you’ll be grabbing at the market.

There’s still a bit of bite in the air here in New York, but I am yearning for the warmth and levity of spring. As soon as I can, I’ll be rocking a tote bag, just like so many of my neighbors! -Laura



6 stitches = 1 inch in stockinette stitch on larger needles


12 inches wide x 13 inches tall and 22-inch handles


Begin Body of the Bag

Using the circular needles and a Provisional Cast On, cast on 124 stitches.

Place a marker and join for working in the round, being careful to not twist the stitches.

Set-Up Round: K2, yo, *slip 1 knitwise with yarn still in front (wyif), wrap yarn over right needle and bring it to front again, repeat from * 58 more times, slip 1 knitwise wyif, bring yarn over right needle to back, place marker, k2, yo,*slip 1 knitwise wyif, wrap yarn over right needle and bring it to front again, repeat from * 58 more times, slip 1 knitwise wyif, bring yarn over right needle to back. (244 stitches)

Round 1: [K2, *k2tog (the yarn over and the slipped stitch) through the back loop (tbl), repeat from * to marker] two times. (124 stitches)

Round 2: [Slip 2 purlwise with yarn in back (wyib), yo, *slip 1 knitwise wyif, wrap yarn over right needle and bring it to front again, repeat from * to one stitch before marker, slip 1 knitwise wyif, bring yarn over right needle to back] 2 times. (244 stitches)

Repeat Rounds 1 and 2 until piece measures 12 3/4 inches, ending with Round 2.

Next Round: [K2, k2tog 16 times, mark previous stitch, k2tog 29 times, mark previous stitch, k2tog to marker, remove marker] two times. (124 stitches)

Bind off loosely in knit.

Make the Handles

Using the double pointed needles and a Provisional Cast On, cast on 3 stitches.

Starting at the second marked stitch, work an attached I-cord along the bound off edge of the bag, ending at the third marked stitch. Please visit our Attached I-cord Tutorial for complete instructions.

Work an unattached I-cord for 22 inches.

Rejoin the attached I-icord at next marked stitch, and work it to the last marked stitch (which is the first one you placed).

Work an unattached I-cord for 22 inches for second handle.

To complete the handles, remove the scrap yarn from the provisional cast on and place stitches onto a double pointed needle. Hold the two double pointed needles parallel and use the Kitchener Stitch to graft the handle I-cord to attached I-cord.

Graft the Bottom

Pull out the scrap yarn used for the Provisional Cast on, placing stitches onto the circular needle.

Slip the first stitch of the round onto the right needle so that it is now the last stitch of the round.

Divide the stitches in half, sliding 62 stitches to each end of the circular needle.

Holding the circular needles parallel, use the Kitchener Stitch to graft together the two sides of the bottom of the bag.

Finish the Bag

Weave in your ends and you are finished.

For a more relaxed feel, heavily block your bag. For a heartier tote, leave it as is. The linen will naturally relax with use.

Click here to add a comment

32 Responses to Knit Tote

  1. Teresa says:

    Hi, Laura,

    I really like this pattern and am anxious to knit this project. However, I am somewhat confused by the instructions for the yarn placement mid row as well as end of row. I have tried it 4 times and always end up with an extra yarn over, either mid point or at the end. What am I doing wrong?

  2. Beth Z says:

    you must be reading my mind! my daughter just moved to CA. (no plastic bags please) and I was looking for a grocery tote pattern. Well here it is. Great for farmers market, but how can I make the handles a little stronger? So excited!

  3. Aldonna says:

    I was wondering, aren't such thing handles a little too feeble for a tote bag? It's been a while since I've knitted a bag but I remember always having the problem of knitted handles beeing very flexible and rather weak beacuse of that. What are your experiences? Does the material used make them more durable?
    Knitting a tote seems like a fab idea!

  4. leslie says:

    Could also “fill” the handle i-cord with cotton cord if it seemed necessary to keep it more sturdy/rigid. :) Instructions are pretty easy to find by searching for filled i-cord.

  5. Julie Tremain says:

    This is the spring of "where have you been all my life" items and this knit tote is an indispensable addition to the list….pure beauty and pleasure….the only decision now is which color will the one I knit be…thank you Laura, thank you purlbee….

  6. People think that this material is of no use for crafts, But all depends upon your mind and creativity, you can turn soil to worth like gold, Nice crafts.

  7. Anne shoring says:

    This has to be the best tote of all time for linen lovers everywhere and it will get better with age. I just live your projects – all so cool!

  8. Caroline - Sarasota says:

    A great idea! I already have the yarn and I can learn 3 new techniques on a small project ….instant gratification.


  9. purl bee says:

    Hi Beth Z and Aldonna…

    One of the big differences between plant fibers and animal fibers is that plant fibers lack the elasticity that wool fibers have. When it comes to bag handles, this lack of elasticity comes in handy, making them durable and not stretchy.

    If you want to beef up the handles… on the last stitch of attached i-cord before the unattached i-cord, do not decrease down to 3 stitches, leave it at 5. Then begin your unattached icord. They will be thicker than the ones I worked.

    Thank you so much for writing in.
    I hope you like the pattern / tote.

  10. Joann says:

    I love this stitch. what do yo call it? thanks

  11. leslie says:

    Could also "fill" the handle i-cord with cotton cord if it seemed necessary to keep it more sturdy/rigid. :) Instructions are pretty easy to find by searching for filled i-cord.

  12. purl bee says:

    Hi. It's called Tunisian Knitting. I adapted it for knitting in the round. I first learned of it from one of Barbara Walker's stitch books (link below). There is a Tunisian Rib Stitch as well that is quite striking. I was torn between the two.

    Thanks for asking.
    Glad you like the stitch

  13. Mari says:

    What a pretty bag! I love grey because you can add so many colors with it! I think this is going onto my cue……:)

  14. I love your blog – the projects are wonderful and give me something to aspire to when I get past the simple knit…knit…knit…

  15. Juanita says:

    While I was looking at the pattern, I thought that it resembled Tunisian Crochet, so I can understand why they called it Tunisian Knitting. It does seem a bit more complicated that its crochet counterpart.

  16. Jude says:

    Hi, Is there a mistake in the instructions..I don't find it very clear…do I continue with knit 2 stitches at the middle marker…?
    Thank you for the help, I do love this pattern but am confused..

  17. I love this so much! I am on my way to go make one right after this comment ;). Thank you!!!

  18. purl bee says:

    Hi Jude.
    Thank you for asking…

    There are two knit stitches at the beginning of the round and two knit stitches at the middle of the round to establish the sides of the bag. The two pairs of knit stitches create a pause in the pattern and fold in the fabric, distinguishing a front and back or two sides.

    I think once you get a few inches in, you will see how the knit stitches give structure and shaping.

    Please let me know if you have any other questions.

  19. Ingrid says:

    so simple and beautiful!

  20. Ingrid says:

    so simple and beautiful!

  21. Allie says:

    Hi Purl Bee! Love all your projects! They're innovative and modern.

    I'm newer to knitting and not familiar with the materials you are using here. Does this bag have some structure to it? It looks great in the photos, but I'm curious if you have items in it with some weight, what does that do to the bag?

    I read the comments regarding strengthening the handles, but was curious what happens to the bag with something of substance in it.

    A photo with this would be helpful too!

    Thanks Purl Bee for all that you share with us!

  22. Ang says:

    I love this bag but I can't seem to get it right! Do you know of a video tutorial anywhere on the web … I need serious help! I have searched but all I can find is Tunisian crochet!

  23. Cindi says:

    I'm wondering if this bag can be started using Judy's magic cast on rather than a provisional cast on, thereby eliminating the need to graft the bottom….What do you think?


  24. purl bee says:

    Hi Allie.
    Linen is fantastic yarn. It is tough, but also softens so it is not too rough to the touch, yet extremely sturdy since it is a plant fiber (lacking the natural elasticity that is found in animal fibers). So yes, there is some structure.

    I will try and get a picture of it up on Instagram (@purlsoho) with it filled for you to see how it behaves when totting. It is intended for a light summer bag, not exactly for carrying around encyclopedias or similar.

    Thank you for your intrest. I will comment here again once the Instgram picture is up!

  25. purl bee says:

    Hi Ang,
    I am not sure of a Tunisian Knitting video. Is there sometime in particular I can help you with? Does it have to do with the placement of the yarn at the end of mid-row, before you knit two. I know that is an easy place to make a mistake.

    Please let me know if I can help in any other way.

  26. purl bee says:

    Hi Cindy.
    Whoa. I love that Judy's Magic Cast On. It seems perfectly appropriate for this project.
    Great question.
    Thanks for writing in.

  27. Ang says:

    Hi Laura, thanks for getting back to me. After I finished the first row, and went to begin the second row, it just sort of unraveled! I must be doing something wrong with the yarn over the needle instructions. I will try again with only a small number of stitches to see if I can get it right.

  28. purl bee says:

    Hi Teresa.

    At the middle of the round and then again at the end, you want to make sure your yarn is simply pulled over the needle and to the back (not pulled over the needle and around to the front like in previous stitches). This is so that you don't create an extra yarn over (increasing one) before the two knit stitches.

    Does that make any sense.
    Please let me know if I can help more.

  29. Katy says:

    Hi, I'm wondering how much yardage this project uses. Is there enough yarn left over to make the bag slightly larger? Thanks!

  30. purl bee says:

    Hi Katy.
    Sorry for the delayed response.
    The tote requires approximately 350 yards, leaving about 190 yards of the second skein unused. Definitely enough yarn to make the bag a bit bigger.

  31. peggy says:

    I see the prior question about making a larger version…I'm wanting to try a smaller one, as I have a single skein of the Euroflax that would look great (black!). Any guidance about how to reduce the size to accommodate that would be wonderful.
    Thanks, P

  32. purl bee says:

    Hi Peggy,

    To make this bag with just one skein you would need to decrease it by approximately 30%. I believe if you cast on 104 stitches and work until the bag is approximately 11 inches tall you should get a bag that is 10-inches wide by 11-inches tall.

    Hope this helps.

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