Free Knitting Pattern: Knit a Field of Flowers to Decorate and Recycle a Tote Bag
You can add new life and recycle an old tote bag by adding a bunch of knitted flowers made from leftover yarn!
Most of us probably have at least one or two old tote bags which feature slogans or logos that we'd rather not display on our arm. Why not give these bags a new look by covering the graphic with a pretty bouquet of knitted flowers? Using my basic Flirty Flower knitting pattern, this step-by-step tutorial will show you how to use your stash yarn to knit up flowers of different sizes, add button centers, and then attach them to your old bag to make a new accessory that you'll be proud to use everyday!
Materials for Project
- an old tote bag
- a variety leftover yarn in lighter weights (dk, sport or sock yarn). I used some little balls of yarn from previous projects and about a half a skein of Lion Brand Amazing yarn in "Strawberry Fields". I liked this self-striping yarn because I could make a number of different colored flowers from it that all coordinated when laid out on my bag.
- various size needles for the yarn you choose to use (see patterns below)
- a bunch of buttons to use as the center of your flowers
- a tapestry needle to weave in ends and finish flowers
- embroidery needle and sewing thread to attach flowers to your tote bag (depending on what material your bag is made from, you might be better off using hot glue or tacky fabric glue).
Choosing Your Tote Bag
This flower project can probably be adapted for any cloth bag you have, but some bags will work better than others:
- Consider how big the graphic is on your bag that you want to cover with flowers. My bag had a rather large logo and I used 23 flowers (some doubled) to cover it.
- Check out the material that your bag is made from. If it is a cotton-like canvas material, you should be able to use a sewing needle and thread to attach your finished flowers, but you should make sure that you can work the sewing needle through the material before beginning your flowers. If you bag is made from a more plastic or nylon type material, you might be able to use hot glue or tacky glue to adhere your flowers to your bag.
- Be sure that you can get access to the area where you want to place your flowers. If the logo or graphic that you want to cover is on a pocket on your bag, you may have trouble getting into the pocket with your hand to sew on your flowers.
- Make sure your tote bag is clean before beginning. You should wash or spot clean any areas on your bag that are dirty before attaching your flowers.
Making Your Flowers
For each flower, you will need to make 4 or 5 petals. Below are variations on my knitted flower pattern that will create different sized petals/flowers. I used mainly the medium, small, and the smallest flowers sizes for my bag. The yarn weight and needle size are recommendations based on what I used, but you can play around and see what needle works best for your yarn. You can also modify the size of the flowers by adding or deleting the center knit rows.
These flower petals are a quick knit and are great to make while you are watching tv. I made petals for three flowers while watching an episode of Downton Abbey!
Large Flower - worsted weight yarn using size #7 needle
Follow the directions for my Flirty Flower pin to knit this size flower.
Medium Flower - dk weight yarn using #6 needle
For each petal, CO 3 sts leaving about 2 inch tail, follow directions for the large flower to Row 5.
Rows 5-8: Knit (4 rows total)
Row 9: (Slip 1 st, k1, pass slipped st over knit st), knit to last 2 stitches, k2tog (decrease 2 sts to 5 sts total)
R12: (Slip 1 st, k1, pass slipped st over knit st), knit to last 2 stitches, k2tog (decrease 2 sts to 3 sts total)
R15: Slip 2 sts knitwise, k1, pass 2 slipped sts over knit st (decrease by 2 sts, left with 1 st.) Cut yarn leaving about a 6 inch tail. Pull cut yarn through last st.
Medium Flower with Longer Petals - use dk weight yarn with #5 needles
For each petal, CO 3 sts leaving about a 2 inch tail.
Row 1: K1, yo, k1, yo, k1
Rows 2-11: Knit (10 rows total)
Row 12: (Slip 1 st, k1, pass slipped st over knit st), knit to last 2 stitches, k2tog (decrease 2 sts to 3 sts total)
Row 13: Knit
Row 14: Knit
Row 15: Slip 2 sts knitwise, k1, pass slipped sts over knit st (1 st left). Cut yarn and pull through last st as above.
Small Flower - use dk weight yarn with #5 needle
For each petal, CO 3 sts as above.
Row 1: K1, yo, k1, yo, k1
Row 2 - 8: Knit (7 rows total)
Row 9: (Slip 1 st, k1, pass slipped st over knit st), knit to last 2 stitches, k2tog (decrease 2 sts to 3 sts total)
Row 10: Knit
Row 11: Slip 2 sts knitwise, k1, pass slipped sts over knit st (1 st left). Cut yarn and finish as above.
Smallest Flower - using sport or sock weight yarn on #4 needles
For each petal, CO only 2 sts leaving a tail as above.
Row 1: K1, yo, k1
Row 2-5: Knit (4 rows in total)
Row 6: Slip first 2 sts knitwise, k1, pass 2 sts over knit st. 1 stitch left. Cut yarn as above and pull through last st.
Putting Your Flowers Together
I like to put my flowers together with the pointy end of each petal in the center of the flower, and the wider rounded end on the outside. First, weave in the shorter tail on the rounded end. Then use the longer 6 inch tail on the pointed end to seam the flower together.
The garter stitch texture of the flower is very forgiving when seaming the flower petals together. It can take a while to find the easiest and best way to assemble each flower. Here's the way I put mine together:
Step 1: Put two petals together side by side so that their pointy ends touch. Thread the tail of the petal on the right through your tapestry needle and pull it through the stitches at the base of the petal on the left. Pull the tail through so that the petals are tight together.
Step 2: Then pull your needle through one of the side stitches on your right hand petal, pulling your yarn tail through the stitch. These seaming stitches should start grafting your two petals together.
Step 3: Now stitch through a side loop on the left petal. Work back and forth, stitching between the left and right hand petals up the sides of the petals until you are about halfway along their length.
Step 4: When you get at about the halfway mark, pull your yarn tail to the back of the petals. Weave the tail into your knitting. I like to still weave between the two petals to reinforce my seaming on the front.
Step 5: Continue the seaming process with all your petals to form your flower. The last (fifth) petal will be seamed on both the right side and left side to complete your flower.
Step 6 (and this is my favorite step): Using a sewing needle and thread, attach a button to the center of your flower. You can either use the same button on all your flowers, or choose different buttons to add more color to your flower bouquet. Consider layering a smaller flower on top of a larger one to create different color combinations and to add textural interest.
I used the same color thread to sew on all my buttons. This saved me some time because I was not always switching threads, but also added some uniformity to the design of my flower arrangement. I picked a pale yellow thread that added a bit of brightness to each of my buttons.
Decorating Your Bag with Your Flowers
1. (Optional) Because my bag was black and this was easy to do, I took a black permanent marker and covered over the original design on my tote. I don't think this is essential, but if you can easily block out the original slogan with marker or fabric paint, it will avoid having the logo peek through your flowers.
2. Next, start laying out your knitted flowers over your bag's logo. Remember, while you cover over your bag's graphic, you also want to create a pleasing design with your flowers. You may want to place flowers where there was no logo just to balance the arrangement of your flowers. Or you can mix in some bigger buttons on their own to add in some different spots of color!
Although my bag's slogan was relatively square, I placed my flowers in an organic arrangement as opposed to just following the outline of my logo.
3. Once you have an arrangement that you like, start getting ready to attach your flowers. First, I took a photo with my digital camera so I would have something to reference when putting my flowers on my bag. Then I took a chalk pencil (but you can use any type of marker - it won't show when your flowers are attached) and lifting each flower separately, I drew an "X" to mark the center of my flowers on my bag. I didn't mark the placement of every flower, but I indicated where each flower was along the top of my bag, and then marked where each of the larger flowers needed to be placed. I knew that I could just fill in with the smaller flowers (or buttons) in my grouping once the larger pieces were in place.
4. Then start sewing on your flowers, working from the inside of your tote. I used an embroidery needle (which is a little thicker than a sewing needle) and some neutral thread (threaded double). I stitched through my bag and around the button center of each flower, then sometimes used a few stitches to tack down the ends of the petals if they needed to stay put.
If the stitching is a hassle or doesn't seem like it would work on your bag, try gluing your flowers in place. I would recommend doing a test first with a spare flower and some fabric to make sure your glue will hold. If you use hot glue, be very careful when pushing down your flowers. The hot glue may come through your stitches and burn your fingers!
I love my new (recycled) tote! This bag was just sitting in my closet and these knitted flowers have given it a new fresh look for Spring. I'm excited to add this bag to my wardrobe!!
© 2014 Donna Herron. No part of these patterns or project may be copied or reproduced in any way without permission from the author/designer. For personal use only. This pattern and materials made from this pattern are not meant for commercial sale.