Over the years, I’ve tried every kind of project bag for carting around my knitting: special totes with special pockets; cute, sturdy little bags from Etsy; ones I’ve sewn myself; cheap drawstring bento bags from the dollar store in Japantown; things that double as purses and don’t look anything like a knitting bag until the moment you fish a ball of yarn out of them. I’ve got a million little sketches for project bags with reinforced sides that won’t let needles poke through, and a million Pinterest pins for tutorials on perfect little bags.
But what I actually use these days for holding knitting projects is way less fancy. It’s pretty much a hobo bindle without the stick.
I have about zillion bandanas, thanks to years of camping trips. They’re like a smaller, lighter version of the bath towel in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” as far as I’m concerned:
- I’ve used them for tying up my hair, of course.
- They’re a great impromptu snot rag. (Those don’t get reused for other purposes before getting washed. Mostly.)
- Pull a bandana up over your mouth and nose, bandit-style, for a pretty effective dust mask.
- Soak a bandana in some of your drinking water and tie it around your neck, and it’ll keep you cool.
- Dry off a bicycle seat in rainy weather with one.
- Soak two bandanas for you and your friend to drape over your heads like miniature swamp coolers as you fry in midsummer wine country heat in a car with broken air conditioning.
- Tie a bandana onto the roll cage of a pickup truck to use as a handle when you ride in the bed.
- Fold small items inside one if you don’t want them lost in your luggage.
- Use a bandana to mop up sweat, to dry off tears, to wrap around a sore wrist when you don’t have a wrist brace.
Or keep your knitting in one: Lay it flat, set your knitting in the center, tie the opposite corners in half knots, and go. It’s more secure than you think, since knots stay put in your average bandana’s slightly rough cotton.
This particular bandana was a gift from my friend Normal of Outlaw Soaps, from a screenprinting test run she did on bandanas for Outlaw’s subscription boxes. The logo is based on a tattoo we share — it’s sort of funny to see my little Joshua Tree on business swag.
I’m not saying it’s a perfect system. I lost a few stitch markers at first when I left them loose in the bottom of a project bundle. (Now I fold them into a second bandana and tuck it inside, or focus on the stitch pattern so I can skip markers entirely.) And I bet I look a bit more like a spaz when I take out my knitting on the subway with my strange little bindle. It certainly doesn’t have the polish of a matchy-matchy craft bag that screams “I am a crafter and I know what I’m doing” to passers-by.
But I like it. It’s impossible to lose anything in a flat sheet of fabric: Untie the corners, and I can see my whole project and all its related yarn.
And there’s another thing, I guess. As I get older, I get less invested in whether I have the “right” gear. Shopping bothers me these days: I get a little freaked out sometimes at the idea of trading money for more stuff, when I already have too much stuff and can think of bigger things to put the money toward. I’m gradually getting more interested in what I already have that might serve me in new and useful ways.
And as much as I can appreciate things like color-coordinated accessory bags, I kind of like the idea of a project bag that can double as a tourniquet when it’s not carrying a shawl.