There are many ways to crochet a tote bag. This blog post will go through 3 of my favorite methods. Although each method is shown in either finger crochet or hook crochet, each can be done with either technique (keeping in mind that finger crochet yields a stretchier fabric with larger holes and hook crochet yields a sturdier fabric with smaller holes).
Not interested in making one yourself? You can purchase a 100% upcycled tote bag here.
These options are basically just three different ways to form the base of the bag. No matter which option you choose, we'll still create the body and that handles in the same way, which we'll go over in the final section.
My best advice is to use your first batch of yarn and try out each of these methods to decided which you like the best. Once you get comfortable with one or more, you can start playing with things like changing the type of stitch you use (double crochet, linked double crochet, etc.)
The oval base--
If you're somewhat new to crochet and haven't yet mastered the magic circle (or circular crochet in general), have no fear! The oval base bag is the perfect way to start.
you'll begin by creating a slipknot then chaining 5
Then, turn your work and place a single crochet into all 4 of the previous chains.
When you reach the final chain, place two single crochets into that opening.
this will be your first corner, so we need enough stitches to make it all the way around to the opposite side, so we'll continue by placing two MORE single crochets into that SAME STITCH which is now becoming the first stitch on the opposite side.
Next, place one single crochet into the bottom side of the next three stitches. So now we've crocheted on both the top and the bottom of the chain. We're going to continue by spiraling around our original chain until our base is large enough.
After you've crocheted on the bottom side of your chain, when you reach the final stitch, once again place an extra single crochet on this side.
Now, in order to continue, you're going to begin placing your single crochets into the previous round of single crochet.
The first stitch will receive 2 single crochets since it is in the corner. Then, crochet all the way down the top once again, placing 2 single crochets in the final stitch once more. As you turn the corner, you'll place two single crochets into the first stitch on the bottom side as well. Then continue as you did before.
This pattern will repeat for the entirety of the base (at least 8" long), placing once single crochet in every stitch down both sides and 2 single crochets into both the first and last stitch on each row. Once you reach about the third round, you might have to add an additional increase, so you'll be increasing by 3 on each corner.
What you should be left with is a flat(ish) oval. The great thing about t shirt yarn is you can yank and stretch it into place
The chain circle base--
The chain circle is a great method to get you thinking in a circular pattern. Personally, I think the magic circle is a little cleaner but this is a great way to move from back and forth rows to a circular pattern.
Start with a slipknot, then chain 5.
Then simply curve your little chain so the beginning is right next to the end, and slip stitch from the final chain into the first chain.
Mark your first stitch of the round and add another stitch into this first chain as well.
continue around the original chain placing 2 single crochets into each chain space.
You will have a little opening in the bottom, but because the chain is fairly short it shouldn't be too large.
FOR ROUND 2, we're going to put two stitches into the first previous stitch, followed by one single stitch into the second and repeat for the entirety of the row.
as you continue with the round base of your bag, each round will have fewer increases. You'll need to get a feel for when to increase and when not to. Basically, you'll need to be sure that each stitch will bridge the gap to reach the next stitch. If it doesn't quite reach, you'll be left with a circle that starts cupping. If you add too many stitches, your edges will start to ripple. As a jumping off point, I usually use the following increase pattern:
Round 1: 2 SC in every stitch
Round 2: (2 SC, 1 SC) repeat
Round 3: (2 SC, 1 SC, 1SC) repeat
Round 4: (2 SC, 1 SC, 1 SC, 1SC) repeat
and so on...
You should be creating a nice flat(ish circle)
The magic circle base--
There are several different ways to make a magic circle, but here's my favorite
Start with a loose slip knot with a long tail and chain one.
Hold the bottom circle of the slip knot open as you place 8 single crochets into the circle, crocheting around both the knot circle and the tail as you go.
Pull the tail firmly to draw around the two ends of the circle,
then place 2 single crochets into the first stitch of the previous round.
Continue building your circle with the same general pattern as in the chain circle base (first round, 2 single crochets in every stitch; second round 2 single crochets in the first stitch followed by 1 single crochet in the second stitch, etc. )
Transitioning from base to body
Once your flat base is large enough, it's time to transition to the body of the bag. This is super easy. For most projects, it's enough to just stop adding increases (placing once single crochet into every previous stitch, never two). Sometimes, on my oval bases it needs a little extra help to turn, so I'll do one round crocheting into the back loop only then return to crocheting in the full stitch and repeating for the entire bag body.
You will simply continue placing once single crochet into every stitch until your bag builds in height and is just shy of the final height you wish to achieve.
Forming the Handles
First, count the total number of stitches on your work piece, then divide by two. (example: a bag with 30 stitches total on the base will be divided into 2 sections of 15)
Handles are very simple, we just want to leave 10 stitches open, chain 15 to arch over those open stitches,
and then anchor with a slip stitch in the 11th stitch. Make sure your chain is straight and not twisting.
Place a single crochet into the remaining stitches of your first section (in our example case, 5 single crochets),
then chain fifteen again leaving the next ten open and anchoring with a slip stitch in the 11th stitch. Place one single crochet in each remaining stitch in the round (in our example case, 5 stitches). This will bring us back to the beginning of the round. Now we just crochet 2-3 more rounds to thicken our straps and finish the bag.
Just work single crochets around the top of the bag, following the strap contours where we chained 15.
Congratulations, you've done it!
All that's left is to bind off and weave in ends.
My preferred bind-off is as follows:
Cut and pull through the final working loop so you just have a tail string. skip once stitch and insert hook into the second stitch and pull through tail. Then, insert hook into starting stitch and pull tail through again. Tie a little not to secure and then weave in your ends.