While drinking coffee on a wintry January day, my mother and I decided we needed a spring project. As if making something would quicken the change of season. “Oh, these cups! This blue!” we said dreamily between sips from blue and white faience china cups in a Tribeca cafe.
We ran down a list of possible projects. I was heading towards making myself a blanket when my mom suggested making me a tote bag. Me, the bagaholic: how could I say no?
My mother then went and dug out the last bag she made—a beautiful Chanel-inspired purse with a crisscross pattern in seed stitch.
She lined it, made an interior pocket, and added a silver chain strap. Oh, my mother!
I did some digging myself, and unearthed the last bag she had made for me, a groovy red crocheted envelope with a wild knotted fringe from the ’70s. She even monogrammed it with patches that spelled out my name. It is in such perfect condition, it does not reveal the forty years that have passed.
We both decided that stripes seemed right for Spring. My mother suggested that we look at Sonia Rykiel’s sweaters for inspiration.
Looking through her knitwear, one can see the elegance, exuberance, and endless possibilities of stripes. How things can entirely change with a variation in the width of a simple band of color!
I looked for more inspiration for pattern and pulled out one of my books on the painter Agnes Martin.
The paintings Martin made in New Mexico express happiness and joy through her subtle bands of colors. Could my new tote have a taste of that balance and harmony? How happy I would be to carry a little zen with me as I make my way around this frantic-paced city!
Then we started to knit. In addition to being striped, it was obvious that the bag had to be blue. I couldn’t get those darn china cups (or the coffee) off my mind! We tried two colors. We tried three. There were a few trips back and forth to the yarn shop to get the color combination right. We finally settled on navy and light blue. Once we had the colors set, we went back and forth with size and shape, the number and direction of stripes, and the stitch pattern.
My bag is now finished. It is a deep navy blue with four varied bands of light blue and rendered in a dense seed stitch. My mother surprised me and lined it with a lively Liberty floral fabric that provides a glimpse of delight when the bag is opened. There are also two thick straps of webbing that are hardy enough for me to really use.
Yes, it is another tote bag … but it is much more. It will make me smile as I carry it around. Now that I am ready for summer, I should start that blanket project. I need another cup of coffee first!