A little something for the planet

July 3, 2008 at 1:44 pm | Posted in Change the World, charity knitting, country living, family, free knitting patterns, gifts, knitting, love | 61 Comments
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With 1 Bag You Can Make a Difference

I am so fortunate, and feel so deeply grateful, to live on this beautiful little piece of Earth known as a “farm”. Also, to live in an area where we are surrounded by water, lush wooded areas, banks of rivers overflowing with trees, shrubs, vines, flowers, and filled with swimming glistening fish.

Recently I was thinking about Planet Earth, and thinking of the personification of the planet … Mother Earth. I am a guest on a lovely blue planet named Earth. Earth provides every charm, vista, element, creature, mineral, food, etc. I could possibly ever have a need for … and she does it for billions and billions of people. Day in, day out, year after year.

She circles old Sol at just the right distance and speed to make life here possible … and life in this universe, as it turns out, is not necessarily easy to come by. Certainly the living conditions on dear blue Earth are exceptional. If we were to compare the phenomenally hospitable nature of Earth’s atmosphere and resources to that of say, oh I don’t know Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter–just a small handful of some of her closest neighbors–it would be like comparing the facilities and amenities of the finest five-star hotel ever conceived to, perhaps a suffocating fire pit squashed down by a couple of tons of cement.

Then I look at the guests of Mother Earth … particularly mankind. Sadly, we do leave an awful lot to be desired if you think of us as guests on this very hospitable planet. I am aghast when I review with any amount of sincerity my own wastefulness, and I tend to try not to be wasteful. But, you know how it gets sometimes. Life is frantic, busy, pressing and you slip up here and there, toss things in the garbage that you should have taken a bit of a look at to see whether or not there is a recycle symbol on it — as one example of poor planetary manners.

What if you witnessed a visitor at your mother or grandmother’s place wastefully throwing bits and pieces of things your mother had made (valuable things that could be reused) in a seemingly neat little pile in one corner. And the longer they stayed, the larger the pile grew until it began to intrude into say, your mother’s water supply. Wouldn’t it seem incredibly rude, wouldn’t you hate to see someone you loved, the beautiful home and resources she tended so carefully, treated with such disrespect and disregard.

With all of this weighing on my mind, I thought about Mother Earth and knew that I could be a better guest, a more responsible visitor in a number of ways. One thought occurred to me in particular: I could knit myself a cotton grocery bag. That one reuseable cotton grocery bag would replace one wasteful plastic grocery bag many, many, many times over. With my one bag, I could make one little difference.

As I worked on my one bag, I started thinking about the possibility of creating a charity knitting project to benefit dear, sweet Mother Earth. A small gesture to be sure, but one that could add up if a good number of fellow knitters also made at least one bag to use for grocery shopping.

Consider the math:

1. We all go shopping for groceries, most of us at least once a week.

2. If I, as one knitter, make myself one knitted cotton grocery bag I could use that one bag to replace one plastic bag provided by the grocery store each week — at a minimum.

3. If I did that once a week for one year, I would not consume 52 plastic bags in that year — minimum.

4. If I continue using that one bag for let’s say five years (I think it could last that long), that one knitted bag would replace a minimum of 260 plastic bags in five years.

5. If I were to get 10 other knitters to do the same thing, we would between us replace and therefore not consume 2,600 plastic bags in five years. All with just one bag a piece.

6. If I were to get 100 other knitters to do it, that would be 26,000 over a five year period – just with one bag a piece.

7. Wow, if somehow this idea would get out to 1000 knitters and they all made just one bag and used it once a week instead of a plastic bag that would be 260,000 bags over a period of five years.

That’s if all any of us did was knit one bag (1Bag) each and use it once a week for five years.

There are way more knitters in the world than 1,000 … on Ravelry alone there are close to 150,000 registered users at the time of this writing.

Can you imagine if each and every Ravelry registered user knit or crocheted one grocery bag and used it once a week for five years to replace one plastic bag each week … that would be 39 million plastic bags not needed, not used, not thrown out. And that is if all we did was knit one cotton grocery bag each and use it once weekly for five of the years of our lives.

I realize it is unrealistic to think that every single Ravelry member would make one bag, but still — it is fun to think of the possibilities.

And no matter how many or how few people I can inspire to do this thing with me, I know that on my own I can make a difference with just 1Bag.

There are quite a few patterns out there for hand knit and crocheted cotton “market” bags. The idea of a cotton knitted shopping bag is not anything unique I have come up with.

I just want to promote the idea that we could, as knitters, give a gift to Mother Earth to whom we owe quite a debt of gratitude for the many abundances she offers which make it possible for us to knit at all.

I have created my own basic pattern, which you are free to use. I am calling my design “1Bag”, appropriately enough. I am also naming it 1Bag, because it is one basic pattern designed specifically to be versatile so that people can modify it to make it as beautiful or complicated or simple or homely as they each may choose. You can follow my pattern just as it is, or if you want to be more creative and/or adventurous follow the structure of my bag but come up with your own stitch pattern variations to make it your own.

(Learn more about the basic construction of the 1Bag hand knit grocery bag by click on the 1Bag tab at the top of the page.)

I designed the 1Bag to replicate the size and construction of a standard plastic grocery bag because I want it to be a symbol of what it is replacing. I planned it to be easy and quick to make, featuring a basic construction that is easily adapted to a variety of pattern stitches.

My 1Bag pattern is free, but you could use any market bag pattern and still participate in the 1Bag “charity” project.

As a part of this, I keep a running tab of how many people have made a 1Bag (or other grocery bag). I can post the updated numbers weekly so people know how many bags are being replaced (potentially). To do this, I have set up a Mother Earth Guest Book. If you knit a market/grocery bag as a part of this effort — for yourself or someone else to use — go to this link and sign the Mother Earth Guestbook.

It could be fun, and we could make a difference … one bag at a time.

Are you in?
Logo for the 1Bag Charity Knitting Project


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  1. I’m in. I posted a link to this post on my blog. Maybe you will start something here. Pretty inspiring post.

  2. Cool idea and nice pattern. In all my free time (ha, ha, ha) I’ll hope to join in.

  3. I’m in!

  4. What a beautiful bag! I will definitely make one (or two or three)! I have so much cotton to use.

  5. Gorgeous bag, I’ll definitely make several.

  6. I am teaching a felted bag by “Noni” that is to be used as a grocery bag. I have 5 students when everyone finished these I will have them join the mother earth guestbook. I’ll also encourage them to make this bag. Which I can’t wait to make! I’m in Firefly! Great job! Ann

  7. Firefly, I have already made one (different pattern) for my daughter and am finishing one for myself. Next I will try your pattern – perfect for gifts!!!
    Very inspiring blog. You always make me think about things beyond myself, and today’s was no exception!
    Happy 4th – let’s celebrate this wonderful country and planet we live on!!

  8. Its a fine bag.I want to try to do this job.Thanks.

  9. Thanks so much for doing that. I won’t promise anything because I have so much going on, but I’m going to go check my stash for cotton and see if I can come up with enough to make it. I always use the cloth bags for groceries (when I remember to keep them in the car!) I’m seeing stores in our very small cummunity start selling these bags for $.89 to $.99 to try and reduce waste. I also found a really neat article in one of the weaving magazine’s online sites that tells how to weave grocery bags “totes” out of the plastic bags, so at least they won’t be tossed out.

  10. What a beautiful bag! Certainly worthy of making more than one. Thank you for the pattern… now to get my needles clicking!

  11. Thanks so much for the wonderful bag pattern! I’m DEFINITELY going to make one. Thanks for sharing!

  12. That’a a great idea! I have four canvas bags I have used for 10 years but I never thought to figure out how many plastic bags I had not used because of the canvas. The math tells me over 2000 plastic bags saved. Wow! great success with the 1bag. Butterfly

  13. I’m definitely in on this project. Recycling is something I believe in wholeheartedly and have posted about this so others can see what plastics are accumulated between two households. If we don’t take care of Mother Earth, she won’t take care of us. I am so excited about making this bag and also one for my sister. Probably will make more than one for each household. Thank you for creating this bag and being a caretaker of Mother Earth.

  14. I am going to give it a try, but I haven’t done any knitting in years, and have never used the circular needles. I did buy some a couple years ago though, and have been wanting to try them.
    Are we supposed to put the little 1Bag on the side on our blog?

  15. I’m in, although in a slight variation I’m crocheting a bag. I find it hard to have that many stitches on the go (what a weak excuse!) plus if I crochet it, it will be more portable while it’s a WIP! You’ve actually just beaten me to this one firefly, as I’m working on a crocheted grocery bag made from old plastic carrier bags and I plan to post about that sometime soon. However, you have inspired me to get out a spare ball of dishcloth cotton yarn and start another one, so well done! I’ll have another blogpost from this as well!

  16. I’m in & a post a link to your page on my blog!

  17. I’m in! You brought a great realization to me. I had never knit myself a cotton bag because with 7 of us in the house I had convinced myself that I couldn’t knit and carry around enough bags to replace all that we use in one shopping trip (all the more reason to be concerned, as we use more bags than most households). But I can take at least 1Bag and reduce how many bags I need by 1. Thank you!

  18. Lovely idea. We use canvas bags 90% of the time. Here in South Africa most people use reusable bags because there is a tax on plastic bags that the supermarkets pass directly to the consumer. If you want a plastic bag here you pay for it.

    I have some spare cotton around. The bag pattern’s going to get added to my list of projects!

  19. I have several bags that grocery store chains have for sale. too many times I forget to take them when shopping. This is my committment that I am putting out to the world that I will now use those bags and start making one of your knitted bags today. Ahmen

  20. ready to get started. excellent way to use up little scraps of yarn. thanks for the idea.

  21. I’m an oldtimer at using my own bags at just about every store around. At some stores I would have to explain myself as they would want to put their merchandise in a plastic bag and then put that whole thing in my carrier! I have some that are at least 20 years old. When they start to wear out in the corners I just patch them. But that said, one can never have too many carry bags, so I think I’ll dig out some cotton worsted and make one of your pattern.

  22. What a great post! I am hopeless at knitting or crocheting, but I will forward this to my friend, Toni Ann, who will certainly join in. I do use six “green” shopping bags. Our stores will refund you 5 cents per bag per use, so they pay for themselves after a while, too.

    Oh, and you asked me what camera I use — it’s a Nikon D40.

  23. In my country (Holland) I also got many plastic bags. I didn’t throw threm away and after having quite a bunch of them, I made thread of them (see: cutting plastic bags on YouTube) and crocheted a new grocery bag of it. It is strong and will last long (I think). So all these plastic bags got a second life.

  24. I do have shopping bags already, and bought my mum a couple of nice ones some months ago, but I think my friends could all do with one at least. Your 1bag idea is really great. Count me in.

  25. I come from a small little farming town in Southern Illinois, so I know what you mean. I’m actually taking a summer course up in Chicago now, and I do miss the quiet little town. Never thought I’d say that, but sometimes you can’t pass up tranquility.

  26. Yes I agree. Cool idea!

  27. […] a while, but I was kickstarted into action by Firefly (again, she has a lot to answer for!) and her 1bag campaign. You can sign up for that here. It appears that in America there isn’t yet the movement […]

  28. I’m in, as soon as I finish this baby blanket, I’m making a bag

  29. Nice pattern and idea. I carry a bunch of canvas bags for groceries, etc., in the back of my car, so I rarely get plastic bags anymore.

  30. This is a great idea. I have been using my own “handmade” bags for about 3 months now. Someone gave me 5 yards of some very thick, loud, purple,and neon flower, Crepe material. This has to be left over from the 70’s. I recycled it into grocery bags. I chuckle when I go to the grocery store, the cashier and bagger usually mention “how they all match”..as if to say “That is the ugliest material I have ever seen, I can’t believe that you come out in public with that!” LOL. I just say, “At least I know they won’t get stolen”.
    At first my youngest son ripped them out of my “granny cart”, because we almost always walk to the store, and he screamed “Nuh-uh! I am not going if you are bringing these ugly things!”, But he recovered when I explained that we were helping the environment.
    I will have to post some pictures of them on my blog so you can have a laugh too.
    I have recently started crocheting bags with crochet cotton size 10. I am making every one different since it takes about 2 days to make one and I don’t want to become bored.
    Thank you for posting your patterns.
    Every little bit helps.

  31. I posted a picture of my work on my site. They are uglier than the picture. I wish they were that nice.


  32. Great pattern. Thanks for posting it!

  33. Wonderful idea. I just made two bags from Lang Cool Cotton. But I like your pattern much better and intend to make up a few more to gift to friends. Thanks for the inspiration,

    A Dutch knitter

  34. Hello firefly!

    This is a beautiful idea!! Thank you so much for your lovely pattern! I have been using a canvas bag, but have wanted to knit a cotton grocery bag and would love to use your pattern. I have some lovely Egyptian cotton by Classic Elite and it will be perfect for it! This will make a lovely Autumn knit! Again thank you for allowing me to be a part of something quite special! Continue enjoying your life on the farm!



  35. I’m in! I’m actually working on 2 such bags right now and bought the yarn for my sister to make one too. I like the way you’ve laid it all out so that we can save the world one plastic bag (or should I say one less plastic bag) at a time!

  36. This is one of those moments I wish I could buy good cotton here in England — but count me in! I brought some stash back with me last time I was in the US and I’m ready to cast on.

    Thanks for the ongoing inspiration!

  37. I’m in! I have made one for my cousin, one for my brother’s girlfriend and have cotton for a few more. What a great pattern and a great way to save the earth!

  38. I purchased five canvas bags several months ago and had a hard time remembering to take them in the store, until I started carrying them in the front seat by me. If I have a passenger, I tell them they are responsible for reminding me to put them in front again. I will definitely knit a couple more. I love your paintings, and your prose! You put into words so beautifiully your feelings about nature that I share. I live in the country, too, and burned as it is by drought this year, there is still the beauty of the birds, plants and fields. The continuing wind this year I am not wild about!

  39. I just started making this bag and really like it.
    So much easier than other bags I’ve seen knitting patterns for.

  40. I made two bags this summer and have another started. I haven’t used your pattern, but with your permission will use it to teach my middle school knitting club how to make them. Perhaps we will make a difference.
    Thanks for the bag pattern and the effort to do this.

  41. […] pattern that looks pretty good that I might try for upcoming gifts…  then I came across this post by Firefly – you simply must go give it a read!  She says what I wanted to say so well, there just […]

  42. I love this pattern! I can’t wait to make it. I have made some of the Buttercup washcloths and I love them!

  43. What a coincidence! I too have made shopping bags for myself, my mom and my sister-in-law without a pattern as such. Starting with a rectangular piece on the bottom and picking up stitches around the edges to knit in the round on up the sides in whatever pattern. Then garter stitch a band at the top, knit on the handles and you’re done. They are a very easy and appreciated gift. Great post, by the way.

  44. Our Thursday night knitting group is knitting market bags to be given away this holiday season.

    You’ve presented an excellent explanation of why market bags are necessary. Thank you!

  45. I’m in, also………….thank you for the pattern

  46. I’m almost done with my first 1Bag – and love it. I plan on making them for all my friends. Thank you for the pattern!

  47. What a beautiful idea. I’m working on one now for a friend. It just happens to be in a red/wht/blue striped cotton yarn. I do plan on making several in your pattern and also posting a link to my facebook homepage. Thank you for wonderful post and pattern. It has touched my heart. Bless you!

  48. I’m in and I made a market bag! I crocheted mine and will use it for groceries. Hoping to make more. Totally love this idea!

    Yarn Hugs-
    Peg Graham
    Chesapeake, VA

  49. Hi there! I just wanted to say thanks for sharing your pattern. I’ve made a bag and I’m using mine regularly, and I’m planning on making more to share with my friends and family. Hopefully, no matter how slowly, we’ll make a difference.

    Thanks again!


  50. I am so in, I didn’t even know this story when I fell in love with the bag and have started making them for all my friends for christmas 2011. Now I will be able to tell them the story when I give it to them which will make it that much more special.
    Thanks for sharing your patten. DeeDee

  51. I am almost done with my first 1bag. Thanks For sharing the pattern. I only have to finish the bottom. I really love it and intend to make a few more for myself & daughters.

    I’ll give you a link back from my site and have posted it to my projects on Ravelry.

  52. Now I’m making one for me!!

  53. I so appreciate your reminder to be a better steward of the planet that was given to us to enjoy. We all need a constant reminder of all the blessings that are poured down on each one of us daily. Many Thanks! :0)

  54. I use the knitted bags and I really like this pattern. But I also use the plastic grocery bags for trash and to clean the litter box. If I had to buy those supplies it would be costly and create their own issue. Any leftovers are recycled. It’s the plastic water bottles that I find most offensive.

    • I totally agree with you, aich. If one has to purchase plastic garbage bags, the impact is the same on the planet, not to mention having to pay for the priviledge!

      Like you, I do both and feel your comment about the plastic water bottles is absolutely correct! I use reusable water bottles, fill them 1/2 full and keep them in the freezer.

      The pattern for the bag is a great one and the idea for knitters is very original! I will be making one with some of my cotton yarn stash. There is so much of it, I can knit several and not make a dent in it!

  55. […] great grandchildren.Check out the pattern for “1bag”and check out the idea behind it here. […]

  56. Hi, I am living in Québec, Canada and here we bring our reusable bags with us to go groceries shopping and any other kind of shopping. In July 2011, I went to Houston, Texas and was very surprised to see the look of the cashier when I told her that I had my own bags, she was in a state of shock, so to speak. I thought that the United States were more in the recycling that us in Canada….

  57. Hmmmmmm….. sounds like a neat thing to combine with what our church food pantry does – have to see how many knitters I can recruit!

  58. I like this pattern. It looks sturdier than the other patterns I have seen. I’ll have to make about a dozen to get all the groceries I buy in them! LOL! I also reuse the plastic bags as trash can liners and other uses. A lady in my spinning group crochets them into bags also.

  59. Love your idea! Must make one for myself. Thank you for sharing the pattern. Baie dankie. From South Africa.

  60. […] Check out the pattern for “1bag” and check out the idea behind it here. […]

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