Shell Knitting for a Bag, in German Wool

Shell knitting for a bag in german wool

From Exercises in Knitting by Cornelia Mee. Original text at Project Gutenberg.

Original Pattern

Pins No. 14. Take 11 shades of wool, begin with the darkest, and 4 rows of each shade; that is, 1 pattern done of each. Cast on 155 stitches, 57 on 2 of the needles, and 38 on the third.

First round:—Knit 4 stitches plain. Bring the wool forward, knit 1, bring the wool forward, knit 1. Repeat this 8 times. Knit 4 plain, seam 3. Repeat this all round.

Second round:—Knit 2 plain, 2 together, 15 plain, slip 1, knit 1, draw the slipped one over the knitted one, knit 3 plain, seam 4. Repeat this all round.

Third round:—Knit 2 plain, 2 together, 14 plain, slip 1, and pull 1 over as before, knit 2 plain, seam 3.

Fourth round:—Knit 1 plain, 2 together, 14 plain, slip and pull over as before, knit 1, seam 3.

Fifth round:—Knit 2 together, 14 plain, slip and pull over, seam 3.

The stitches will now be reduced to their original number. Tie on the next shade, and repeat the 5 rows as before. Repeat this 15 times. Then take very small needles, and knit a binder, in simple ribs, in any of the shades, 15 rows deep.

The handle is made by knitting on 2 needles of the same size as those used for the bag, with double wool, in the following manner:—Cast on 14 stitches, slip 1, bring the wool forward, slip 1, knit 1, pull the slipped one over the knitted one to the last 2, which are both knitted; without bringing the wool forward, fold the two edges into the middle, and sew together with the double wool. Silk tassels to match.

Updated Version


Four US size 3 double pointed needles. Pattern is worked in the round so you may substitute a 12 or 16 inch circular if desired but you will need dpn’s to finish the bottom of the bag.

About 300 yards sport-weight cotton yarn. The model bag was done in five colors of Rowan Cotton Glace – yellow, burgundy, light orange, dark orange, and black. A total of six pattern repeats were used. The model bag measures 10 inches long and 8 inches across.

Note: Any number of colors or weight of yarn can be used – adjust your needle size to the yarn you select. To obtain a firm knitted bag, use a needle 2-3 sizes smaller than you would normally used with the yarn selected.


Gauge is unimportant – experiment until you find a yarn and needle combination which gives you a firm fabric you are pleased with. You may also choose to work more or fewer pattern repeats than the six in the model. For each repeat, cast on 19 stitches.


The shell pattern repeats over 19 stitches. On the first round, you will add 8 stitches to each 19 stitch pattern repeat, and in the next four rounds you will decrease 2 stitches in each pattern repeat until you have returned to the original 19 stitches – your stitch count will therefore vary between rounds.


Cast on 114 stitches. Place marker after every 19 stitches. If working on dpn’s, arrange 38 stitches on each of three needles, knit with a fourth needle.

First round:—Knit 4 stitches, (yarn over, knit 1) 8 times. Knit 4, purl 3. Repeat this 5 more times for each group of 19 stitches. End of round – total 162 stitches.

Second round:—Knit 2, k2tog, k15, sl1, k1, psso. Knit 3, purl 3. Repeat to end of round – 150 stitches.

Third round:—Knit 2, k2tog, k14, sl1, k1, psso, knit 2, purl 3. Repeat to end of round – 138 stitches.

Fourth round:—Knit 1, k2tog, k14, sl1, k1, psso, knit 1, seam 3. Repeat to end of round – 126 stitches.

Fifth round:—K2tog, k14, k1, sl1, k1, psso, purl 3. Repeat to end of round – 114 stitches.

The stitches are now reduced to their original number. Change colors and repeat the five row pattern until the bag is the height desired.

To finish top of bag – Work 10 ten rows in 2X2 (K2P2) rib, EXCEPT continue to work the 3 purl stitches which separate each pattern section.


Row 11 – Continue in rib, but bind off the 3 purl stitches which separate each section.

Row 12 – Work in rib until you reach the bound off purl stitches – cast-on 3 stitches using backwards loop method – work to end of round. This will make six buttonholes for the drawstring handles. Continue 2-3 more rounds in rib, purling the 3 cast on stitches as before. Bind off all stitches.

Make I-cord or braided handles of length desired and thread through buttonholes to draw bag closed.

Bottom of Bag

Pick up 102 stitches on bottom of bag, or 17 stitches for each pattern repeat. Knit one round.

Round Two: Knit 4, K2 Tog (85 stitches).

Round Three and Four: Knit

Round Five: Knit 3, K2 Tog (68 stitches)

Round Six and Seven: Knit

Round Eight: Knit 2, K2 Tog (51 stitches)

Round Nine and Ten: Knit

Round Eleven: Knit 1, K2 Tog (34 stitches)

Round 12 and 13: Knit

Round 14: K2 Tog (17 stitches)

Round 15 and 16: Knit

Round 17: K2 Tog (8 stitches), knit 1. Break yarn and thread through stitches – draw closed and secure thread.

Pattern revised by Jean Andrews May 30, 2008

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