Make It For Me- Italian Spy Handbag

I am so excited to be participating in the Make it for Me with ELK Studio (for all the designs check it out here!). This year I have been inspired to create the Italian Spy Handbag as a Free pattern.

This handbag was inspired by a conversation with a friend that happens to be a fashion designer. She was discussing a crochet fabric with me, and I was discussing shapes with her. The further we went along in the discussion, I had a vision of the perfect small handbag I needed for day trips to the city.

Italian Spy Handbag

For me, a day in the city is San Francisco. I always want to travel with only the essentials, as there is a lot of walking….much more then I typically do in an average day.

So, I want a handbag that can carry the essentials, not weigh a lot, and one that I can comfortably keep close. The Italian Spy fits that build.

It is a simple pattern that uses less then one skein, and utilizes a simple tight stitch. But, just because it is worked in single crochet do not under estimate the overall effect of the fabric, or how it can easily show your mistakes. The pattern is worked in one piece, and then folded and seamed. There is an option to stiffen the sides and bottom, and options for the finishing edge.

I hope you give it a try for you prefect day out handbag. Enjoy.

Italian Spy Handbag

Italian Spy Handbag

Finished Size



Hook: F/5/3.75mm

Manos del Uruguay Milo light weight 65% Merino wool, 35% linen yarn, (380yrd/350 m/3.5 oz/100 g) 1 skein, colorway #2607 Boreal

  • 1” Button
  • 24” handle


Gauge 22 sts/ 25 rows=4”


Ch 50

Row 1: sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc in each ch across, turn. -49sc

Row 2-42: Ch 1, sc in each st across, turn.

Row 43: Ch 1, sc in each st across, ch 42, fasten off.

Sides Worked with Body

Row 44: Join with slip stitch to Row 43 at first st of row (opposite end of end just fastened off), ch 43, turn, sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc in each ch across, sc in each sc across, and sc in each ch, turn. -133sc

Row 45-55: Ch 1, sc in each st across, turn. Fasten off at the end of Row 55.


Row 56: Skipping 42 sts, join to next st, ch 1, sc in same st, sc in next 48 sts, turn. -49sc

Row 57-100: Ch 1, sc in each st across, turn.


Row 101: DO NOT CH, sc2tog, sc until 2 sts rem, sc2tog over last 2 sts, turn. -47sc, (2) sc2tog

Row 102-120: Rep Row 101. -7sc, (2) sc2tog

Row 121: Buttonhole Row, DO NOT CH, sc2tog, sc in next st, ch 3, sk 3 sts, sc in next st, sc2tog over last 2 sts, turn. –(1) ch-3 sp, 2sc, (2) sc2tog

Row 122-123: Rep row 101. Fasten off at the end of Row 123. -1sc, (2) sc2tog

Optional Insert (to create more stiffness)

Ch 132

Row 1: Sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc in each ch across, turn. -131sc

Row 2-10: Ch 1, sc in each st across, turn. Fasten off at the end of Row 10.

Optional Assembly of Insert

Lay Insert section over the Sides Worked with Body Portion, Seam the insert to the Sides over Body in any preferred method, such as whip stitch with a needle or slip stitch with a crochet hook. For even more stiffening, you can place a strip of plastic or cardboard that measure 1” x 25”, and place it between the Insert and Side worked with Body


Fold Front and Back toward each other, and Fold Sides toward Front and Back, seam side of Side to Front, and seam side of Side to Back, on each side of the handbag.

Working over seamed edges, and all unfinished edges, work Reverse Single Crochet or Corded Edge Stitch around to finish.

Sew button on Front to align with Button Hole of Flap.

Sew Handles to Sides.

If Flap is curling, use an iron to seam if flat.

Cathy’s Classic Handbag- Make It For Me!

Thank you to ELK Studio for putting together this Make it For Me event! what a nice way to kick off the new year, after months of crocheting gifts for everyone else it is time to rejuvenate and focus a bit more inward and create something for you! (Check out the entire list of month long projects here)

I am thrilled to be able to join this event with my Cathy’s Classic Handbag. It is made with less than one skein, so you can reach into your stash. I even provided two options for handles…I really like the wooden round handles, but reality…I enjoy crocheting and getting to the craft store or even ordering on line means I am not finishing it the same day I start, so I provided a crochet handle option too. (If you want to learn how to attach the wooden handles, I have some instructions to help you here).

This handbag was inspired by one of my students. Cathy always has a smile and carries herself with a rural, country chic charm. She brightens the room no matter what her day may have contained, and to get all dressed up I could see her with this classic style.

Cathy’s Classic Handbag by: Linda Dean

A classic handbag that is fast to work up and has a lot of charm. A bit of stretch and a bell shape add to this great purse. With optional handle options you can utilize a simple round wooden handle or crochet your own. 

Skill Level: Advanced Beginner

Finished Size Approximately: 7”x 16” (18 x 40.5 cm)

Gauge: 12 sts /16 rows=4”

Materials List:

  • K/10 ½/6.50mm size crochet hook
  • Red Heart With Love medium weight 100% acrylic (370yds/338m/7oz/198g) Sample color: 1907 Boysenberry or #1971 Tigerlily
  • Tapestry needle
  • Everything Mary Round Wood Handle (optional)


blsc: back loop single crochet (need help identifying the back loop, check this out)

ch(s): chain(s)

rem: remaining

rep: repeat

sc: single crochet

sp(s): space(s)

st(s): stitch(es)

yo: yarn over

Pattern Notes

The body of the bag is worked from one side across the bottom to the other side.

The body of the bag is worked with short rows.

The handles of the bag are attached to the row ends of the bag.

There are 2 options provided for handles.

Row 1: Ch 45, sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc in each ch across, turn. -44 sc

Row 2: Ch 1, sc in next 5 sts, blsc in next 34 sts, leaving rem sts unworked, turn.  -39 sc

Row 3: Ch 1, blsc in next 34 sts, leaving rem sts unworked, turn. -34 sc

Row 4: Ch 1, blsc in next 34 sts, sc in next 5 sts of the row 2 below, turn. -39 sc

Row 5: Ch 1, sc in next 5 sts, blsc in next 34 sts, sc in next 5 sts of the row 2 below, turn. -44 sc

Row 6-61: Rep Rows 2-5 fourteen times.

Wooded Handle Attaching (Option 1)

Working along the row ends, sc around the wooden handle, working 32 sc across edge. Fasten off. (For tips on how to work around the handle, check out this tutorial)

Repeat on opposite side.

Crochet Handle Attaching (Option 2)

Ch 1, working along the row ends, 4 sc in first row end, working in a spiral (meaning that you are working in the round but are not joining the round, you continue working in the next stitch) to create a cord, blsc in the first sc worked in the end row, blsc in each sc until the cord measures about 14” (35.5cm), sl st to opposite end row from the beginning of the cord, sl st next 3 sts of cord to same st, sc in each row end across to beginning of the cord, fasten off.


Folding handles together, whip stitch the open ends of the purse leaving between 1-2” open from the handles.

Weave in ends.

The Smaller Size of Wool- Felting

ScannedImageWool shrinks, wool is scratchy, and wool is expensive. These are just a few of the comments I have heard from people as to why they have never worked with a yarn other than acrylic. I will admit, I use to feel that way too, until I learned more about it.

Let us address why wool shrinks. The shrinking process is called felting, it occurs when the individual fibers attach together. Each strand of fiber has scales, similar to the images that you have seen on hair conditioner commercials, where is shows a strand of hair with overlapping scales down the shaft, this is the same with wool. When wool fibers are rubbed together these scales will catch on each other and pull closed together, I think of it as holding hands, and this causes the individual fibers to pull closer together. As each individual strand does this, the overall size of the piece will shrink, because all of the individual strands are closer together.


Felted handbags… If you can still see the stitches, there is definitely more felting that can be done.

However, just because it can be simply stated does not mean that it happens easily, or equally. Some sheep breeds result in wool that felts much easier than others, but as the yarn ball usually only says “wool” it is hard to know exactly how that yarn will behave.

Many believe that getting wool wet, or getting it hot causes it to felt, when in reality it is agitation. By rubbing the fibers together you can cause them to felt, in a sense, the little “pills” you sometimes find after wearing are small versions of felting. These are fibers that have been rubbed together and have worked free of the yarn and formed a matted group that does not come apart. Water and heat can ease the felting process as they both help the scales open up, so it is easier for them the catch hold of one another, adding soap to this process can facilitate it even more, but without rubbing the scales will not felt.

Simply placing an item in the dryer will not cause it to felt, it really already felted in the washing machine as the drum agitated the clothing, the dryer just sped up the visual process by drying it. Unfortunately though, once wool has felted, it cannot be undone.

Felting though is not necessarily a bad thing. If you plan on intentionally felting your creation, such as a handbag, you can create a fabric so dense that you do not need to line it, and yet nothing will fall out. There are even patterns that create slippers by felting your original work. When creating or working with patterns such as these, they will be created larger than the desired outcome, to know how much you need to know how much your wool will shrink. You begin by making a swatch, measure it, then wash it or treat it in the manner you are planning on felting it (personally I just throw it in the washing machine with some denim to give it the most agitation, and then the dryer. This process may give you inconsistent outcomes, but I kind of like surprises). After it has felted, measure the swatch again, and then compare these measurements to the original, the difference in the amount of surface area is the amount it shrinks, now adjust the end desired size upward accordingly.

Note that the felting process never really ends, you can continue to felt a wool item many times over, and it will continue to shrink, not usually as drastically as the first time, but the fibers can continue to get closer and closer after each agitation.