Published on October 7th, 2009 | by Greg0
Truly Crafty: Knitting with Tom Bihn and Namaste
There are a few things in my life that are major players in defining my personality. Photography and cooking are a couple, knitting is the one I’m going to talk about right now though. I spend a lot of time with two needles in my hands and a ball of yarn nearby, and even when I’m not knitting I always have a project that I’m working on with me. I stopped carrying a purse some time ago because they weren’t compatible with my knitting projects and the notions that I use (tape measure, darning needles, stitch holders, scissors, etc.) on a regular basis. When I got the opportunity to give my North Face a break and try out some honest to goodness knitting bags I was more than willing to oblige.
The first bag I took for a spin is from one of our favorite bag makers, Tom Bihn. The Swift is a very handy bag that was designed with the help of lots of knitters in a contest held by Knitty and Tom Bihn. The result is a bag that is usable by anyone who needs a spacious, well designed bag, and addresses the needs of knitters specifically.
I tried the bag made out of cork, though it is also available in ballistic nylon, which we found to be extremely durable on our previous Tom Bihn bag. The cork is so cool though, and because it’s a natural material each cork bag is unique in it’s appearance. There is a ton of room in the interior of the bag, it measures about 8×12×13 and offers 26-inch handles that are padded at the top. Even when I stuffed it full it never felt uncomfortable over my shoulder or under my arm. One of the features that I really love about this bag are the clear zippered pockets near the top on each side. I kept one side stocked with my notions, and the other side held my wallet, phone, chapstick and such. So simple, yet probably my favorite feature out of many. The transparency meant that I only had to look to know what was on each side, and the fact that it was near the top meant I never had to go diving through multiple unfinished knitting projects to find my phone. There’s a clip for keys (or whatever else you might want to attach to a clip), which meant no searching for keys either. The Swift closes with a button on the outside of the bag, so there’s very little chance that it will snag on your project. I also got to try the yarn stuff sack which is ideal for keeping a ball of yarn that I am actively using, as it prevents it from getting tangled with my other projects and has a cool grommet inside that keeps yarn from tangling up with itself. Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about this bag. If you knit it’s a must have. If you don’t knit, but need a good durable bag with lots of space and and endless ways to organize stuff inside this bag is also for you. The Swift is available from Tom Bihn’s website ranging between $80 and $120, and the inserts like the yarn stuff sack range from $7 to $25.
Next up is a bag from Namaste. I tried out the Zuma bag in the color peacock, along with the Buddy Case in the color eggplant. One of the things that sets Namaste apart from many bags is that they are made with PVC animal-friendly faux leather. They’ve done such a good job with this material that it’s difficult to distinguish a Namaste bag from a leather bag in both appearance and texture. The Zuma bag is slightly reminiscent of a bowling bag, wide at the bottom, narrower and round at the top, measuring 9.5” wide x 11” high x 17” long with 10” drop handles. It has three magnets that hold the top of the bag closed, a small zippered pocket inside and a pouch for a phone or MP3 player. There is a compartment on the front that zippered, and has an accordion style divider inside which is perfect for holding different circular needles if you’re a knitter, and is equally suited to holding coupons, library cards, or anything that would benefit from an ordered filing system.
I really liked the Buddy Case; one cool feature was the magnetized interior, ideal for keeping darning needles and small scissors in, with no fear that they’ll all go spilling out when the case is opened. The Zuma bag comes in several color choices and can be purchased from Namaste for $79, while the Buddy Case runs $17.25.
Among knitters, Namaste bags are quite possibly the undisputed champion in terms of popularity. They are designed for knitters, and yet remain stylish enough to be used as a regular purse for any non-yarnhead. I found the Namaste bag to be a bit on the small side, and after using the Swift I missed details like clear pockets. Knitting projects create a fair amount of dense clutter in a bag, and I found I often lost my phone and wallet in the bottom of the bag, under all of that yarn. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a Namaste bag to any knitter or vegan looking for an adorable purse, but I will probably stick with the Swift for my own project bag.