Thursday, June 7, 2012

Upcycled Crocheted Backpack Made From Old Socks- Tutorial

I love seeing upcycled projects. Taking things that would otherwise enter landfills and instead, turning them into something nice and new is a hobby of mine.
But I have an issue with a vast majority of the upcycled crafts I see- the end result generally is not things you need. While the projects generally result in a much nicer finished product than the garbage or junk you started out with, often they're things with no practical use, like decorations, or are nice things that you would just make do without if you hadn't done the upcycling, like upcycled jewelry or tchotchkes. Yes, they're nice, but can you actually say honestly that you saved money by making them? Not really- typically it's just that you didn't spend any money on them and you got something nice. That you could have managed without.
Other times, upcycling projects take something usable, and spending only a small amount on materials, make something much nicer than the original. While nicer is good, I often wonder how much people are spending money on their upcycled projects that they wouldn't have spent had they not found something to upcycle...

So, I always was on the lookout for ideas to upcycle something useful, that I needed, and that didn't require any monetary outlay, so that the project would be a true money saver.
I needed a backpack because my old one ripped, but didn't feel like spending the money on a new one. I had the idea to crochet one out of plarn, but started and stopped the project a few times in the middle.
 for various reasons... But I still wanted that backpack!

Ever since we've been married, a point of contention between Mike and myself has been the issue of footware in the house, or lack thereof. I prefer to walk around barefoot or in socks; Mike claims it dirties your feet and ruins your socks; I claim that its bad for your feet to be covered all the time. We still haven't decided one and for all what the proper thing to do is, but one thing Mike is certainly correct about is the ruined socks...
I go through my socks very, very quickly, constantly getting holes in them. I tried fixing them, but they just become unomfortable when I do so; I've accumulated a large amount of unwearable socks.

One day I was staring at these socks, trying to think of something more useful to do with them than just making them into rags (there's only so many rags a person needs in a lifetime!) when it hit me- why not turn these socks into yarn, the same way you can turn bags into plarn and t-shirts into tarn?
I decided that I would crochet myself a backpack from this sock yarn.
What I made isn't a masterpiece. (I'm not the best crocheter out there.) The socks vary in color and thickness and texture, making the backpack a little less uniform, and I'm sure the design can be tweaked somewhat to perfect it more, but at the same time, I'm proud of my creation. It's better than the ripped backpack I had until now, and I feel great about having turned my trash into treasure.

Here's how I made my crocheted backpack, using nothing but a crochet hook, some scissors, a whole bunch of old socks, a crocheted flower button (made from trash), and a bit of imagination. (Ok, ok, moment of truth here- I ran out of black socks, so I ended up using an old black t-shirt made into tarn for the straps, and a blue t-shirt for the drawstring. But you definitely can make the whole thing out of socks- 95% of this bag is made out of socks.)
Note- this takes a LOT of socks. Most likely you won't have enough. Ask around; ask your friends for their old holey socks for a project you're doing. Or if not, make yours out of t-shirt yarn.
Total cost of the project: 50 cents for the t-shirt I got from the thrift store for this. If I was patient enough, I probably could have dumpster dove a t-shirt and made this all free.
Functionality/usefulness of the project? Very!
P.S. This only works with thicker socks, not with nylon stockings or tights.

How to Crochet a Backpack From Old Socks

Making Sock Yarn- Sarn
1. First sort out your socks by color. Many socks aren't a uniform color, so pick the predominant color. In my bag, I sorted out by black, grey, dark blue, light blue, green, and tan. Each color of sock will make its own ball of sarn (sock yarn).

2. Fold over your sock most of the way, lengthwise, so that there is just a half inch not doubled over. Cut horizontal cuts through the doubled over portion of sock, and slightly on to the non doubled over section, making sure to leave a portion uncut. Repeat this every half inch to inch. (With thicker socks, make them closer together, with thinner socks slightly further apart.)

3. This is what it should look like when you're finished. One uncut side of sock, and one side of sock cut up.

When you're cutting the sock and you get to the heel, or to any portion that has holes, cut out that section by making a V over that area instead of a line, like in the drawing below.
4. Slip the cut sock onto your hands, with your hand going through the loops.

5. With a scissors cut diagonally from one loop to the next like in the diagram and in the pictures. In the diagram, the dotted line indicates the area you should cut, and the vertical lines indicate where the sock was already cut.

You should end up with a long snake of sock yarn/sarn like this.

6. Roll up the sarn to make a ball.

How to Crochet a Sock Yarn (or plarn or tarn) Backpack

1. First make the flat base. To do this, crochet a circle, increasing accordingly, so that it lays flat on a surface. I made mine with double crochets so that it would go faster. I made 8 rows in the circle.

2. To make the sides of the bag, stop increasing at all, and just go straight around in circles again and again to make the sides of the bag. I made 25 rows of double crochet stitches. Depending on the width of your sarn, you may need more or fewer rows. I had 84 stitches going around in each row.

3. Then you need to make holes for the drawstring. To do this, you need to make three double stitches, then three chain stitches, then make a double stitch into the hole two over from where you made your last double stitches, then two more double stitches, then 3 chain stitches, then three double stitches, etc... the whole way around. Once you finish this, you do another row of double stitches.

The finished body of the bag.

4. Next you have to make a drawstring. I made a drawstring out of braided tarn, but it was really annoying to do; next time I'd just do a row of chain stitches. Thread the drawstring through the holes around the bag, making sure both ends of the drawstring are on the outside of the bag and not inside.

5. Next, make a cover flap for the bag. You can make this separate and then attach it after, but I decided to crochet it already attached to the bag. 

6. To crochet the cover flap on to the bag, pull a loop of thread through one of the double stitches one row below the drawstring holes.

7. Stick the crochet hook through the loop of sarn, wrap it around the sarn, and pull it through the loop, creating a slip stitch of sorts.

8. Stick the hook horizontally through the double stitch next to the previous one...

...Grab the sarn with the hook, pull it through (under the double stitch)...

...to create two loops... 

...then wrap the crochet hook around the sarn, and pull it through both of the loops...

...so only one loop remains on the crochet hook, and you've made a single crochet stitch.

9. Make 5 total of these single stitches (four more), then do three chain stitches, skipping over one double stitch,  then do another 5 single stitches, three chain stitches (skipping one double stitch), and then five single stitches. (If you don't skip, and just keep on doing more and more single stitches into the row of double stitches beneath, it'll all end up bunching up and not work out.)

10. Once you finished with the single stitches, turn over the bag, then crochet double stitches into your row of single stitches. When you reach the end of that row, turn over and repeat, making another row of double stitches. Continue this for 10 rows.

11. For row eleven, crochet a row of single stitches, but stop one stitch before the end, then turn over the bag, then crochet a row of single stitches the other direction, stopping one stitch before the end, then turn over and crochet a row of single stitches in the other direction, stopping one stitch before the end one last time. We're done with the cover flap for now.

The nearly complete cover flap.

Bag, tied with the drawstring, with cover flap.

12. Now it's time to make the straps of the bag. To do this, you want to, using the technique in steps 6-8, stitch 7 or 8 single stitches into the row of double stitches one row beneath where the cover flap is attached. You want these straps to start approximately where the flaps are, but to be a little to the right and left of where the cover is. Since I know I'm making no sense, I drew a little paint picture which probably won't either make any sense, but oh well.

You see how the right strap starts to the right of the flap and continues to beneath the flap? And the left strap starts beneath the flap, but continues to the left of it? That's what you want to do.

13. Once you have your 7 or 8 single stitches, make approximately 28 rows of double stitches into those rows.

14. Have someone try on your backpack, and position the straps to where they feel comfortable and are even. Mark where the straps will attach.

15. Attach the bottom of the straps to the bag by crocheting single crochet stitches both through the bag and the bottom of the crocheted strap.

16. At this point, all that is left is a way to secure the cover flap down. Instead of using a buckle, I decided to secure the cover by means of a giant, homemade button and a loop of sarn.

Here's the tutorial on how to make your own giant button out of garbage. You can also use sarn for your button.

17. Flip over your bottom so the bottom is exposed.

18. Using a crochet hook, pull a piece of sarn through a portion of the crocheted sarn on one side, then pull another end of the same piece of sarn through loops of sarn on the other end.

19. Do the same with another piece of sarn, so that you have an "x" of sarn in the middle of the underside of your botton, with long dangling strings on the end.

20. Find the center of your bag, position the button where you want it to be to hold the cover flap in place.

21. Pull the sarn through the stitches in the bag...

...then tie the sarn pieces together to secure the button in place.

22. Secure a piece of sarn to the middle of the edge of the cover flap.

23. Make enough chain stitches to be able to form a big enough to go over the button, but small enough so it won't fall off. 

23. Attach the loop to the cover flap edge with a single chain stitch.

Cover flap secured with the loop of crocheted sarn from the cover flap looped around the flower button.

That's it! The end!

Here's some more views of the bag.

Yes, I am aware that one shoulder strap is bigger than the other. The sarn wasn't cut evenly, so one strap, despite being made with more stitches across, actually is thinner. Oh well, maybe I'll fix it one day.

So, here you have it. My very own homemade crocheted backpack, made entirely out of garbage, and 95% out of old, holey socks. 
I had lots of fun making this, and I hope that via this tutorial, you will be able to replicate this idea as well!
Hope I was able to inspire you!

I am now in the middle of yet another project made with sarn. But the details of that project will have to be for another post. 

Have you ever made yarn out of old, holey socks? Have you ever made plarn from plastic bags or tarn from t-shirts? What have you done with the plarn, sarn, or tarn?
Ever upcycle things? Do your upcycling projects tend to be useful stuff that you need, or just cutesy stuff that you can do without? Do you ever find you end up spending more money when you find something to upcycle than you would have otherwise? Is upcycling always frugal for you, or sometimes just a hobby?
Do you know how to crochet? Have you ever crocheted a bag before? Ever crocheted a backpack? Does this seem like a project you'd try out?
And tell me please- what's the state of footware or lackthereof in your house? Shoes? Socks? Barefoot? What's the verdict? Which is best?


  1. I enjoyed your tute. In our house, Im never barefooted. Husband is never shoed.

  2. Love this, I have it bookmarked for the day I'm going to sort out those hole-ridden socks, single socks and too-small-to-fit socks. I might actually crochet some thick slippers!

  3. Oh my goshes, I wished I would have found this post before I threw away All of my grand sons mismatch socks, this would have made my youngest grandson & nephews some nice backpacks. This is a keeper crochet pattern & my husband is going to love it to since since there won't be any money involved :-)

  4. I've been saving all my odd/holey socks just for such an occasion (and they call me a hoarder...). Thank you! X


    1. Those people, who call you a hoarder, lack imagination. How does one make things if one saves nothing??? Sure you can create from raw materials/kits one buys. And it's so easy to just keep throwing stuff out that you can't think of a use for. We see the huge mountains that result from that option.


    2. Those people, who call you a hoarder, lack imagination. How does one make things if one saves nothing??? Sure you can create from raw materials/kits one buys. And it's so easy to just keep throwing stuff out that you can't think of a use for. We see the huge mountains that result from that option.

  5. Even just the idea of creating sarn as you have taught, opens up a world of ideas. I'm braiding a rug from all my old t-shirts. That could be done with sarn too. What about a blanket made out of sarn. That would be good too. I've been saving odd socks and holey sock forever. This is great.


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