Here's another reason to say "no thanks" to plastic: Make a fashion statement and tap your creative juices by crafting your own take-along shopping bag (or, if you're a fumblefingers like us, dropping a hint to that mad and generous knitter in your life). Use, for free, the Monteagle bag pattern designed by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne, authors of Mason-Dixon Knitting, who are providing it to encourage knitters, and others, to forgo plastic bags. A previous, related campaign involved a free knit-your-own dishcloth to replace paper towels.

Like those inimitable French string shopping bags, the Monteagle will scrunch up to nothing and fit inside your pocket or purse, then expand in glorious shape and color as you fill it with good green goods. Get  the pattern by clicking here.  It's also featured in Shayne and Gardiner's just-published new book, Knitting Outside the Lines. The authors suggest using hemp or organic cotton yarn. Ask your local yarn shop, or try Hemp for Knitting and, for organic cotton and other sustainable yarn, Blue Sky Alpaca Mason-Dixon fans will be delighted to hear that "the ballband dishcloth is back in a new form," along with patterns for kitchen gloves, towels, potholders, Christmas stockings, a special section on Fair Isle, and all the standards made fresh and alluring again.

Gardiner and Shayne's creed: "Knitting is spoze to be fun." This book will have you and yours in pretty stitches. 

This article originally appeared in "Plenty" in September 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008