a few thoughts on Tom Bihn bags

It’s well established that I love my Tom Bihn (TB) bags, though I was not an early adopter. As a child of the Northeast, I tended to turn to bags from a certain retailer in Maine. The initial splash of their first knitting bag caught my attention, and in 2010 I took a cautious first step with a bag that was best geared for my life at the time – one with a NYC commute and life in an office as an IT Manager.

That introductory bag, a Co-Pilot, introduced me to the thoughtful design and construction that are hallmarks of Tom Bihn bags. That led to my buying a Swift, then a Little Swift, followed by a Side Kick. My TB bag family also includes an Aeronaut 30 and a Truck which were provided in exchange for writing for their website.

With the announcement of the pre-order return of the knitting bags, I thought it would be a good idea to update my 2016 post about these products and how they’ve held up over the past decade. While the pandemic has shifted how I do (and use) everything, I still turn to them first.

Here are some thoughts about four of the products in the February 2022 preorder. The links in the list below jump to their spot in this post.

Swift

The Swift was my first knitting specific bag. These days it enjoys spending most of its time at home, much like I do. Right now, it’s holding my Garden as Safe Space scrap blanket. It’s a bag that I’m using in a very different manner than I did when it first joined me years ago, but my needs have changed too.

What makes me love it now as much as I did when I bought it in 2011 is how versatile it is. A decade ago, it held all the stuff that made office work bearable. Today it helps keep a curious cat from adding her own embellishments to my knits in progress or stealing tools.

Swift with in progress blanket sitting on a grey couch
Swift at home on my couch

It commuted to and from NYC, pins have intentionally pierced the fabric, and it’s still looking polished. This next picture shows the bag at Rhinebeck, in 2011.

Swift and PSG at Rhinebeck in 2011
Rhinebeck, 2011. Swift with pins.

Little Swift

The Little Swift (LS) is my everyday bag when I actually leave my house. It’s big enough to hold some notebooks, a sock project, my PPE, and a shopping tote or two. I love that its size provides constraint so I don’t try to bring everything with me.

Little Swift filled with notebooks and a YSS
LS on my studio couch

I love that it’s Penny sized. I’m 5’2 (on a good day) and it fits me really well. I took this photo in 2014 to show both sizes.

collage of same person holding both swift and little swift.
comparison of 5’2″ person with LS (in black) and Swift (green)

It’s small enough it can sit on the floor of the car next to me (when I’m the passenger), or back when I flew places under the seat in front of me.

Aeronaut 30 & LS under the seat in front of me
Little Swift with Aeronaut 30 under an airline seat

Note on Fabric

All of my bags are ballistic nylon (black when possible) for the exterior. I made this choice because I didn’t want to worry if foster kittens played with them. Because they do.

3 kittens playing on a black little swift
3 foster kittens playing with a Little Swift, 2014
little black foster kitten in a black little swift
a foster kitten enjoying the Little Swift, 2014

Yarn Stuff Sacks

These unassuming small bags (YSS) are my favourite for my projects. There’s no zipper to catch on yarn, no velcro, and I can attach them via key straps to a bag’s o-rings.

I use the smallest size one the most. It lives in the Little Swift along with my current sock in progress.

YSS with sock in progress

The medium one in wasabi with a clear bottom tends to hold a design project. The bright color helps me find it. I think I have another medium one, also in grey … but it tends to take projects and disappear. I can’t explain it, but I seem only to keep track of these two. No matter how often I organize my studio! I wish the projects came back completed, but while these are amazing bags, they don’t perform magic.

Note on Fabric

The Halcyon constantly surprises me by it’s strength. The small YSS, with many safety pins and 1.75mm knitting needles poking through it as I shove it into the LS. It doesn’t look as if it’s abused. I tried to find evidence of needle or pin holes for this post. I couldn’t find any. Yes, I keep a tapestry needle shoved in the taped seam and secured with a pin.

a hand holding a grey small YSS showing no holes there is a tapestry needle and pin near the hand on the inside of the bag.

I honestly go back an forth if I like the clear bottom or not. It’s nice to verify “what’s inside” as I toss it back on my pile of WIPS, but not critical.

example of clear bottom of YSS

Knitting Tool Pouches

Honestly, I hadn’t been using these, preferring the large binder pouches I’ve used for years. However, I reorganized my needles the other day. Since how I work has shifted, I know that these will return to regular use.

Swift, tool pouches, and notebooks
Swift with a size 2 tool pouch holding some crochet hooks and a pen

They keep my interchangeable tips and crochet hooks tidy and I can keep a selection organized while I swatch.

Final Thoughts

I’m very impressed by these bags. They commuted, they’ve met numerous foster kittens and resident cats, and put up with me.

I should note that key straps and the o-rings have changed my life. The key straps snap onto the o-rings of my various bags. I have several short ones and chain them together if I want a longer one using a hard plastic stitch marker (or a washer)..

key straps
example of keystraps, 2016

Thanks to the o-rings, I no longer lose my keys. They get latched onto the o-ring with a small s-hook.

How I secure my car keys
keys with small s-hook

I repeat I haven’t misplaced my keys in years. While I’m driving the key is in the ignition, at every other time, it’s attached to the bag.

Swift & Little Swift side by side with YSS in front of each.
TB bags: LS with small YSS, Swift with medium YSS

While the cost of these bags is an investment, I feel it’s a smart one. They last. These bags are thoughtfully designed, carefully constructed, and my favorites.


You can find additional Tom Bihn bag review posts at my personal blog, Penguin Girl.

Note: This is a 2022 update of a post initially published in 2016.
All photos of foster kittens were taken prior to 2020.
If a date is not specified in the caption, the photo was taken on 2022-02-25

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