In Sewing Happiness (Sasquatch Books, 2016), author Sanae Ishida shows readers the power of a little creativity in their lives. After being diagnosed with a chronic illness and losing her job with the company, Ishida discovered that sewing can be a vital meditative activity, and now uses her latest book of sewing patterns to show readers that anyone can pick up a needle and find happiness in sewing. . The following snippet is his template for a triangle eco bag.
I wish I could take credit for this ingeniously designed triangular bag, but it’s been around for generations in Japan. The body of the bag is made by folding an origami-style rectangular piece of fabric, and not only is it quite elegant in its simplicity, but it’s a project that can be sewn up in less than an hour. You might be tempted to do several at once!
I have received variations of this design from Japanese friends, but they are usually smaller, to hold bento style meals. “Bento,” if you’re unfamiliar, is the Japanese term for a portable meal consisting of rice, pickled vegetables, and fish or meat. I increased the size to make them a handy eco-friendly tote for farmers market days, but they would also be fantastic lunch box carriers.
Supplies and materials
• 1-1/2 yards of woven fabric, for the bag
• 1/4 meter fabric, for the handle
• Coordinating wire
Linen or cotton are light and cool for warmer seasons, but you can also construct them from stronger cotton canvas for year-round use. Try suede or leather for the handle. A contrasting colored linen or cotton handle also looks great.
Prepare woven fabrics like cotton and linen by washing, drying and pressing them. No need to wash or dry suede or leather, although you may wish to press them with a low heat press cloth.
Finished sizes: approximately 25-1/2 inches wide by 18 inches high
Pieces of fabric: Bag (1), Handle (1)
1. You can make this bag in any size you desire; all you have to do is start with a 1:3 ratio for the main piece of the bag before adding the seam allowance. In my case, for the largest bag, I determined that I wanted it to be about 17 inches tall, which means it was 51 inches wide. Add 1-1/2 inches to the height and width for the seam allowance. This means I needed an 18-1/2 inch by 52-1/2 inch piece of fabric. Notice it’s not exactly 1:3 with the added seam allowance? This made me scratch my head for a while.
2. Cut out the handle from your contrasting fabric. I used leather so I cut a 6 by 4 inch piece. If you’re using fabric that frays, add 1 inch to both the height and width for the seam allowance.
3. To hem all four sides of the main bag fabric, fold over one of the longer sides 3/8 inch and press. Then fold over again 3/8 inch, iron and sew. Repeat on the other long side. Repeat with the shorter sides.
4. Now lay the hemmed fabric with the RIGHT side up. Measure three equal widths using a marking tool (make sure the marks are erasable or will erase). Taking the top right corner of the bag, fold the tip toward and along the rightmost line just to its left. Pin in place.
5. Take the bottom left corner and fold to and along the leftmost line just to its right. Pin in place.
6. This next part is slightly tricky – fold the triangle on the right side to the rightmost edge of the folded triangle on the left. Looking at the top illustration below, the bottom edge between the two triangle folds will be the part you pin to the left triangle (use the two stars as a reference). Looking at the bottom illustration with a head tilted to the left, you can see the beginnings of the shape of the bag. Using the same pins from the first (left) fold, pin the two edges that meet with the RIGHT sides facing each other.
7. Turn the bag over and repeat the pinning from step 6 on the other side of the bag, using the same pins from the first fold (right side). You may need to adjust the angle a bit to make sure the edges line up without distorting the triangle shape. Make sure you pin the RIGHT sides facing.
8. Sew along the pinned edges with a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Be sure to sew left hem stitches so they are not visible on the outer side of the bag. If it’s easier, line up your presser foot against the inside crease of the hem and move your needle just to the left of the hem stitches. Repeat on the other side of the bag.
9. Iron and sew a few stitches back and forth at the section where the fabric overlaps and where the handles begin to form, to tidy and strengthen the area. Hemmed edges meet here and can get bulky, and the stitches also help flatten the section. Repeat on the other side of the bag.
10. Sew the handle. If using leather, sew the wrong side along the long edge with a 1/2 inch seam allowance, then trim it to about 1/4 inch, if desired. Slide it onto one of the extended bag handles.
If using fabric that frays, fold each short end twice 1/4 inch (1/2 inch total) and sew the long side with the RIGHT sides facing each other with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. 2 inch. Before turning it to the RIGHT side, slide the handle onto one of the bag’s elongated handles. It should fit snugly without slipping. If it’s too loose, sew the longer edge with a larger seam allowance to reduce the opening. Trim the seam allowance. Turn it to the RIGHT side and slip it over one of the extended bag handles.
11. Sew the elongated bag handles together. It’s not the separate handle you created, but the top two pointed edges of the bag. Sew them together securely, overlapping the pointed ends 2 inches, then sew a diamond shape. This part may not look as neat and tidy as you would like, but it will be hidden under the handle, so you don’t have to worry about it. Drag the handle on the diamond shape. Optional: Sew the handle to the bag at each outer edge if you want it to be even more securely attached.
Fun to try: Try sprucing up an indigo linen fabric with a bit of white Sashiko stitching for the handle!
More on: Couture du bonheur
• Any Bucket Sewing Project
© 2016 By Sanae Ishida. All rights reserved. Extract of Sewing happiness: a year of simple projects to live well courtesy of Sasquatch Books.