By Sanae Ishida
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 corporate job, Ishida discovered that sewing can be a life-saving meditative activity, and is now using her latest sewing pattern book to show readers that anyone can pick up a needle and find happiness is sewing. The following excerpt is her pattern 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 one piece of rectangular fabric origami-style, and not only is it quite stylish in its simplicity, it’s a project that can be sewn up in under an hour. You might be tempted to make multiples in one go!
I’ve received variations of this design from Japanese friends, but they’re typically smaller, to hold bento-style meals. “Bento,” if you’re not familiar, is the Japanese term for a portable meal of rice, pickled vegetables, and fish or meat. I upped the size to make it a convenient eco tote for farmers’ market days, but these would be fantastic lunch box holders too.
Linen or cotton feels light and fresh for warmer seasons, but you can also construct these out of a sturdier cotton canvas for year-round use. Try suede or leather for the handle. A handle in a contrasting color made out of linen or cotton looks great too.
Prep the woven fabrics like cotton and linen by washing, drying, and pressing. No need to wash or dry suede or leather, although you might want to press them with a press cloth on a low heat setting.
Finished dimensions: about 25-1/2 inches wide by 18 inches high
Fabric pieces: Bag (1), Handle (1)
1. You can make this bag in any size you desire; all you need to do is start with a 1:3 ratio for the main bag piece before adding in the seam allowance. In my case, for the larger bag, I determined that I wanted to make it about 17 inches high, so that means it’s 51 inches wide. Add 1-1/2 inches to the height and width for seam allowance. This means I needed a piece of fabric that was 18-1/2 inches by 52-1/2 inches. Notice how it’s not exactly 1:3 with the seam allowance added? This had me scratching my head for a while.
2. Cut out the handle piece from your contrasting fabric. I used leather so I cut a piece that was 6 by 4 inches. If you are using fabric that will fray, 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, press, and edgestitch. Repeat on the other long side. Repeat with the shorter sides.
4. Now lay the hemmed fabric with the RIGHT side facing up. Measure out three equal widths using a marking tool (make sure the marks are erasable or will wash out). Taking the right upper corner of the bag, fold the point down toward and along the far right line just to its left. Pin in place.
5. Take the lower left corner and fold up toward and along the far left line just to its right. Pin in place.
6. This next part is slightly tricky—fold the triangle on the right side up to the far right edge of the left folded triangle. 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 reference). Looking at the bottom illustration with a tipped head to the left, you can see the beginnings of the bag shape. Using the same pins from the first fold (on the left), pin the two edges that meet with the RIGHT sides facing.
7. Flip 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 might need to futz with the angle a little to make sure the edges line up without distorting the triangular shape. Make sure you are pinning the RIGHT sides facing.
8. Sew along the pinned edges with a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Make sure to sew to the left of the hemming stitches so they aren’t visible on the outer side of the bag. If it’s easier, align your presser foot right against the inner fold of the hem, and move your needle so it’s just to the left of the hemming stitches. Repeat on the other side of the bag.
9. Press and sew a few stitches back and forth at the section where the fabric overlaps and the handles start to form, to tidy up and strengthen the area. The hemmed edges meet here and can get bulky, and the stitches also help to flatten the section. Repeat on the other side of the bag.
10. Sew the handle piece. If you’re using leather, sew the WRONG side together along the long edge with a 1/2-inch seam allowance, then trim it down to about 1/4 inch, if desired. Slide it onto one of the extended bag handles.
If using fabric that will fray, fold each short end twice by 1/4 inch (1/2 inch total) and edgestitch, then sew the long side with the RIGHT sides facing with a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Before turning it RIGHT side out, slip the handle piece on one of the extended handles of the bag. It should fit snugly without sliding around. If it is too loose, sew the longer edge with a larger seam allowance to make the opening smaller. Trim the seam allowance. Turn it RIGHT side out and slide onto one of the extended bag handles.
11. Sew the extended bag handles together. This isn’t the separate handle piece you created but the top two pointy edges of the bag. Securely stitch them together by overlapping the pointed ends by 2 inches, then stitch a diamond shape. This part may not look as neat and tidy as you’d like, but will be hidden under the handle, so no need to stress about it. Slide the handle over the diamond shape. Optional: Slip stitch the handle to the bag at each outer edge if you want it to be even more securely attached.
Fun To Try: Try embellishing an indigo linen fabric with a little bit of white Sashiko stitching for the handle piece!
© 2016 By Sanae Ishida. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Sewing Happiness: A Year of Simple Projects for Living Well by permission of Sasquatch Books.