My mum has a little squooshy bag she brought back from, I think,
China (Edit: My sister tells me it was Korea), made of a patchwork of tiny silk squares. It’s quite delicate, and some of the seams are coming apart. A while ago I sat down with it and tried to figure out the underlying pattern so I could copy it; I never got very far, then forgot about it for about a year (yes, I do this a lot) and then abruptly decided to have another go this week. As sometimes happens, what had been incomprehensible the first time seemed obvious the second time.
The underlying structure is simple enough – a box in the ratio 1 by 1 by 2, with the opening and handles added along one of the long edges. However, the patchwork pattern wraps around the box diagonally, which makes the underlying shape harder to perceive. Measured in terms of the patchwork squares, the fillable volume of the finished bag is two sides deep and broad, and two diagonals long. I started with 10cm squares and an 0.5cm seam allowance, making the finished squares 9cm to a side and the usable volume of the bag 18cm x 18cm x 25.5cm, near enough.
The pattern is a net of twenty-two squares. On the bag my mum has, each of the 22 fundamental squares is made of four smaller squares; you could potentially use any square quilt block you wanted, for a more or less complex final design. For this attempt, I kept it simple and just used plain squares. The strap is the leftover end of handwoven linen trim I used on my Viking kyrtill.
This is the net for the bag (click for big):
1. Cut your 22 squares (or assemble your 22 blocks) and piece them together as indicated. Where the edges are marked with letters, mark your fabric accordingly – notches, tailor’s tacks, different coloured pins, but enough variations that you can reliably tell which is which.
2. If you want your lining to also be patchwork, repeat step 1 with the lining fabric. If you want your lining to be a single piece, lay the pieced outer layer over your lining fabric and draw round it to get the shape. Mark all edges of the lining appropriately.
3. Sew A to A, B to B, and so on in alphabetical order. Once you’ve sewn seams A, B, C and D, the edges should line up so you can sew E-F-G and H-J-K as one long seam apiece. Repeat for lining. Leave a gap somewhere in the lining for turning the bag right way out.
4. Tack the strap in place, centering the cut ends over seam G and seam K.
5. Put the lining inside the bag (or vice versa) right sides together, and sew them together around the bag opening, making sure to catch the strap as well.
6. Turn right side out. Close the gap in the lining. Restore to correct shape. If needed/wanted, topstitch round the opening to stop the lining escaping.
And that’s it! Folding the flat pattern into a 3D bag can be a bit awkward, but everything else is pretty straightforward.
If anyone else decides to make one of these, I would love to see it – please do leave a link in comments, or get in touch via Twitter or email (both at the top of the right-hand sidebar).