Bag design: from concept to prototype

My last project in Japan: designing and making a prototype for a two-faced shoulder bag.

My last course at Joshibi was loosely defined as “Material technique exercise”. The course theme changes every year, and this year it was bag design. Interesting? Interesting!

To be honest, I was first a little perplexed when I found out this year’s theme; however, in not long I discovered myself truly fully enjoying the process of designing a bag and making a prototype! I think the change from only producing woven work to producing woven work for a specific product made all the difference to me. I’m also interested in product design, and this project catered to just that!

Despite being very interesting, this course was also extremely intense time-wise: in just 5 weeks, we had to come up with an original idea and design for the bag, produce the handwoven materials, AND make a full prototype and an image board for presentation.

First, it was all about sketching ideas for the bag, doing some (light) market research and defining target audience and function for the bag. Then, we made a paper model of the final bag design (to see the shape and size in 3D), and nailed down the specifics of our woven fabrics in the technique of our choice: I made two different fabrics, using warp kasuri and crackle weave, which was completely new to me.

Crackle weave was new to me, and I chose it because I was looking for a way to add some light texture to one of my fabrics (kasuri fabrics are flat by nature, and I wanted some contrast between the two). I found the idea in a book called Weave Classic Crackle & More (by Susan Wilson), which was a very comprehensive introduction to crackle and the possibilities that lie in different variations. Definitely recommended!

My crackle weave ended up being a kind of “almost-crackle”, with a crackle weave threading, slightly irregular tie-up and summer&winter treadling. The slightly irregular tie-up was actually a mistake I made when writing the pattern, but I quite liked the look so I chose to keep it! (Hurrah to WeavePoint’s quick fabric preview!)

Finally, after writing up our own individual schedules to keep track of our progress, getting to work meant producing the woven fabrics and actually making the bag prototype, which was fun but also took a lot of effort and time! I was very glad to be able to make use of my sewing skills, since putting my design together would have been very difficult otherwise.

My bag became a two-way/two-faced shoulder bag for outings. My concept was to have two contrasting sides (hence two contrasting fabrics), which one could choose freely from when using the bag: one lighter fabric with a kasuri pattern as a focal feature, and one darker, tweed-like fabric (the crackle) for a more muted look.

I wanted the bag to be wearable many different ways, so its features include an adjustable shoulder strap and sides that fold either in or out, depending on the desired look. Functional features were also important to me: I added a zipper on the side to make it possible to open the bag more, and sewed several pockets on the inside lining.

Overall, I’m quite proud of my prototype and definitely would like to pursue this kind of apparel design further! I have some leftover fabrics from this project, so a product family might not be a bad idea at all…

To see the full project description, check out the project page!

© 2019 Elisa Penttilä