Thursday, February 14, 2013

Make A Bag Chapter 13: The Seventh Bag - Pleats and Folds

We're in the homestretch now that we've reconstructed the six main categories of bags. Do you remember what they are? Here - as a recap:

  1. The Flat Tote
  2. The Darted Tote
  3. The Gusseted Tote
  4. The Wrapped Tote
  5. The Bucket Tote
  6. The Blocked Tote

In a much earlier post, I mentioned that there are some bags that don't fit into these six categories. I'm going to introduce a seventh category today that's very different from those earlier six. Unlike those six, this seventh kind cannot be easily analyzed as a single schematic diagram and construction sequence. They are incredibly varied in how they look, for one, even in their most basic shape without any fancy details. However, they are recognizable by their one defining concept, which they share with this ubiquitous kitchen staple:

That's right - it's a cupcake liner!
Everybody's seen these, right? 
They're three-dimensional baking receptacles.

From what shape do they originate, though?

A flat circle.

A one-dimensional, single piece of paper with no volume,
no glued darts (like a grocery bag) and no seams.

So how did it get its bucket-ness? 
Its capacity to hold stuff within?

Answer: pleats.

Get ready for my earth-shattering announcement:
there exist some bags that get their volume entirely from pleats.

Here, let me share a semi-example.
This is a store-bought bag with a pleated bottom.
Very common - you surely must have seen them around.

That triangular thing looks a bit like a dart, kinda.
But let's take a look at the inside of the bag:

No, no dart. It's just a big fold in the bottom whose ends are sewn into the side seams.
That pleat gives the bag volume and depth in its base.

That bag, as I said, is only a semi-example. It has a pleated bottom rather than a bona fide base but it would still be a bag (in this case, a regular Unlined Flat Tote) without that pleat

Here's a bag I made last year and forgot all about (happens all the time with me). It's loosely based on a friend's bag that I saw. By the time I was ready to make it, I couldn't remember the half of it, even with email correspondence with said friend to attempt to help me visualize it. I remembered the concept and that's about it - no details at all. So this is my version:

Let me unfold it for you -

Those pleats are what give the bag its volume. Apart from them, it's literally - as far as containing stuff goes - a flat piece of uselessness.

Same concept as that hammock I made for Bearaby last summer:

Now, I realize that mentioning pleats might cause some of you to jump out of your seats, hands raised, exclaiming, "I've made a pleated bag before! They're so pretty! You can get free patterns on the internet. You just cut out the bag shape wider than usual, fold the fabric into pleats, iron them, sew up the side seams and you get a pleated bag. So pretty! I luuuurve them! I want to make a gazillion for all my girlfriends and my kids' teachers for Christmas!"

Um, no. Thank you, but please sit down.

Those aren't the kinds of pleated bags I mean. Those are first and foremost some other kind of bag -flat totes or darted totes, for instance, that have pleats (or their un-ironed cousins, gathers) added to their outer layer as a pretty embellishment, often tucked into a yoked hem at the top of the bag. The pleats in those bags are just the fabric being manipulated for texture. In other words, those pleated bags would still be bags -albeit a bit blander - without the pleats. How do I know this? Because those bags have seams. Side seams, base seams, top seams. The pleats are extra.

The kinds of pleated bags I mean owe their lives to pleats. For them, the fabric is manipulated for volume. Without the pleats, those bags would be reduced to flat pieces of fabric. Here are a couple of examples:
There are others, of course, but I was too lazy to draw them. Plus, I'm not actually even supposed to be here - I'm in Singapore now. I've actually been here about a week, swimming, pigging out, being with family. Whoo! The autoposting program is your substitute teacher. 

But back to the point of these pleated bags. The concept is simple: you take a flat piece of fabric and make folds (pleats) in some parts to introduce depth. Those pleats are secured in some way - ribbon ties, buttonholes, a drawcord threaded through grommets, zippers, or tucked into end sleeves like my hammock and hammock-inspired bag above. There are no side seams or darts or gussets or base pieces. 

And because pleats can be formed in a zillion different configurations, there is really no limit to how these bags can be designed, or how many of them there can be. There is also no single schematic plan by which to represent their structure or construction sequence, which is why I didn't include them among the six other bag types with their neat, formulaic designs. I'm happy to leave them unanalyzed as the enigmas they are. Besides, I like the idea of there being a zillion bags out there that I haven't wrapped my mind around. It's one of the things that keep me interested in bag making and bag designing :)

We have only two more chapters left of this series - there's a quiz next (did you think I'd forgotten? Hah!) and an AFQ (Anticipated Frequent Questions) section next. We're almost done!


  1. You make the best bags I've seen! And I have never seen a bag like the one you featured in this post - very cool.

    Enjoy Singapore!

  2. Hi! I love your blog! is wonderful! I like each thing!
    Thank you for share it!
    Kiss from Argentina.-

  3. Ooohh... that little inspired-by-your-friend's-bag bag is so cute! Very unique!

  4. Love your Make-A-Bag series!! ^^
    Ps. Enjoy your trip in Singapore! A pity it has been raining these few days. :>

  5. Singapore?? Sooo jealous!! I LOVE the bag this post is about. Was excited to see what the next type of bag was and now excited to learn more about it. At the same time, rather disappointed that the series is ending. Surely, there is another type out there we can bother you with?!

    Seriously, thanks beyond words! Am really glad you are getting some much deserved R&R at "home". There is nothing like visiting family.

  6. Bravissima!!!!!!!!!!!! Un saluto dall'Italia.

  7. I love your blog and everything you make. Your bag making series was so informative, easy to follow with so many step by step pictures. Thank you so much for taking the time to share. I especially love all the color combinations you use. You really have a good sense of style and color. I have been a silent follower of your blog but thought it was time to tell you how much I look forward to reading your posts.

  8. Gosh. Too much info to absorb! But, much appreciated.... I ae been looking for info how to make that base pleat you show on the blue/cream bag in this post. Any chance you know of a tutorial for it, or you could explain for me? Pleeeeeeeaaaaase? Thanks, keri

  9. Shoot! Don't know where my comment went!? It was a whole long thing a nut shell, pleeeeease could you explain how to do that base pleat shown on the cream/blue bag in this post?

  10. Would LOVE to see a tutorial for this featured bag!! =)

  11. Can't wait to make this one!

  12. I have to tell you your blog is one of my favorites. Your pocket tutorials came in oh-so-handy when I whipped up some storage bedside caddies for my nieces.

    I have a bag here similar to the blue/cream one you have in your pictorial above (the triangular looking pleat) and I wanted to make a mock version of it, but I've been trying to figure out how to do the triangular bottom section. Haha, I thought it was going to be far more complicated -- but, after seeing your pic I realize had I turned the bag inside out I would have known to just fold the bottom inward to make a pleat. Awesome!

    Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge with us.

  13. Is there a pattern or tutorial to make this bag.
    I so love it and would love to make one.

  14. I have seen and touched a bag like the one you mention. I too suffer from faulty memory to properly reconstruct it as well. Thank you for the picture. It made the pattern make sense.

  15. Me gustaría saber si hay alguna posibilidad de obtener el patrón, medidas o tutoreal del bolso de pliegues gracias.


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