Introduction: Waxed Origami Bag Made Out of Upcycled Materials

About: I am a Website Designer/Developer. When not slaving over my computer, I love sewing, houseplants and doing anything creative.

I have been making bags for years, and waxed fabric bags are my favorite! They are sturdy, somewhat water resistant, and I think they just look cool! The wax I used was 1/2 from an old paraffin candle and 1/2 from beeswax.

I usually wax duct cloth, which is great but sometimes the bag is heavy because of the weight of the fabric. I thought I would try it with an old pair of my husband khaki's and I really loved how it turned out!

I also love shopping good will and yard sales for purses with interesting hardware. The hardware on this bag was all salvaged from other old purses.


Pair of Old Khaki Pants
Paraffin Candle Unscented
Small Pan or Small Crockpot
3” Chip Paintbrush
Old Towel
Cardboard or Poster Board
Old Iron
Sewing Machine
2 Rectangle Rings
1 Purse Snap
Heavy Sewing Machine Needle (90/14 or 100/16)
Fabric Pins and Clips
Chalk for Marking

Step 1: Prepare the Fabric

  • Cut off hems of pants
  • Cut along outside seam to the top of the pant leg, towards the zipper, around the crotch and up the 'seat' seam, just below the waistband back towards the other side of the outside seam. You should now have one large piece of fabric. The remaining carcass - which we won't use - will have the zipper, the waistband and the one outside seam (see photo).
  • Cut out the second pant leg in the same way. The remaining 'carcass' - which we won't use - will have the zipper, the waistband and the one outside seam (See photo A).
  • Take one piece and remove the crotch seam about ½ way down (See photo B). When you have removed enough seam, lay one side down so its smooth.
  • Lay the other side of the opened seam across it. Lay a yardstick along the seam that is already there and mark it with chalk. At this chalk line, fold the top layer of fabric in to meet the seam line you marked.
  • Now stitch this seam from end to end 1/8 from fold. To give the seam a little more 'meat' stitch again 1/8" next to the stitch line you just made. Press all fabric real good.
  • Now you want to make a rectangle from each leg. One leg will be the outer bag fabric, one leg will be the lining of the bag.
  • First, see what the longest length you can get from your new piece. Mark vertically on each end and cut off. Measure this length you got. Now divide that number by 3 and this will be your height. I got a 30” long piece, so 10” is going to be my height.
  • I marked 6” on one side of the center seam, and 4” on the other side of the center seam. This gives you a cool extra seam character on your bag – you will see it on the finished bag later.
  • Repeat this for the other leg of fabric so you have 2 pieces of fabric the exact same size.
  • With extra fabric, cut out two pieces that are 2” x 4” to be used for the ring tabs.
  • Cut another piece the full length of your fabric. My rings are 1-1/4” wide on the inside, so I cut my long strip 30" x 3.5” wide. This will be used for your strap.

Step 2: Your Ready to Wax!

  • Take an old paraffin wax candle (unscented) and bust it up good with a hammer. Do this until you get tiny pieces – they melt quicker. I find putting the candle inside an old pillowcase or folded towel does great when busting it up - it catches flying pieces
  • Put 8oz of the candle wax into a small crock pot if you have one. This heats nice and slow and keeps it melted while you are working with the wax. But you can also slowly melt wax in an old saucepan.
  • I found adding some beeswax works well for waxing bags. You could bust up an old beeswax candle if you have one – I just used pellets I had. Add 4oz beeswax and melt both together.It takes a while to melt the wax - about ½ hour in my crock pot.
  • On you work surface, lay a piece of cardboard or a poster board. On top of that, lay on old towel you won't want to use anymore.
  • Heat up you iron on hi, no steam. Use an old iron you won't want to use on regular clothes as the wax will linger on your iron.
  • Fold one piece of fabric in half and 'paint' the wax on your fabric going in the same direction. The wax will harden and dry as you are brushing it on.
  • When this side is covered, start pressing with your hot iron. The wax melts into the fabric. Its ok if there are some empty spots.
  • Flip the folded fabric to the other side and do the same thing.
  • Now open your fabric and fold the other way. You will see a lot of the wax melted through to this side when ironing, so just add wax where you need it and iron it.
  • Flip the folded fabric and do the other side. Open the fabric and do the section of fabric that was folded, front and back. Set aside to cool and do the other piece of fabric. Also do your tabs and your strap fabric pieces.
  • After the fabric cools, it is stiff! (see photo) Don't worry, this is where it gets cool...
  • Take your fabric and bunch it up into a ball nice and tight. Unfold the fabric and smooth it down....your old boring khaki fabric is now a nice deep color, with lighter marks that look like aged parchment! The more you mess with the fabric, the more marks it gets – and the softer it gets! It actually starts feeling a little like suede!

Step 3: Folding the Origami Bag

Another cool thing about waxed fabric is it hold its shape without pinning!

  • Fold each edge of your rectangle 1/4” all the way around. Just fold and press with your finger or run something firm over the fold to give it a firm crease. Don't stitch yet, this crease will hold until you are ready to top stitch.
  • Do this for the other piece of fabric fabric.
  • Working with the wrong side of the fabric facing up, fold the top left corner to the bottom of the rectangle. Press along fold good with finger. (see photos with diagrams)
  • Fold the bottom right corner up the the top of the rectangle. Press the fold good with finger.
  • Make sure you have a super clean fold. The fabric should line up between the fold and the point.
  • Now take the bottom left side and fold it up to the upper right side.(See my diagram)
  • You should see the purse take shape. Make sure your 'handle' strap points are even in height.
  • If you are going to add a tag on the outside, this is a good time to add it. Mark placement and stitch on.
  • Now you want to stitch the front diagonal seam. Pin the fabric really good so it doesn't shift out of alignment when sewing. This is the hardest part of making the bag, its an awkward seam.
  • Try turning the fabric like the pic, so you can stitch to the corner as far as possible.You don't have to go all the way to the corner, once we box the corners it won't matter.
  • Now do the same on the other side of the bag, stitching the diagonal seam. Do not trim your excess flap fabric yet.
  • Repeat off of these steps on the lining fabric of your bag.

NOTE: If you get lost when folding and unfolding while sewing, look for your 'handle' points, and align with sides exactly along the folded or stitched edge and it will refold into shape. Just make sure your points are the same height and the top edges of the bag align correctly.

Step 4: Attaching the Snap to Lining

I am always looking for old purses or bags, that I can tear apart, saving the rings, snaps, zippers, buckles or other closures. You can get a lot off of one bag! I got the snaps and rectangle rings for this bag from old discarded purses. This snap is attached to the inside of the bag on the lining piece.

  • Turn the lining so the right sides are together on the inside of the bag.
  • Decide where to put your snap on one side of the bag – 3/4” from edge of bag V.
  • Take the washer part with the holes, lay it in place on the right side of the fabric and mark with a pen the two holes.
  • With a seam ripper, poke into the fabric thru the flap and cut a little slit for both marks.
  • Take the male side of your magnet and push the prongs through the 2 holes.
  • When through lay your washer part over the protruding prongs, and then press down the prongs towards each other nice a flat, using a screwdriver.
  • Lay your purse down nice and flat making sure everything is lining up.
  • Now push the snap you just inserted into the other side of the bag, rubbing a bit and it will make a little mark exactly where the other snap needs to go.
  • Align your washer center circle with the mark you made - then mark the two open sides with a pen.
  • Repeat the steps above to attach this side of the magnet.
  • Now the snap should snap and line up nicely.

Step 5: Box the Corners of the Bag

I like to box the corners of my bags so they are a little roomy, not flat.

  • Turn both front and lining bags inside out.
  • Take one bag and flatten in down and smooth the sides and bottom firmly to make a crease.
  • With chalk, mark 1” boxes on each corner, doing this on the front and the back of the bag.
  • Take a corner and pinch the fabric so the side seam and the bottom seam align.
  • You should see the chalk mark you made on both sides of the corners. (see photos)
  • Mark a diagonal line between the 2 marks and stitch.
  • Trim off excess. Do other corner. Turn bag right side out, push out corners and it should have a nice boxed shape.
  • Repeat this on the other bag.

Step 6: Prepare and Tabs and Strap

  • Take one of the 2” x 4” tab pieces and fold an 1/8” on both long edges, and then fold it again 1/8”.
  • Slide this piece into the rectangle ring to be sure it is folded to the right internal width for your ring. When good, stitch tab all the way around.
  • Do same for other tab.
  • For the strap, take your long piece of fabric and fold each edge in about 1/4” and press with finger. Now fold entire strap in half lengthwise.
  • Top stitch all the way around, folding the ends in.

Step 7: Completing Your Bag

  • Slide the lining into the outside of the bag. The wrong sides of the bags will be facing each other.
  • Clip or pin all the edges around the top of the bag connecting the outside of the bag to the lining.
  • Make sure the edges you pressed a crease into earlier are are still folded in about 1/4"
  • Top-stitch along the V, front and back but leave the handle points open about 3” down from top.(see photo)
  • Take one tab piece and slide it through a ring. Fold it over the ring.
  • On your bag handle parts, fold the pointed ends in far enough to equal the width of your tabs.(see photo)
  • Slide your tabs (folded in half with the ring) into the folded handle ends. Stitch across the tab and down both sides if needed, meeting where the stitch line stops.
  • Do the same for other tab.
  • Take one end of your prepared strap and slide it through one ring. Fold it with folded end toward the inside a about 2" from the ring.
  • Stitch as shown, finishing with a cross stitch for added strength.
  • Slide the other end into the other ring and adjust to the length you want.
  • Stitch the same as you did the other end.

And there you have it! An Up-cycled, Waxed, Origami Bag!

Step 8: Enjoy Your New Bag!

Reclaimed Materials Contest

Runner Up in the
Reclaimed Materials Contest