Origami Bag

Introduction: Origami Bag

The design of this origami bag was created in the course ‘Digital Craftsmanship’ of the study Industrial Design at Eindhoven University of Technology by Veerle Heijnen, Chinouk de Miranda and Emmie Knoester. The focus of this course was to learn to work with digital machinery such as a laser cutter and an embroidery machine. To create and prepare patterns for the machines the programs Adobe Illustrator and Processing are used.

The concept of this design is to make a bag out of one piece of fabric and form it into a 3D bag without sewing. Traditional sewing techniques are only used for adding straps to the bag.

Step 1: Find a Suitable Fabric

Choosing an aesthetically pleasing fabric does a lot for the look of the final design. Be aware that both sides are visible in the final bag when making your choice. More importantly, the fabric should be suitable in terms of physical quality. It’s important to invest some time in finding a fabric that is sturdy enough to be formed into the origami shape and has the possibility to be engraved in order to fold it. It is advised to do some small tests with a laser cutter to see the effect it has on the fabric and to try out folding the fabric on an engraved line.

Step 2: Engrave the Folding Lines With a Laser Cutter

First, decide which side of the fabric functions as the inside of your bag and which side functions as the outside. Cut out a piece of roughly 60 x 60 cm with some extra margin. No need for doing it very precisely since the laser cutter is able to do this for you. In the attachment, you can find the laser cut files in an Illustrator (.ai) format. If you’re lucky you have a laser cutter large enough to fit your whole piece of fabric, but probably you won’t have that.

In our case, we used a laser cutter with a size of 70 x 40 cm. Since each side is symmetrical you can engrave half of a side, rotate the fabric 180 degrees, and engrave the other half of the same side with the same line pattern. Make sure to place the part you are engraving flat in the machine and roll up the other half outside of the window of the laser cutter. In the ‘outside fabric’ file one line needs to be deleted after rotating to prevent engraving it twice as you can see in the image. When you flip the fabric to engrave the other side make sure the fabric is laid down in the same orientation in order for both sides to complement each other. Check the pictures for an example. In total, you engrave the fabric in four steps. It is important to align it precisely to create continuing lines. It is worth it to keep your calm and invest some time in this.

Step 3: Digital Pattern Creation

Some panels of the bag are strengthened with an embroidery pattern to give the bag more structure. Besides, it adds to the aesthetics of the bag. The open-source program Processing can be used to code a repeating pattern. It is advised to make the pattern rather simplistic, as the embroidery machine is usually not able to deal with a complicated pattern. In the origami bag, a pattern based on bezier triangles is used. You can choose this pattern by using the attached SVG file and go on to step 5. If you decide to create your own pattern in Processing or Illustrator, step 4 covers some information on how to prepare your pattern for the embroidery machine. A processing pattern has to be exported into a PDF format to be able to open it in Illustrator.

Step 4: From Processing Pattern to Embroidering Pattern

With help of Illustrator, the pattern can be prepared for embroidery. First, you have to cut the pattern in the right triangle shapes (the shapes can be found in the attachment) with the pathfinder or clipping mask tool. In order to make sure that the document only consists of solid shapes, making it easier to work with the embroidery machine, it is advised to export the cut triangles as JPEG and import them again in Illustrator. This may seem a bit odd, however, it cleans up your file making it ready for the embroidery machine. After doing so, you can use the ‘expand’ function to re-create vectors out of the pattern. The pattern that is now cut in the right shapes has to be saved as SVG (exporting instead of ‘saving as’ can mess up your file).

Step 5: Embroidery of the Pattern

Import the SVG file into the embroidery program. For our design, the program ‘Design PE 10’ was used. Here the type of outlines of the stitch, the type of stitch and the density of the stitch can be set. For this design the outline stitch was set on ‘not sewn’, the type of stitch on ‘satin stitch’ and the density on 3.8. All these aspects influence the time it takes to embroider the pattern and the looks of the pattern.

After doing so, you have to load the pattern into the embroidery machine (we used a Brother entrepreneur PR655) where the colour of the stitch, the speed and the position have to be set. This last aspect has to be done very carefully because the pattern has to be placed exactly within the engraved lines. We chose an orange and white colour for our pattern, as it matches well with the fabric, but this can be any colour you prefer.

Step 6: Finishing Touches

After embroidery, you can fold the fabric into a bag. You can follow the tutorial from MauserClub at:

Watch the first minute of the video to see how to make the singular pocket, which is the shape of the bag. You can practice by folding a paper version first.

Then, the bag needs some finishing touches. Here you can basically do everything you want. If you want to make the same design, do the following: First add vinyl on the inside of the panels, to hide the bottom stitches of the embroidered pattern. After doing so, sew three connections on the bag where the straps can be added. Make the straps by cutting two long small pieces of fabric (2 x 140 cm) and sew them on top of each other. Furthermore, add four big magnets to keep the bag together and be able to open and close it. We decided to not sew them on the fabric, as that makes it impossible to fold it open into a flat piece of fabric, which we saw as a nice aspect of the design.

If you have followed all these steps, your bag should be ready to use!

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    2 years ago

    This is so cool! I'd love to see some pictures on how it folds together.