Each year after the ASIJ Quilt is completed, I am left with a crafting hole in my life. Last year, the lovely and talented Erin Leong brought her hand sewn iPad case to one of our last quilting sessions and the oohs and aahs were deafening.
Using vintage and antique obi, kimono and haori lining fabrics, coupled with obijime as closure ties, she fashioned cases pretty enough to stand on their own as small clutches in addition to their proscribed use.
We decided to meet and all make a case or two for ourselves. Erin brought a sample that she had just begun (click on photos throughout this post for details). Obi brocades are just thick enough to provide some soft cushioning for electronics and they are just the right width for a standard large iPad. For a Kindle or iPad mini, the width needs to be cut down to fit. Since obi are thick and reinforced inside, she takes them apart to cut the outside layer of the bag. Soft silk, rayon or cotton lining fabric is perfect for the inside.
Each one is simply a long rectangle of fabric, folded in thirds, with two sections sewed together to make the pocket and the third section left free as the flap.
The play between the colors of the wrapped detail edge of the lining and the obijime, contrasted with the outer obi fabric is what makes these bags so fun to design. Erin has also included a bit of sashiko embroidery on her two bags, giving them extra depth and detail.
This one was custom sized for a Kindle.
She and I pooled our stash of non-valuable obi for the group and the creativity began. Combinations were tried out and tested.
In the end, this traditional brocade on the left looked best paired with the indigo cotton in a stylized bamboo pattern on the right. We decided that a curvy flap went best with the pattern too. If you compare Erin’s two bags above, one has an angular flap, while the other a soft scroll similar to this one. Aesthetic decisions were left to each person and dependent on the fabric and taste.
The outer fabric is cut to be about half an inch wider on each side than the object you want stored in it. The lining is cut with about an additional quarter-inch seam allowance. If you cut it too big, it is too bulky to sew along the outside edge. Cut it too narrow and you can’t fold it under to make a clean edge before sewing. There are no exact instructions for this project – it is kinda do as you go.
This case looked a little blah when finished and closed, so a bright orange obijime and some sashiko stitching were added. You’ll notice that small cases look and work best with the obijime running horizontally, while on the large size it is best vertically.
Erin’s detail work is lovely – she did all the sashiko stitching on this one.
This is another that I made and love the play of the watery green lining and the bold mauve obi. The cases are designed to look handmade, and to counteract the formality of this piece I sewed the lining edge with a blanket stitch, done in a very casual style.
In the end, the case had some issues. I had decided I wanted the extra thickness of the obi and did not dismantle it. The net result was that it was almost impossible to get the needle through to sew it. Does that sound familiar? Without Erin’s assistance it would never have been done! As it is quite formal and very pretty, I think it will be kept to use as an evening clutch – I can’t quite see dragging it around as a case.
Another friend could not resist the idea of making an evening bag and chose a formal silk obi and silk lining that matched and contrasted at the same time.
She never got around to finding an obijime for it so I believe she simply used a hidden interior fastener. I think that one green flower in the lining is what makes this so perfect and so Japanese!
Yet another friend went all green – fancy brocade exterior with silk lining in a realistic bamboo pattern. After taking apart her obi, she found the fabric to be too soft, so she reinforced it with some iron-on interfacing. You can see how each project evolved a bit differently. She also chose to follow the shape of the hexagon in the brocade when cutting the shape of her flap. I’m not sure she has progressed much beyond this point. Like I said, sewing through obi fabric is a huge pain!
We are trying to convince Erin to start making these for sale, so if you would be interested, please give a shout out in the comments or send me an email. They are absolutely gorgeous – the combination of antique and vintage textiles with the hand sewing is so unusual.