Sewing: cauldron bag

I really like making these Cauldron Bags. Their technical name in Japanese is apparently kinkachu; My girlfriend thinks I should make one in yellow and black, with a tassel instead of a button on the bottom, in honor of Pikachu from Pokemon.  I may do just that.  This one is a commission.

There’s an irony in their design, of course.  There’s not much in the way of materials in them. I would guess that there is somewhere in the neighborhood of $5, maybe less, in materials. But they take me two or more hours to make, and my time has to be worth something, here.  I suppose if I arranged for the cutting and processing of the fabric to make the parts in bulk, I could halve the amount of time that it takes to make one.  But the assembly process (and putting a lot of fiddly bits under the sewing machine) is what really takes the lion’s share of the time.  In general, I need to charge around $50 for them, and I find them selling on Etsy and elsewhere for under $30 — and you can sometimes find mass-produced ones for under $20 in gift shops.  Some of that is the economic leverage gained from producing textile goods in countries with low labor costs; some of that is slave wages; some of that is the work of a globalist economy.  It’s strange to find your time and energy is wrapped up in the lives (and common causes) of seamstresses in China and Bangladesh and Mauritius and elsewhere around the world.

This one was a private commission.

One of the most interesting technical problems in the design of these bags is the establishment of the base of the bag, shown in the second picture.  Here, you have twelve panels of three strips of fabric being brought together to a hole, and then a button is sewn in place to close up and hide that hole.  Trying to get all the panels to overlap and match each other in some fashion that is pleasing to the eye, and hides all the threads, is challenging.

This is my fifth bag in this style, and I’m starting to learn all the various tricks that make this bag work.  It’s hard to beat the powers of the practice effect; the more you do some particular task, the better you are at it.  This one in particular requires more and more attention as you come down to the finishing touches — there’s a lot that can go wrong in the last ten minutes of making the bag.  It gives me a lot of respect for its designers, sometime around 500 years ago or so.

Do you want one?  You need to pick three, maybe four colors, and an ‘order’ in which you want them to appear — top, middle, bottom, and top-edge.  The middle color here is the olive green, the top color is the pale-green edging into teal, and the very dark green is the bottom.  The top-edge is a middle-green tone, with a subtle abstract pattern; it’s also the fabric that makes the pull-tabs on the drawstrings.

All in all, this one turned out quite well.  I’m happy with it; I hope the client is too.


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