obi transformed

obi transformed

By Patricia Belyea

WAUCONDA WA  At last July’s workshop in La Conner, I asked if there were any Bag Ladies in the room. Those would be quilters who enjoy making bags.

Of the three who stepped forward, I wondered if they would be interested in making a bag out of a vintage Japanese obi. They all took the challenge. Each choose two obi from the Okan Arts collection and promised to transform one of the textile treasures into a purse or bag. Here are the results of their work.

Donna Prevedell of Eagerville IL took home a rustic woven obi in subdued autumn colors. Donna makes bags as a cottage business so she’s a professional Bag Lady.

For her obi project, Donna used her bestselling style, Vicky, to fashion a rugged and casual shoulder bag. Inside are small pockets for sunglasses, a phone, and more. Plus a strap with a clip for keys. A vintage button found in Europe adds the perfect final detail.

Sarah Ahlgren of Chicago IL showed her overachiever tendencies with her obi. Sarah used both obi to craft two completely different types of bags.

Sarah paired a lustrous embroidered obi in mottled tangerine colors with faux leather for an easy-style hobo bag. The pattern is by Sara Lawson of For the construction Sarah used woven interfacing by Barb's Bags, Soft & Stable foam interfacing from By Annies, and hardware from Emmaline Bags.

For the second project, Sarah created a Grab and Go bag for an iPad Mini. The pattern is again by Sara Lawson of, from her Minikins 1 Collection. Materials used in the construction include woven interfacing by Barb's Bags, Soft & Stable foam interfacing from By Annies, Peltex Stabilizer by Pellon, and a double-pull handbag zipper from

Marilyn Lone, an art quilter from Woodinville WA, chose a bold satin-woven obi in oranges and golds—with a pop of lime green and a touch of mauve.

The flap of her elegant hobo bag conceals a magnetic closure and creates a point of delight with its embroidered floret. Inside Marilyn added a full-width wallet pocket.

I laud these creative quilters for making such involved projects using vintage obi. The fabric constraints included a 12" width, fragile surfaces, and sometimes some damage. Also, I appreciate their generosity of time and talent in taking on the challenge with no monetary compensation!

Here are links to the products mentioned in this post: +click here

Got Interfacing? by Barb’s Bags +click here

By Annie +click here

Pellon interfacing +click here