obi transformed :: Okan Arts
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!

Okan Arts sells vintage obi in its Seattle shop but not on the internet. If you’re interested in purchasing an obi ($75), just ask to see the collection next time you visit.

Please remember that Okan Arts is a by-appointment shop. Email Victoria at to coordinate a time to stop by.
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

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19 comments to “obi transformed”

  1. Mrs. Plum says:

    What creative and gorgeous bags! I’m awed by the talent of these women.

  2. Janet Wright says:

    I love the idea. I have that lovely Obi that you gave me in May–just might make it into a bag.

    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Janet—I think you would enjoy taking apart the obi as well as transforming it. I look forward to seeing what you make! PB

  3. JamieS says:

    Beautiful bags!

  4. Sarah Ahlgren says:

    Patricia, thank you for the opportunity, these were a fun and challenging project. I’ve been able to use the techniques you taught me in creating fabric for bags, quilts and garments … the sky is the limit! You pulled things out of me at that workshop that I did not know were there, and I thank you kindly for opening the door. You rock Ms. Belyea, you rock.

    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Sarah—Thank you for the kind testimonial. I love to teach and really enjoyed meeting you and Martha in La Conner. PB

    • Cheryl Brady says:

      How wonderful to see my friends from last year’s workshop. I knew you were a creative bunch; you just rocked it. Cheryl B.

  5. Lori Morton says:

    Wowie!!! Gorgeous fabrics…turned into Beautiful Bags!!! Glad I don’t to pick favorite :/ giggle…

  6. Mary Simon says:

    I’m delighted to see these ideas. I have a gorgeous obi that I could use if I could just bring myself to cut into it:)

    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Hi Mary—It’s funny that we fear cutting into fabric. It’s seems like it won’t fight back. Try it. PB

  7. Judy Lawrance says:

    Purses and beautiful fabric! What a joy!!!!

  8. dee josephson says:

    They are all wonderful, but I’m especially fond of the one by Marilyn Lone. Is it for sale?

  9. Janet Jungkuntz says:

    Hi all! What inspiring creations. Really beautiful and practical bags. Thanks. I have a collection of vintage kimono and obi textiles waiting for … who knows what!? Also have a box filled with obi linings. Any ideas of what to do with them? They are quite lovely in and of themselves. Thanks again, Patricia, for your email newsletters.