Silk Origami-Inspired Purse

I have always been fascinated with origami. I have also wondered if I could simulate this art in fabric. As a result, I am very happy with the outcome of one of my recent fabric folding experiments. I made this silk origami-inspired purse for one of my artistic aunts. The design is from the Peace purse project in the book Shadowfolds.


This book is an awe-inspiring read. I have had this book for a while but admit that I was a bit apprehensive to try any projects from it despite its subtitle “Surprisingly Easy-to-Make Geometric Designs in Fabric”.


This all changed last week when I found out that Chris Palmer, the author of Shadowfolds, was going to be in the area to teach a fabric-folding workshop. I was so excited and jumped at the opportunity to learn his Shadowfolds technique!

In the workshop, Chris brought samples of his amazing work.

Chris Palmer teaching Shadowfolds Workshop

Chris Palmer teaching Shadowfolds Workshop

I especially loved this collapsing Shadowfold fabric structure. The work was initially two-dimensional but it can grow into a three-dimensional sculpture by pulling the top thread.

Collapsing Shadowfold Sculpture

Collapsing Shadowfold Sculpture

During the Shadowfolds workshop, I practiced folding various fabric shapes in muslin.



After the workshop, I was eager to try some of the projects from the book. Based on the book’s recommendations, ideal fabrics for the Shadowfolds technique are cotton, silk or linen.

I had a red silk dupioni in my stash that was perfect for this application. I was happy to do some stash-busting with this fabric because the silk was quite thin and I originally had no idea what to do with it. The silk was perfect for the fabric folding projects. While working with different fabrics, I discovered that if the fabric was too thick, it was harder to manipulate.

To make the purse, I first marked the fabric using pattern templates from the Shadowfolds book. I used a FriXion pen to mark the silk. This pen has heat-sensitive ink that disappears after ironing so marks won’t be visible in the finished project (love this pen!).


I then connected all the pattern points together by needle and thread. I found that it was best to sew all the points first before tying them because it could be difficult to see what to do next.


I then pulled the threads tight and tied them together on the back of the fabric.


This is when the magic happens! Shapes start to form on the other side of the fabric based on the folds created by the knotted threads. I first flattened the shapes manually and then set the folds with an iron.


At this point, I deviated from the book’s directions. I have made many zippered clutches in the past so I used my method of construction. I cut the front panel to size and interfaced the outside purse pieces with medium weight sew-in interfacing (Pellon 50). I used the same red silk dupioni for the purse lining. I also sewed the bottom corners of the purse to create a flat bottom.

I made a mistake in copying the pattern from the book and ended up with two five-point stars on the ends of the purse design. The purse still turned out well. I love how the stars flow into each other.

This project was not difficult but it does take some time to do. If you are impatient or dislike hand-sewing, then this project may not be for you.

I am giving this purse to a special aunt and I hope she enjoys it. I am also using this project as part of my February stash-busting challenge. I joined Cation Designs and EmSewCrazy’s Stashbusting Sewalong last month and hope to keep up the effort (my past track record on sewalongs has not been great but I wanted to give this a decent try).

I am looking forward to creating more fabric folding projects in the future!


About Javie

I am a scientist by training but an artist at heart. Currently going to grad school for more 'practical' training. I love to sew, cook and craft so this is my journal of my more artistic experiments.
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19 Responses to Silk Origami-Inspired Purse

  1. Velosewer says:

    Those folds are very impressive. Your aunt will love it. Great gift.

  2. Eimly says:

    Oh Javie this is a beautiful purse and I love the way the stars are at each end too. Your aunt is a lucky lady.

  3. Jeyco says:

    What a lovely purse! Your aunt is so lucky! I’m amazed by Chris Palmer’s folding technique. So you are lucky too cos his work shop looks worth going.

    • Javie says:

      Thanks Jeyco! The workshop was awesome! Chris has devoted years of study to fabric folding and credited Japanese origami master Shuzo Fujimoto for guiding his art.

      • Jeyco says:

        I played with origami a lot when I was in school and I even had my original way of folding. I can’t remember how I did it though. Anyway, I look forward to see your next origamish project!

  4. symondezyn says:

    That is staggeringly beautiful… I would so love to learn how to do that!! Well done! 🙂

    • Javie says:

      Thanks! It isn’t difficult but there were parts were I became a bit frustrated and wanted to toss the thing. It’s not due to the project, it’s just me because I don’t normally do a lot of hand-sewing. Patience and many breaks helped me finish as well as sewing with a lux fabric like silk.

  5. Gjeometry says:

    Wow, this is so beautiful! I’m dying to learn to do this. The class looked like fun! I have a pattern for a dress with an origami type fold all along the chest piece of it. I’ve been so afraid to try it because it looked SO difficult, but think I’m going to give it a go. it’s just too pretty not to. I love it when fabric can be used as a medium for artistic projects.

  6. soapjam says:

    This is such a gorgeous bag! I am so amazed at how skillful you are at sewing. 🙂

    • Javie says:

      Thanks Silvia! I received my first sewing machine for Christmas 2009 and sewed a pillowcase for my first project in January 2010. Prior to that, I had never sewn anything before. I was hit hard with the sewing bug and became obsessed! Sounds a little like our soaping journey huh? 😉 I have been sewing ever since. I suppose you have to be so fascinated by an activity that you are willing to put the time into it to get better.

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