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Candywrapper Weaving Technique and Tutorial

Author:  on 
July 26, 2013

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Wallpaper Purse by Rayela Art

Dimensions: 11″ wide x 7″ high x 2″ deep, strap 12″

Metric: 28 x 17 x 5 cm, strap 30 cm

I worked at Home Depot for awhile and while I was there, they got rid of their wallpaper department. They were going to throw away their sample books, so I asked for them and was allowed to take what I wanted. It’s gorgeous, thick paper- a shame to throw away. I debated for awhile about what to do with them, then remembered these folk art purses I had seen made out of soft pack cigarette wrappers, mostly made by prisoners. I had always wanted one, but they usually cost a fortune, so I decided to try my hand at it. I had no idea how they were constructed, but after some research online, I found a couple of blogs that had helpful instructions:


Wrapper Purses has detailed photos on how to fold and construct rows of woven paper which are then sewn together into a purse. She used potato chip bags. Candy wrappers are also a popular choice. Mylinda’s instructions were very helpful, but there are some tricks you learn as you do it that are hard to describe online. If you want to try this technique yourself, her blog is the place to start.

The Purse Project also had helpful information. Barb Lawrence, of San Diego, has the following great drawing that shows the folding process clearly:

She also lists several organizations and businesses marketing purses made using this technique and has some great photos of purse examples. Between these two blogs, you should be able to make your own purse.

Like all good things, making a purse like this takes time and lots of it! I’m estimating mine took about 40 hours. But, there was a learning curve there, too. It’s a mindless operation for the most part, a good way to keep my hands occupied when I was too mentally fatigued to do something that needed some thinking. I sat in the kitchen folding and folding while I listened to a book on tape. The wallpaper worked well in the sense that it folded easily, was sturdy, didn’t crack and was pliable. The problem is the thickness. Although I think the purse resulted in a gorgeous product, it’s not the best functional piece in terms of weight.


I have not seen any other examples that used beads. For my piece, the beads added texture, depth and really finished it off. The white ones are carved ostrich egg shell and the dark ones are coconut shell, both from Africa. They are held in place by clear glass seed beads.



Back:

 

Instructions:

As seen in the pamphlet earlier, the purse is made up of long strips of interlocked pieces of paper. I don’t even know if this would actually qualify as “weaving”. Once they have been assembled, they have the look of a weaving. The example below was made from dog food bags. If you look closely, you will see a dog’s eye peeking out at you:


I start out by cutting the strips on a mat. I used a rotary cutter to try to go through the task more quickly. I have been using dog food bags since I made that first bag, cutting strips measuring 4.5″x 2″. If I make another wallpaper purse, I will make the strips slightly bigger. It’s amazing how many strips you need to make a purse! I kind of lost count, but am estimating that Snow, the dog food purse, used up six of the biggest dog food bags, four medium ones and two small ones. It may have been more.


I estimate I used at least 500 pieces for snow. Once I had a big stack of them cut up, I separated them into color content, not easy to do on bags that have a lot of images and text.


The strips are then folded. I fold down the middle to get a crease, open it up again and then both sides down to the middle again, ending up with a long skinny piece.

That gets folded in half once again:

Then each end is folded once more to the middle. These are the links.

The links fit into each other, forming long, zig zag strip and then the strips are sewn together. This paper has a slick coating on it and made it very easy to link one into the other. I also think this coating helps protect the purse over time. This example shows how color choices can impact the look of the strip:

The trickiest part was figuring out how to join the ends to make them into a circle. You have to undo the last one, weave it in and fold it back into the piece to make it work. Then, the two circles are held side by side and sewn together.  I use dental floss or gut to sew. You weave the needle back and forth under one of the layers to secure them. First I do the outside and then go around a second time on the inside, helping to make the bag strong and balanced.

Taking care in color combinations keeps the design from becoming too chaotic.

I covered this purse with white buttons. I think I am the first person to use embellishments in this way on these purses. At least, I have never seen anyone else add to them with the exception of zippers or closures. The added texture makes the bag for me.

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There are many variations of this on the market and I have seen very cheap bags coming from Mexico or Asia.  But, remember that the size of the folded piece matters. The smaller they are, the more work is involved. I have now made quite a few of these bags, a hat (!!!), a couple of cuffs and each one is a puzzle with great results!

 

corn 3Corn

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King Tut Hat

(with gorgeous model, Amy Amoroso)

 

Check out my Etsy shop to see what is available: Rayela Art

How about you? Have you made any? If you have some links we can look at, leave them in a comment!

About

Profile photo of Rachel Biel
I've been working with the arts and craft world in many capacities since 1988. Handmade textiles have been my core focus since launching TAFA in 2010.

My hope is to contribute to the economic development potential the arts bring to the world, along with the intrinsic beauty shown in the work. May the world become a friendlier place for artists and nature!

Arrived in Kentucky after a childhood in Brazil, college in Minnesota and 20 years in Chicago. It's been a ride!

8 Comments

on Candywrapper Weaving Technique and Tutorial.
  1. |

    Thank you for the tutorial. I’ve been working on trying to make these purses. When I sew my links together they’re no tight enough. How can I fix this to where my purse looks like yours?

    • Profile photo of Rachel Biel
      |

      You have to make sure that the paper you are using is stiff and crisp. Then, I use dental floss or fake gut to sew them and pull firmly, but with enough give to keep the paper from tearing at the corners. You just have to experiment until you get it right, but my guess is that your paper is too soft…

      • |

        Thank you so much for your help. I really appreciate it.
        Sincerely, Dana Chestnut

        • Profile photo of Rachel Biel
          |

          Do you think that is the problem? Is your paper too soft, Dana?

          • |

            Yes, I believe that is my problem. I will followup with you after I try this😊.

            • Profile photo of Rachel Biel
              |

              I think that if that was the problem, you will be fine. Figuring out how to close the bags and adding handles are challenges, too, but you just have to experiment… Have fun!

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