Synthwave Bag

After experimenting with 3D printing on tulle, I was ready and excited to do a full project that will integrate patchwork and 3D prints on fabric. The idea for the project conveniently showed up: a synthwave bag! Synthwave (revival and reimagining of the 80’s synthesizer dominated pop music) features a graphic style that incorporates elements from early computer graphics, striped sun setting over a grid plane, palm trees, low poly landscapes or cityscapes, perhaps a classic exotic car, and lots of magentas and purples, with certain substyles gravitating towards sci-fi and cyberpunk. ChillSynth FM has been streaming in my living room for months, and from there I’ve picked out some tracks for my favorites playlist, ChillAbsynthMF.

It wasn’t long before I had a clear idea in my mind about how to put this together: the low poly mountains will be made with different shades of blue and stitched together with foundation paper piecing (FPP) technique. The sky will be made from different stripes of solid color fabrics, and there will be a road with quilted perspective grid, while the sun, palm trees and some text will be 3D printed on tulle, and stitched onto the quilt.

My initial thought was to build a low poly mountains in 3D and then take a snapshot and recreate them in Illustrator to get the most authentic low poly look. However, I ended up drawing triangles in Illustrator to form mountain range, because that way I was able to get neat triangle strips that can be easily converted to FPP blocks for sewing. Instead of printing the pattern for each strip of the sky, I used Illustrator’s ability to divide large shapes into multiple pages for printing via “ignore artboard” option in print settings. I ended up with a shape of the sky printed on four pages; I cut the margins off and taped the pieces together, then used resulting shape to gauge how long of a strip I would need for each section of the sky. Here is what the design looked like:

And here comes an illustrated rundown of the process:

As depicted, I’ve made patterns for the strips of triangles, which I then used for paper piecing. The completed strips, pictured above in the middle, were then pieced together by hand with running stitch, to ensure accuracy yet end up with slightly different looking seams. The bottom part was easy. I chose black for the ground and grey for the road.

I brought into Maya the shape of the Sun from Illustrator, but at the time I wasn’t aware of the trick to export .ai file in legacy Illustrator 8 format (which has no options), and instead only went as far back as Illustrator 10, which does this annoying scrambling of shapes, where they’ll import and turn into beveled shapes with their relative positions lost, so they’ll be stacked on top of each other, and would then have to be manually arranged by aligning them to the design by bringing it in for reference – at least that was a workaround I resorted to, once. Regardless, the sun shape would be perhaps even easier to build directly in Maya, with progressively thicker lines being created with duplicate special command and scaling in one axis, then used for Boolean subtract from cylinder shape.

I had some nozzle clogging issues with orange PETG, but was still able to get a decent print of the sun on tulle, although the clogging manifesting as uneven extrusion has returned afterwards, so I bought a replacement hot end for my CR6SE, along with spare silicon socks for heating block, spare brass nozzles, and 100g of cleaning filament. Finally, the printer was doing a good job consistently again. I’ve done a few tests of the palm tree trunk. I wanted it to be flexible, made out of overlapping segments, so I employed a couple of modeling strategies, and the one that finally worked and didn’t produce any fused segments was duplication of a single segment along a curve via Maya’s Visualize > Create Animation Snapshot command, so that the keyframe at the end of the path also has the scale keyed, so that the shape gets progressively smaller. But instead of creating a hollow shape, I made a solid one, then duplicated the next one, enlarged it by about .5mm and then subtracted it from previous shape, since only this way I would end up with consistent gap between the segments so that none would be fused. I went with the silk purple-gold PLA, and it looked good, except that a couple of little pieces broke off, all of which I was able to glue back on. Overall it doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall apart, but there is certain fragility to it, because the print isn’t perfectly smooth (I didn’t think of polishing it), so the bits of ooze will get caught by fibers rubbing against it. I’ll keep experimenting to find out what works.

For the text, I found a font that looked appropriate for the style and printed it in silk magenta PLA. I only used machine to stitch in the sun, the rest was stitched by hand, using the thread color that matched the background so that the stitching blends in and doesn’t stick out too much. The sun wasn’t sitting exactly in alignment with the lines of the sky and horizon, so I put in a few stitches by hand between the lines of the sun to get it properly oriented, as it shifted slightly after I went around it with the machine. The tulle was then trimmed, and it was time to put it all together. I had some leftover stripes from the sky and didn’t know what to do with them, so I ended up putting an inner double welt pocket and an extra patch of magenta fabric, and used that as a panel for the lining, and the rest of the lining is made out of purple costume satin, with a larger zippered pocket on the opposite side to double welted one, which fits a cellphone. Overall, I think this bag is sturdy enough for grocery shopping, even though I didn’t run the handle straps further down. And if it’s used with a bit of care so that the side with 3D prints doesn’t rub against other objects too much, it will likely stay in good shape. I am looking to get a Qidi iFast printer, to be able to do high temp printing in heated chamber, which would then allow me to use ABS and ASA filaments and have less worry about breakage, since PLA is one of the most fragile filaments. The downside is that it’s usually only PLA that has fancy look, such as silk, dual color, wood, rock, glitter and so on.

I didn’t make this pattern available, but if you’d like to do this project yourself, let me know in the comments.

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