The Lister List

Fastening Bags

On third, November, Keropi asked how to close up a bag of candies (Skittles - what are they?) without using a clothes pin (what we would call a clothes peg in England) or any other mechanical apparatus. My own problem is usually with potato crisps (potato chips across the Pond), which go soggy once the packet has been opened. If I can find one I usually resort to one of those spring-clip types of clothes pegs, as opposed to the simple forked pegs like those sold by the Gypsies.

Having tried to close bags all my life, I don't think there is a really secure way of fastening a bag of lumpy things. The difficulty is in devising a lock. Given a very large bag, this might be possible, but the sort of bag we are thinking of is just big enough to enclose the contents and to tip everything into a jumbo-sized bag would defeat the object of the exercise. However.

I am old enough to remember the days when what were called loose goods were delivered to grocers' shops in bulk. My uncle had a corner shop in Grimsby. After he retired, it changed hands several times and still exists, one of the few corner shops not to have succumbed to competition from the supermarkets. When I was young, I spent many hours in my uncle's shop. It was a meeting place for the local community and all the local gossip was dispensed there. Here all life with its joys and sorrows was to be found. Some lonely people would visit the shop for oddments several times a day to find the company that was lacking form their lives. So I had ample opportunity for watching the packaging of dry goods. The usual dry goods were sugar, flour and washing soda. (detergents hadn't yet been invented and the soda was necessary for softening the water for washing clothes.)

In an earlier day, the grocer had himself wrapped the dry goods in bags folded from plain sheets of paper. I regret that I do not know the technique of making such bags, but it was one of the most important examples of a useful or utility fold. I'm sure the technique must be reorded somewhere and if anyone can tell me where, I shall be very pleased to know. Once the bag had been made, the sugar or whatever was weighed into it and the bag was fastened up without clips, staples, glue or sticky tape. By the time I came along, the grocer no longer made his own bags, and the basic bags were bought already made in bulk. Blue for sugar, white for flour and brown for washing soda. I can remember the bags being filled to an approximate level. They were then place on the scales and more sugar or whatever tipped into them until the exact quantity was reached, allowing, I seem to remember, a little extra to cover the weight of the bag.

Then came the fastening of the bag. Here it becomes difficult to describe without diagams, but I'll try. The bag was filled to within about three inches of the top edge of the opening. Then the front of the bag above the dsugar or flour was pushed forward and down to lie on the top of the sugar. This left the remaining three sides of the bag still upright. The left side was the folded down diagonally towards the right as far as it would go. Next the right hand side was folded down similarly. This left the back side of the top of the bag staning up as a triangle. This was folded over from the top about two times. it was then tucked under the left and right flaps (Now lying on top of the front side of the bag, which in turn is lying on top of the sugar).

This technique of closing a bag containing granular or powdery substances was secure, and normally gave no trouble. Modern bags of sugar and flour whether sold in corner shops or in supermarkets are made in much the same way, but the top of the bag is glued down instead of being tucked in. The reason why bags of lumpy things like toffees or potato crisps/chips cannot be closed in this way is that the surface of the toffees is not flat like the top of a bag of sugar and there is no neat flat slot into which to insert the tuned-down top flap.

Sweets (candies) were sold in their special cone-shapes bags. A "dunces cap" was made (this is easy) and held in position with a twist at the bottom. The top was then either tisted up or, sometimes the top was colosed in the same way as a bag of sugar as i have described. The curious thing is that when sweet bags came manufactured and sold already made to the shopkeeper, they were still made in the triangular shpe of a cone. And I think that some of them still are. This is a curious example of historical inertia.

Packaging is one of the areas of life most rich in utility folds. I have collected them when they have come my way. I have, for instance, examples of folds in which powders for medicine were sold by the chemist and others used for packaging seeds. A friend of mine is the secretary of the Hardy Plants Society, in charge of the exchange of seeds between the members, and I found that his members were using the same design for seed packets as I had previously obtained from a lady who was born in Germany. I have no doubt that exactly the same packets are to be found in North America and other parts of the world.

Another aspect useful folds is the difference between the ways that Westerners and Japanese wrap up their parcels. This was a subject aired in Origami-L some time ago. Envelope and letter folds are other examples of utility folds, but an aspect that has been thoroughly investigated by the Envelope and Letter Fold Association, the members of which have developed it into a branch of creative paperfolding in its own right.

In view of the increasing mechanisation of life, I hope that all the traditional useful folds wiill be collected together before it is too late. I hope that this will jog the memories of other subscribers to Origami-L and that they will share their recollections with us.

David Lister Grimsby, England.

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