Abraxas Bag

There’s just something about the graphic design on this sack of Rooster rice that I really like, and once it was empty, I decided to make it into a new bag. I wanted to add some embroidery to it, and thought the rooster would make a fun version of the god Abraxas.

The amulets depicting Abraxas are from a series of volumes titled L’antiquité expliquée et représentée en figures by Bernard de Montfaucon published between 1719 and 1724. This is just one page of Abraxas amulets though, and additional pages can be found on Wikimedia Commons.

The image I used as a model is a picture I found on Pinterest because I like the use of negative space for the sun. I tried to find out who its original illustrator is, or where this image is from, however, it’s unclear from a reverse-image search. Given how many times this image has been reposted and reuploaded on different websites, all I could find was several uses of the image with little information on where it comes from.

The snakes have beads for eyes and his left arm purposely has feathers coming out of it. I was going to fill in the arm to make it look more human, however, the feathers coming through give it a touch of that surreal shape-shifting element often seen in mythology.

This project has been in the works for years now. I started during the pandemic and kept at it until I was happy with the additions.

The sticker which reads “THANK YOU MERCI” had to stay, so I embroidered through the paper to secure it to the plastic.

At some point, we acquired another pretty rice bag which I could use for the back. The embroidery I added isn’t as elaborate as the front given it will be facing the body when carried. I added a welt pocket though but accidentally put it in upside-down. The pocket itself is fine but the flap that covers the opening should come from the bottom-up, not the top-down.

This is the lining to go inside the bag, and both sides have pockets in the seam where the top fabric meets the lower. The panel of yellow plastic is from the second rice bag and is used to make a large interior pocket, while the strip of fabric between the barcode and measurement chart is to hold a pen or pencil. The hedgehog and fox were added after learning about the saying by Ancient Greek poet Archilochus: “the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Some friends and I were discussing Iain McGilchrist’s book The Master and His Emissary and we made the connection between hemispheric specialization and the animals which seem to represent them. Here, the fox is asleep so the hedgehog, the right brain, can roam freely. This is where the symbolism ends though; I added the hibiscus simply because it’s a favourite flower of mine.

The handles consist of repurposed belt that I got from Forever 21 many years ago. I like the design of the embroidery which is why I bought it, however, given that it’s fast-fashion, the belt broke a few months after wearing it. Because the majority of the belt was still fine, I decided to save the embroidered part to reuse for something else, and thought it went really well with the bag.

The problem, however, is this belt is still a cheap piece of crap despite being pretty, and it will continue to break apart as the bag gets used. Even now, you can see how the backing is pulling away from the bulk of the belt, and I anticipate it will quickly fall apart if it is used often. So I will try to keep it in good condition, and perhaps glue it back together as it starts to deteriorate. We’ll see, I might end up replacing the handles at some point, but I’ll worry about that later. For now though, the bag must have these handles.

Here, the lining and outer bag are about to be sewn together

He’s done!

Back panel

Front panel

The back panel is wider than the front and squared off on the bottom seam to give it width/depth. The yellow bag has the logo on the side and I decided to make sure it was part of the new bag.

Bottom corner

So, the bag is finally finished. It may never get used, given the handle situation, but I had fun embroidering it and am relatively happy with how it turned out. Sewing through the plastic on the machine wasn’t as difficult as I expected to be, especially sewing it to fabric. The only difficulty I had was getting the bobbin tension correct for sewing plastic to plastic, and wrestling with the stiffness of the plastic as I flipped it inside out after sewing the top seam.

Abracadabra – “I will create as I speak”