CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
This application is a divisional of U.S. application Ser. No. 12/685,811, filed on Jan. 12, 2010. That application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/144,531, filed Jan. 14, 2009. The contents of both of those applications are incorporated by reference herein in their entirety.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The invention relates to bags and other items that are compressible and storable.
2. Description of Related Art
Bags of one sort or another are ubiquitous in most cultures. At some point, nearly everyone needs to carry something, protect an item, or carry several things together, and a wide variety of bags have evolved to meet those different needs. Available bags range from utilitarian paper and plastic grocery sacks costing a few cents each to designer purses and satchels costing many hundreds of dollars each.
Most bags present a conundrum: the larger the bag, the more objects it can hold and the more potentially useful it may be; however, large bags can be cumbersome to carry around, and most people need a large bag for only a short time, for example, after a shopping trip. The typical solution to this conundrum is to fold or stuff a larger bag into a smaller bag until it is needed. Unfortunately, many large bags take up a considerable amount of space even when folded. Additionally, a large bag may become wrinkled from storage in a smaller bag. Wrinkling may be acceptable when the bags are utilitarian grocery sacks, but is generally unacceptable with more valuable bags, which are hard to unwrinkle and may be permanently damaged.
Similar problems often occur with other carry-along items, such as blankets, towels, sweatshirts, and other types of apparel. These items are sometimes needed only for short periods of time, yet often need to be carried on an entire outing so that they are available when needed. Some apparel items, such as light jackets, are sold with “stuff sacks” or other forms of storage container that make it easier to carry them when not in use, but those storage containers become yet another item that must be carried and can easily be lost or forgotten.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
One aspect of the invention relates to a compressible bag. The bag includes a sidewall having a generally circular channel that defines an area. A flexible, elongate member or drawstring extends around the circumference of the channel and protrudes from an opening therein. The channel and bag are constructed and arranged such that if the bag is folded toward the area defined by the channel and the drawstring is drawn, the area defined by the channel will be drawn up around the rest of the bag, compressing and encapsulating it.
Another aspect of the invention relates to a bag having a channel with a drawstring that extends across one or more sidewalls of the bag. For example, the channel may extend circumferentially around the bag. When the bag is folded into a volume of space defined between the bottom of the bag and the drawstring and the drawstring is drawn, the bag is compressed.
A further aspect of the invention relates to compressible blankets, towels, fabric panels, apparel, and other items. The blankets, fabric panels, and other items have a generally circular channel that defines an area. A flexible, elongate member or drawstring extends around the circumference of the channel and protrudes from an opening therein. The channel and blanket or fabric panel are constructed and arranged such that if the blanket or panel is folded toward the area defined by the channel and the drawstring is drawn, the area defined by the channel will be drawn up around the rest of the blanket or panel, compressing and encapsulating it.
In particularly advantageous embodiments of the invention, compressible bags and other items are made of low-friction materials, such as satins. Alternatively, items may be lined or selectively with these materials. In some embodiments, the flexible elongate member may be a flat satin ribbon.
Yet another aspect of the invention relates to a garment. The garment has one or more pieces of fabric joined together to define a covering for an upper portion of a human body. The covering has a torso portion, two arm portions connected to the torso portion, and a head opening. A generally circular channel is provided in the torso portion. The generally circular channel defines an area on the torso portion and has an exterior channel opening and a size defined in proportion to the dimensions of the garment. A flexible, elongate member is positioned within the generally circular channel and extends through substantially the entirety of the circumference of the channel such that at least an exposed portion of the elongate member protrudes from the opening of the channel. The channel is proportioned and arranged such that if the garment is folded inwardly toward the area defined by the channel with the channel facing outwardly and the exposed portion of the flexible, elongate member is pulled, the area defined by the channel is drawn out of plane as the channel contracts, causing the garment to be releasably compressed within an enclosure having the area defined by the generally circular channel as an outer surface.
Other aspects, features, and advantages of the invention will be set forth in the description that follows.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The invention will be described with respect to the following drawing figures, in which like numerals represent like elements throughout the figures, and in which:
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a bag according to one embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a front view of the bag of FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is a back view of the bag of FIG. 1;
FIGS. 4-6 are perspective views illustrating the process of collapsing the bag of FIG. 1;
FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a bag according to another embodiment of the invention;
FIG. 8 is a front view of the bag of FIG. 7;
FIGS. 9-11 are perspective views illustrating the process of collapsing the bag of FIG. 7;
FIG. 12 is a front view of a panel of a collapsible blanket or towel according to another embodiment of the present invention; and
FIG. 13 is a rear view of a hooded sweatshirt according to another embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a bag, generally indicated at 10, according to one embodiment of the invention, and FIG. 2 is a front view of the bag 10. The bag 10 of the illustrated embodiment has first and second sidewalls 12, 14 that are joined together along three edges to define a storage volume with an opening 16 at the top. The two sidewalls 12, 14 may be joined together directly or indirectly. For example, along the bottom edge of the bag 10, gusset material may provided between the two sidewalls 12, 14, creating a bottom that can expand, for example, about 5-6 inches. In other embodiments, the bag may have gusset material between the sidewalls 12, 14 at their left and right edges, or the bag may have four distinct sidewalls.
At the top edge 18 of the bag 10, proximate to the opening 16, the edges of the sidewalls 12, 14 may be hemmed or otherwise finished, as shown in FIG. 1. The stitch lines 20 used for the hemming may or may not serve as decorative or ornamental elements, depending on the embodiment. Additionally, a handle 22 is attached to each sidewall 12, 14 near the opening. The handles 22 may be of any type or style, and they may be attached by any method, including sewing and adhesive bonding. As shown, openings with grommets 24 are provided in the top edge 18, and the handles 22 terminate in clips 26 that are releasably secured within the grommeted openings 24. However, as those of skill in the art will realize, FIG. 1 illustrates only one way in which handles may attach to the bag 10. In other embodiments, handles may attach to the bag in different positions, and there may be one handle or several handles.
Preferably, the sidewalls 12, 14 and other elements of the bag 10 are made of a flexible material, such as fabric, although sheets of plastic and other materials may be used in some embodiments. Each sidewall 12, 14 may be comprised of multiple layers of material; for example, each sidewall 12, 14 may include an inner lining layer of material that is sewn, bonded, or otherwise connected to an outer layer made of the same or a different material. Particular considerations in materials selection will be described in more detail below.
As shown in FIGS. 1-2, one of the sidewalls 12 includes a generally circular channel 28 that defines and encloses a generally circular area 30 of the sidewall 12. The channel 28 may be defined in the sidewall 12 by stitching together the inner and outer layers of sidewall material, if the sidewall 12 is comprised of two or more layers of material, or it may be defined by sewing, bonding, or otherwise securing an annulus of fabric or other flexible material to the exterior of the sidewall 12. A flexible, elongate member or drawstring 32 is positioned within the channel 28 and extends around substantially the entirety of the channel 28 such that at least a portion of it protrudes from an exterior opening 34 in the channel 28. As shown in FIG. 1, the ends of the drawstring 32 extend from the opening 34 and pass through a cinching device 36. The drawstring 32 should generally be of a thickness and material that allow it to slide relatively easily within the channel 28, as will be described below in more detail.
The channel 28 in the sidewall 12 of the bag 10 allows the bag to be compressed into a smaller volume of space for storage. This process is illustrated in FIGS. 4-6, which are perspective views of the bag 10. As shown in FIG. 4, the first step in compressing the bag is to place the bag channel-side down (or alternatively, channel side out) and fold portions of the bag inwardly, toward the central area 30 defined by the channel 28. Once all of the material of the bag 10 is folded in with the channel 28 facing out, as shown in FIG. 5, the user then pulls the drawstring 32. As the drawstring 32 is pulled out of the opening 34, the channel 28 contracts and the material of the defined area 30 is drawn out-of-plane and up around the rest of the folded bag 10, encapsulating and compressing it with defined area 30 of the sidewall 12 acting as the outer surface of the bag 10 in its compressed state. To maintain the compressed configuration shown in FIG. 6, the user slides the cinching device 36 along the drawstring 32 until it bears against the opening 34. The bag 10 can be returned to the configuration of FIGS. 1-2 by pulling the cinching device 36 away from the opening 34, opening the channel 28 to its original diameter, and unfolding the bag 10.
The diameter of the channel 28 and the total area defined by it may vary from embodiment to embodiment, and will depend on the size of the bag 10, the type of fabric used, the number of layers of fabric material, the nature and size of any hardware fittings that may be present on the bag 10 (such as grommets 24 and clips 26), and other factors. As those of skill in the art will appreciate, the diameter of the channel 28 should be large enough so that the rest of the bag 10 can be successfully compressed into it when the drawstring is pulled.
Typically, the diameter of the channel 28 is in some defined proportion to a dimension of one of the sidewalls 12, 14 of the bag. In one embodiment, for example, the channel 28 may have a diameter, shown as D in FIG. 2, of approximately 10 inches in a bag 10 with a bottom width W of approximately 14 inches. In general, the area enclosed by the channel 28 may range from about 23% to about 35% (alternatively, about one-fourth to about one-third) of the surface area of the panel on which the channel 28 is placed.
In at least some embodiments, the fabric used for the bag 10 is preferably of a type conducive to the kind of compression shown in FIGS. 4-7, and more preferably, does not wrinkle significantly after being compressed and then released. Satin-type fabrics have been found to be particularly advantageous. One specific example of the fabrics that may be used is given below in Table 1.
Outer Sidewall Layer
Inner Sidewall Layer