[Ed. Note: See also http://www.footbag.org/footbags/patterns/ (the Footbag Patterns page).]
The specific design of the `shell' of a footbag is, from my understanding, what makes different kinds of footbags patentable. Making flat pieces of material join together into spherical shapes is no easy task. The problem is that for any flat piece, there has to be some extra material left in it to compensate for the `bulge' once it is turned into a part of a sphere. While attempting to generate templates for footbag patterns on my computer, I found out that this `spherical compensation' is essentially an unsolvable mathematical problem.
No matter what, footbag design and construction have to rely on both good patterns and good construction. Spherical compensation is critical on 4-panel and 6-panel footbags. The gray area starts around 8 panels. I round the edges of my templates to compensate for the spherical bulge for everything up to 12 panels, but that is because I have a very anal-retentive sewing technique that requires very exact panels. Once you get beyond 12 panels, however, it really doesn't matter.
Of course, to get some designs, you really have to stretch the concept of subdivide/rejoin. The primary `exception' is asymmetrical modification of panel outlines. If you broke a spherical surface into enough little tiny pieces, and rejoined them to the point of having a few large panels, you can get pretty much anything, including the classic two-panel baseball-style Hacky Sack (TM) pattern.
But a simpler way to look at the 2-panel Hacky Sack (TM) design is asymmetrically modifying then rejoining a 4-panel, equidistant pyramid design. Round out each of the triangles involved, leaving a little `tail' on one side of each panel, then join each of two sets of panels by the tail, with each new panel inverted on the other. Of course, you can also create the classic two-panel by modifying a 4-panel citrus-wedge: Flatten the tops of two opposing panels, and widen their bottoms; and invert that procedure for the other two panels. Then join each pair of opposing panels where their new wide bottoms join.
To further muddy the lines between pattern types, consider that a 6-panel footbag is both a perfect equidistant pattern and a modified 3-panel citrus wedge. The 8-panel design is a perfect equidistant and a subdivided 4-panel citrus wedge. The primary distinction that warrants a category all it's own for geometric equidistants is that the number of panels is directly related to 3-D geometrical progressions: The 4-, 6-, 8-, and 12-panel designs are examples. There are more geometric equidistants out there, but I have yet to see the practical application of them.
3 panels per joint at 108 degrees each: 324 degrees - 360 degrees = 32 degrees There are 20 joints in a 12-panel (*20) Equals the magical.... 720 degreesThis principle holds true for every geometric footbag I have ever tested. Wow, my brain is going to melt.
There is really no limit to what you can do with the subdivide/rejoin principle. Witness the 100+ panel footbags the Danes create; they do alot of division and not alot of rejoining. Of course, notoriety awaits those who come up with really creative ways to do this. The Twisted (TM) footbag is a wonderful example of a uniquely subdivided/rejoined 4-panel geo-equi design. That most unique footbag pattern innovation in years was born by cutting up the original triangles of the design into spirals in a way that allowed those spirals to become the three arms of a new panel when joined where there was originally a 3-way panel joint.
Endless opportunities await the creative who want to make new patterns. There's a woman in KC somewhere that occasionally makes a spiral 2-panel design. I'm still waiting to see someone that takes the Twisted (TM) design concept to a 6-, 8-, or even 12-panel footbag. I've also seen some very intricate interlocking-star patterns from a woman in the eastern US named Anna Foot (not sure of spelling).
Another idea that could actually be a terrific marketing idea is to take a basic footbag design and insert some simple logo-based panel into it. Someone would have to come up with the capital to license the logo, but Randy Denham came up with the idea of putting a Chief's Football `Arrowhead' logo into a basic 8-panel bag, simply cutting the logo pattern out of the original so that it substitutes for one of the 4-way panel joints (using certain color schemes, of course). Think whether those might sell during football season, eh?
It might be difficult to improve on the other really different design idea. The Sipa Sipa (TM) crocheted footbag could be viewed as a spiraling series of little-bitty panels, but that description falls short of giving full credit to the seamless, panel-less uniformity of simply weaving the shell out of yarn. But anything is possible. One idea Jeff Haas worked on for awhile was a multi-body crocheted footbag. He made small citrus-wedge shaped bags and then sewed the tips of them together in 4-, 6-, and 8-panel configurations. You could poke your finger right through the middle of the bag and no beads would fall out.
If you've ever considered designing footbags, what the heck, give it a try! If you make them, maybe you can inspire yourself to do something a little bit different. Of course, I'm not going over the actual sewing together of a footbag here, but that's been done before. Maybe I'll do that next issue.