Friday, February 25, 2011

Fabric on the brain

and all over the house!  Down, too. Goose down. Floating everywhere and sticking to the carpet!

What a week we've had.  It's been an Appalachian Trail gear sew-a-thon with my sister-in-law, Laura, who will be hiking the entire AT, from Georgia to Maine, this summer.

Laura is a veteran backpacker.  She has decided preferences about gear, based on her years of experience, knowledge of what works and what doesn't, and what she likes.  And because she is short, she says, she can't find what she likes in a size that fits her form.

So, we made it.  Or took existing items and modified them.

We started with two Mountain Hardwear sleeping bags, opened the side seams and joined them to make a double bag.  We had to figure out how to handle the seam between the bags.  We sewed it with the seam allowance on the outside to eliminate bulk inside the bag and covered it at the end with a stripe of polyester fabric.  We were pretty pleased with the serendipitous color coordination!   

I learned a hard lesson about working with the thin nylon ripstop shell fabric and my sewing machine light.    Never, ever leave it on the sewing machine with the machine light on when you go to make dinner.  You can see what happened in the photo above.  While I was making curry, the light was melting a hole all the way through the bag.  Yikes!  

No problem for Laura.  She used some of the stripe fabric and some fiber fill and fashioned an insulated patch complete with embroidered embellishment.  Pretty sweet fix.

The bag above was probably the easiest of the projects.  It holds a water bladder that originally came in a ripstop bag from REI.  Now, not to dis REI because I do LOVE that store, but frankly, their bag was not very well made.  With usage, the opening around the spigot had frayed and the edge seams had begun to tear out with the weight of the full water bladder.  We made this little bag from nylon (thanks to Mary Jo's and a very kind employee who offered to go upstairs and bring out the new bolts of colorful nylon for us).

The bag has reinforced side seams and a ring of fabric on the inside to reinforce the hold where the spigot comes out.  We used nylon webbing for the handle.  I'm hoping Laura will got lots of years of use out of this bag.  I think the inside bladder will wear out long before the outer cover.

 No, we weren't rolling out the red carpet for the cat (see his silhouette against the French door).  This was the length of silk we bought to make an inner liner for the double sleeping bag.  It took a lot of careful figuring and measuring, but we Laura conquered the calculations and we succeeded in making a bag that fit the inner dimensions of the double sleeping bag beautifully.  It has two hoods and should provide a very light weight, soft layer of warmth that has, by the way, a gorgeous drape to it.

We also fashioned a liner out of a polyester blanket by folding and seaming it and installing zippers.  The third liner we made was fashioned from a length of very wide polyester quilted fabric lined with very lightweight lining silk.  This is the largest, bulkiest, but also potentially the warmest liner.  Laura was pretty pleased to learn how to put a binding on and lined the top edges of this quilted liner with leftover silk pieces.

Our workshop.  

My two machines stayed busy  for a week.  The little black Singer belonged to my grandmother and is perfect for straight stitching of any kind through any thickness of fabric.  It feeds really well. (I taught Coty and Laura about feed dogs).  Did you know that's what they're called.  I love the name!

Our last projects were modifying a pair of down booties, making them lighter and warmer by removing the cotton and foam bottom and replacing it with a double layer of down filled nylon taken from the jacket sleeves.  The rest of the jacket sleeves was used to make a pair of down socks, complete with, you guessed it, a silk binding aroudnd the toes.  Laura thinks the binding looks like a smiley face and she's going to embroider eyes on the down socks.  Just for fun!

Here are the vest, booties, and down socks sitting atop the blanket liner.

And here's the creative design genius behind all this sewing, my sister-in -law, Laura, photographing the finished products.
We were pretty pleased with the fruit of our labor.  I can't wait to see how it all performs on the AT hike. Some of this gear will be traveling all the way from Maine to Georgia. (the various liners will be carried as needed and mailed back when it warms up).

Now that all that outdoor gear sewing is done, I'm all warmed up for more stitching.  I'm pretty tired of slippery fabrics, though, and am looking forward to getting my hands on some crisp, pretty cottons!


Peg said...

awesome Beth! :)

Laura said...

Beth, you are too modest! I'd like everyone to know that you were much better at the calculations than I was except for that one night when you were almost falling asleep over the material. I kept talking figures that night as you were asking, "What was that? What?" and I said, "Go to bed!"

Furthermore, your creative genius was as much behind our products as mine was. I enjoyed brainstorming ideas with you!

Beth said...

Well, thank you, Laura, but I know those calculations aren't my strong point. I have to see a picture so your drawings of what we were doing were so helpful. We really were a great gear making team, weren't we! Now, I just can't wait to see how it all performs and how well you like it in action.