DIY Sewing Basics

View Latest Activity

Viewing 20 reply threads
  • Author
    Posts
    • #105488
      JohnnyMac
      Participant

        Someone expressed interest in me putting together a post on sewing your own gear. Now a few things up front. I am by no means an expert but have a few projects under my belt. Also, DON’T waste your time making something you can get off the shelf! Just last week I ordered some Esstac Kywi pouches, could I have made them, I suppose, but it’s almost never worth your time to try to make something you can get off the shelf. As a novice, you will not be able to match the quality of work done by a pro….buy MVT Gear. It’s well thought out and top notch quality.

        There are times where you want something that isn’t off the shelf, want to modify existing equipment or need to repair your gear- that’s the time to roll your own. My goal is to give you some basics (just enough rope?) to get you started.

        A lot of guys will start out with a second hand sewing machine, myself included. Machines can be had for as little as $25 but figure on spending $75-200. A big caution is that machines can be vastly different and, more importantly, get easily screwed up. Case in point, my dad found one at a yard sale and surprised me with it but I have yet to get it working properly. Sewing cordura nylon and nylon webbing requires a substantial amount of power. Most modern household sewing machines cannot handle that kind of work. My ideal machine would be this: http://www.sailrite.com/Sailrite-Ultrafeed-LSZ-1-BASIC-Walking-Foot-Sewing-Machine. It does a straight and zigzag stitch. A zig zag machine can allow you to do bar tacks (there are purpose built bar tack machines but they are very pricey). On a side note, here is a brief discussion of strength of the box X (using straight stitch) and bar tacks (which use straight and zig zag) http://westpacmarine.com/blog/how-strong-is-your-strap/. Chances are though that you can’t justify the cost of a sailrite. My best advice is to ust look for the strongest all metal gearing sewing machine you can, and test it before you buy it. Google the model number to see what its capabilities are. There are so many brands and models, you need to read up on the model before purchasing it. Also keep in mind with older machines, some models will be harder than others to repair due to rarity of the machine and availability of parts. It’s especially concerning as a novice buying a used vintage machine. You have no idea if it’s really going to work for you and it might not be repairable. Some things to look for that are really useful are ability to handle larger needles, a reverse, a strong motor (1.5amp) and a walking foot (kinda harder to find). Here’s more info: Sewing Machine Primer Just as an example, I use a Singer 128 from the 1930s. It is strong and simple (straight stitch only, no reverse), but ohhh the struggles I have with it sometimes! I almost wish it were a handcrank non electric version. With that said, i wouldn’t discount a singer treadle machine (foot powered). In my opinion, you’re much better off getting a machine that you don’t have to fight with as you’re trying to learn the basics of sewing. It’s exactly the same as showing up to rifle skills with a cheap frankengun.

        Once you’ve purchased a machine you need to get a manual. They can often be found as a pdf on the internet. It will show you some of the basics like how to thread the machine, how to wind the bobbin (the thing that holds bottom thread) and how to adjust tension. For a vintage machine, at the very least, you need to get sewing machine oil and clean/lubricate the machine according to the manual. I would strongly suggest taking it to a sewing machine shop to have it looked over. There could be broken parts, belts that need to be adjusted or replaced, etc. They will probably be willing to give you a brief overview of your make/model if you ask.

        Other things you’ll need:
        -seam ripper (you will get lots of quality time with this)
        -shears (you can get by with EMT shears but they are going to dull pretty fast)
        -straight edge (I make do using a level with a measuring scale on it)
        -lighter (to seal cut edges for nylon)
        -chalk (for marking lines)
        -fabric glue (you can make do with a hot glue gun but it kinda sucks)
        -needles Needle Guide
        -fabric/supplies, you can sometimes find deals on ebay, but I highly recommend http://www.rockywoods.com/
        -69 bonded nylon thread (I suggest getting a contrasting color to your fabric to start, so you can see your mistakes easier)

        Once you get your machine cleaned/checked out, grab a scrap piece of your fabric, thread the machine and just start testing. You are going to have to stitch some, then check the stitch and adjust tension. Without the right tension you’re stitches can be anywhere from non-existent to weak and prone to failure. You’re entire goal right now is to understand how to thread the machine, wind a bobbin and get good at adjusting tension. Practice first on some scrap stuff before moving onto your first project. After you have the basics, you’ll have to start getting an understanding of construction techniques.

        This is a brief overview, here are some helpful resources:
        -DIY Tactical Forum https://www.diytactical.com/discussion/forum/riggers-loft/
        -Lightfighter Backpack Tutorial http://www.lightfighter.net/topic/a-backpack-tutorial-lot-of-pictures
        -Whiskey Two Four https://www.youtube.com/user/WhiskeyTwoFour/videos
        -ITS Article http://www.itstactical.com/intellicom/diy/so-you-want-to-sew/

      • #105489
        tango
        Participant

          :mail:

        • #105490
          gramma
          Participant

            Hmm. This is a good start. (I’ve been sewing for 50 years.)

            A beginner is also going to need a way to hold two pieces of fabric together, while stitching. For most fabrics, we use pins. The skinnier the better, as the holes made will relax back into the weave of the fabric, after they’re removed. Longer pins help with thicker fabric and quilting pins will have a bead at the end, making it easier for bigger fingers to manage precise pinning.

            Working with synthetic fabrics, nylon & such, requires a different kind of “third hand”. Binder clips, clothespins, things like this (even magnets) will be real helpful and reduce the need to blow off frustration on the range and keep the swearing down to a quiet muttering. One typically removes the “pin” before the feed dog & foot on the machine, one hand securing the fabric – and the other guiding it along the seam marking on the plate under the needle. I have stitched over pins, working with real slippery fabrics: satin, nylon, etc. But of course the alternative “third hand” can’t be stitched over.

            There ARE iron on seam tapes, which help hold pieces together prior to stitching and they can assist with some things; some fabrics. It’s not necessarily going to work with all fabrics.

            Another tip that beginner’s skip many times, is actually a pro seamstress technique; that’s making a muslin. When you’re constructing a complicated piece, it really does help to make this “practice” item, in an easy to sew fabric first. Bags can have lots of tricky, tight corners to get through the machine correctly – without resorting to the evil seam ripper. Those places might slide or pucker or crease as they go through the stitching process and the “dummy” practice piece will give you an idea about where that’s going to happen. Slowing down and managing your breathing will get your through those steps faster than anything else.

            A free arm machine – where part of the machine’s base slides off – can make sewing curvy, tight corners a lot easier. Not all machines are designed this way.

            For seam strength – usually important on a bag – an old trick is to simply stitch again, in the seam allowance – either a straight stitch or a zigzag – and then trim the seam. I’m also a fan of the felled seam – where the seam allowance is folded under after the first stitching and then stitched down, at the opposite side of the first stitching. You fold the seam to the outside or inside of the bag to make this kind of “finished” seam.

            OH… and practice, practice, practice. Everyone has different techniques and tricks they use. I picked up a few in JohnnyMac’s post, since I’ve been looking for sources of heavier fabrics and threads.

          • #105491
            JohnnyMac
            Participant

              I’m about to post a simple tutorial in which I use a felled seam!

            • #105492
              gramma
              Participant

                :good:

              • #105496
                dnb
                Participant

                  Big ten 4 jm and g. Good stuff.

                • #105497
                  zeerf
                  Participant

                    Johnnymac, thanks for sharing, I will be giving a few things a try in the near future after checking the links you posted. Even if we can buy the things we need now I can see how practice and the ability to build and make your own modifications in a pinch a great skill to have. :mail:

                  • #105498
                    tango
                    Participant

                      Just got my feet wet with a seam repair on a backpack – ugly as sin lol.

                    • #105499
                      farmer
                      Participant

                        Just got my feet wet with a seam repair on a backpack – ugly as sin lol.

                        Lets see some pictures ! :-)

                        farmer

                      • #105500
                        wildbill
                        Participant

                          Ordered a used British ruck from KeepShooting.com should have known that at the price it would have problems, no tears but the foam padding is hard as a rock. Going to need to rip it out and replace any suggestions on how to do it and repair afterwards?

                        • #105501
                          JohnnyMac
                          Participant

                            That’s a tough fix wildbill. You most likely will have to deconstruct the pack, rippig the seams where the sides connect to the back panel. Depending on how the shoulder straps are connected, you might have to take those off too. In my opinion it’s a significant project and you’d be better off getting something else and selling the pack you have.

                          • #105502
                            wildbill
                            Participant

                              Fortunately I have quite a few packs of different sizes so it is no loss it just was to good to pass up – should have known. Yes, from what I have been able to see it would be a major undertaking in spots thought; as a simple (not good) fix I was thinking maybe to cut it in some out of the way areas and replace the foam and then glue some material over the cut. Again this is more of a learning experience on the areas I can learn on and other areas just patch it if it ends up in the dumpster I won’t feel bad.

                              I have a plastic tote full of gear odds and ends that I am now going to see about modifying to be more mission specific after picking up some of the great ideas from this post, so thanks to all that have been contributing to the knowledge base, I’ve been taking notes :mail:

                            • #105503
                              JohnnyMac
                              Participant

                                If you have any other questions, let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them.

                              • #105504
                                tango
                                Participant

                                  Sewing novice back at it again. Spent 2.5hrs and 5 needles hacking up the first half of a bright idea I got the other night. With a little help from @Johnnymac I got the right needles and proper machine setup and the second half only took me 25 minutes!

                                  Today I’m adding some elastic strips to the shoulder straps of my Refactor SSE bag to hold my hydration tube. Hold my beer…

                                • #105505
                                  tango
                                  Participant

                                    Finally feeling like I have half an idea what I’m doing – or the beer is kicking in. Final product:

                                  • #105506
                                    zeerf
                                    Participant

                                      Finally feeling like I have half an idea what I’m doing – or the beer is kicking in. Final product:

                                      looks better than most of my hack jobs so far :good: nice work.

                                    • #105507
                                      JohnnyMac
                                      Participant

                                        :good:

                                      • #121662
                                        DiznNC
                                        Participant

                                          Well, you know, 200 million Chinese do it barefoot, so how hard can it really be, right?

                                          One of my latest projects has been to explore making LBE from rip-stop camo material that can be run through typical home sewing machines. I think this may be a viable alternative for a rural home self-defense team, using commonly available machines and materials, to make their own kit, optimized for their own missions. More of a grid-down initiative perhaps, but still I like self-sufficiency wherever possible.

                                          Wild Bill: that is not an easy fix but it is fixable. Just takes some time and labor. In fact, I take Brit Bergens apart, remove the padding and install an ALICE-type sleeve to accept an external frame (Crossfire DG-16). I still need to come out your way for a recce, so we’ll link up on it.

                                          I have been amazed in the past few years to see what rank beginners can do, with the right machine and what-not. My stuff didn’t look that good for several years. Although I was on a tight budget, with mammas home machine (which I finally burned the motor up on) and whatever surplus materials I would run across. So yeah I encourage everyone to take a flying leap at it, and see what you come up with.

                                          Another project has been to add tuck tab closures to ammo and sustainment pouches. Some of you may remember tuck tab pouches on the early MVT chest rigs. These are similar with some important updates.

                                          • This reply was modified 10 months, 2 weeks ago by DiznNC.
                                        • #121664
                                          DiznNC
                                          Participant

                                            Well geez my pic is too big. I will try and figure out how to get them up here.

                                          • #121792
                                            DiznNC
                                            Participant

                                              Man that sucks; the old links to the DIY forum are gone. Lots of good info there.

                                              Props to Johnny Mac for starting this up. I will add my 2c.

                                              I think necessity is the best mother of invention, with the problem being that we can mostly just buy anything we want these days, so is it worth going to all the time and trouble to learn how to make something for yourself. But I would submit that things could change in the future; being as self-sufficient as possible could be a very good idea. And home sewing has traditionally been one of the staple do-it-yourself projects for a lot of Americans. So if you’re game, I would definitely look into having at least the rudimentary sewing skills for repairing and making clothing for you and your clan. From there it’s a hop, skip, and a jump to basic load bearing equipment. As I mentioned, I think it’s a very viable alternative for families to look into making LBE from the same materials as you might be making your clothes from. It might not wear as well as the Gucci stuff, but then you might be surprised as well.

                                              I think “Grandma” could chime is here as well, and talk about the basics, in terms of tools and machine set up.

                                              If you do decide to also branch out into LBE, here’s a few things to consider. Stay as light as possible. I rarely work with anything heavier than 500d these days. Your home machine may go up to a #18 needle, with “heavy-duty” nylon thread, which is barely passable. If you do go commercial or industrial, then you need at least a #21 needle and no. 69 nylon bonded thread.

                                              Post up with specific machines you’re looking at and we’ll discuss specific details.

                                              To just get started I would look at Rocky Woods Fabrics for darn near everything you need, in the way of material, webbing, hardware, thread, velcro, elastic, etc. And watch for deals on ebay.

                                              For machine parts, folding attachments for binding tape, etc. go to ebay again.

                                              For practice, I would take the thread out of the machine and just practice stitching (just perforating really) a long piece of webbing, keeping a uniform edge distance. Do this until you are smooth.

                                              For patterns, I would buy cheap, torn up surplus gear, take it apart, make new patterns, and see if I could duplicate it. Use cheap material from ebay to practice with. This will give you a good idea of how things are sewn together, what techniques you like, and what you don’t.

                                              Start with simple projects and work your way up. Once you are good at making pouches, a rucksack is basically a big (but complex) pouch.

                                              Post pics of your projects. You might get good ideas from the peanut gallery.

                                            • #121803
                                              JohnnyMac
                                              Participant

                                                Rocky Woods Fabrics

                                                I concur, I’ve bought from them and it’s been all good. It’s nice to have a one-stop shop, especially stuff like webbing hardware.

                                                • This reply was modified 10 months, 2 weeks ago by JohnnyMac.
                                            Viewing 20 reply threads
                                            • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.