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Experiments in DIY Adventure Sewing

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Experiments in DIY Adventure Sewing

Posted by Blog 26 February, 2017 Comments off

Hi everybody, Joe here, filling in this week for Andrea on the blog! I recently embarked on exploring some DIY adventure sewing, or as it’s called MYOG (Make Your Own Gear).

When Darren and I initially talked about the idea of doing a project for the blog, I should have expected a few bumps in the road after Andrea’s project hiccups. Having only been with Blow’s for about a year, my time behind the counter has been spent with my hands in vacuum cleaners. The last project I sewed in 7th grade was a gym bag. Along with new customers through our doors, I myself, was unfamiliar with what advances have been made in the sewing world. Through the following project, I learned about these features and the basics of sewing.

My background is far from sewing. In my non-work life I try to spend time outdoors, and more specifically, hiking. For a sewing project, I found it appropriate to sew something I would actually use, an emergency hiking shelter. The concept was to take an existing hiking shelter tarp pattern and reduce the pack size to something you could easily toss in a glove box or small backpack. In the picture below is the final tarp, an emergency blanket, the guy-line cordage, and the tension hardware in sack. In the end, it all fit into the palm of my hand.

I had to take my tarp tent pattern and modify it to fit my needs. To avoid the inevitable errors,I decided to mock it up first with some extra painter’s plastic I had in the garage.


Next, I had to set up a work space suited for 4 yards of SilPoly PU4000 fabric. Fortunately, my 1950’s home is equipped with a 1950’s dining room table with 3 leaf sections. This gave me enough space for my materials and a Janome Skyline S7 sewing machine.


With my pattern and material set up, I began to cut out all the pieces. First the main panels and second the reinforcing tie-out points from the scraps I had leftover.


Time for the fun! Since it was my day off, my 1 year old daughter gave me a hand with the Skyline S7. Let’s be honest, she already knows her way around a touch screen better than I do!


New to sewing and unfamiliar with the features I would come to know and love, I sewed a lot of sample seams and edges on the leftover scrap material for practice. Darren’s sewing expertise helped troubleshoot how to get perfect stitching on such fine and slippery fabric. We found that a walking foot allowed for a much better grab on the SilyPoly fabric. It helped feed both layers along evenly. A top-stitch size 90 needle allowed for a sharp hole wide enough for the stitch to lay in with thicker outdoor thread. My favorite feature, by far, that I became accustomed to was the knee lifter! It made for minimal time with my hands off of the difficult fabric. Also nice is the quick release needle plate. I was able to quickly pop the straight stitch needle plate on for fabric support.


My stitching didn’t come out perfectly, but I felt it wasn’t so bad considering I haven’t sewn in over a decade.


Halfway through my stitching…I ran into my first road bump. Lighting for sewing is key. You’ve got to be able to see what you are working on. Of course, of all times for my light bulbs to burn out in my kitchen, it had to be now.  Luckily next to the painter’s plastic in my garage, was also an LED shop work light! Temporary fix, problem solved!

Next, I had to glue on the reinforcements I had cut from scrap material. I used a glue called ‘Seam Grip’ to adhere two pieces of my coated fabric together. This was to reinforce the points of the tarp that are tied off and under tension.


Unfortunately, the rule of 3 held true. My second road bump came after it was time to sew my edges in a rolled hem and my ridge-line into a flat-fell seam. I made the first length of the edge, about 8 feet of sewing. As I went to turn the first corner the knee lift worked great, but the corners didn’t line up…


I adjusted my design. The rest of the seams lined up. Next, I added some grid-stop strap loops to my tie-outs. I cut lengths of 6 inches, burned the edges to prevent fray, and folded them in half to create a loop. Another favorite feature on the Skyline S7 was the auto-pivot. On the tie-outs, I was able to sew 4 lines across at each end, auto-pivoting to hover the foot above, and turning the fabric 180 degrees to go back the other direction. This made it easier to accomplish than by using the reverse function.


My project was finally complete! I couldn’t wait until my upcoming work trip to see how it works, so I set it up in my living room.


Welcome to Las Vegas and the Vacuum/Sewing Dealer Trade Association trade show. I had down time in the mornings before the convention center halls opened. I decided to drive out to Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area for a little hiking. A perfect way to test out my new DIY shelter tarp!



I woke up before sunrise and hiked up a mountain-side in an area called Calico Basin, part of the Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area just outside of Las Vegas. My third and final road bump was no trees to tie off to or dirt to stake into when trying to set up the tarp. The one thing I did not think to plan for. My usual hiking has either trees or dirt to anchor to. I got creative and found some branches in the valley and some large stones on the mountain-side. And voila, I had myself some shelter from the elements!


As the sun rose over the valley, I sat back and admired what I was able to create.


Until the next hike,

Joe Olson

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