As I continue to delve into sewing projects, I’m beginning to need some repeatability. I’ve managed to put together some successful pieces without patterns so far and the time has come to figure out this part of the equation.
simple pattern making tool
After a rudimentary proof of concept for a new project, my buddy Scott and I spent an evening drawing up patterns on cardboard and putting together a prototype cut from those patterns. Satisfied with the outcome of our prototype, we set ourselves on a mission of production for our new idea. While I cut material using our pattern, temporarily taping the pieces together with iron on seam tape, Scott began assembling components.
The ability to repeatably cut fabric has been awesome, particularly after we swung by the hardware store and bought an inexpensive wood burning/soldering iron to cut and seal edges all at once.
Pattern drawn out on fabric with pattern in the background.
While sewing up the first run, my sewing machine siezed up, throwing a wrench into our production plans, but with some quick transport to Casper via one of Scott’s business trips, we were able to drop the machine with Dave from Sew Fix it. Dave was amazing, not only fixing the machine overnight basically, but also delivering it back to Lander the next day as he made some other deliveries. To top it all off, he gave me a tutorial on adjusting stitches, zigzag stitches and machine maintenance, right at the house!
I brought one of the first batch into the field with me for two weeks of backcountry skiing and when I returned, I was able to finish up the “production pieces” before Scott took off for a float down the Grand Canyon, handing them off to him with a feedback form for our “voluntold” testing crew. We are looking forward to some design feedback, durability testing and most importantly tales of adventure and fun on the big river.
Things we learned in this process:
- Hot knives rule to cut nylon.
- cardboard patterns are easier to trace around on fabric than paper.
- Math skills. This is why they teach math in schools, you may actually need it someday!
- Sewing machines need to be oiled. (oops, thanks Dave!)
- We still have a bunch to learn before we go into actual “production.”
- Scott made his first machine stitches (and did great!)
- Iron on seam tape is awesome when working with lightweight fabrics and washes out when they are all sewn up.
Scott lays down his first stitches on the prototype cut from our very first pattern.
When Mike St. Pierre from Hyperlite Mountain Gear was hanging out at my house this summer I was throwing out ideas for all kinds of things when he playfully mentioned that it’s not the ideas that are the hard part of gear design. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of business or marketing experience, which I think is what Mike was alluding to. Still, I threw out the idea of an ultralight ski pack, perhaps based on the Windrider pack they already make, and Mike seemed intrigued. After reading that I had been taking the Windrider out on some ski tours, Mike suggested that his new Porter pack might be a better fit for skiing. After a brief email exchange where I told Mike about some upcoming ski courses I would be working for NOLS, he sent me out the Hyperlite Expedition, the big brother to the Porter, and I agreed that I would prototype an Avy pouch that would attach to either the Porter or Expedition.
Hyperlite Expedition Pack. Photo courtesy of Hyperlite Mountain Gear.
The Porter/Expedition packs are no frills ultralight packs in classic mountaineering style. The packs are constructed from the same Cuben Fiber hybrid as the Windrider, but features a beefier (but not bulkier) waist belt and shoulder straps. The packs can be closed in either drybag style – creating a loop at the top, or with the removable vertical straps for a clean top. Along each side of the pack runs a vertical daisy chain, to about halfway up the length of the pack. On the rear of the pack run another pair of daisy chains, framing the rear panel.
I spent an evening this week building a Prototype Avy tool pouch that should work well. Overall, I am happy with how this “first draft” turned out, though it wasn’t without its trials and a few ripped seams. I can’t seem figure out pattern making yet. I find it helpful for conceptualizing and laying stuff out, but my sizing keeps coming out a bit off. Easily fixed at the sewing machine though! It attaches securely with 3/4″ side release buckles and remains quickly removable. The pack has three compression straps on the sides which should allow ski carry in the A-Frame method, which isn’t my preferred way to haul skis around when they aren’t on my feet, so I’ll continue to look at ways to incorporate a diagonal carry method with the new pouch attached. After some testing this winter, I’ll send the pouch off to Mike and we’ll see if he can adapt my “train-of-consciousness” sewing job into a refined Cuben Fiber product worthy of his pack line.
Filed under backcountry, DIY, equipment, Fabrication, gear, lightweight, MYOG, Outdoors, Sewing, skiing, ultralight, Uncategorized
Years ago, Black Diamond Equipment came out with a case for ice climbing tools called the ice box. At the time I was deeply invested in the frozen world of vertical ice, I had a slew of gear, ice tools, crampons, ice screws, screamers (who participates in a sport that includes a device called a screamer!) and various other accoutrement. I thought the concept of the ice box was a good one, but I lived in a pickup truck at the time and worked in the mountains all summer to save enough money to rent a place in Ouray Colorado during the winter so I could climb ice.
I had some experience sewing my own gear and figured I could sew a similar case for far less than it was being sold by BD (they were charging way more when it first came out if I remember correctly). I spent a long day sewing this up at NOLS Rocky Mountain in Lander, WY before heading to the icy canyons in Ouray for the winter.
This piece was all scratch built, no pattern, a lot of brainstorming and quite a few seams being ripped and re sewn. It has padded sides, using closed cell foam, can can easily store two sets of tools, a pair of crampons in the integrated pouch (and up to three additional pairs loose inside or in stand alone pouches), a slew of screws in a removable roll-up pouch, and there is a pocket for miscellaneous wrenches, picks, slings, spectre hooks and the like. To date it is likely the most complex piece I have sewn. It’s red too, so you can carry your gear around faster.
Here is what I came up with: