As part of the process of building up to making a MYOG shelter, this weekend I made a few smaller bits…
Before embarking on the tent build itself, I’d decided that not only did I need to prove the concept with a prototype, but I also wanted to get some experience using the actual materials it would be constructed from. After all, I didn’t want to use the actual stuff for the first time on the tent make itself, and then find I run into problems, be they problems handling the fabric, or getting machine settings right. The answer was to use a small amount of the excess fabric I bought and make some smaller items first, so that I could start the tent build with more confidence.
When I was planning the shelter, I also made a list of some smaller items I could possibly make too, and this weekend I raided that list to decide what to go with.
After all the recent prototyping in cheap fabric, I very much wanted to actually make something useful. I wasn’t overly concerned with achieving a top level finish in terms of the sewing: my goal was simply to produce something I could actually use, and that looked ok as long as you didn’t inspect it too closely.
Here’s what I made:
The product page itself also contains links to various videos that demonstrate the techniques involved. However, I got confused between the video and the written instructions and ended up doing the zip wrong – instead of sitting behind the pouch fabric it sits on top of it. The main problem here is the fabric used in the video looks the same on both right and wrong side, so whilst the video demonstrated the technique fine, it was far less helpful to line everything up the right way around. The instructions fell short here too.
So that went wrong. Also the grosgrain tabs you often see on these pouches look like they’ve been omitted, but they are actually inside – yes I orientated them wrong at the key moment. Again instructions silent on help here. I think I was still in a tizzy after the zip fiasco such that I couldn’t work it out with a clear head.
These small problems aside, the DCF was easy enough to work with, the kit went together pretty well, and I have a perfectly usable pouch of about A5 size. And it weighs 16g, and that’s in the really strong DCF.
Rolltop Compression Bag
Next up, it was time to start working with the silpoly itself. I cut off a ruler’s length (approx 61cm) of fabric, allowing myself about 0.9m2 to play with overall.
There’s nothing like jumping in at the deep end and really going for it. So I started with the most complex thing I wanted to build.
On my list of items to consider making was one I had a real hankering for – a sort of rolltop stuffsack that’s wider than it is tall, that makes packing a tent a hell of a lot easier than stuffing it in the narrow end of a more normal stuffsack. This was inspired by a Luxe Outdoor product (incidentally backpackinglight.co.uk sell these now). The whole thing, once rolled down, then has a compression strap around the diameter.
This item took most of my time to make, as the design evolved as I did it.
First I folded the fabric in half to form the bottom, and then sewed the sides up. This was all wrong side out, by the way.
Concerned I’d have little pokey bits of bag into which no actual contents would fit, I borrowed an idea from the construction of zipped box pouches and flattened out the bottom.
This worked really well, and I ended up with something like a 4″ wide tote bag without handles.
Next was to make the rolltop closure itself. I reinforced one half of the open end with grosgrain (in hindsight this wasn’t stiff enough and I should have gone with some more full-on webbing), rolled it over into a hem and stitched it down.
I then rolled the hem on the other top edge. Attached grosgrain and one half of a side release buckle to each end, and I had a roll-top.
Next I sewed a piece of grosgrain along the bottom of the bag in several places, so that loops were formed. A bit of grosgrain poked out from under each end, and on here went the other half of the side release buckle for each side. I initially had these on a more generous length of grosgrain, and then reined it in by forming an additional loop to manage the overall connection length.
Unsatisfied with the compactness I then sewed a length of webbing across-wise to the bottom webbing to form the compression strap. Not having any suitable side release buckles available other than hugely beefy 1″ ones (waiting for an ebay order to arrive), I had to use a line-lock side release instead. I may replace this at some point with a proper side release buckle.
Again I ended up with something serviceable, although I wasn’t overwhelmed with what I achieved. However, I was clearly gaining confidence in working with the materials – all of my problems were issues of design rather than process. I was still doing the odd mad bit of “loss of control” sewing, but nothing that couldn’t be corrected if need be.
This bag was relatively heavy (in the context of this exercise) at 43g. But the smallest equivalent Luxe bag is 184g, although this is slightly larger.
Next I made a long thin bag, the sort of thing that could hold tent poles or an umbrella. Maybe even dis-assembled trekking poles.
This was a far easier design – a rectangle of fabric folded over with the fold to one side. Then sewing down the open side and one of the open short ends. Turn it inside out, add drawstring and then sew down the draw channel .
This last bit was what caused the problems – at one point near the end (fortunately) I sewed into the drawcord itself. This meant it didn’t pull through when closing the bag, as it was basically sewn in place to the bag. I had to unpick it, and then did the exact same again on the second go – although not as badly. I finally got it right though, and I’m pretty happy with the result. Finished weight 12g.
Rolltop Stuff sack
Last up, I felt I ought to make a “normal” rolltop bag. This was basically made the exact same way that the more complicated one was, but without the extra compression or fannying around widening the bottom, and with a lot more competence overall.
This time I used some stiffer webbing for the reinforcement, but stuck with grosgrain for the buckle attachments themselves.
This worked out fine. Finished weight 16g.
What’s next ?
Buoyed by the reasonable success I’d had, I decided I was as ready as I was ever going to be to proceed to the tent build itself. However, before sewing anything, I still need to make the full size pattern, so the challenges of working at that scale will be coming in a post soon.
I’m also going to get some more DCF, and will now move over to making smaller items in the sexier material. Paul at treadlite sells 1.0oz DCF in one yard strips, which at that scale of buy is cheaper than importing due to the astronomical delivery costs involved for relatively small packages.
Before anyone asks, no I’m not planning to make this stuff commercially. The quality isn’t there to compete with the likes of Paul, or Oook, or even the guy on ebay that rips off Paul’s ideas, even if I could actually be arsed to do it.