More Zipper Problems: 2-way zippers

Common Zipper Problems Part 1, continued

Two-way zippers are very problematic and malfunction a lot.  From a repair perspective, they are a big pain. The main reason they malfunction is people do not take the time to thread them properly. The sliders get misaligned and then  forced  which breaks the zipper.

Examples:

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This zipper was aligned properly. The male pins are evenly inserted at the bottom. One should be able to feel a discernible “click” when this is done right.

 

 

 

 

 

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See how nicely it zipped up?

 

 

 

 

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Same zipper, misaligned. Customer kept trying to zip it up like this, causing all sorts of problems. It doesn’t take much.

 

 

 

 

 

These problems are the same whether you have a tooth or coil zipper. Take the time to zip it correctly!

A Few Laundry Tips

The Special Stinky Bike Gear Recipe:
Soak in “Biz” overnight, at least 12 hours. this is an enzyme
based presoak that goes after organic matter, not your regular presoak.
Then, rinse that out and then run through the wash with a laundry product
called Oxyclean, which is not an detergent it’s an additive. You should be
able to get that at any supermarket.
This is courtesy Judith from www.fabrics.net ~ thanks!!

Getting Hardshells CLEAN:
Have you ever noticed that doing the two step washing process (as per label instructions) for hardshell garments doens’t really get the items “clean”?
Try this method, courtesy Mr. Mender in Sechelt, BC, Canada.
Wash your hardshell item in regular launder detergent. Treat grimy areas with your favorite treatment such as Shout. Then, rinse your item 3 times in clear water. Now, do the two step process, wash and DWR renew. It was explained to me that the wash-in cleaner is a vehicle to prepare the garment for the DWR renewal, and not a cleaner pe se. I have had good success with this method.

Hand Wash:
Did you know that baby shampoo is an excellent substitute for special products such as Woolite? It’s much cheaper, too. If you have a front load washer, you can do hand wash in the wash -yay!!

Sports Detergent:
Save your money and use regular laundry soap with an oxygenator add in.

Bike Grease:
Use Dawn and/or Simple Green.

Dryers:
Heat is the enemy. Line dry things as much as possible. The exception is when doing a DWR treatment. This requires a LOW temperature dryer to be effective.

Down Items:
Down items can be washed at home. Do not use a washer with an agitator. The keys to washing down is a mild soap like Down Wash by Nikwax, and prolonged very low temperature drying in a dryer. You will have to tennis balls to help break up clumps, and break up clumps manually too. It takes HOURS but can be done sucessfully. You can’t rush this process.

Make A Bike Jersey

CB with the the Liberace jersey

CB with the the Liberace jersey

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flowerjerseypinkjersey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(this post is resurrected from a page on the old site.)

To make a cycling jersey, I am assuming you will have some basic sewing skills. If you need a reference, the Singer books on active wear, sergers and stretch fabrics are all very good. For the most part, just follow pattern directions on the suggested patterns, but please review my notes for ideas and tips.

Where to get everything? Use mail order sources. Chances are slim to none that your local chain store will carry anything that you need for these projects. If you have a better independent store, ask if you don’t see what you need.

Suggested fabrics are wicking supplex, Malden Powerdry, wicking polyester knits. See the sources page for mail order retailers. If you want contrast patterns for your jerseys, swim lycra prints are fun to use but do not make a whole jersey out of swim lycra. Figure on 1/3 yard of 60″ lycra for contrast.

Patterns: Jalie 2216, Green Pepper 401 or 402.

Jalie 2216

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sewing notes: For seams, a serger with wooly nylon in the loopers is best. If you only have a regular machine for your seams, use a good thread, sharp knit needles and a stretch stitch.
Look and see if your machine does this stitch: __//__//__//__ ; it is an excellent stitch for seaming lycra.

Fit and adjustments to pattern: Most commercial jersey patterns are fairly long. If you like your jerseys short, you will want to check the length and adjust all the panels of the patterns accordingly. The back pocket may need to be redrawn to match the adjustments. On the GP pattern you may want to alter the neckline. I have dropped the CF neckline curve about 1/2″ as it was too high for my liking. I also like my collars more narrow than the patterns provide.

Zippers:  A 9″ neckline zipper suits me just fine. I use a regular dressmaker nylon zipper in matching colors. If you like to open your jerseys all the way down or close to it, just substitute the length you want. You could also use an invisible zipper but these require a special zipper foot.

Assembly Order: This is the order that I assemble the jerseys as I prefer to work flat as much as possible; this varies from the pattern directions.

1. Put zipper in front, using my method further down on  this page. I do not pre-slit the zipper opening.
2. Put pocket on back panel
3. Sew side front panels to front, sew side back panels to back, sew shoulder seams.
4. Put collar on.
5. If you are going to put in sleeves, do them now, before you close up the side seams.
6. Close up side seams, hem sleeves or bind armholes, hem. I do not like elastic in my jersey hem.

Zipper tricks: The following is the best way I’ve found to insert a zipper into the front of a lightweight knit. This method is courtesy Jalie patterns.

You need Scotch-type tape, “Invisible Wonder Tape”, a few pins and a zipper foot for your machine.

Pictures of this zipper technique:

1. Mark bottom stop of zipper on RS (right side) with a pin.

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2. Put a square of tape on the WS (wrong side) over the pin. This stabilizes the knit fabric and prevents distortion.

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3. On RS, put zipper face down, reversed ( pointing to bottom of garment) on the front, aligning bottom stop with mark.

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4. Be sure you are over the tape that is on the other side, this stabilizes the bottom of the zipper. From the RS, stitch across the end of the zipper, right next to the stop, taking only 3 or 4 stitches, and back stitch. Remove the pin.

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5. Now, slit the front very carefully from CF (you should have this marked) at the neckline stopping about 1/2″ above the stitching at the end of the zipper, and then make angled cuts to the bartack. Crux move: you need to snip to the stitching, angling your cuts to the exact end of the stitching, like this —

step7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. For the next step of actually sewing the zipper tape to the fabric, a nifty notion called Wonder Tape is very helpful. It is washable, and really keeps knits from distorting during this step. Apply the Wonder Tape to the RS of the zipper.

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7. Peel the backing off the Wonder Tape, and turn cut edge at the “v ”, and press along the zipper edge to secure, making sure there is no distortion. Stitch carefully, starting exactly at the apex of the “V” cut. You can use the zipper foot to get nice and close to the coil if you want.

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8. Finish both sides of the zipper. If you have been careful, you’ll have a nice, even opening like the photo below.

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Do you want to change the collar?  I think the collars with these patterns are lame.  They are too wide and uncomfortable. I much prefer a binding.

Measure the neck edge of the collar pattern piece, and cut a strip of your fabric (contrast or main) that length, to what ever width you want of binding, x2 as you’ll be folding, plus 2-1/4″ seam allowances. Fold strip in half longways, right sides out. Mark CB and match up with RS CB on the jersey. Your binding will be smaller than the jersey neckline. Cut with the stretch going longways.

Sew front/back together at shoulder seams. Make CF is marked: I use a tiny snip and then pins to mark the centerline. Slit front on center, about 2″. Now, put on collar binding. The, put in zipper. Adjust zipper length so that the stop is about 1/4″ below top of collar, and install zipper using the above method. You can top stitch an anchor on the collar, or all the way around.

Armhole binding. Cut your binding strips the same length as the armhole plus seam allowance, or just a hair smaller.

Have fun!

Common Zipper Problems

With most zipper repairs, it comes down to being able to diagnose the repair and having the correct part, if it can be fixed. Today we are going to look at some common zipper problems.

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Here, the plastic around the male pin at the bottom of the zipper has completely worn away. The zipper pin will thread into the slider for a while, but it will become more and more difficult as time goes on. This cannot be fixed. The zipper must be replaced.

 

 

 

 

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This zipper slider is bent. Even a very slight amount of bending will affect the meshing of the zipper when you zip it. If the zipper itself is not damaged, a new slider of the correct type can replace the bent one. {sidenote – squeezing the zipper with pliers to “fix” it is a stopgap measure only}

 

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The grab tab on the zipper pull has broken off. This also can be fixed by replacing the slider with an intact slider of the correct type.

 

 

 

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Here, the male pin has popped off the tape of a waterproof zipper. This cannot be repaired and requires a zipper replacement.

 

 

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This zipper slider shows classic signs of wear. Notice the very slight bending and the worn outer “corners”. It is very likely that the zipper was not zipping; not staying together when zipped.  This is an easy fix with a new zipper slider of the correct type.

 

 

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Here, the box has broken off the bottom of a separating jacket zipper.

 

 

 

 

It is supposed to look like this.

This is not repairable. The whole zipper must be replaced.

 

 

 

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Missing tooth on a vislon (tooth) zipper.

This is not repairable and requires a whole new zipper.

 

 

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Missing tooth on a waterproof vislon zipper.

This is not repairable and requires a whole new zipper.

 

 

That’s all for today. I will keep taking photos of zipper problems and post Part 2 later.

Tent Tips: Care and Selection

I repair dozens of tent zippers every season. Many people seem surprised when their tent zipper fails. Zipper slider failure is extremely common, and it is caused mostly through normal wear and damage.

The most common symptom  of slider failure is that the zipper coil will not zip closed,  or separates at a certain point on the zipper. This is typically an indicator of a worn slider. Worn sliders can easily be replaced, provided they are not an off brand. Damaged (bent) sliders will also exhibit this behavior. Coatings on zipper sliders are not particularly durable and wear down easily.

If your tent zipper is not zipping, the slider most likely worn from dirt and grit, or it has been bent from hard use, getting stepped on, being squeezed with pliers, or similar. The whole zipper does not need to be replaced, just the sliders.

 

A good example of how dirty tent coil gets.

A good example of how dirty tent coil gets. This tent had been hosed down but they did not hose the zippers out.

Here are important tips on tent care:

KEEP YOUR ZIPPERS DIRT, SILT, AND GRIT FREE!!!! Depending on where you camp, shaking/sweeping the tent out may be sufficient. More likely, you will want to clean your tent. Set it up in the yard, and take a hose to it. Do not use any cleaners or brushes. A rag made from an old towel will pull micro dirt off the floor really well. Wipe down the seams and spray the zipper coils with the sprayer. Dry thoroughly.

dog ran through tent door

Door Damage, dog ran through tent door

TRAIN YOUR TENT PARTNERS. Do not leave the door lying in the dirt. Watch the kids and the dogs. Open doors fully, do not leave zippers part way open. Roll up the tent door and keep it out of the dirt.

 

 

 

DO NOT FORCE ZIPPERS! If there is a fold of fabric caught in the zipper, work to gently free it. You can pull hard enough on the slider to damage the slider, the coil, or tear the fabric.

CLEAN YOUR TENT: Hose tent off and let air dry, thoroughly. If tent is gritty, use a sponge or rag to wipe dirt off. Never use a scrub brush, harsh detergent, or put tent in the washer. Pay special attention to hosing off the zippers. Note: I have been hearing good reports from people who have washed tents without detergent in a front loader  (non-agitator) machine. I have not tried this myself but you are welcome to experiment. Agitators can tear doors and ties downs, and detergent will strip the waterproofing. YMMV.

NEVER PUT A TENT AWAY DAMP: This is the number one cause of mildew, which eats away at the waterproof coating on your tent. There is no fixing mildew.

Commonly asked questions about tent care, and a few comments.

Lubing zippers? If you want to use a dry lube, McNett sells a zipper lube. Do not use Vaseline or any grease product on the zipper. It’s better just to keep your tent zipper clean and grit free.

Re-waterproofing the fly? Both Nikwax and Grangers’ make excellent products to renew waterproofing and/or DWR (Durable Water Repellency). Grangers’ also makes a combination waterproof/UV protector for fabrics. Order from www.mgear.com  I have not had good success with “K-kote” but others have tried it. It might be easier to just pitch a blue tarp over the tent if the fly is leaking that bad.

Smelly tent? It’s one of two things (unless it got skunked or peed on by a dog): mildew, or hydrolyzation of the polyurethane coating. Neither is fixable. Mildew is from moisture, and hydrolyzing of the PU is due to age and exposure to environmental conditions.

Zipper separates when the tent is staked out taut? Don’t stake it so tight. If it is impossible to not stake it taut without a zipper pulling apart, that is a design flaw. A new zipper or a beefier is not going to fix this.

Floor leaks? You can try to recoat the floor with K-kote. It is a really messy project and results are iffy at best. My suggestion is to cut a piece of blue tarp the same size as the tent floor and place that down inside the tent.

Make a new fly? Absolutely not. If your friend lost the fly when they borrowed the tent, make them buy you a new tent. If  “the rest of the tent is in good shape, it’s just the fly that’s old”, the rest of the tent is NOT in good shape; it’s just as old as the fly. The body of the tent may  not show the age that the  UV-baked fly is showing, but trust me, it’s old.

I’m going to close with my soapbox: “You really do get what you pay for”. Yes, I know you’ve camped successfully for years in your $99 box-store special. I’m happy for you and glad it’s working out. However, here is why I don’t love them:

  1. Low thread count fabric. It’s not very dense which is less weather repellent
  2. Fewer stitches per inch out of really crappy thread – seams are not as strong
  3. Off brand zippers have really soft metal zipper sliders that wear out faster
  4. Blue tarp floors
  5. Minimal fly

I’ll discuss how to identify sliders for replacement later on. Until next time…

Bad Things That Happen To Good Gear

I suppose I should keep a tally but I don’t.

The Top 10 Bad Things That Happen To Gear, in no particular order. Outside of normal wear and tear, more or less…

1. Melting (backed into the stove, embers, dryers, heaters…)

2. Ultralight gear breaking from being ultralight.

3. Dog or other animal ate it.

4. Tore a hole in it. (tree branches #1 cause).

5. Saggy pants splitting at the crotch (wear a belt, dude)

6. Straps pulling out of seams (mostly poor construction, more on this later).

7. Zipper sliders getting squashed.

8. Zippers breaking from dirt and general wear.

9. Zippers breaking from not being threaded correctly at the bottom.

10. Lack of care: salt and dirt degradation of fabric

Now, for normal wear and tear –

  1. Worn down zipper sliders.
  2. Worn plastic on male pin at the bottom of a zipper.
  3. Worn out Velcro.
  4. Worn out elastic.
  5. Aged fabric – worn through, UV degraded, weakened
  6. PU  and other treatments/coatings flaking off

Zippers, Velcro and elastic are all fixable, more or less. The rest? Not so much.

 

 

 

 

 

My Machines, Part 3

{yes, I still have a few more}

This is the workhorse. I couldn’t do what I do with out it. Silly me, I was advised to get this machine a long time ago, but being a cheapskate I procrastinated for years. I fought with an inappropriate machine for way too long.

Artisan Needle Feed with quiet servo motor

Artisan Needle Feed with quiet servo motor

This is a no-frills needle feed machine.  What is a needle feed?  The needle “walks” (feeds) as it pierces the fabric, moving the fabric back in conjunction with  the feed dogs. This makes for incredibly even feed of varying weights and thicknesses of fabric at any speed. Unlike a walking foot machine, the  presser foot does not walk; only the  needle does.  It does not have an automatic backtack or thread cutter, but that’s fine with me. It has a nice, quiet servo motor.  The needle feed has an incredible range. I can sew ripstop to Cordura with webbing. The key is to have the correct needle and thread.

If you want an industrial machine, and do not have someone local you feel good about, please contact Ron Anderson of A1 Sewing Machines

Last, for now, but certainly not least is my Singer Featherweight. IMG_4948

 

 

 

 

 

This machine used to belong to my mother-in-law, who was a very talented quilter. She also taught me to quilt; not like I do much of that lately but that is beside the point. This machine is hugely sentimental for me as it is the only thing of hers I got when she passed. And truthfully, this one belongs to my husband’s sister, but she has given it into my caretaking. There was another one that was to be mine, but…(insert family drama).  A funny story about this machine: I brought it up from the SF Bay Area to Washington shortly after 9/11. TSA officials didn’t like this item at all and I was pulled aside for the full meal deal bomb residue wipedown – for a little old lady’s quilting machine.

Coming up – more about different industrial machines, and “what machine should I buy”.

My Machines, Part 2

Sergers

I have the luxury of two sergers. Sergers are a wonderful tool for working with knits and finishing fabrics.

IMG_4630This Babylock may qualify as an antique. It certainly is of the first generation of sergers that came out for home use. I purchased it in 1987 and it still going strong. I’ve probably used it on hundreds of fleece items at this point. It is a 2/3/4 serger in that it will do 2-thread rolled hem, and both a 3- and 4-thread stretch seam/edge finish.

 

36268_492350889711_4849173_nThis is my Pfaff Coverlock that does several varieties of cover stitch hemming, and this is what a coverstitch hem looks like:

coverstitch on wool knit

What is a cover stitch? It hems and finishes all at once. This machine has been invaluable for professional looking finishes on stretch items, softshells, fleece and more. This serger  also does everything the Babylock does, but I keep it set up just for coverstitching. I don’t use this machine tons, but I am glad I have it for the results it can produce.

triple coverstitch on fleecey baselayer

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coverstitch on powerstretch

Part 3 coming soon!

My Machines, Part 1

I get asked a lot about what machine to use or buy, and what machines I have. I confess I have amassed somewhat of a collection over the years. Some I use more, some I use less. I have pretty much run out of room to add anything new to the stable.  There are  some specialty machines that I would love to have, but needed something three times a years doesn’t necessarily justify the expense or the space.

Some things to consider are that many machines have a limited range of what they can do either in terms of specialty work or the materials that can be handled. With one  partial exception, there is no machine that can do it all. So here is what I have currently:

IMG_4629Bernina 1130. I purchased this machine in 1987  to replace a Viking 6000 that I burned the motor up on. For many years, this machine has done almost everything I have asked of it. It is limited by speed, and for heavy fabrics both by  piercing power and the inability to run heavy thread.  However, it is incredibly precise with beautiful stitches. I love the “needle-down” function, the ability to one stitch at a time, and the buttonhole. I don’t use it nearly as much as I used to, but for precision work, button holes and certain repairs it is still very handy. It has even survived lightning strikes to the tune of $300 in circuit board replacement.

IMG_4628This Rex walking foot has been a shop mainstay for many years. I purchased  it out of the nickel ads 15 years ago. It was a true “driven on Sunday by a little old lady” find.  While the foot is not as high lift as some other walking feet machines out there, it will handle just about anything tough I can stuff under the foot. It lacks real speed, and is not suitable for lighter fabrics. This video illustrates exactly what a walking foot aka compound feed machine does. Additionally, it is designed to run heavy thread and use big needles. Nowadays I use it primarily for repairs involving packs and heavy materials.

More about the rest of my machines soon!

Hoarding Information

When I was working on the new site, my graphics guy asked me, “why is keeping the Tips section so important to you?” The reply was simple: it’s not my information to hoard. Since the beginning of Specialty Outdoors, that has been my philosophy. Competition doesn’t concern me: I would much rather respect and support my professional peers, sharing a few tricks here and there, instead of worrying about whether they might steal ideas or customers. Heaven forbid helping the enthusiastic hobbyist to success with a project!

Here’s why I don’t hoard information. First of all, it’s not rocket science. It’s more a hammer-and-nail scenario. Most of my information I have either found online, in books, or through generous mentors and others willing to answer my questions. They weren’t hoarding: they gave it freely where they thought it could be used, and I do the same.

Sharing information was the very first lesson I learned when I got online back in… 90-something. I ventured onto Usenet, (rec.backcountry) posted my services, and was immediately and thoroughly flamed for advertising on a non-commercial board. Oops. I didn’t know any better as I had read about Usenet in Better Homes and Gardens, of all places. Anyway, some kind soul, and to this day I do not know who it was, emailed me and let me know that the way in was to participate. So I did – advice on repairing gear, cleaning gear, where to find fabrics and other tips, with a one line signature. It has been been fun being a resource, and of course people think of me when it’s out of their comfort zone to do some work.

But – I’m not going to do your homework for you. Please, don’t be lazy as it’s a real turn off. The most common example is someone who wants to do small scale manufacturing, finds me online, and wants me to tell them everything I know so that they can get started. Here’s what I tell them: You need this book. I read it to get informed, and they can too. The author, Kathleen Fasanella, shares her knowledge freely and tirelessly. Don’t email me asking where to get something. That is why there is a sources page!

Kathleen and many others have been great role models  and mentors to me. I am forever thankful, and do my best to carry on the tradition. Thank you to Kathleen, Joe, Judith, Kevin, Patrick, Patrick  and Greg… the range of knowledge you have shared with me has been immense and I am ever grateful.