Author Archives: penny

Tutorial: soft athletic waistband

First things first. For the purpose of this tutorial, let’s assume you have intermediate/advanced sewing skills, a sewing machine and a serger. I use a cover hem in the demo, but you can get by with a zigzag machine – see video.
Second, I am assuming that you can construct leggings or any garment that has the typical faced contour type waistband with both inner and outer pieces to the waistband. For this tutorial, you should have your garment constructed to the point where the legs are together and you are ready to put on the waistband.


Note: This technique will “use up” a bit of your waistband. Depending on your fabric, you will lose 3/8″ -1/2″ in height. If this is of concern just add a little bit to the waistband before you cut it out.

Setting up: Have your waistband facing and outside ready to go. DO NOT TRIM FACING even if pattern directions tell you. You might want to label the facing. Have some 3/8″ elastic ready to go, cut to length. Set your serger up for most narrow single needle seam. You will only be attaching elastic with the 1-needle set up, not seaming.

“f” is for front of waistband. Facing is not trimmed.
Left needle removed for narrow seam. Elastic foot set for 3/8″ elastic.


The first thing to do is sew the top of the waistband edges together FACING SIDE UP with your serger. The 3/8″ elastic being inserted along the seam as you go.

When you are done, it will look something like:

Topstitching: open waistband out flat, set up under coverhem with facing side to the right, left needle just to the right of the seam. Topstitch. Stitching is on facing side only, through the elastic. Details and a zig zag option are in the next video.

After topsitching, roll the right side waistband so it it right side out with a gentle roll around the elastic. Use clips or pins to hold into place.

This video shows all the steps up to this point.

Now that you have the facing right side out and the top clipped into place, you need to secure the layers. The raw edges will be uneven. DO NOT TRIM FACING. Flatten the layers and secure with a line of basting about 1-1/2″ from the raw edge of the outer waistband.

With your serger, stitch right side of waistband to right side of garment. Be careful not to catch facing layer. Flatten the waistband and tuck seam allowance up into the waist band. Secure, making sure the seam is pulled flat.

Top stitch with coverhem through the waistband with the seam tucked inside.

The seam will be fully enclosed. Trim off excess and you are done.

See the last video for details.

All done!! I will play with ways to improve this technique.

Welcome to Tutorials

Seeing as I am semi-retired, I have more time to make tutorials now. I call them my “Keeping It Real” series as in,…. keeping it real. Most our our sewing rooms are not Instagram perfect and I am no exception. I’d rather share my tips and experience when I’ve got the notion than take precious time out to make my workroom look perfect. I would rather spend my hard earned money on more fabric than matching organizers.

I’ve been sewing for 50 years, starting with horse blankets for my Breyer horses, and now slowing down as an outdoor clothing/technical sewing repair expert. I will be sharing what I get inspired to share so check back every now and then. I am learning as I go – both making tutorials and new things to share.

No theme…. just what I am inspired to share. My YouTube Channel has assortment of videos from masks to magnets, and specific tutorials are covered in blog posts.

Why? Read my blog post on Hoarding Information.

Make a Bike Jersey

Base Layer and Collar Finish

Insulated Van Shades with Tabs

Soft Athletic Waistband

Make Lycra Bike Shorts

Van Shade Tutorial, tab mounted shades

As a lifelong sewist, of course I want to make my own van shades instead of paying someone else. I looked at a few different products both online and in person, and decided “why not?” I have access to materials, skills, and time so here goes…

This is what I came up with for the first iteration. These mount over recessed back door windows, taking advantage of the dead air space for insulation value and the steel to fasten magnets to. This tutorial is for what I will call a tab mount as pictured below. I will be experimenting with snap mounts and flush mount later. Update: new magnet videos added at the bottom of the tutorial.

Not too shabby for v1, eh? I am happy to walk you through what I did. I have lots of different windows in my van, and as I learn more and try things I will add to this tutorial. Why a tutorial? Read my blog post on Hoarding Information… this will explain a lot of where I come from.

About this tutorial and videos: I don’t have a sewing channel. I’m not about a slick set up to get followers. I just want to share what I know and help you to do it better. I jokingly call my videos “keeping it real” because I don’t have coordinated craft containers with a designer look and I don’t have VLOG set up. I have a busy workroom in my basement where I have many personal and work projects going at any given time. I’d rather make a video while I am working than take the time to make my workroom look picture perfect. I hope you find something useful here.

Let’s Get Started!!

First, equipment:

  • Sewing machine, walking foot recommended. New needles size 90.
  • Spray adhesive, repositionable type for fabric (quilt shop)
  • Craft clips
  • Straight edge
  • Pencil
  • Shears/snips
  • Blue tape
  • Flat surface for layout, marking etc.
  • High quality thread
  • Flat surface for cutting

Tips: A walking foot attachment, or a machine with a built in walking foot, will make working with layers much easier. Layers tend to shift when the feed dogs are only on the bottom. Most home machines have an attachment you can borrow or buy.

Materials – links at bottom of list

  • Inner/outer cover: 1.9 oz coated ripstop from OWF
  • Insulation: Warm Window from Joann or 200 wt. Thinsulate from OWF
  • 1” grosgrain ribbon, OWF
  • 1-1/2” grosgrain ribbon, OWF
  • 1-1/4 or 1-1/2 webbing OWF
  • 1” Velcro hook and loop OWF
  •  1” grid pellon for patterns, Joann
  • Magnets,  60 x 10 x 3 mm neodymium magnets for tabbed shades;  Applied Magnets

Suppliers:

Note: I am not an engineer, so I didn’t spend a lot of time trying to puzzle out R value information. Warm Window is a tried-and-true window product. Joann regularly puts out 40% off coupons so I thought I would start with it. I was concerned it would be bulky but I think it is OK. I opted for ripstop covering instead of a cute print as I am very concerned about condensation.

One reason I started with tabs is that getting magnets that are small enough to insert into a binding (for a flush mount) that aren’t super expensive is a challenge. Wider ones that need tabs are easier to find. (.40 each vs $3.50 each!!)

1. Measure: Measure the window opening in the door, not the window itself. Add ½”  or more all the way around (total 1” or more additional in length and width). This will depend on how much you want the shade to overlap the steel around the window.  I find it helpful to use 1” grid Pellon for patterning as you can keep your pattern squared up accurately. Draw out your measurements on the Pellon.  Cut out pattern, mark where you think you want your magnets to go. There will be now seam allowance: this is the finished size of your shade.

2. Cut: Cut each layer of material out. Do not use pattern for cutting yet. Cut layers larger than you need. Example,  If your window is 24” x 24” cut pieces 30 x 30. Cut all pieces (inner, outer, insulation). This is insurance. You need a bit of a margin when working with layers.

Tip: Measure twice. Measure three times! No kidding – once you cut, you are stuck with it.

3. Layout and stacking: Using your flat space, lay out newspaper to protect from overspray.  Using blue tape, tape outside layer right side (RS) down to table, smoothing out wrinkles. Spray with fabric adhesive. Add your next layer, the insulation, with the side you want out facing down to the wrong side (WS) of bottom layer.  If you are using Warm Window, the Mylar should be down towards the outside; quilted side up. Make sure there are no wrinkles. Spray with fabric adhesive. Add top layer, the one for the inside of the shade, right side up. Make sure all layers are aligned straight and evenly.  Reposition anything if you need to. Make sure everything is smooth and press together with your hands. This technique is the same with any insulation you might use.

4. Cutting. Layout pattern centered on all three layers. Make sure there is excess in every direction. Make sure pattern is aligned to fabric grain. You may pin through all layers at the edge. Cut all layers at once with sharp shears. Use craft clips to secure the edges all the way around so you can baste them next.

5. Baste cut edges by stitching close to edge (1/4”) with long stitch on sewing machine. If you have a walking foot, use it as it will help feed the layers more efficiently without shifting.

6. Determine quilting pattern. If you are using Warm Window you can match the quilting for folding with the lines manufactured into the insulation. Quilt line spacing will depend on how you want to fold the shades. Mark quilting with a long straight edge. Do two parallel rows, 1/8” to ¼” inch apart for best folding. Quilt.

Tip: Don’t be in a hurry. Make the time to double check your work each step of the way. Did you miss a place? Is anything missing/backwards/upside down?

Make Tabs:

You need to determine magnet spacing for your tabs and make the tabs.  I used 60 x 10 x 3 mm neodymium magnets and made my tabs 3” wide. To make tabs:

Cut 1.5” grosgrain. You will need 6” per tab. Example: 10 tabs, 60” of grosgrain.

Cut 2 strips 30” long.

Stitch together by overlaying the long edges,

Cut into 3” strips.

Fold each piece in half and stitch the short ends closed.

Separate magnets and get them ready to insert into tabs.

 Clip tabs into position on outside of shade.

Sew tabs into place, inserting a magnet in each one as you go around. Make sure to tuck the magnet into the pocket and DO NOT SEW OVER MAGNET.

Next, get your straps ready. These are the ones that will hold the shade when it is accordion folded up. You will want a longer on on the outside, shorter one on the inside.

Getting ready to bind and binding:

By now you should have a finished shade! Check it for missed catching of Velcro, straps and binding. Everything oriented correctly? Clip all your threads, and go test it out!!! Does it fit? Pull it flat and make sure it’s squared up evenly around your window. What do you think?

As I do more research and develop my own ideas, I will be sure to add to this tutorial. Happy sewing! #vanlife

UPDATE: I’ve added two video about magnets and how to install in the edges. Note on magnets – I say a couple of different sources, but this is what is correct: 1″ x 1/4″ x 1/8″ is what fits in the binding. I have only found these at Applied Magnet. Amazon has all sorts of magnets, but not these. Here’s the link:

1″ x 1/4″ x 1/8″ Neodymium magnets

My Machines, part 4. Long overdue update.

I sold one. I retired two, one to the recycling bin. I bought three… all somewhat specialized for the garment end of things.

First off, it was so sad to retire the 1987 first generation Babylock serger to the recycling bin. It was beyond repair, rebuild, or service. Every piece of metal in the thing was worn beyond repair. Every time I tried to use it something wouldn’t work. I turned to one of my trusted advisers, Ron of A1 Sewing Machine, for a recommendation. He recommended a Juki 644 as a reliable workroom 3/4 serger and he was right on. Sometimes you don’t realize how old and worn something is until you replace it with new. Helpful hint: you can write on your machine with a dry erase: this is the current needle installed. Trust me on this: If you are battling an old machine or one that just never works quite right, quit torturing yourself, especially if you are working professionally. I hate spending money and kick myself every time I hold off getting the right tool.

Juki serger, reliable workhorse

Next, I sold my Pfaff combo serger/coverhem. I had originally purchased it for the triple needle coverhem function, but I never loved the performance of the machine. When I heard that Brother came out with a top cover hem home machine, the 3550, that was it… ordered one sight unseen. This machine is amazing and easy to use once you understand the learning curve that all coverhem machines come with. I absolutely LOVE being able to provide an ultra-professional, finished look when I am altering activewear, baselayers, sweaters or other fleece, softshell garments.

Grey side is top cover stitch; navy is the underside, three needle cover hem.
Brother 3550 Coverhem, top spreader removed.

Why stop there? With retirement looming, I wanted to replace my trusty 33 year old Bernina while I am still working. While it’s very reliable, mostly, once in a while I get a vibe that it might croak on me. I was able to find an Elna 780 floor model and my-o-my it is rather amazing. I appreciated the control and features that I use specifically on garment projects. The harp space is huge and it does everything but make toast. Maybe I am modern but I like the ease of computer controls for eyelets and darning. It has a very wide stitch – up to 9mm for some functions which is very handy for certain repairs.

I still have my needle feed and walking foot and several other machines stashed away.

Base Layer Zip and Collar Finish

Hello all, I know it’s been ages since I posted anything new. Here is a tutorial from the archives. If you are looking for a smooth, foolproof way to insert a zipper into knits or baselayers, look no further.

I will show you how to do an enclosed inside finish,
step24

Even and matching seams,

step13

And a very tidy zipper insertion:

step12

First, thanks to Jalie Patterns for the the zipper insertion technique.  Grey garment pictured is the Vuokatti baselayer pattern, offered free by Shelby Kaava Outfitters.

Let’s get started!!

Zipper Insertion

Part 1, preparation

(CF=Center Front, WS=Wrong Side, RS=Right Side)

Adjust, layout and cut your pattern as usual. Figure out how long you want the front zipper to be, and mark the CF. Keep in mind collar width added to the front panel for the length of the zipper. Mark CF with dots and a 2″ slash at CF.

step1

Sew sleeves, back and collar on. Do not sew side seams; you want to work “flat”.

step2

Check length of zipper against collar fold point and your marks.  I have the collar fold marked with a pin. This is the final width of the collar.

step3

Now, noting the exact placement of bottom zipper stop, mark botton of the zipper with a pin

step4

Turn zipper RS down and going the opposite way it should, on the RS front. Secure the zipper.

step3-5

Where you have bottom of zipper marked with a pin, use a couple of pieces of clear tape on the WS. This will act as a stabilizer when you sew the bottom of the zipper. step5

Part 2, sewing

Now, stitching very carefully, stitch across the bottom of the zipper, RS of shirt up, zipper is RS down and pointing the wrong way. Take just a very few stitches, and backstitch. Even as pictured I took a few too many. You just want to secure the end of the zipper, no wider.step6

Then, you will carefully cut down the CF of your shirt from the slash at top CF, making a “>” at the end of the zipper. Clip EXACTLY to the edge of your stitching and make sure the legs of the  “>” are longer, not shorter.

step7

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.

step9 step8

Turn  the long cut edge and press to secure, making sure there is no distortion. Stitch carefully, starting exactly at the apex of the “V” cut. Use the zipper foot to get close to the coil. Note that on the grey fabric, the edge of the fabric opening is placed only part way to the edge of the zipper tape.This is done deliberately, to keep the opening narrow and undistorted.

step11

Finish both sides of the zipper. If you have been careful, you’ll have a nice, even, small  opening like pictured below.  When you are crossing the collar seams, make sure that they match up on either side Check this before you stitch. Fold the seam allowances towards the collar. This will also help with the collar treatment. Pick off any excess wonder tape you can see. The rest will wash out.

step12 step13-5

Collar Finish

If you’ve done the prior steps correctly, you’ll have a collar attached to your top The zipper should be about 1/2 way up the collar, with the top of the zipper at the desired height of the collar.  One some patterns you may want to trim the collar down. Reserge the cut edge.

step16

Once the collar is trimmed,  finish the top of the zipper by folding it over twice. You can secure the folds with a pin, then fold the collar facing over the zipper tape, RS facing to RS collar. Make sure the top stop of the zipper is at the fold line for the collar, and that the serged edge of the facing is lined up with the collar/neckline seam. Then stitch carefully using zipper foot,  to secure the collar facing.

step14

step15

Do both sides. Check that collar seams and top corners/top stops are even by zipping the zipper closed and checking from the right side. Adjust as needed.

step13

Now for the fun part. We are going to do a “Burrito Style” enclosed finish of the facing. Fold the facing to inside. Use a pin to secure it  about 3/8 from the edge of the zipper, and a chalk or other pencil to make visible marks for that point on both the collar and the facing. (pictured) You might also want to make a marks on the collar facing where it meets the shoulder seam .(not pictured)

step19

Make sure that both the facing and the collar marked:

step20-1

Matching the marks, fold the zipper tape down, and bring the collar facing to the collar seam, seams together, RS of collar facing to WS of shirt front body. Match your marks, and secure the two seams together. The zipper tape and the shirt front will be enclosed in the “burrito”. You should have something that looks like:

Note that the zipper is folded down under my fingers on the left side of the image.

step21

Continue to pin, securing seams all the way from the zipper  to the where the shoulder seam intersects the collar, if not farther. Keep checking to make sure the shirt front and the zipper are not getting caught.

Close up view of the start:

step22

Use a narrow to medium zig-zag, sew your burrito. Start at the chalk marks by the zipper, and the two seam allowances together. Catch only the seam allowances, not the body of the shirt. Go at least to the shoulder seams if not farther.

step23

Go as far as you can before you get to so much bulk folded inside that you have to stop. On most fabrics, you can go at least to where the shoulder seam meets the collar, and on light fabrics, farther. So go as far as you can, then back tack. Carefully undo the burrito checking to make sure you haven’t made any pleats. If you have done it correctly, you will have a nice finished facing. After you have burritoed both sides, to finish the CB part of the facing, just lap the collar facing edge on top of the collar seam edge and stitch in the ditch to hold the facing down.

step24

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:

IMG_4780

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_4777

 

 

See how nicely it zipped up?

 

 

 

 

IMG_4786

 

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

CIMG0051

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

customscreen2wildjerseyf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

IMG_2913

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_2914

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

step5

 

 

 

 

 

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

step3-5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

step6

 

 

 

 

 

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.

IMG_2922

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

IMG_2924

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

IMG_4459

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

IMG_4980

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.

 

 

 

 

IMG_4988

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}

 

IMG_4995

 

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.

 

 

 

IMG_4983

 

 

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

 

 

IMG_4985

 

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.

 

 

IMG_5005 IMG_5004

 

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.

 

 

 

IMG_4981

 

Missing tooth on a vislon (tooth) zipper.

This is not repairable and requires a whole new zipper.

 

 

IMG_5003

 

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…