Love, Attachment, and Saying Goodbye

very old REI tag

very old REI tag

Over the years, I have seen some amazing classics come through the shop. It’s always amusing when I have the same thing buried in the gear room somewhere. This happens more often than you think. Snow Lion, Petzl, first generation Patagonia and Marmot, Gerry; REI labels from the 70s….great old stuff. Some of it is terrific shape, and some of it is beat to shreds.

I DO understand your relationship with your gear. I get that you romanced and honeymooned in that tent, and your children were conceived in it. Perhaps you summited a particular peak with a certain coat or pack. Maybe you’ve had that day pack forever, taken it around the world, and it still works. Or it did, except for the zipper, My job is to know when to repair and give an item a little TLC, and when to find a tactful way to say, “it’s done”. I always feel bad as I do empathize!

1980: Alpenlite backpack,  wool from Army Navy surplus and Goodwill, Pivetta  5 hiking boots, Epoke 900s and Narrona 3-pin boots in the backpack. Location: Snow Creek trail, Yosemite

1980: Alpenlite backpack, wool from Army Navy surplus and Goodwill, Pivetta 5 hiking boots, Epoke 900s and Narrona 3-pin boots in the backpack. Location: Snow Creek trail, Yosemite

I confess that I didn’t truly get this until we had a family event that underscored this attachment. We used to have a Jansport traildome. The green one with the fiberglass poles? You know it if you’ve been around as long as I have. It was actually my husbands, acquired sometime in the late ’70s.  He and I did our first winter ski trip in it and many many backpack trips in the Sierra, and the Colorado and Wyoming Rockies. We had K-Koted the leaking floor back in 1985, Fast forward to the mid 90’s, when my husband and I are stoked to finally have the kids in their own tent (the Jansport) on family trips. We were camping on the backside of Mt. St. Helens, and over night there was a torrential downpour. Our kids roused us because the inside of the tent was a lake. Sigh. It was obvious: this tent was at the end of its life. How could that be? All I know is that it felt horrible and somehow wrong to toss it in a dumpster, but that’s what I did. Would a little farewell ceremony have been better? I’m not sure about that but I still recall the angst.

 

How do you know when it’s time to toss? Things like Velcro, snaps, zippers, and drawstrings are an easy fix. If the item needs patching, is the patch now going to be the strongest part of the item? This is not a good thing. How about the base fabric? Is it in good condition or is it showing signs of fading, thread breakdown, or UV-induced weakness? For tents especially, UV breakdown of the fabric and breakdown of the coatings is a sure sign of an elderly tent. Mildew and flakey coatings are unrepairable. In my experience, there is no good fix for worn floors or worn flies.  If you must use your tent on its last legs, the blue tarp fix (over the tent,  and/ or another one inside and on the floor) is the only real way to stay dry.

I can’t tell you the right way to say goodbye to beloved old gear. Whether you toss it,  tuck it into the rafters of your garage, or have a memorial ritual is up to you. What I can tell you is how to take care of what you do have, and make it last as long as it possibly can.

Happy Trails until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

Working With Silnylon

This is the first of several articles from the “old” site that I will be reissuing on the blog. I have some great info on tarps along with a file full of assorted schematics that I plan to put together in a tarps entry coming up.

Silnylon is silicon impregnated ripstop nylon. It is extremely waterproof, extremely lightweight (1.1 oz. per yard), and extremely durable. Ultralight backpackers love it for this reason. It’s a little tricky to work with, but making your own gear out of silnylon is very rewarding.  Tarps, tarptents, raingear and even re-usable shopping bags can be made with silnylon.

You can find it at Thru-hiker.com, Outdoors Wilderness Fabrics. Check the Sources page for additional suppliers.

Sewing:

  • use “taut sewing”: apply tension to the fabric with your hands, in front of and in back of the needle. The object is to tension the fabric, not pull it through.
  • use a good quality polyester thread
  • a walking foot (even feed) is a very helpful accessory
  • Use a #80 or 90 needle and make sure it is new and sharp

 

Pinning:

  • glue stick
  • binder clips
  • pins in seam allowance

 
Cutting:

  • use SHARP shears.
  • try hot cutting two layers with a soldering iron, using a sheet of glass underneath. This will seal your cut edge so it won’t ravel, and if your two edges are going to be seamed anyway it will hold them together.
  • rotary cutter with mat

 
Seam ideas:

  • Plain Hem: fold 3/4″ twice and edgestitch.
  • Mock flat fell seam: illustrated here. To make a “mock” felled seam, use a 1″and 1/2″ seam allowances, and fold the longer one around, then top stitch
  • Seam illustrated at Ayce’s Workshop

 
Sealing silnylon: use McNett Silnet.

Welcome to the New Site and Blog

Welcome to the new Specialty Outdoors site and the new blog. I’m excited to bring this live!  The hand-coded 1997 version was overdue for a makeover.  It’s been a while in the works: after some futile attempts to update the site myself, I realized I was in over my head and went to plan B, hiring some pros to help me do it. So, first of all, big thanks to Nile Sprague of www.nilestyle.com for the web help and Ted Moon of MoonVue Graphics for the graphics.

I love the new look, and hope you do too. My intent is to provide clear information about the business side of Specialty Outdoors, and to bring freshness to the “Tips” section. I may muse a little about my work.  Don’t freak if you can’t find some of the tips you may have had bookmarked: older material will be updated via blog entries, and I hope to introduce new material as I go along.

Where does “Badass Sewing for Dirtbags” come from? Not too long ago, I was introducing myself to one of the new ski patrollers at our home mountain, and that’s what he said: “I’ve heard about you! You do badass sewing for dirtbags!” That made my day, and it beats the heck out being The Zipper Lady.

You can follow me  on Facebook or right here.

Stay tuned and thanks!!