Sunday, October 5, 2014

17-inch shoulder bag

Working on some new build techniques and testing out some new buckles.
I'm trying to design a bag that's a li'l easier to sew but without any major compromises in function or durability. I think I'm off to a good start.

Trying out some magnetic buckles from Fidlock. They slide to open. See them in motion here. The magnets are pretty strong, so sometimes you can just get 'em nearby and they'll close on their own -- just like magic. Opening them with my left hand is still a little awkward, but I'm sure I'll master it soon.

On the shoulder strap I have the new GT Cobra from ITW and AustriAlpin, which is a plastic version of AA's classic aluminum buckle. Bomber. The slider mechanism is spring loaded, which keeps the slippery seat belt webbing in place. My next test bag will use ITW's new GTSR buckle, which also utilizes this feature.

The usual two-part front pocket, zippered and open, with pen pocket. This is acrylic-coated poly, like the liner.

Cleaner corner.

Floating liner.

Reinforcement webbing on the acute stitch angle.

Usual one-piece construction.

Trying out a curved seam on the bottom here. This makes the corners less pointy and should make them less prone to damage. The green fabric is cotton duck so this got a ballistic half boot. Looks pretty good, I think.

This looks a bit cluttered. I think the tape should probably go under the boot.

Tied a li'l button knot for the zipper pull. Super cute.

Fidlock buckle action

Here's Fidlock's Slider buckle in motion. Slide to release, mate to close. The magnetic wings on the female (right) end wrap around the male end (left), securing the buckle. Just like magic.

Monday, August 18, 2014


Made a mess of head-tube drink holders. Available in downtown CoMo at Maude Vintage.

Boone Dawdle Bag

I made a raffle prize bag for this year's True/False Film Fest Boone Dawdle. I got my Consew 104 chainstitcher up and running just in time to make the flap art.

Not bad for my first serious effort. Chains in chainstitch: that's funny, right?
The movie this year for the Boone Dawdle was An Honest Liar, a documentary about The Amazing Randi -- magician and escape artist ... hence the chains.
17" inches across the top -- nice medium-size bag in Cordura nylon with acrylic/poly liner.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Things to come

Finally getting my Consew 104 up and running, with pretty good results.
Haven't bought any floss-type embroidery thread yet. Been trying out doubled-up Isacord 40 embroidery thread. I think it has pretty good coverage.
Time to start practicing...

Sport sandals

WARNING: This blog post contains substantial photos of pasty feet.

I guess I have weird feet or something 'cause it has been a challenge finding the perfect pair of wet-weather sandals. I've even started playing around with making my own...

Sandals I've owned:

When I was a kid in the 90s I had a pair of Tevas. They were alright, but guess what: Velcro sucks when it gets wet. Despite the advent of those little rubber bands on the straps, I gave up on Teva.

After college I got my first pair of Chacos:

They were pretty rad for a while, but I got the toe-loop model and it kept strangling my toe something awful. (The toe loop is pulled down, that's why you don't see it.)
And then the strap started irritating a nerve on the side of my foot by my pinkie toe. Boo.

My second pair of Chacos:

The something-thong. I got these for a camping trip in Hawaii. No strap by my pinkie toe, great support: good. Loose, unadjustable straps, weird pressure point at the top cross, and no heel strap: bad.
Though, after some mods, it turned into a great sandal and gave me a few years of great times outdoor.
 But, all good things must die.

The sole started to delaminate (see it bubble there?) and the thong came unglued and pulled through the foot bed last year. Bummer. I threaded it through the bottom and knotted it to get to the end of summer.

Though, on closer inspection, my heel mod was tearing out the cross straps, so the sandal was nearly dead already. And since this is an imported Chaco, you can't replace the straps or resole it. And, I don't believe they make this exact model anymore. There's something similar, but the new model has elastic straps, and the thought of having to alter a new sandal again seems silly.

Luna Sandals (Mono (Monkey)):

From Barefoot Ted and Co up in Seattle: a cool-looking, minimalist sandal. Now, I don't give a flip about barefoot running or "ground feel" but these were appealing to me: simple, lightweight with Vibram soles.

Right away I added what Luna calls a "tech strap" to the elastic heel strap. My heels don't seem to protrude much so the strap was sliding off all the time. And since the heel strap tensions the front strap, this would cause the whole sandal to go limp.

I also have inward sloping ankles and I was having problems with my heels coming off the footbed and hitting the ground. This doesn't happen as much since the sandals have broken in and the heel area has cupped a bit.

How they do in water: For swimming around they are fine -- better than Chacos since they're so light. Walking in and against current is a bit unnerving since there are only three contact points and it feels like the thong might just pull though the sandal. It won't, but the water puts a lot of pressure on it. Also, I wouldn't get in moving water without the tech strap. They slide around more than Chacos, of course, so I recently gouged the bottom of my foot on a rock. Boo.
I should've got a size larger, too. When walking in shrubby vegetation I get poked in the heel.

Lunas have these cool plugs to keep the thong from pulling through the sole.

Looks like they're hinged. Kinda want to pop one apart and see how the webbing fits in there, but I shouldn't. Other minimalist sandals use a knot or injection-molded plugs.

So, Lunas: pretty nice for running around on flat, dry surfaces with normal-shaped feet. Just okay for water sports. (Though, they're not really marketed as such, so I can't really complain too much.)

For other minimalist sandals see also: Unshoe, Bedrock, Branca...

What I've come up with:

I like the DIY construction of the Lunas. The idea that you could take any appropriate sole material and poke some holes in it and make a pair of sandals is appealing to me. Though, I wanted them to be a little more secure. The idea that the tech strap on Lunas is an add-on -- almost an afterthought -- is annoying since they make the sandals so much better (for me).
I got a pair of cheap flip flops from thee Old Navy and have been playing around with different strap configurations. I've been really enjoying this setup for the past couple weeks. Still haven't used them in the water, though.
I'm using the 1" 4088 mil-spec webbing I use to bind the edges of my bags. It's lightweight but not too lightweight -- and it works well with the low-pro ITW cam buckles.
Every strap is adjustable, which I like, since I have such skinny feet.
You can see the holes where I had the front straps knotted originally. This was too far forward and I was having the twisting, heel-slipping problem like with the Lunas. The knot is now pretty close to the middle of my foot, under the arch, and seems to balance the sandal better.
These soles are pretty lightweight and will probably only last a season, if that. After these blow out, I'll get some Vibram Newflex (or maybe just Birkenstock) soles from DIY Footwear and go from there. I don't know if I'll keep the lightweight straps, use heavier poly straps, or mix 'em up.
As you can see, the straps aren't recessed into the sole like with the Lunas. We'll see how long they last.

The knot is formed by cutting the webbing down the middle and finishing with a square knot. I've threaded it through a male grommet to give it more structure. I ended up taking this out and flattening it down after it started poking my toes.

The hole is countersunk so the knot is decently flush.

Made another pair for Jenny's brother to try out:

Spaced out and put the buckle on the right side for each sandal. We'll see if it makes a difference. These buckles can be kicked open, but they're generally well behaved. If I use a heavier webbing in the future, I'll have to use a ladder lock or a tri-glide configuration. The heavier cam buckles are too bulky...though I've seen 'em used on sandals.


Barefoot runners call their flavor of sandals huaraches. In Mexico, huaraches are any leather footwear (mostly sandals) that are woven with one continuous strip of leather. They're often soled with tire rubber. What American runners call huaraches are known as pata de gallo (cock's foot) huaraches down south.

Above is footwear designer Markus Kittner's pata de gallo sandal (and foot). Check out his Huarache Blog for an amazing wealth of ethnographic footwear information. Basically, what I learned from his blog: any strap configuration that you could dream of has probably been made already.

Waraji are traditional Japanese rope sandals. They're pretty sweet.

Print by Utagawa Kunikazu (1861).

I'll let you know if I come up with anything better. Happy trails.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

LL + lemurs

Some friends of mine recently took a trip to Madagascar and spotted some furry li'l animals.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Kite time

Just made my first kite since I was a kid. It's a rokkaku, which is an old Japanese design: a center spar with two bowed cross spars, no tail. Depending on how the cross spars are tuned it's a very stable flyer or a little squirrely and can be used for kite fights.
I'd like to thank Andrew Newton for the inspiration, tips and links. There is an overwhelming amount of information about kitemaking on the internets and it was nice to have a starting point. Check out his blog to see his rok builds.

The rok pattern is built around ratios so you can easily make whatever size you like. This is a 3,4,5er. The unit is the distance from the top cross spar to the top point of the kite. In this kite it's 11 inches. It's 4 units wide, 3 from x-spar to x-spar, and 5 for the spine. So the kite's about 55x44, which, from what I saw, is about a medium rok.

Got some inexpensive kite nylon from emma kites.

You want the warp of the fabric to border the kite, otherwise it'll stretch out (since the diagonal edges would be on the bias), or that's what I hear. In any case, it's what the pros do.

Used some x-pac (laminated sail cloth) for corner reinforcement. Here it is before I attached the spar pocket. Flat felled seams with rolled edge. Used G├╝terman Mara 100 for the seams and top stitching, T70 nylon for the pockets.

I got the spars from Kites & Fun Things. There are about a million options. After a while I got tired of looking at kite spars and ended up ordering a selection ("1/4-inch sounds about right"). Originally I was going to make a smaller kite with a 48" center spar, but when I got the spars I realized I could mate the two Sky Shark II 5PT wrapped tapered rods to make a 56" spar, like with a fishing pole. I guess that's okay to do with these. We'll see. The cross spars are fiberglass with some carbon on 'em.

The bridal contact points are spaced one unit from each side of the center, so they're 22" apart here. Put in grommets reinforced with 1000d Cordura.

Looks pretty snazzy.

Here's a spar pocket.

And one from the other side...

The cross spars are always in their pockets, but the center spar needs to come out so you can fold the kite down. Here's what that looks like.

Sewed the Velcro a little too close to the edge of the reinforcement...getting some pressure points there. Whoops.

This is where the spars meet. Probably should've just done a simple tie, but I was feelin' fancy.

Here's the kite with bowed spars.

A couple of the other roks that I've seen use a little slider to tension the line. I thought I'd go super simple with a loop and knot. The knot is kept next to the loop with a couple half hitches.

Here's its first time up in the air, for a short bit. At this moment the wind's dying. Closer to dusk I got it up high enough to catch some consistent wind and it flew like a champ.