The Sew-It-Yourself Sewing Kit Solution

It'll take a little talent and patience, but you can save money and fill your outdoor clothing and equipment needs if you sew-it-yourself with a prepared sewing kit.

| November/December 1979

Being in the great outdoors is always much more enjoyable when you have the proper clothing and equipment, but quality goods command premium prices at the local sporting emporium or department store and such expenses aren't always easy to squeeze into most people's already tight budgets. Furthermore, while MOTHER EARTH NEWS thinks it's great that some people can whip up a hooded parka or sleeping bag from scratch, not everyone has that kind of sewing ability.

The answer to the problem of obtaining moderately priced, quality outdoor gear may be the "sew-it-yourself" sewing kit, which is made up of premeasured and precut fabric (including all the thread and fasteners you'll need to put the project together), and contains step-by-step stitchery instructions. Besides saving you between 30% and 50% compared to similar ready-made's, such custom construction packages offer the satisfaction of doing-most-of-it-yourself; allow you to add personal touches like fur trims, appliques, yokes, embroidery, and contrasting colors; and even help you develop the kind of sewing skills you'll need to start from scratch in the future!

Time and Space

But, while "prefab" kits will definitely save you money and—in the end—probably provide products that are better constructed than their factory-made counterparts, they can be time-consuming projects to assemble. Also, though there are a number of "sew-easy" items available, some of the more advanced kits require a great deal of stitchery skill.

Then, too, unless you're making small items (such as bicycle or tote bags, booties, or mittens) you'll need plenty of room to work, because considerable quantities of material are involved in the construction of a tent, comforter, sleeping bag, or long coat. And, despite the fact that some companies enclose their pre-measured down in convenient plastic pouches, you'll likely still have a small blizzard on your hands when you actually pack your garment with insulation.

One time-consuming job you'll encounter when working with a great many kits is "searing the seams." You see, many sew-it-yourself items are made from rip-stop nylon or nylon taffeta, and it's absolutely imperative to apply heat to the cut edges of such materials to prevent their unraveling. This means that—before seaming 'em together—the pieces of fabric have to be fused all around with a candle flame (and then re-seared if you're working, for example, on a curved seam that has to be clipped in order for it to lie flat). This sealing process must be done slowly and carefully in order not to burn your product or yourself.

An In-House Test

We decided to find out just how much work and talent it takes to assemble some of these attractive items from moneysaving kits. Using four different packages from Frostline (one of the leading manufacturers of sew-it-yourself outdoor clothing and equipment), a quartet of MOTHER EARTH NEWS's helpers-folks with varying degrees of sewing skill constructed four items: a small (16 1/2" X 9 1/2") duffel bag, a "High Country" down vest, a "Decorator" down-filled twin size comforter, and a fashionable "Down Around" maxi coat.

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