Packcloth is a tough, durable, nylon fabric used for luggage, backpacks, book bags, and tarps. Since most of the fabric is waterproofed, it does not breathe. Keep the cloth out of puddles and seal the seams to keep water out. Packcloth is both lighter in weight and stronger than cotton canvas. Our packcloth generally consists of fabrics in the 400-430 denier range. (A denier is the gauge or thickness of a yarn, commonly specific to nylon fabrics, and is defined as the thickness of one gram of fiber stretched out in a filament one quarter of a mile long.) Contains nylon.
Cordura cloth is like packcloth but tougher and more durable. It is resistant to abrasion but will readily damage other fabrics with which it comes into contact. We stock 500 and 1000 denier. Seams must be sealed to maintain water protection. Contains nylon. Uses include backpacks, luggage, sea bags, duffel bags, and sophisticated rock climbing packs.
Ballistics cloth is a heavier packcloth with a denier of 1050 or 1250. Since Ballistics has a higher thread count per square inch, it is heavier than Cordura. Ballistics cloth is not abrasive, and is usually sold with a waterproof coating on it. Contains nylon. For uses, see Cordura.
Today’s fleece fabric is a high-tech, high performance, outdoor apparel product that is very easy to sew because it’s extremely forgiving. Fleece is extremely warm and soft to the touch. It wicks away moisture from the body, so it feels dry, even when soaking wet. Fleece offers tremendous warmth in comparison to its weight and offers high fashion colors, textures, and designs. Fleece fabric is made by first twisting fibers into yarn, then knitting the yard into fabric. To raise the fibers and create a downy surface, the fabric is brushed with wire brushes. This process makes the cloth compact. Finally the fleece is then sheared and finished. Uses include mittens, jackets, blankets, socks, pants, sleepers, and anything else that needs to be soft and warm.
Neoprene is an extremely versatile synthetic rubber and was originally developed as an oil-resistant substitute for natural rubber. Neoprene is noted for a unique combination of properties, which has led to its use in thousands of applications in diverse environments from car fan belts to wet suits, waders, insulated can holders, sports gloves, pet collars, and elbow or knee pads.
It resists degradation from sun, ozone and weather, remains useful over a wide temperature range, displays outstanding physical toughness, and has outstanding resistance to damage caused by flexing and twisting. Neoprene will conserve your natural body heat but it does so at the cost of keeping you damp if you’ve gotten wet. Recommended care: carefully, thoroughly rinse and let air dry completely. Store in a cool, dry and dark place.
No-see-um netting, aka Mosquito Netting, is so finely woven that it prevents not only mosquitoes and black flies but even the tiniest of no-see-ums from getting to you. Soft, flexible, lightweight, bug proof polyester netting is great for repairing your tent or making a bug shirt or hood.
These 100% nylon outdoor apparel fabrics have poor absorbency (which is why they dry so quickly), and have good abrasion resistance. Nylon is highly durable and resistant to moths, mildew, and most chemicals. It is also wind resistant and colorfast.
Ripstop is woven with a combination of lighter and heavier threads to form a grid-like pattern. Uses include tents, tent awnings, sleeping bags, kites, light jackets, pants, tarps, stuff packs and windbreakers.
Taffeta is lightweight with a high thread count. Taffetas with a thread count of 160×90 or more are downproof. They can be used for many of the same applications as Ripstop and are commonly used as lining for insulated jackets.
Supplex is a lightweight, 100% nylon outdoor apparel fabric made by DuPont which imitates the look and feel of cotton. It is also sometimes blended with natural fibers. Supplex is soft and flexible, can be used for anything from fashion garments to outerwear and ski apparel, can be machine washed and dried, and packs down very small.
ThinsulateT is a synthetic microfiber insulation made be 3M and is commonly used in outerwear. Denver Fabrics carries the UDS type, known as ThinsulateT “Ultra,” which is softer, warmer, with better drape than the original ThinsulateT. We carry 2 weights; 100 and 150. The greater the weight, the greater the insulation provided. Both are double scrim (scrim on both sides of the insulative fibers). Some specific attributes of ThinsulateT are:
Please Note: Nylon fabrics will fade and rot with prolonged direct exposure to sunlight.
These fabrics are not suitable for outdoor furniture, awnings, etc.
Guidelines for Sewing with
Outdoor Recreation Fabrics
Understanding “Technical” Terms
Sewing with this new generation of outdoor fabrics called “technical fabrics” to make “technical outerwear” need not be intimidating. The terms simply describe how the fabric or clothing is designed to function. Coatings, fibers, and finishes are technical features that contribute to how well a fabric works for a particular use, i.e. waterproof vinyl for rain coats, fleece for skiing apparel, etc. Technical outerwear refers to clothing that is highly functional and is probably a simple garment. These garments typically have specific design features (keep out wind, have unusual durability, etc.) and thus need fabrics that enhance their function. When each piece of an outfit is considered separately, one can see why a certain fabric is chosen and feel comfortable sewing with it.
While patterns can be found for outdoor fabric on this site, commercial patterns can be adjusted for outdoor clothing designs. Running suits can be adapted to make nylon pile outfits for cold conditions, and parkas can be made form raglan-sleeved shirt or jacket patterns.
Men or boys’ designs usually have the full cut you will want for freedom of movement and capacity for extra layers of insulation. Men should choose one size larger than usual, and women can use smaller men’s or large boys’ patterns. Any pattern can be customized, and use notions more fit for outdoor apparel use than normal use.
Outdoor fabrics are typically more bulky and harder to cut on a table. Instead, rid a spot of of debris and pet hair on your floor to cut out pattern pieces. When sewing, make sure you keep hot light bulbs away from these synthetic fabrics, and go outside or stand near an exhaust fan if you need to heat-seal nylon seam edges or waterproof rain gear.
If you are planning to sew outdoor fabric for a serious mountaineering expedition, finish the needed gear early enough for adequate field testing. Sewing gear which your survival depends needs to be adequately tested to uncover problems in design and materials that cannot be predicted in the sewing room.
The Sewing Machine
While you may already have a sewing machine, if you sew on a regular basis consider an industrial machine. Most home machines are more versatile than industrial machines, but that means more things to go wrong. While it takes practice to learn to control the speed of an industrial machine, it shouldn’t be a problem if you sew regularly. Carefully check out sewing machines before buying or renting as an hour in the store may save days of frustration at home.
Serger Sewing Machines
Also known as the overlock machine, serger machines can sew up to 1700 stitches per minute. They trim the seam allowance and overcase the edge, making any garment look like ready-to-wear, and is invaluable for sewing Spandex, knit, and woven fabrics. There are three primary differences in the serger when compared to a conventional machine: number of threads, use of loopers rather than a bobbin, and knives which trim away seam allowances.
This is an abbreviated list of some problems to look out for with these outdoor fabrics.
Nylon Fabrics – Nylon fabrics will fade and rot with prolonged direct exposure to sunlight. These fabrics are not suitable for outdoor furniture, awnings, etc.
Curves and Slippery Fabric – Sewing curved seams on lightweight, slippery outdoor fabric can be difficult. To test how the fabric sews, practice on scraps first.
Coated Fabric – Some waterproof coatings on outdoor fabric can feel sticky, preventing material from sliding under the presser foot of the sewing machine properly and/or pushing the top layer ahead of the bottom layer. Lightening the pressure of the presser foot or notching long seams to recognize a “creep” problem are possible solutions to this problem, or putting tissue paper under the fabric while sewing and then ripping it away from finished seam.
Breathable Waterproof Fabrics – Investing in these fabrics means putting lots of money at stake.
Here are some tips to keep them as much intact as possible:
a. Use weights instead of pins when cutting pattern pieces.
b. Keep hands and sewing machine free of oils as they can ruin the waterproofness of the fabric.
c. Pin as little as possible and keep the pin holes within the seam allowance, and remove any tape you use now rather than later so it doesn’t delaminate the fabric.
d. Seam-seal using seam-seal tape all places on the body of the project where stitches have been removed to prevent leaking during wear.
e. Use smallest possible needle to handle the thread as the thread will more completely seal the hole.
Repairs & Maintenance
Some tips for repairing your outdoor gear
Zippers should be removed stitch by stitch with embroidery scissors instead of a seam ripper and NEVER with a razor. It is also a good idea to have snaps or velcro over all zippers. Sliders and stops can also be repaired if need be.
Patching is an opportunity to be highly creative, as most outdoor gear will need patching at some point during its use.
When a backpack begins to show signs of wear, it is a good idea to give it to a general maintenance overhaul: removing the frame, checking seams for weakness and raveling, replacing damaged zippers, and patching worn areas.
The causes of accidents to gear and clothing are typically due to impatience and carelessness. There is a need to shift into a lower gear, go more slowly, and think more powerfully in the wilderness. The carelessness that can cause a nuisance in the city may cause disaster in the mountains. There is no excuse for going into the outdoors unprepared.
Proper cleaning of outdoor wear will extend its life considerably as the buildup of grit within fibers is one of the major causes of weakened fiber. Wash out the grit with a mild soap, but leave the stains as harsh chemicals and “elbow grease” necessary to remove them can weaken the fibers and ruin waterproof coatings. Follow the hang-tag instructions for care. Raveling can be prevented with heat sealing – remember that once raveling begins, it can’t be stopped
Store outdoor gear with care as it is an expensive investment and deserves adequate, well-ventilated storage space. Make sure all gear is dry, and store down bags and parkas free from crowding and compression.
Binding with spandex
Spandex binding adds a nice flat finish to a fleece-cut edged. The stretch of spandex gives a more fitted sleeve edge or hem, and can replace ribbing. Choose spandex with four-way or all-way stretch. It should stretch 75% or more along the length of binding strip. Nylon/spandex is best for this as it has more strength and lasts longer than Cotton/spandex.
Side Release Buckle
Sear all cut edges of webbing by running cut edges carefully through the flame of a candle or lighter. Take care to protect yourself and your work surface from burns.
2 options for stationary buckle ends:
Tooth Buckle End with Adjusting Slider
Thread webbing through the slider, scooting it about half way down. Thread the webbing through the tooth end of buckle, continue webbing through underside of slider. Follow the arrows with the webbing. The slider will have two layers over the center bar.
OUTDOOR FABRIC SEWING/COMPARISON CHARTWritten by Garett@EW on June 3, 2010 – 4:17 PM