Wearing frustration on our legs

-or a story about Christmas past

It’s always nice to make one’s gifts rather than go to the store and buy them. You might save a few dollars and have the satisfaction of knowing you actually were able to complete a task. That was my thought when I decided to make gaiters for my wife and I to go with our new snow shoes. How difficult could this be? I had material and most of the hardware. Sewing, no problem, several machines to choose from. The ordeal started out when I got the fabric pattern.

The Green Pepper pattern company provided the pattern (for a small fee) and I carefully unfolded it and read all the instructions. This was my first time using a store bought pattern, for everything we make the patterns are things we have developed, not purchased. There were a lot of instructions, including one that was hidden on the back of a page stating that there was an error in printing the pattern and that one needed to fix that prior to cutting material. After finding this I felt confident going ahead and cutting my materials.

I admit that “home sewing” is not something I have had any training in. For that matter most of what I have learned about commercial sewing has come from trial and error, the internet and talking with others, basically no formal training. When I think about fabric cutting this is what I see-

Multiple layers of fabric all being cut at the same time. Little did I know that there is another way of doing this that is very common with home sewing.

Let me explain. If I need both a right and left hand version of a piece of material I cut the two pieces out using two different (handed) patterns or just flipping the pattern over. My patterns are not light paper, mostly they are made from plexiglass so you can hold them down and cut around them. This works great for simple shapes and that is what we use at work. The technique used by many home sewers is to take the material and fold it in half. Then they mark the pattern on the top piece of material and cut through both. Amazing, you end up with mirror images of the pattern (right and left hand) in one simple step. OK, it is simple if you know what you are doing and clearly I did not.

So I got through cutting all my pieces out, unaware of the folding trick, and went to put my first gaiter together. Guess what, It wouldn’t work. It was apparent¬†that I had twice the number of right hand pieces needed, and no left handed ones. My first thought was the folks at Green Pepper had really messed up this pattern. There was the one error that they noted on the back of the instruction sheet, maybe they had made more. So I picked up the phone and called, getting through quickly to a staff member who told me that I had not read the small text where it said “FOLD”. It was explained to me that they try to keep everything as simple as possible and don’t expect people with only commercial experience to be using their patterns. This makes sense, I doubt that there are many out there who sew commercially that have not done some home sewing.

The good news is that I didn’t have to waste much material and quickly had both my left and right handed pieces cut out and ready to assemble. Everything went smoothly until I got to installing zippers. I carefully read the instructions, picked up one of the gaiters and installed the zipper. Then I picked up the second out of the pile and began thinking this was easy. I had been lucky the second time and had picked up a gaiter that was the same “hand” as the first. Then came the third and installed the first zipper half only to realize that it was on the wrong side of the gaiter and I had been foiled once again. Take the piece out and install the other half of the zipper in its place. I was on a roll and soon had them finished.

So what did I learn from this adventure?

  • Beware of “hands”.
  • Home sewing is quite different than commercial sewing. I have never had to deal with patterned/printed material and have trouble imagining how much more trouble that would add to making something.
  • The feeling of accomplishment when producing a present is great.
  • These gaiters keep our legs and feet dry!


DIY Para Cord Key Fob

After my last attempt creating something with parachute cord, I decided to try making a key fob using a snake knot and two different colors of para cord.


My current fob was just a piece of cord tied together, nothing really fancy.


End cuts of black and white para cord were lying around so they would be the materials of choice. The first, and what turned out to be the hardest, part of the project was joining the two pieces.


Here I am heating and melting the end of the white cord.


Then quickly heating the black. If we weren’t trying to take pictures doing both at the same time would make this much easier.


Then stick the two melted ends together (while they are still melted) and push them together. You can wet your fingers and squeeze the joint to get it a bit smaller but be careful, the molten material will be hot! Now that the hardest part of the project has been completed, we can start making snake knots.


Put the cord through the slot on the key.


Notice how the black cord is on the left. When you start each knot, the cords will be in the same locations, black on left, white on right. Take the black cord and go over and around the white cord, then back under the black.


Now take the white cord and go under the black, then over and through the hole created by the black cord. Tighten everything up and one knot has been completed.

One thing I learned is to keep the tension on the knots as you tighten them consistent. That will keep everything looking nice and even when you finish.


Keep up the same routine. Black cord: over then under. White cord: under then over.


Quickly you will see your fob taking shape. This is really a simple knot and using two colors of para cord makes it even easier.


I just used my hot knife to seal the ends of the cord so everything would not come undone.


Which gave me a key fob that looks like this. You can see that I was not really great at keeping the tension on the knots consistent, next time I will do a better job.

DIY Para Cord Camera Strap

I wanted a wrist strap for my camera and in looking around the internet I found that it would be easy to make one out of parachute cord. The only problem was the best description I could find was a video produced by a German photographer, Bo Ismono (link to his video) and I found that I was always having to start and stop it to figure out what to do. Also missing were lengths so I had to make a couple before getting it right.

My version of this strap used 12 feet of parachute cord and a 1″ split ring. I decided to forgo a carabiner to keep the assembly simpler and quietier. The cobra knot is what we will be tying.


First you need to find the center point of the para cord.


Then measure about 14″ from the center point


Like Bo, I secured the center of the cord to something I could pull on to make it easier to tighten up the knots.

The first pair of knots are the hardest. Below is the first of the pair-


Now the second of the pair-


Once you have figured out how to tie a pair of these knots you are on your way to quickly finish up the project. Below you can see how I am progressing-


Now all I need to do is cut the extra cord and melt it so it won’t unravel.


Here is a melted end-


All that needs to be done now is attach it to the camera and go take pictures!