Mind the Gap

In between Crescent skirt Sew-Along steps this week, I’ve been working on a crazy side project:  a sleeping quilt.

With the help of my husband (and one of our two cats!), I took on the challenge of cutting large swaths of ripstop nylon and synthetic insulation, inserting feet of zippers, and forcing inches of insulation under my presser foot.  All that’s left is to mind the gap and quilt the sucker.

My husband and I love outdoor adventures.  We’re avid runners and search out trail runs on the weekends.  On our bucket list is to

Follow the spine of the Sierras by running the John Muir Trail.

Yes, run.  All 211 miles.  Stopping along the way to camp and experience the trail, or course.

To run such a long distance, we want to have as little weight on our back as possible, so we’ve been collecting light weight gear over the years.  In support of our efforts, a friend gave us the book Trail Life:  Ray Jardine’s Lightweight Backpacking, and that’s how we stumbled upon the idea to make our own sleeping bag or, more precisely, sleeping quilt.  Ray Jardine and his wife spend their nights outdoors under a quilt that is big enough for two.  For transportation it can be separated into two separate pieces that are each lighter and smaller than a traditional sleeping bag.

Not wanting to start completely from scratch, we bought the quilt kit from the Ray-Way site.  It came with trail-tested ripstop nylon and synthetic insulation, yarn for quilting the bag, a gigantic zipper, a small gusset, and instructions for making the quilt.

So far everything has been fairly straightforward.  I modified a few of the cutting steps to save time and skipped the topstitching step.  The latter was not for lack of trying but instead because I just couldn’t get a nice, even line.  My husband joked that it looked like I was wrestling an alligator while I was trying to slowly ease the sleeping bag through the machine one little topstitch at a time.  I opted instead to run parallel stitches 1/4″ apart with the right sides together.  The most interior line of stitching ended up as the seam, and the other ended up in the seam allowance.  It might not be as sturdy as a seam with a row of top stitching, but at least we know that there’s a backup row of stitches between the outside world and our insulation if the first seam goes.

In order to turn the sleeping bag right side out, I had to leave a large gap at the foot.  I tried following the instructions for closing this gap with the machine, but, again, I had little luck getting the alligator through the machine with any precision.  I ripped out those stitches and plan to hand stitch the gap closed.  I need to practice my hand sewing technique anyway, right?

I’m curious if there are any other outdoor enthusiasts out there who might also consider sewing their own trail gear.  Would you ever make your own sleeping bag?  If so, do share.

5 thoughts on “Mind the Gap

  1. Very impressive – how wonderful that someone makes the kits! I’ve never made a sleeping bag – but I was wondering if you have a walking foot? It would make life much easier…? Sounds like a great adventure.

    1. No, I didn’t use a walking foot. I should have posted earlier in the week so that I could have taken more advantage of this advice! If it turns out that my husband and I do decide the extra topstitching would really help the strength of the bag, then I might take on the challenge of topstitching again – with the help of a walking foot though! Thanks for the advice.

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