Since I have been flying kite's I have always admired those that are able to make
their own kite's or modify existing ones and I was convinced that I would never be
able to do such thing's despite being told on numerous occasion's by Bruce that it
wasn't difficult !!! but for me thing's were about to change having been given an
old sewing machine, this is how I lost my virginity.
So where do you start, well I guess the first thing is to decide to have a go, and
if you are reading this there is probably a germ of an idea hiding in the dark recess
of your mind, you just need to encourage it to the front into the daylight, once
you are over that hurdle you need to set about finding out how folk do this sewing
I am very fortunate in that I am in regular contact with Bruce who is an expert kite
maker, he will no doubt be embarrassed to be described as an expert , but he is,
so I had a wealth of knowledge close at hand that was able to answer a thousand question's
that I had, remembering what my old science teacher said when I was a lad " the only
stupid question is the one you don't ask " not sure Bruce would agree when answering
some of the ones I had.
Two other people deserve mention at this point, Old Pete and Rob Brixton who make
and modify kite's and who also had to put up with some idiot bending their ear hole's,
at this time there was also some good articles in the Kite Flier and Midland Kite
Flyers magazine's and I also found some helpful videos on you tube of people sewing
rip stop etc.
So far so good, well you've not actually had to do anything to this point apart from
ask question's, but there comes a time when you have to put all this newly acquired
knowledge to use, so what's next ? getting a sewing machine would be a good start,
as previously mentioned I was given an old but basic sewing machine by a friend,
it was this that pushed me into the daunting world of sewing, it was a bit dirty
so I gave it a good clean and an oil, being able to take remove it's inspection covers
also meant I was able to get a basic idea of how the thing worked.
I was pleasantly surprised to find it was full of manly stuff like lever's, rod's
and bearing's. now comes a tricky bit, sewing machines use thing's like needle's,
threads and bobbin's and they come from a Haberdashery shop pretty much, I found
one in a small town near to where I live so off I went one Saturday with wallet in
hand, outside the shop with hand on door handle I took a deep breath and in I went,
to my horror it was full of women who know about this sewing stuff, I felt a bit
like a gun slinger walking into a western saloon when everything falls silent " oh
I wandered around a bit wishing the shop was a bit bigger so I could hide somewhere,
but then a very nice lady approached me and said "can I help", I explained that I
was about to try and make a kite using ripstop, "oh well you will be needing this
type of needle and thread then sir " "do you have a stitch ripper ?" "a what ?" "
it's one of these " " err, no " ..... and so I spent a painless half hour on a Saturday
afternoon, I was relieved however on leaving the shop that there was no one I knew
in the street so I was able to scurry back to my car without being seen, mission
accomplished, eat your heart out Tom Cruise.
Now comes the point when you actually have to do some sewing, having a practice on
something seemed to be a good idea to me, I had a old two line kite lurking in the
corner of the shed that had seen better day's that I was keeping for spare's so I
had some ripstop to practice on, unusually for me I followed the instruction's that
came with the machine, so with bobbins wound and the machine threaded and plugged
into the main's I made a start.
I have to be honest the first hour did not go well, the thread broke more than once
I even managed to break a needle, so with stress level's rising I decided to have
a cup of tea while I looked at the instruction's again, "ah, felt sure I had done
that bit" so with the machine threaded correctly I made another attempt, this time
thing's went much smoother and stress free, some of the resulting stitching actually
looked quite good, with confidence rising I adjusted some the knob's and wheel's
on the machine to fine tune thing's, I made various samples onto which I wrote down
the setting's used so that I could show them to Bruce and Peter so that they could
advise which setting was the best one to use.
It was obvious that I would need quite a bit of practice before I was comfortable
with the machine, the machine was working fine it was the idiot at the control's
that was the problem, I didn't just want to sew random bit's of material I wanted
to make something, but what ? Rob suggested a banner as it would involve a lot of
sewing and handling of material, I had a banner pole in the garage that would be
suitable, so after a few click's of the mouse on the Highwayman web site a quantity
of rip stop was on it's way, no backing out now especially as I had plucked up the
courage to tell folk what I was doing.
I came up with the design of my Haven flyers banner, nothing too tricky hopefully
as it was mostly straight letter's, I probably spent as much time thinking about
how to do thing's as actually doing, but that thinking time paid off as all went
pretty much to plan with only a few problems to overcome, I was actually becoming
quite confident about what I was doing, I even managed to sew on our adopted logo
of a silhouette quad flier, when it was done I was chuffed with the result, it didn't
however stand out as well as it could, Bruce said it needed the reverse side done
as well, so it was out with the machine again after another trip to the Haberdashers.
I was even more chuffed with the result this time as it looked just how I had imagined,
as I had some ripstop left over I made another banner to hang onto the tail of Daz's
Ostend bird, maybe Bruce was being proved right maybe this sewing lark is not as
hard as it seem's at first, this banner was also the first thing I had made that
actually flew although not under it's own steam.
Valuable lesson's had been learnt making the banner's, setting the machine up became
routine and nothing was quite as daunting as it had been, one important lesson I
learnt was that I could not do this sewing stuff after a hard day at work as I was
prone to making silly mistakes so any future project's would have to be done at weekend's
& non kite flying day's.
The time had come to seriously think about doing a kite, a quad with some venting
in it as that is what I use most, that meant buying a new sewing machine as the one
that I had only did straight stitch and zig zag and I had been told that ideally
I needed one that did a Tricot stitch for sewing mesh, so I brought one from Argos,
nothing too flash, it does a variety of stitches and is heavy enough not to move
around on the table and it cost less than £50, and while I was out buying it I also
purchased some insect mesh from a hardware shop, result.
I knew what I wanted to make a mid vent, now this is where I have cheated a bit,
in the past you would have had to make one from start to finish or modify a Rev by
cutting holes in it at some point, making one from scratch was a bit of a big step
for me given the time I have available and my limited experience and I didn't fancy
modifying one of my expensive Rev's in case something went wrong, but today there
is another alternative as on Ebay there is a number of good quad kites from China
that only cost around £70, if I purchased all the bit's needed ( rip stop, thread,
spar's etc ) to make a quad they would come to more than that, so safe in the knowledge
that if something went wrong I would at least have a spare set of spar's I sent off
The kite was not going to be flown before I attacked it as it is much better to work
on a sail that has not been stretched by being flown, a few bit's needed to be acquired
before tackling this project, some weight's to hold thing's flat and most importantly
some stuff Bruce put me onto called glue gone, this is brushed onto the needle at
regular intervals to stop the glue from the double sided tape gumming thing's up.
Something else I bought was some alcohol as at some point I was sure I would need
a stiff drink as cutting holes in a perfectly good sail still at times seemed like
madness, deciding on the design I was going to do was easy as I already have a mid
vent that Bruce made for me so it was just a case of copying his layout, mine would
not be exactly the same as Bruce usually goes one step further and put's in different
colour panels, I had decided at this stage to just put in some mesh panel's.
It seemed like ages before we had a flying day that was rained off from start to
finish, but one arrived, so the time had come, the sewing machine was on the table
plugged in and ready to go, pre cut mesh panels at the ready, sail marked out with
pencil where mesh was going to be sewn on and my new toolbox full of sewing stuff
by my feet, as my hand reached for the wine bottle I thought it was probably too
early in the day for that to calm the nerves so I settled for a cup of tea and some
relaxing music, I ran through the order that I was going to do thing's in my head,
resisting the urge to run out of the door, deep breath " for England and St George
I really do not know what all the fuss was about as about two hours later one side
was already sewn together and the other side was finished in about the same time
scale, only a few minor problems had arisen and they were fairly easily overcome,
biggest headache I had was when I managed to stitch the bridle of the kite to the
kite !!! I was being so careful not to do that as well as I thought that could happen,
should have taken the bridle off and I almost did but I felt sure I could keep it
out of the way , hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Once I had finished all the sewing I thought it looked pretty good for a first effort
and was quite pleased, some of the stitching in places was a bit heavy and I was
already thinking about how I could improve thing's if or when I do another, however,
next comes the tricky bit, and even Bruce has said he get's a bit nervous at this
stage, back cutting out the material, tea would not be enough this time " where's
the corkscrew " . I was ultra careful with the scissors not wanting to cut a hole
in the wrong place and ruin my hard work, I had a couple of nearly moments but by
the middle of the afternoon I had a mid vent, Hooorah !!! the big test would come
the next weekend would it fly ok and an even bigger test what would Bruce think ?
The next Sunday was an ideal wind for mid vent's, so I proudly attached it to my
lines and it flew better than I had hoped, not long after Bruce arrived and carefully
scrutinised my handy work, one of the many thing's I like about Bruce is that he
does not mince his word's, he say's it as it is, so I held my breath, " hmm " " not
bad " " quite good " then after having a go with it " fly's well, yep that will do
" bloody hell you could have knocked me down with a feather.
Finished, my first attempt at venting a sail.
I would have to agree with Bruce, Peter and Rob it's not as hard as you think, a
bit daunting at first, but most new thing's are, taking the first step is probably
the hardest bit but it is good fun learning a new skill, if I can do it anyone can.
Question is what next ? I fancy doing another one as I think I could make one that
looks a bit tidier and there is was a nice yellow quad on e-bay.
The mid-vent full sail 3 stack.
Daz had another pair flying (one kite in each hand) practice session yesterday along
with some arm pulling 3 kite stack flying, the stack is made up from 2 mid vented
kites and the full sail outer kite, Daz says he uses approx. 7ft stacking lines between
Smart kite stakes from the US.
Friday 9th July.
Draughty days at the Haven.
Colin and Bruce had another couple of windy days flying the Mega vents, on Wednesday
Pete joined them too for some high wind arm pulling exercise.
15th July 2011
Being as the weekend forecast was so dire Roger, Margaret and Bruce made the best
of a grand day on Friday with the mid vents.
One of Rogers early Chinese customised kites, some of the early versions were slightly
larger than more recent examples and this one was fitted with slightly larger mesh
panels than those fitted to the lower kite which has been vented in the style of
the later customised Chinese kites we also fly.
Shaun’s new kite (left) awaiting some wind after being vented.
This version of the Albatross kites is very popular in this part of the world.
Colin’s finger has been pressing that “Buy it Now” button again!
Another vent job Colin?
Back in May Roger had the kite below delivered by mistake, later on we vented the
sail and as it worked out the vented kite flies very well with slightly less pull
than Rogers Revolution full vents.
Another new sail for Roger.
A very nice looking kite awaiting that perfect breeze.
As you may have read previously George is a Quad Kite Pilot that regularly fly's
with us, it was mentioned some while ago that he may like to take on the challenge
of flying other kites, as he is always up for a challenge he thought it was a good
idea, so for the last few months he has been studying hard for his Air law and Air
I am pleased to report that he passed both exams with flying colours and is now fully
qualified to pilot a range of kites, Roger and Margaret thought he deserved a well
earned rest so they very kindly asked him to join them on holiday in Norfolk.
He enjoyed himself immensely, relaxing on the balcony of a beach hut in the sun while
catching up with some light reading, and laying on a towel on the beach when not
making sand castles with his bucket and spade.