Confession's of a sewing virgin.

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 lark.


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 heck ".


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 my order.

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 the kites.

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.

November 2011

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.





December 2011

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.


George update.

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 Navigation exams.


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.

Congratulations George.



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