Monday, June 13, 2011

Stitch Lab: Chalk Bag

Why are chalk bags so luxurious these days? We strive to be hardmen, yet we dip our hands into a cushy fleece liner as if it's our childhood blankie. Every chalk bag I've seen is full-featured -- nice for everyday use but inexcusable overkill for the weight conscious.

Thus, the Alpine Chalk Sack.

The concept is a bare bones farm tractor of a chalk vehicle -- no draw string, no liner, a subtle stiffener, and an overall compact size. I whipped this bad boy up this morning as a very rough prototype. The main body is a simple cylinder, 6.5 inches tall by 4 across, with a roundish bottom. The fabric is old boxers, the stiffener is a double layer of old boxers, and the belt attachment points are from an old backpack strap. The five pieces are held together with light poly thread; the main body uses welt seams and the belt attachments use a bar tack style stitch (forward, back, then zig-zag). Shortcomings are numerous and obvious: the fabric breathes a lot of chalk, the stiffener is insufficient (I climbed this afternoon with it and fumbled to find the opening), I did almost no measuring or planning for the size and shape, and I'm not very good at sewing.

What's next?
  • Material. I'm thinking sil nylon for it's simple durability, light weight, and impermeability. There may be, however, practicality in having the inner surface uncoated to allow a layer of chalk to impregnate, to aid in chalking up.
  • Shape. This one is close. A tapered cylinder, wider at top, may be more useable and reduce excess material at the bottom. A shorter body may make the chalk feel more accessible.
  • Stiffener. A wrap of nylon webbing would surely be closer to ideal, and the detail of how to finish the rim will affect durability (a minor consideration).
  • Sewing technique. The round bottom was very difficult to sew and it came out poorly. The rest of the seams are better but still not good enough. Also, I'm still having consistency issues with the zig-zag stitch. Basically, I need skills.
  • Details. Thread choice, machine settings, seam choice, reinforcements, and assembly order.
  • Excursions. Add a draw string and you have a stuff sack with a solid clipping point.

And, if it proves useless for chalk, it will still find some other purpose in my alpine kit.

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