Thursday, January 29, 2009

Time lapse of Tim and Paul sewing on kites all afternoon.

This video is a time lapse of us sewing all afternoon. I made this with an open source program called Gawker. The camera was set to take a frame every 30 seconds. I extended that by 300% and frame blended it to give it that effect. I am fixing an Ozone Access, and paul is repairing two Best Waroos. Thanks for watching. Oh and the music is Disco Kid by Strut, a great band and friends of ours in Asheville. It's a bit better if you ask youtube for the HQ version.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The long way is the easy way

I was going to cheat [ok I wasn't really] but I was severely tempted. This foil really needed to be deconstructed before I could properly fix this cell - as it is shown here in this photo. It's tempting to just bridge over the rip - from the surface of one bottom skin to the next. But you never acheive the correct shape that way, and your bridle points, shown here taped temporarily with darker red, won't ever be able to pierce through the patch you would make by cheating without being weak. So, it is best to just take all the stitching out and get to the three layers and fix them independently.  The white is the rib and the two orange layers are the bottom skin panels. This is a small part of an Ozone access that has been completely ripped in half and then some. The edge I had to rebuild is shown here with the slightly lighter orange patch running down its length. The white rib also needed a fix where one of the bridle points won out against the strength of the cloth.

For some reason, I guess because it's winter still, we've been doing a few more foils than usual these days.  They are not as common, and this one will be done soon.  But, as my boss at the old bike shop told me, the long way is the easy way.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The golden peter lynn zippers

These zippers were outrageously difficult to get. They go in a Peter Lynn arc style kite. They are "sealed" and I don't use quotation marks lightly. You'd think that you'd be able to get an inexpensive sealed zipper in this country.  However, not so. They are made in China, I know, I was seriously surprised myself. But it means they are not available outside of products in this country. You can get german ones from germany for 80 bagillion dollars each. You can order them from YKK and wait 3 months!

We needed some because we are repairing a venom for a customer. Enter Blake Pelton. Our good friend who also used to be a distributor for Peter Lynn had some lying around. I know you were going to say that he had some in a drawer, no these were in kites. Sheer luck! Thanks Blake. You saved our customer from these goofy looking degraded zippers in this image.

The seal has delaminated from the zipper tape. In the first shot you can see the good zipper that Blake cut from a damaged kite. Thanks dog.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Kite Repair FAQ

I'd like to have here a running dialog where I can get general questions and answer them as comments and responses. We'll see how this works. I'll do my best to respond asap. Most of this will be done after shipping time during the evening.

Putting an Ozone back together

kite repair
We're about to put this foil back together.  It's in two pieces.  Pretty funny.  It's an Ozone Access foil that has been ripped in half.  It's in good shape but obviously suffered a serious incident. Jan, our customer, knows it isn't going to be super-fast - probably in the next few days we'll be done. I will post back here when we are complete with a few shots.  Hopefully we'll be looking respectable. Thinking about doing a time-lapse of the procedure.

Fibers for bedtime

So, I’ve been repairing kites for a long time now. When I first started it was like learning to sew all over again. I'd then been sewing for over 10 years and thought I was already pretty damn good at it. Many of the challenges it presented were expected. Stiff fabric in tight places and sewing panels long after the kite is complete that were added near the beginning of the manufacturing sequence. All these things were difficult to get not only right but also looking sharp. One thing in particular though has been a real plateau to get to for me. Sometimes there is a situation that happens where a seam's thread will fail all the way down. Like a zipper had been opened. The kitesurfing kites have inflatable struts that run down the sail and sometimes they come away from the sail in this way. Okay so back to sewing 201. On long seams you have to manage the creep of the lower layer. Keep it from bunching up. Well here is the thing. You are not working on your own kite. You are working on a kite built in China on a seam that was previously already sewn. Your're trying to emulate the way it was sewn to begin with, matching the other struts and especially the strut you are sewing on. If you sew it perfectly, it isn't perfect. Keeping the layers from moving isn’t the objective anymore. You have to allow the lower layer to creep the exact amount that the Chinese operator and their machine did. Otherwise you will end up with a cm or more of empty stitch holes on the bottom.

What is really interesting for me about this is the mental state it puts me into. I like to imagine that I have been at my machine all day long and didn't get coffee and I am not making any money and I will go home to 12 people in my 400 square foot apartment. I like to think of the floor director looking over my shoulder and not saying anything but writing something down on a clipboard and moving along to the next machine. Then I think of the person I’m repairing the kite for. How he or she will be thinking about how much their next kite will cost, the fact that they are so expensive. Like nearly all of us in this disposable world, never putting the two simple facts together that they are paying me $80.00 and shipping both ways to sew a simple 6 foot repair, meanwhile telling me how wonderfully reasonable my prices are - which is certainly true. However, the entire kite, bag, and 4-color printing in the included instructions, was priced at retail of say $949.99 and was shipped across an ocean of water in a container on a ship. How does this happen? The kite cost the retail storeowner a little over half that. That means the distributor bought it from the factory for close to 1/4 of the retail cost. So the factory gets $200 for this kite. Out of that comes material and overhead. Where do the wages for the workers fit in? It’s just amazing. 

I see in these kites a precision of manufacturing that sometimes makes me doubt my own abilities. I find little Chinese characters hidden under the seams to indicate where each of the hundred and fifty or so panels and pieces go. I see an eyelash stuck under the adhesive of a reinforcement strip. The people who made this kite probably know little of how it is used and certainly will never be able to afford one. What do they dream? Could they ever imagine that I would be sewing on seams that they made? Do they think of the kite in the sky? I can only sew and wonder.

stitching and thinking

Dear customers of our kite repair service

I'm going to attempt to make this useful as a place for news about current kites we are repairing.  Most of the time, we are too busy actually sewing to actively update this page.  However, I thought it would be a good idea to have a place where if I learn things that I want to share, techniques etc. that I could make that happen here.

Tim Elverston

for our main kite repair page, please visit: