Bryce Gordon teaches himself how to sew by using old Flylow jackets to make himself bike bags for a long-distance haul.
My crash course in sewing began in the early summer of 2018 when I decided to sew all my own bike bags for an attempt to ride the Colorado Trail in July. I was fortunate enough to use irreparable warrantied Flylow items for my bags and so my process began with unstitching and deconstructing an item into flat, clean panels of fabric. I became very familiar with the seam ripper—so will any DIY sewing connoisseur, it’s the sewing eraser.
Designing bags came next and envisioning a functional 3D shape is a mind-boggling task. I have gotten in the habit of having an old sheet or two around so that pattern ideas can be explored and practiced on the sheets before taking designs to the functional fabric. A couple things to remember: Smaller is harder, dimensions shrink when you sew a 1/4 seam onto things; corners, curves and zippers are tricky and take up extra fabric.
In addition to having practice fabric, I also use cardstock to cut out the panels of a bag and then tape them together in their 3D configuration so I can visually see the shape of the bag. Cardstock is also a great material to use to store patterns, each unique panel in the bag has a matching panel of cardstock that is the exact size the fabric needs to be including the fabric that will be sewn into seams.
Most sewing machines come with a half dozen or more different stitch modes. My personal sewing machine has 17... I only confidently know how to use 5. The first week I started sewing I took a piece of Carhart material and sewed a separate straight stitch for each setting so I could see what each one looked like. Mess around with small projects to begin with, or just sew scraps together. You are guaranteed to run into tangles and tensioning problems at some point, being able to troubleshoot your machine is key so take notes when you figure something out.—Bryce Gordon