06 December 2012

Repair Your Own Bags & Luggage

images by kalanicut

A couple of weeks ago I cleaned out the front coat closet storage space. It houses an army of duffle bags and suitcases, along with laundry baskets and a space bag full of winter clothes. Because I had to remove the storage boxes I had in front of my garage spaces, I needed to find a home for five big plastic storage tubs. I decided to see if they would fit in the front closet. They did and I was able to get most of what was originally in there back in when I changed up the layout a bit.

While cleaning I decided I needed to deal with a few duffle bag suitcases that needed repairs or I needed to get rid of them. One was a beautiful, well made overnight bag I bought in a gorgeous shop in Scotland in 2001. It has served its time, but other than a tear in one of the straps it was still in fabulous condition.

Another was a cheap canvas duffle style suitcase I purchased a couple of years ago and on the second use the main zipper split open. The other bag was a similar style bag, but much bigger. I had also used this bag about twice and the zipper had split open.

Over the past couple of years we have taken a couple of The Man's favorite bags to a luggage repair shop in my neighborhood. While the craftsman there did nice work, the bill each time was $40 for a small stitching job.

Since all three of these bags had tears that could be handsewn fairly easily I decided to try my hand at saving myself over one hundred dollars. I thought I would share the process in case you might like to repair your own suitcase sometime.

1) Buy Upholstery grade thread, Heavy Duty Sewing Needles and FrayCheck. All three of these can be found at a basic fabric store near you. FrayCheck comes in a small bottle in the notions section. It's a glue-like substance that you can put on torn fabric or rough edges to keep it from fraying.

2) On each rough edge you will be sewing put a small line of FrayCheck along the edge of the torn fabric. This stuff is messy and runs a bit, so take your time and keep it as tidy as possible. It is also a mess to try to sew through so try to keep it from bleeding too far into the fabric because it will make the fabric harder to get your needle through. Then let it dry, which should take just a few minutes.

3) Trim down any long, frayed edges on the fabric. This cleans up the edges and will make your new seam cleaner and less noticeable.

4) Begin stitching. I decided to use a double strand of thread to make it extra strong. I used a straight stitch on two of the bags and a whip stitch on the other. I just went with what made more sense for each seam. I tried to keep my stitches small and close together even overlapping stitches at times to increase durability and strength.

Just a quick tip, if you are ever in the woods and get a tear in a backpack, keep a heavy duty needle in your emergency supplies and use Dental floss to sew the seams back up. I did this once on a trip and the dental floss held strong for years and years.

5) Tie off and trim your threads. I like to tie a few square knots in the two threads when I use a double strand. I also put a bit of fray check on my knots this time to keep them taut.

So that's how I saved about $120 and three of my most useful travel bags. Not exactly a fun project, but definitely one of those projects our frugal grandmothers would be proud of. Why throw away three perfectly useful bags when all that was necessary was a few minutes of concentrated repair efforts. Hopefully these bags will hold up for a while longer and a few more trips. If not, I have the tools to keep doing at least minimal repairs to keep them going.

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