Awning and connector separated
In one of my Lehman’s Wish List posts, I mentioned that I wanted to get a sewing awl to fix the awning from our popup camper It tore off of the camper. We were lucky that the thread had dry rotted and it the bag itself did not tear. We called a sail repair shop and their price to sew the connector strip back onto the bag was $75. I thought this was a little expensive, so I asked my wife to get me a sewing awl for Christmas.
Speedy Stitcher kit
Instead of the sewing awl from Lehman’s, my wife bought me a Speedy Stitcher kit. The Speedy Sticher is built in the U.S.A., and while everything I buy isn’t domestic, I do like to buy American when I have that option. The kit came with the sewing awl, 2 straight needles, 2 curved needles, a bobbin wound with coarse thread, a spool containing 180 yards of coarse, waxed thread and instructions on how to use the sewing awl.
Needle storage in the handle
One thing that I really like about the Speedy Stitcher is that it is fully self-contained. The bobbin containing about 15 yards of coarse thread is held inside the back-end of the handle. Under the screw down cap at the front is space to store 2 needles. The awl comes with a coarse straight needle and a coarse curved needle in the handle, and 2 fine needles in an envelope. This makes it easy to take the awl along with you, maybe in a backpack, or in a toolbox without worrying about damaging it or hurting yourself on the needles.
To prepare the awl to sew, remove the front cap, select the needle, put it in the front, thread it and screw down the cap. The thread comes from the bobbin in the handle, out the side and up through cap. Notice in the picture that there is a stud on the side of the handle. The thread is wrapped around this stud to control the thread tension while sewing. The only tricky part of threading the awl is ensuring that the thread passes through the proper channels out through the cap.
To start sewing, push the needle through the pieces of material being sewed together. In my case, I pushed it through the connector strip and then the awning bag. When the needle is through, pull enough thread off the bobbin to sew the entire project, I’ll call this the reserved thread. Since my awning bag is 12′ long, I should pull about 14′ of thread off the bobbin. But that would be difficult to keep from tangling, so I will sew 6 sections of 2′ each. To do each section, I pull about 30″ of thread off the bobbin.
Making the stitch
Next, pull the needle completely out of the material. Be sure not to pull the thread out with the needle. Push the needle through the material again. This time, back the needle out of the material slightly. This will make a loop of thread. Ensure that the loop is on the reserved thread side of the needle and not the bobbin side. Pass the reserved thread entirely through the loop. Hold the reserved thread tight and pull the needle out of the material. Grasp each end of the thread tightly and pull to adjust the stitch. Ideally, the point where lock stitch makes contact will be inside the material that is being sewed.
The final stitches will look something like the shot on the right. Note that this looks similar to a machine stitch. That’s because it is a lock stitch just like a sewing machine makes. The thread that I’m using is a waxed polyester thread. This should hold up pretty well to the elements. This is a time-consuming process, but is a lot less work than sewing by hand with just a needle and thread.
To finish sewing, push the final stitch through the material. Pull additional thread through the hole. Cut the thread leaving enough to tie a knot and pull out the needle. With both ends of the thread on one side of the material, tie a square knot and snip off the excess. Since I am using a polyester thread, I then twist the ends together and melt them with a lighter. Be careful doing this, polyester can catch fire and destroy the stitches we just worked so hard on.
I have not finished sewing the awning. It is a large project that requires me to sit on the floor and lean over it to sew. This is really hard on my back, so I can only work for about 30 minutes at a time. I can sew about 2′ worth of stitches in that time. When I’m finished sewing this, I plan on covering the thread with a clear nail polish. My thinking is that the nail polish will act like a lacquer to keep the thread from unraveling. Hopefully I can find one that has UV blockers so that the UV inhibitors will keep the sunlight from breaking down the thread as fast.
That’s all there is to using a sewing awl. They are fairly inexpensive, this kit is only about $20. They are self-contained, so everything that is needed will safely fit in a pocket. Since they are simple to use, they make a great addition to a toolbox or a backpack. I know that I have a lot of readers that are preppers and have a bug out bag. This would be a great addition to that BOB to make repairs while bugging out.