Stitches used in hand-stitching cloth are, in general, the stitches used in leatherwork (see chapter on Leatherwork, Figs. V-22-31). A few canvas stitches are shown here; the ladder stitch is often used where a broad, flat seam is needed, as on the side of a ditty bag (Fig. XVI-2).

Hems are made in the conventional manner. If a selvage edge can be used, only one fold is needed. In places that will have strain, double stitching gives added strength (Fig. XVI-3).

Seams are also made in the conventional manner. Flat seams are usual in heavy material. If two selvages make the seam, the edges are overlapped and stitched flat, without turning (Fig. XVI-4). If raw edges are to be used, a felled seam is best; all raw edges are concealed (Fig. XVI-5). Stitch seams twice for strength.

Sewing Patches And Tapes

Patches of the material are stitched in places where there will be extra pull, as on the corner of a tent, or where tapes will be sewed. Double the material, turn raw edges in, and pin patch in place. If tape is needed, pin it in place. Stitch the patch with two rows of stitching at edges, and with crisscross stitching from corner to corner.

Tapes may be sewed on for ties, for holding rings or D-rings, or to give strength where there will be pull. If the tape is single, turn one end in and stitch this double end to the main material; if the tape is doubled, as for D-rings, turn ends under, stitch along the edges, and crisscross through the middle (Fig. XVI-6). Use plenty of tape and plenty of stitching. If tape is sewed on a patch, pin in place, and stitch it and the patch at the same time, or stitch tape to patch before putting patch in place. Loops may be made for ground pegs or guy ropes by looping the tapes and securing them along the sides of the article (Fig. XVI-7).

Rings or D-rings for straps and guy lines are held in place by tape, using a 3" loop (Fig. XVI-8 a). Crisscross the stitching where the tape is sewed to the article and at the ring. Two rings are fastened in a fold of tape (Fig. XVI-8 b) to make an adjustable strap fastening.

Patch pockets may be planned for packs and hike kits; they are cut, edges are turned in, and the pockets pinned in place, then stitched with the same stitching used in making the pack. A pleat or bellows to give extra room is made by pleating the material on both sides of the center line and stitching the pleat across the bottom, leaving fullness at top (Fig. XVI-9).

Material published by the Boy Scouts of America has excellent help on these techniques. See the books Jamboneer-ing and the Explorer Manual.

Setting Grommets

Metal rings, called grommets, are used in many pieces of equipment where rope or thong will be tied or inserted as a drawstring, or where a spike will be used, as on a tent pole. Eaves of tents, tops of duffle bags, corners of tarps, and similar places on articles made of cloth may require grommets. Grommets, with the die and punch to set them, may be purchased from tent-making or canvas-working establishments.

Equipment needed: grommet setting die and punch (see Fig. XVI-1); drive punch or sharp pointed scissors; metal hammer; grommets-in two sections (Figs. XVI-10 a and b).

Setting Grommets


1. Punch hole in material, using two or more thicknesses, as in a corner or hem; use drive punch or pointed scissors (Fig. XVI-11). If scissors are used, make a small hole, then cut four cuts at right angles from center. For added strength, insert a bit of material in fold or hem where grommet is to be set.

2. Push a section of grommet up through hole, fitting material snugly around the collar. Trim off extra material, but be careful to have it fit tightly rather than loosely (Fig. XVI-12).

3. Place the a section, with material on it, in the groove in the: die (Fig. XVI-13).

4. Place pronged section of grommet (b) over the collar and material.

5. Place pointed punch through center of assembled grommet (Fig. XVI-14).

6. Hold punch upright; strike it with several sharp blows of a metal hammer.

7. Remove punch. The grommet sections will have been forced together to make a smooth ring set in material.

Smaller metal rings are usually called eyelets; these are used on small articles, such as food bags and hike kits. Eyelets may be purchased at notions counters in department stores. The set will include a small tool for setting; directions for setting, to be found in the package, will be similar to those for setting grommets.


Buttonholes, or handmade grommets, are sometimes more practical than metal grommets because they call for little equipment and can be made easily in camp. Some craftsmen prefer small rings and buttonholing to make grommets in fine material, such as is used in lightweight tents.

It is important to decide where buttonholes will be placed before stitching hems. Sometimes the buttonhole is made on the outside of the drawstring hem before the cloth is turned under and stitched; sometimes the buttonhole is made through the double thickness of the hem after it is finished.


1. Cut two small cross slits in material at places for buttonhole (Fig. XVI-15a).

2. Put ring on underside; turn back the tabs made by the slits (Fig. XVI-15 b).

3. Stitch the ring in place with a few overcast stitches, then cover these stitches and the ring with buttonhole stitches (Fig. XVI-15 c).


Packs, groundsheets, tents, and tarps will need to be processed to make them shed water. Waterproofing means that no water can go through the material, as in rubberized or plastic material; water repellant means that the material will shed water, as an umbrella does. Waterproofed material does not "breathe"; tents and similar articles are made water repellant because it is important that they do "breathe," or have air circulating through the threads. The process of making an article water repellant is to coat the threads of the cloth so that when the threads are wet, air bubbles form, causing the water to run off. If these bubbles are broken, the cloth will leak at the point of contact. It is common to use the term "waterproofing" for any method used in making canvas and cloth articles rain repellant.

A number of methods utilizing homemade preparations or commercial sprays and solutions may be used. Two simple homemade methods are described here:

Wax: small flat articles (or the material to make them) may be waterproofed by spreading the cloth on a table, thumbtacking it smooth, and rubbing it with paraffin. The wax is "scrubbed" thoroughly and evenly into all parts of the cloth. The cloth is then placed between sheets of plain paper and pressed with a warm iron; the heat melts the wax, and helps it impregnate each thread.

Wax and turpentine-, paraffin is cut into small shavings, and dissolved in warm turpentine or a commercial thinner. Heat the liquid in a can placed in another can of hot water, and get the liquid hot enough to dissolve the wax. Brush the solution on the article thoroughly and evenly; let it dry well; press to "set" the wax. Kephart recommends two lbs. wax to two gallons liquid for a 7' x 9' tent.

Waterproofing calls for some experimentation; it is well to seek the help of someone who has experience. The Boy Scouts of America publish material that will help on this project.


It is sometimes desirable to make a piece of equipment fire resistant. This is done by dipping it in a solution made with borax.

Materials needed: 3 ozs. boric acid; 7 ozs. 20 Mule Team Borax; 2 qts. water.


1. Put ingredients in gallon jar; shake well.

2. Dip article, moving around to be sure all parts are wet.

3. Wring or squeeze out, and hang to dry.