Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Making a sleepsack - Part 3

Welcome to the final steps of our make a sleepsack tutorial. To wrap things up, we'll be sewing in the zipper, a full-length tongue, and the internal sleeves.

I start with #5 YKK zipper chain, which comes by the yard, and allows us to make the zipper any length we want. I can also put as many pulls as we want. This will come in handy later...
I use masking tape to hold the zipper in place for the initial run through the sewing machine. If anyone has a better method on this, please feel free to share. I am always open to suggestions.

I try and position the zipper chain so it just nestles against the edge of the turned leather edge.
I really want to make sure the zipper doesn't move while sewing, and the sack at this stage is a bit unwieldy to get through the sewing machine.
At this point we want the zipper to extend beyond the edge of our seam. I'll explain why later.
Here is the first stitch in progress:
Now here's the really fun part (and the reason I'm open to alternative methods): picking the tape out afterwards. It's a pain in the ass!
Once the tape is removed, it's time to put the zipper pulls on the chain. On this sack I want to be able to open it anywhere along the length of the zipper so I'm using 3 pulls. This is one reason I like to leave extra at the end of the zipper because some times the chain gets torn up a bit when getting the pulls on.
Three hours later: (kidding!)
Now for the tough part. Because the sack with the zipper up is a closed tube we have to sew with the zipper open to attach the other half of the zipper. I need to make sure the zipper doesn't get out of alignment or it may create puckering when the zip is closed. We definitely don't want that.
My solution is to use a lot of clips...

And here we have the other half of the zipper sewn into place:
Fortunately things are lining up just fine. Here is a closeup of the collar, with the extra zipper extending beyond the end.
We're almost there... It's looking great.
A closeup of the front of the collar:
Before we trim the zipper to length we need to secure the ends to make sure the zipper doesn't slip right off the chain when the zip is pulled closed. To do this I use a very heavy waxed thread to put a few stitches through the zipper chain to act a a stopper.
You can't see it very well because it is black on black, but here is the zipper end with the stopper stitches in place. I've also trimmed the zipper chain and fused the ends with a match to keep it from unraveling.
Next up: the zipper tongue. This is another feature that adds a nice touch, and keeps tender skin from being caught in the zipper. I need about 58 inches of leather, in a 2-inch wide strip. I can piece it together using the remnants of the original hide.
I use my 4 foot straightedge to lay out the strip widths, then cut out with scissors.
Here's the finished strip laid alongside the sleepsack. I'd say I have enough to make the distance.
I just do a simple overlap and straight stitch to connect the 2 parts to get the length I need.
I use masking tape again here to hold the tongue in place for sewing.
Here's a peek inside showing the tongue in position and ready for sewing.
I press down pretty firmly along the length of the tongue, as I don't want it to move once I start sewing. One of the big challenges at this stage is wrestling with the bulk of the sleepsack as you feed it though the machine.
Now we're on to the last part of the project: the internal sleeves. I start out by marking four and a half inches down from the shoulder seam which is where I want the internal sleeve to begin.
The sleeve piece is centered on the side seam at both the top and bottom. Once again, masking tape is used to hold the pieces in place while sewing. You can see through the tape, which comes in handy as I follow the edge of the sleeve piece as a guide.
And here's the sleeve after being sewn-in:
Closeup detail of the stitching around the hand pocket. Now it's time to peel off the tape, and repeat for the other side.
And there you have it, our sleepsack is complete!
This piece as well as the armbinder project I just completed are for the dark-haired beauty at I really hope she likes her items, and hope to show you some pictures of her tied up in them in a future post. Thanks for letting me share your project, LT!
Thank you for following along with me, and hopefully this blog inspires some of you out there to make something dark, shiny and beautiful.
Until next time, take care...


  1. First we would like to thank you for your blog and the effort you put into explaining how you make things. You make it seem so easy that we have got some dreams and ideas that we would like to try.

    By any chance could you please show your workshop area and expain to the beginner what tools you think are required to start leathercrafting (with a leather fetish intent.) We also wonder about you sewing machine, if you had your choice what type of machine would you purchase now?

    And since he request line is still open, maybe you could tell us more about yourself. We are thinking that you had to have received A+ grades in plane and solid geometry.

    Thanks again for showing that the things we like can even be made by people like us.

    Jim and Wendy

  2. J3 and Wendy, thanks so much for the positive feedback. I plan on covering the basic equipement I use on a future post, including the all important sewing machine! Plus bio info, including past geometry test scores... =0)

  3. Hi great blog. Really informative.
    One question if I may.
    I'm looking at making a sleepsack myself but out of rubber/latex. I'm having dilemmas identifying what it a good and bad zip to use.
    It's hard to tell from the photos but is the zip you use a ykk n5 meta or plastic teeth.
    Obviously metal will be stronger, but then I have to worry about the whole metal & latex compatibility issues.

  4. Dear Ltx Rob,
    Thanks, man... The YKK #5 zipper chain has metal teeth, set into the nylon tape. I think it's referred to as a "coil-chain" zipper.
    Go here:
    and search for "coil chain."
    They have a great selection, and may have suggestions for zippers that are latex-compatible too.