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Tips & Techniques > Sewing Ballistic Nylon

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Posted by: mlt
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Member since: 5/25/04
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Posted on: 1/25/09 9:23 PM
Review Rating: Helpful by 1 people   Very Helpful by 13 people   
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After making a messenger bag with ballistic nylon (BN from here on out), I thought I would post what I've learned about sewing it.

First of all, BN is a heavy duty fabric. High quality soft-sided luggage is often made from BN. Many backpacks are made from Cordura nylon. Cordura is a little less strong, but less expensive. I ended up choosing BN over Cordura b/c I thought BN has a smoother feel to it than Cordura (Cordura seems to have little fibers that grips fabric, in my opinion).

BN comes in multiple weights, as far as I can tell, 1050 Denier (a standard measurement for fabric weight) is the default. They do make "junior" ballistics which are 850 denier and some super heavy ballistic (1680).

My comments are for the 1050 Denier.

Needle: I used a size 16 Jeans needle with good results

Thread: Upholstery thread worked well for me.

Machine: A study machine is a must. Even with a sturdy machine, I ended up using the handwheel to go over some bulky areas.

Stitch Length: Use a long (4mm stitch length).

Cutting: I used a rotary cutter (of course the blade was dull by the end) and some not favorite scissors.

Edges: BN is often coated to make it water repellent. The coating means you don't have to finish the edges, but I like to. I used a nylon grossgrain ribbon, pressed down the middle to bind my edges.

Pinning: Textile Outfitters recommends using staples instead of pins. Overall, I found I didn't need to pin or staple much, but when I did, the stapler came in handy. The staples were easy to remove after sewing the seam.

Final note: The fabric is very bulky, so there is quite a lot of width taken up when folding the fabric. I recommend planning for 5/8" seams, but sewing around 1/2". I learned this when making the top of my messenger bag. What I thought would by 5" turned out to be 4.5"

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Sanibelle said... (1/29/09 11:24 AM) Reply
What great information. Thanks for sharing it.
j222b said... (1/28/09 10:10 PM) Reply
Thanks! Prada uses this fabric for bags, too.
mlt said... (1/26/09 8:39 PM) Reply
I didn't know about that, Susan. Thanks for the tip on this tip!
Susan M said... (1/26/09 5:49 PM) Reply
You might consider placing this information in the Fabric Glossary too. Your information would help anyone sew with this fabric better.
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