DIY tarp

Posted on 08 December 2014

Making a tarp was always one of those things on my agenda since I started on this journey of making my own gear. It has only been 12 months since I started sewing, starting with a hammock, which came out with very few straight stitches but it was still a functional hammock that I made. Working with silnylon though was shrouded in mystery and fear with reading reports of how slippery it was to work with and the need to use copious amounts of pins to keep everything in place. Well mostly this proved unfounded. Making a tarp is like making any other piece of gear, you are generally just sewing two pieces of fabric together at a time. So once you have the design you just focus on that first step - laying down some thread - easy. It's a good chance to practice some mindfulness.

After much research on Hammock Forums, and reading the plans for the Black Cat tarp and DIY Gear Supplies tarps I decided to go with a cat cut hex tarp. The main purpose of this tarp was to be for use over my hammock and for at least 3 season use.

I won't go into details of measurements and sizes as that is personal preference and there are plenty of other builds out there to get this information. Needless to say you want to have a decent overhang at each end of your hammock.

First step once you have decided on catenary cuts is to make up a template, which I did simply by using the string method on some cardboard, and then tracing the pattern out and cutting it. This worked pretty well although I took my time and measured at different points along the string line to ensure consistency.

Creating template

Once the template is done lay it on your silnylon, mark it and cut it. To cut I use a rotary cutter, as it gives me a cleaner cut.

Cat cut drawn out

Template for side

One side cut out

For the ridgeline I had contemplated going with grosgrain edging, similar to the Warbonnet tarps but decided to go with the flat felled/french seam hybrid as described on the DIY Gear Supply site. I find this very simple to sew and did not need to use any pins during this process. Simply line up your fabric, keep some pressure on it to keep everything lined up and sew a little at a time.

The first line of stitching:

First line of stitching of hybrid seam

Second line of stitching:

Second line of stitching of hybrid seam

Final line of stitching

Final line of stitching of hybrid

What it looks like finished

Hybrid ridgeline seam

Then it's a matter of sewing a rolled hem, I did 2 lines of stitching, around the entire perimeter of the tarp which is now one piece. You could also use grosgrain on the edging which I plan on doing for my next tarp. I mostly sewed this without the use of pins apart from a couple of corners in which I used 2 or 3 pins to get the hem started and lined up. Take your time, getting it lined up and it's a simple task.

Rolled hem

From here it's time to attach your corner and ridgeline tie outs and reinforcements. After much research and reading some very complicated approaches to this I decided to go down a path of simplicity and borrow a method that is used by Wilderness Logics, who I have a lot of respect for in the way they build their gear, so if it's good enough for them then who am I to argue. This involves using grosgrain and for me 25mm Drings as that is what I had on hand.

The corner tie outs:

Corner tie out

The ridgeline tie outs:

Ridgeline tie out

..and we are done. Not perfect and I certainly rushed some parts of it but for me I always need to build a prototype first to learn from and then subsequent models are always better. Initial testing in relatively high winds suggest that this tarp is going to do what I need it to, perhaps a bit more length on the ridgeline would of been nice but I am happy with it.
Total weight of tarp is 388grams.

Tarp long view

Tarp from front

There are a few things I will do differently on my next build, but as with all my builds I have learnt that this stuff just isn't that difficult.

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