When people say things like “retail therapy” the vomit starts a-flowin’. Maybe it’s because the idea of shopping to get oneself out of a depression is more depressing than just dying. Or maybe I like to exaggerate, sue me! HOWEVER, I like getting new shit as much as the next guy, and yes, sometimes I’ll go acquiring new shit if I’m feeling uninspired (ahem, injured). Of course, I can’t go buying things all the time because I hardly make any money. Besides, in the long run it’s boring and unfulfilling. Instead, I turn old pieces of garbage into new kinds of crap. To this end, one of the best tools I’ve ever purchased is the Stewart Speedy Stitcher Sewing Awl. It is $15 and with it you can do amazing things, such as purchase something while depressed and then use it to create and modify yours, and others’ belongings with startlingly invigorating results. It creates a locking stitch, just as a sewing machine would, but it uses very strong thread and is able to easily pierce thick materials such as leather, foam, and hardened hearts. I’ve heard¹ rumors that it is the most fashionable way to sew a rhino’s horn back on, and I know for a fact that sailors use it to repair sails, and that people make HELLA leather knife sheaths.
The first masterpiece I ever created was the perfect climbing shoe hybrid: The La Sportiva Vapor V’s. They are loosely based on² La Sportiva’s legendary Solution, but they address their Achilles heel, which is the closure strap. With the flimsy strap, it is hard to get the shoe tight enough not to slip off during fervent, sweaty heel-hooks. While you are struggling to achieve optimum tightness, Sauron’s influence grows, and the strap’s strength wanes. Before the first resole, the wimpy strap has already broken. As you can see, I took the velcro straps off of my Vapor V’s and sewed them onto the Solutions. I used folded webbing to secure the D-rings, and I wanted the straps to fold over and stick to the existing velcro as much as possible, which turned out very well with a little planning and measuring. This alteration has extended the life expectancy of these shoes by at least 300%, which is impressive considering my sloppy-ass foot-camming obsession. Between the velcro straps and the Gear Fix kindly gluing my toe caps back down each time I send them in for a resole, they will outlive and out-stink us all.
One fine day two years later, we were riding our dirtbikes in Bishop, California. There were many dead ends, and not long into the ride the wind picked up and started callously whipping hail at our soft, innocent skin. When we got home, we had only ridden 7 miles, and my license plate was missing, because my dirtbike is secretly just an eroding clump of dirt. Many treasures were found while searching for my license plate, including: my license plate (yes, a real life miracle), the entire skeleton of a cow, two other mysterious skeletons, and a very out-of-place wide blue strap with a buckle. Not long after, I popped a couple pulleys and couldn’t climb anymore, much less use a hangboard to train. Life gave me injuries and garbage, so I sewed it into weird loops and stuffed them with my body parts. At first I tried sewing them into adjustable loops, but that is a form of torture, turns out, so I sewed them into fixed loops. Honestly, this wasn’t my best work because the wrist straps were never pleasant to use, and didn’t take a whole lot of strain off of my pulleys, but the craftsmanship was impeccable. I tried to train on them a few times, but what they lacked in physical conditioning capabilities, they made up for in distracting me from my sadness with creative problem-solving.
My latest project was turning a crusty backpack found in a free box, into a futuristic high-tech hydration machine. All of the additions were constructed using the carrying strap from our camera bag. It was the obvious choice, as the mind-numbingly grey accents elegantly complement the sun-faded neglect-black of the trash backpack. The clips were also perfectly sized for hanging the bladder. I was but a pawn of fate. The hydration pack conversion required 4 alterations.
Attaching the clips to hang the bladder was the most important, and required the most engineering and stitching. Much like our hideous human race, they were born imperfectly shaped, so I had to do some minor plastic surgery. This involved snapping the inside tine so the clip more closely resembled a hook, and snapping the swivel attachment off of the top. Then I measured, marked, and sewed them on using small strips of the grey camera strap.
Cutting a hole for the hose to run through was next. It’s hard cutting into something you love, but fortune favors the bold. So then I sewed a strip of the webbing around the hole for fortification. Another strip of webbing was added to the left backpack strap as a guide for the hose, and the last alteration was to a velcro strap on the inside of the backpack. In the big zippered compartment was a large pocket that fits my bladder perfectly, and this velcro strap holds it closed. It was too short to reach its other half over the bladder intruder, so I stitched in a couple more pieces of that delectable camera webbing.
Designing and creating my own futuristic high-tech hydration machine wasn’t too difficult, except with every stitch, the needle had to go through two layers of webbing, backpack foam, and two layers of whatever fabric my backpack is made of. The thread is wax-coated, and you have to tension each stitch nicely before moving onto the next. Calling it the “Speedy” Stitcher is almost as clever as naming your crash pad company Organic. Regardless, there are subtle advantages to the Slowy Stitcher: The tediousness makes it easier to fill your rest day with activity, and much like projecting a boulder problem for years, the time commitment adds to the sense of accomplishment.
So what’s next for Nacho Claws and the Speedy Stitcher? I’m not sure, if you have suggestions, please leave them in the comments, or else I may be doomed to adding denim pockets to all of my things. Do you want that on your head? Go on, the possibilities are as infinite as your dissatisfaction with your textiles is nagging.
²Entirely made of