Novice PALS first impressions

My goal with this is to create a PALS pouch to attach to my swim bag. I use aluminum hard wallets to hold my cards and my pool pass normally lives in the one I usually carry around. This pouch will hold my wallet and phone while I’m swimming. My phone is waterproof but I don’t use a screen protector or case so I want something relatively soft and very smooth (no rough edges) so that my phone screen doesn’t get scratched. Both the wallet and the phone need to be held in place securely. This is more of an admin panel than a pouch but I’ll continue to call it a pouch for consistency.

I’m very new to creating this sort of thing. Realistically, I’m relatively new to sewing; I’ve done a good amount of sewing in my life but never any production work. Many of the lessons from this project are things that I’d probably know if I had been making lots of gear out of technical materials for the last 10 years. I’m also not using any patterns because one of my ancillary goals is to learn to make patterns for this kind of thing from scratch. So I’m learning the hard way, through practice and experience. Maybe someone can benefit from my lessons.

I’m still working on the pictures for this post.

UPDATE, about a week later: after some more research and trying everything out, I realized that I’m doing the PALS grid wrong on both sides. My design had a 1/2″ space between rows, which is incorrect. The correct spacing should be 1″ and it should be on the generous side. The grid on the back of the pouch needs to get woven with whatever is holding it — my swim bag in this case — for everything to hold properly. I’m working on a better and clearer description in a separate post. More than likely, I’ll be rebuilding this piece, using the lessons learned from having done it three times already.

Materials

Just about everything I’m using for this project was from Jo-Ann Fabrics and/or Wal-Mart. I’ve found that Wal-Mart has lower prices (even after prodigious coupon use at Jo-Ann) but significantly smaller selection. Be careful at Wal-Mart as well: most things in the fabric section tend to be very poorly labeled, if at all. Some of the notions were ordered on eBay, mostly just to achieve a better color match. If you’re building this in black, everything seems to be readily available, except maybe, and strangely enough, the major fabric. There are lots of moving parts to this design, so I’ll break it down in detail.

  • The major fabric, the base fabric, is coated synthetic weave. I bought this at Wal-Mart for around $5/yard. I don’t think it’s brand Cordura at this price but I’m going to call it Cordura anyway. As best I can tell, it’s PVC-coated 500D. It doesn’t feel like 1000D but it was cheap and I’m using it for prototypes so I’m comfortable using it.
  • I lined all the internal pockets with lightweight generic ripstop. Once again, it was a discount purchase at Wal-Mart so I’m left guessing as to specifics. My best guess is 10D, which is pretty light. It’s translucent, more so than two pieces of tracing paper. This doesn’t matter to me as it’s only for my lining.
  • Two prototypes were made with fleece lining instead of the ripstop. It’s mid-weight generic stuff, probably Blizzard. It’s also listed as anti-pill but given how cheap it is I’d doubt how well that would work. Once again, it’s only lining for this project so as long as it holds up well. I stopped using it for two reasons, first that it added too much bulk, especially in the wrong places, and second because it is very squirrely. My seams, and therefore my finished product, did not come out the way I liked with fleece.
  • All the seams in this project are external and finished with matching 7/8″ ribbed polyester ribbon. This is cheap $1.50/roll hair ribbon from Wal-Mart but it’s worked really well so far, albeit through light use.
  • I did use some stabilizer, a mid-weight sew-in. For the places where I needed the stabilizer to sit in place while attaching through it, I used Pellon Wonderweb. This is the only fusible web I’ve seen available to date, although I’m sure there are others in other parts of the world and through other suppliers. Where necessary, I used an ordinary glue stick that I bought at the dollar store in a 3-pack. I bet that stuff is dirty so I try not to sew through it with the machine.
  • The PALS features were plain 1″ polypropylene webbing. This is also the generic stuff that you can get anywhere; I got mine well ahead of time from somewhere on the Internet.
  • The attachment hardware is ordinary knock-off Velcro (hook & loop). I only had matching colors in 2″ wide but that worked well when cut into 1″ pieces.
  • The first prototype used metal snaps instead of Velcro for attachment. These are 5/8″ and they’re called heavy duty. They’re very secure, probably too secure for this project, which is why I stopped using them after the first prototype. They’re also pretty expensive, to the order of $1 per set, and I’m using 2 per pouch. This may be the most expensive part of the project. Finally, they don’t seem to be easily available in many colors, just black, brass and silver. I’m going to have to tune this material in the future but using Velcro seems to work pretty well for now.
  • The thread is ordinary Gütermann Sew-All. I don’t know exactly what weight it is but it’s 100% polyester and seems to perform extremely well both in (keeping it together) and out (removing when the seam ripper comes out). It comes in every color I could possibly want at this stage in my work.
  • The first prototype also had a single piece of 1/8″ flat elastic inside the finish on the small pocket. After the first prototype, I felt like it added nothing of value so I stopped using it.

Although this is tactical gear, my need is non-tactical. I decided to use bright colors and, being a Mets fan, went with bright blue and orange. The first two prototypes were all blue, mostly because I had everything — Cordura, fleece lining, tape, Velcro, and thread — in a close match. After the first two, I decided to use orange ripstop for the lining and contrasting orange thread. These are also my favorite colors.

Equipment

Right now, I don’t have a lot of equipment. I use a Singer Classic machine, which is labeled as heavy duty. It’s way too fast for me so I’m almost always using very little pressure on the foot pedal. This entire project was built with a single presser foot, the generic one that comes with the machine, and an ordinary universal needle. I believe that it’s best to learn with equipment that’s adequate but not extravagant.

One upgrade over basic equipment that I use is a 45mm Fiskars rotary cutter. Since trying the rotary cutter I haven’t used scissors to cut fabric. I use a small mat, it’s labeled through 16″ x 4″, self-healing. I make cuts along a metal ruler that I bought from a big-box office supply store and mark with white or blue sewing pencils. Sometimes I’ll use an ordinary colored pencil (it says Crayola on the box) or just a plain HB/#2 pencil.

My seam ripper got a good amount of use, as did a pair of ordinary utility scissors that sit by my machine. I didn’t use pins too much for this project due to bulky fabrics but when I did they were ordinary ones with large plastic heads. I find those easier to remove while I’m sewing and I don’t usually sew or iron over pins.

Speaking of ironing, when I’m working a sewing project I keep the ironing board out and the iron on. My iron cost me $4 at Goodwill and it does a fantastic job. For this project, I kept it at the medium setting since everything was synthetic. There’s a plain old spray bottle with water sitting on my ironing board. It got a lot of use in this project, especially pressing the Cordura. It did not work well for the polyester seam tape at all and by the end of the project I tended to fold the seam tape by hand to feed under the foot as I went.

I do keep a lighter next to my machine when working with synthetics, to seal ends. Half-way through this project I dug out a candle so I didn’t have to keep thumbing the lighter. The candle is stable and has a tall flame. Sealing the ends of the seam tape and webbing was much easier with this. More than likely, this will remain a permanent fixture in my sewing area.

Stitches

My stitch selection evolved greatly from start to finish. Probably the only thing that stayed the same was a 3.5mm straight stitch that I used on the outside of the seam tape as the display stitches. I also like 1mm/1mm zig-zag to hold the PALS rig in place and I feel like it’s very suitable for that.

Unless otherwise specified, stitch parameters are length/width. I don’t yet know of a better standard. All of my straight stitching is 0 width, so straight stitches have only a length dimension. I try to stick to square measurements with the same length and width, mostly because of compulsion to symmetry. My engineering intuition tells me that squares tend to be stronger than other rectangles, which may influence this. I did learn from reading a lot of sewing advice to use mostly straight stitches, which I stuck to loosely. I did feel the need to use a good deal of zig-zag for added strength.

The machine I have won’t stitch longer than 4mm, which is what I used for my construction stitches after a few mistakes. When I was less sure about construction, I would baste without backstitching then observe the result. A 4mm straight stitch is the easiest to remove in the whole repertoire that my machine has. Ease of removal means the highest chance of carefully removing wrong stitches without destroying fabric or (especially) webbing. When I was happy with the basted seam, I would simply run along it with a zig-zag for strength, which settled to 2.5mm/2.5mm. Where webbing ran through an external seam, like the sides of the pouch, I usually stitched over the bits with the webbing with 1mm/1mm zig-zag for added strength.

I learned early on that it’s best to move from either bottom to top or top to bottom for the whole project, with ruthless consistency. I couldn’t use pins as much as I ordinarily do in less layered projects so my fabric drifted more than I would have liked. By stitching in the same direction always, at least the drift will all be in the same direction, which means things are more likely to line up from one end to the other.

I also learned to do construction in small pieces. There seems to be a very low cost to stitching over the same place repeatedly. The thread I used for this project is thin so even 4 co-linear runs of dense zig-zag didn’t add significant bulk.it also helped to use double seam allowances, basting roughly near the edges with less precision for straight lines, for construction. More details on finishing later, but the extra seams all ended up getting cut off.

Pattern

I’m writing instructions on the pattern after the fact. Between some luck and the fact that I built three nearly identical versions of the same piece, I ended up with a finished piece with excellent working dimensions. This was part of my plan, to develop a pattern, even though I have little knowledge of how to make this sort of pattern.

First, the dimensions of what I’m trying to hold:

  • My wallet is 4-1/4″ long, 3″ wide and 3/4″ thick. I expect to fit it in a vertical orientation (this would be, “portrait,” if it was a printer job), so the pouch needs to be 3″ wide and close to 4″ tall. I’m okay with some of the wallet sticking out but I had initial concerns about the thickness causing problems. I added the thickness to the short dimension, giving me a flat equivalent of roughly a 4″ square. I rounded to the nearest width that falls within easy PALS dimensions, 5-1/2″.
  • My phone is about 3″ wide, 5-1/2″ tall and 1/4″ thick. I’m not married to the phone for what I expect to be the lifetime of this pouch but I do figure it is about representative of whatever next phone I’m likely to have. It’s thin enough that I didn’t worry about altering the dimension for that. The height is obviously significantly different than the wallet and, unlike the wallet, I wanted the full height encased in the pouch. I rounded to the nearest height that falls within easy PALS dimensions, 7″.
  • As an added touch and since my dimensions easily exceeded the required size, I attached a hook-side piece of Velcro to the front as a patch panel. I find it’s better to have the patch panel and not use it than the other way around. This is 2″ x 3″, or a 3″ length from a roll of 2″-wide Velcro.

These requirements led me to a design with an overall size of 5-1/2″ wide by 7″ tall with a 4″ pocket on the front. I added a full inch of seam allowance to everything except the front piece for the small pocket at the top seam. Conceptually, I broke down the required pieces as such:

  • Major panel 1, the backing, that holds the PALS grid. This is Cordura and measures 7-1/2″ wide by 9″ tall to cut.
  • Major panel 2, the front. This is also Cordura and has the same dimensions as the other major panel.
  • A minor panel, the front of the small pocket. This is also Cordura and measures 7-1/2″ wide by 5″ tall to cut.
  • Lining panels 1 and 2 (these started out in fleece but I used ripstop for the third prototype) have the same dimensions as the major panels.
  • Lining panels 3 and 4 are of the same material as the other lining panels and have the same dimensions as the minor panel.

On my first prototype, I cut an extra major panel that ended up wrong-side-to-wrong-side with major panel 1. This provided absolutely no benefit, especially since I was using fleece as lining for this. I even left this out on the third prototype with the ripstop lining to absolutely no detriment.

As part of my pattern, I used some excess fabric to trial the seams. The plan calls for a good number of seams with a single layer of Cordura and a single layer of lining, finished. Since I was trying the first prototype with an extra Cordura layer, I tried that as well, two back-to-back Cordura layers with a lining on one side. The inner lining (the lining on the side closer to the PALS grid) of the small pocket also requires construction stitching of the finish on the lining alone (the finish is through a layer of Cordura as well). Then I tried the main stack for the side and bottom seam, as follows: webbing, Cordura, Cordura, lining, lining, Cordura, lining, lining, Cordura. Counting the webbing as a layer, that’s a total of 9 layers. With adequate tension, my machine seemed to struggle a little but make it over this. I didn’t consider the ribbon to be a significant layer as it’s much thinner than most of the rest of the construction. If I’d started with ripstop as the lining (instead of fleece), I probably wouldn’t have regarded that either since it’s only inner layers of the sandwich. My experience with ripstop is that it doesn’t slide or pull as long as it’s sandwiched between something at least a little less slippery.

Finish

I wanted to make sure I had a good method for finish before construction so I decided to test this first. This is the general process for using single-fold bias tape, even though the ribbon I was using isn’t pre-folded. I have a bias tape folder but the ribbon didn’t seem to hold seams well when pressed so I modified the process slightly.

This project required no wrong-side stitching and turning. The synthetic material I used didn’t press very well so I used straight seam tape with a single-double turn. I developed this process:

  1. Determine the line of the seam to be stitched (trace if necessary).
  2. Cut the ribbon longer than the seam by at least 1/4″ on each side. Since it was cheap, I tended to cut long.
  3. Singe the ends of the ribbon to keep them from fraying.
  4. On the right or finish side, pin or hold the ribbon (7/8″) with the edge a few mm outside the seam (into the seam allowance). The remainder of the ribbon is on the side opposite the seam.
  5. Baste stitch along the seam line with no backstitching.
  6. Observe the opposite side of the piece to ensure that the seam follows the correct line throughout the piece. Rip and re-seam if necessary.
  7. Seam over the basting with a 2.5mm/2.5mm zig-zag (backstitched).
  8. If there is webbing involved in the seam, seam over the basting and zig-zag with 1mm/1mm zig-zag where the webbing is involved.
  9. Trim all excess fabric on the outside of the seam. This is essentially the entire seam allowance. The rotary cutter is very useful for this.
  10. If any seams were nicked or cut in the trim, re-seam over them.
  11. Fold the ribbon across the entire seam. Depending on the thickness of the seam, center both ends if there is slack. Leave some space if not.
  12. From the right or finish side, stitch a 3.5mm straight stitch down the middle of the folded ribbon.
  13. Trim the excess ribbon on all seams that aren’t to be covered by another finish.
  14. Singe the cut ends of the ribbon to keep them from fraying.

The zig-zag over the baste is for hold, just like the extra stitching at webbing involvement points. Trimming long ends of the ribbon is necessary only in the final finish piece as the adjacent edge trim will take care of this. The closer the trim gets to the ribbon line, the easier the fold is. Pressing this fold didn’t seem to work very well, with steam or without.

The smaller pocket on the front requires a dummy finish down the middle (approximately) of the front main panel. This is a finish of the lining material alone, with the final straight stitch through the primary fabric panel in addition to the ribbon and lining.

Construction

The pouch is essentially a series of like-sized pieces of fabric, except for the small pocket and its lining. One back layer, wrong side up, holds the PALS attachment points. A layer of lining, right side up, sits above that. These back to layers are finished together at the top. Another layer of lining, wrong side up, then another layer of primary fabric, right side up, sits atop that. A small lining piece sits on top of that, right side up. These can all be finished, together. Another small lining piece, wrong side up, sits atop that, then the final small primary fabric piece, right side up. Those last two layers can be finished together.

Construction progressed in this order:

  1. Rule out and attach the entire PALS system to the right side of back layer. I used stabilizer under the snaps when I used those.
  2. Attach a loop (fuzzy) Velcro piece to the small primary fabric right side.
  3. Seam the small piece of lining, involving the untouched large primary fabric piece in the final straight-stitch seam.
  4. Finish the lining and the PALS piece.
  5. Finish the lining on the small pocket.
  6. Finish the lining on the large pocket.
  7. Seam the bottom of the piece. (The top was finished already, in two pieces.)
  8. Seam each side.

Sewing a PALS grid is a specific task that I’ll outline in another post. The straps are a little more specific. To be clear, these are the straps that run from top to bottom, over the PALS grid, for attachment to the supporting PALS grid. They’re optional, if you have and are planning on using the plastic retainers, you don’t need them at all. They’re basically a single length of webbing that runs most of the height of the pouch. The top end of the straps live inside the top back seam. The bottom ends are loose, finished with a 1″ x 1″ square of hook Velcro that attaches to a mating loop piece sewn just below the PALS grid. Make sure to heat-seal the lower end, the Velcro end, so that it doesn’t fray.

Troubleshooting

This was a very instructive project. In addition to all the notes mentioned previously, there were several lessons that were learned and reinforced. I’ve tried to categorize them to help myself or anyone who may read this to work better.

Accuracy

Accuracy is critical. This sort of project has several layers of fabric which have to line up well. On previous garment projects, I’d stuck with a notional tolerance of about 1/4″ but for this it’s lower, probably just under 1/8″. I’ve got several thoughts about this.

  • I’m going to have to look into using a walking foot and learn more about all of the tensioning settings. I don’t know how they all work yet and I don’t have a clear idea of how to set them. This is something that’s going to take more research. The result of this is that some of the stitching isn’t even. I don’t mean so much that the lines aren’t straight — they aren’t all — but specifically that my machine didn’t feed the piece at an even rate so the 3.5mm finishing stitches aren’t all 3.5mm down the entire length of a seam.
  • I need to mark more. Most of the stitches in this project were free, which means I was guessing where to stitch and feed pieces into the presser foot. I’m going to need more marking devices.
  • Along those lines, marking the finishing ribbon, the seam tape, is probably most important. Marking the inside is easy, I could probably use a Sharpie for that. Marking the outside, for the display stitch down the middle of the tape, will require some sort of disappearing mark.

What was not off, in terms of how the finished product looks, is the grain on the fabric. I did not pay much attention to that and it came out just fine from what I can tell. I didn’t use a print that requires very careful alignment. The dense weave of the Cordura primary fabric seems to give a lot of tolerance to the grain being slightly off kilter. I’m sure the lining is off kilter but it’s even harder to tell with something on the inside of a pocket.

Another great revelation from this project was the ease, efficiency and quality result that I got from leaving large seam allowances. These were cut off during the finishing process, after the tape was tacked on but before it was finished. I’m no seasoned pro at managing multiple layers of different and difficult fabric through a machine. Having a half inch or more to press fabric flat through the machine was very helpful to getting solid results.

Construction

The biggest collection of lessons from this project came from the construction. Specifically, the method that I used to build everything was revealing. My process changed somewhat through the prototyping of the first two pieces so I’ll try to capture everything I learned.

  • I really didn’t use pins very much. I felt like they didn’t help much. If I had to, I tried to stick to pinning just one or two layers of fabric together, spacing pins wider than usual and pulling out the pins early, when the presser foot was farther from the pinned site. So these pins gave a little bit of hold, more useful for aligning thing on the far side. I did have a seam ripper experience on the third prototype when I pinned through the whole piece on one side (there was no space in the middle available because of the patch panel Velcro and the PALS rig on the back) and a side seam drifted unevenly. The pin was supposed to stop the drift, instead it caused it.
  • The attachment straps, the two straps on the back that hold the pouch to the rig on whatever holds it up, got in the way. They need to be attached early in the process so that the copious stitching required to hold them on well isn’t visible. I did this in matching, not contrasting, thread, even on the final piece where I used contrasting thread for most of the work. I wanted the contrast to show off the display stitching, not so much construction details. Anyhow, as I was stitching the sides of the piece, they got in the way. I ended up tucking them into the PALS rig on the backing of the piece, but two things happened: first, the turns in the straps to get them out of the way added bulk to the piece, making it harder to keep flat through the machine; second, I had to be really careful to fold the straps without pulling on the stitches holding them on. Pulling on the stitches pulls the fabric under it, which changes the alignment of everything. I may have been able to force everything together with pins, but too much forcing doesn’t seem to make life easier.
  • Using ribbon as seam tape worked very well. Holding the ribbon taut while running a construction stitch down the sides provided an excellent line. Having a guideline on the ribbon would have made this even easier.
  • Having a lit candle to finish off synthetic ends of ribbon and webbing was useful. At first, I was worried that having that in my workspace would lead to something melting or burning but I got through most of this project without that happening.
  • During the first prototype, I tried to make the attachment straps using two layers of webbing with stabilizer sewn in the middle. This was a waste of time. For the load and duty that I’m expecting this piece to withstand, that’s way overkill on the straps. Also, the prongs of the snap couldn’t even make it all the way through that sandwich.
  • I don’t usually do this while I’m sewing garments but I doubled the seam allowances on the major seams (top, bottom and sides) then cut off the scrap after sewing the construction stitch on the finish. The short version of what this caused is that everything lined up better. There was less pulling and shifting with extra fabric on the outside of the seam.
  • The sandwich for this project is thick. Along the edges, when passing over the PALS grid webbing, my machine took a slight stutter. It wasn’t enough to tangle the thread or cause the machine to catch but it was enough to change the stitch length as the machine caught up. This is irrelevant except for the final display stitches up the side, which are the last step. A walking foot would probably help in this. In the past, I’ve also done the following that worked (I didn’t think of it in time for this project): in the two stitches before the snag — the webbing, in this case — increase the tension by one per stitch. After the snag, reduce it the same. This also makes walking the machine by hand the better way to go, which probably would have helped with this problem.
  • Always sew in the same direction. On the first prototype, I sewed the side construction seams (under the finish) in a natural way that allowed me to feed the piece from the same side. This means up one side and down the other. Especially without a lot of pins and tugging, this causes some shifting, which, in this case, caused the front pocket to sit crooked across the piece. One side drifted up and the other down, so the sum of difference was twice the drift, almost 3/8″ in this case. It’s visible and solved easily. If I was trying to be extremely precise, I would have started the bottom finish construction seam in the middle and sewed one half at a time towards the outside, where the seam allowances would have been cut off. Lessons for next time.
  • The patch panel Velcro on the front didn’t come out aligned. This means nothing other than that I did a poor job deducing where to attach it. It may have drifted during the initial stitching as well. In retrospect, a small piece of fusible web may have done well to hold it in place while stitching.
  • I did try to incorporate a piece of elastic into the middle seam of the front pocket. This was awkward to stitch on and doesn’t seem to have made a bit of difference. I avoided that completely in the second two prototypes, with no loss at all.
  • Using the snaps in the first prototype required a stabilizer. Since I was attaching stabilizer, I attached some under the PALS straps bind points as well. I used firm stabilizer — not the thickest or most stable but very much more stable than I generally use in any project — and the snap retainer still warped the fabric. I can’t think of a lesson here other than to spend a lot more time with snaps until I can figure out exactly how to make them work perfectly, or avoid them altogether. I did the latter on the second two prototypes.

Pattern

I didn’t start with a pattern but by the time I was done with three pieces, I had figured out how to draw one.

  • PALS pouches that have the PALS grid on the back should come in a short set of sizes. The height of the unfinished fabric should be twice the seam allowance + 2-1/2″ + 1-1/2″ + an additional 1-1/2″ per row (after the first) of grid + fudge factor for height. The width should be twice the seam allowance + 1/2″ + 1-1/2″ + an additional 1-1/2″ per column (after the first) of grid + fudge factor for width. I’ll explain this in much more detail in another post.
  • That having been said, pouches, like the admin panel I’m building in this project, shouldn’t have dense grid on the back. They’re probably fine with tacks on 3″ across the width and fewer rows down the height. How many fewer? I’d say probably for anything shorter (having less height) than about 6″, a single row down the middle is fine. For something in the 6″-10″ range, two rows with twice the spacing — that is, skip one full row between, space and all — are probably enough. I expect that should be covered in another post.
  • I could also probably get away with one center PALS strap instead of the two. If going with two, probably best place them closer to center, which would greatly ease construction by allowing the piece to sit flatter on the sewing machine deck.
  • I will be happier with some sort of personalization or logo somewhere on each piece. I’m looking into a good logo and how to make it work for pieces like this. That’ll be the subject of an upcoming article.

Materials

Materials in short runs are hard. At 10,000 yd, you can probably order exactly what you want and someone will make it for you. At 10 yd — which is a lot for one or two projects — you may have a hard time finding the thing you want at all. I did the best I could with what I could get easily but this is definitely part of the learning process.

  • I’m using the wrong webbing for these projects. The stuff I could find is woven and heavy, over 1/32″ thick. The stuff I want is less than 1/32″ thick. I think one difference is that one is nylon and the other is polypropylene but the major problem is that the filament used to weave this webbing is a larger size than I want. The stuff I have isn’t labeled so I don’t have a reference. I’ll have to do more research and post on that separately.
  • The PVC-coated Cordura is, on the other hand, exactly the right thing. I think 1000D would have come out too thick and something in the range of 200D-300D wouldn’t have held shape as well.
  • The lining for the first two prototypes was fleece. That didn’t work very well. Aside from the fact that fleece is relatively difficult to work with, especially in combination with other fabrics, it turned out to be way too bulky. In future projects when I need that soft feel for a lining, I’m going to look into flannel as an alternative.
  • The polyester ribbon I used for the finish behaved much better than I’d expected it to. The look of the ribbon is very similar to that of gear I have made by Blackhawk and Maxpedition. It was also very easy to work with.
  • For light duty gear, I’m very comfortable with Velcro instead of snaps on the PALS straps. I haven’t had a chance to field-test this piece much yet but I’ve thrown it around the house a little and it seems like it’ll hold up. I didn’t stitch through the Velcro, just around the edges, and it seems to have a comparable force required to open it as the snaps. I’m even more confident with the shear strength of the connection, more than I would be with snaps, and I believe that’s the most important measure. The force necessary to open or close the connection isn’t as important, I think, as the ability of the connection to withstand pulling across it, or shear strength.

Summary

Overall, I’m very satisfied with the results. It is far from perfect but all the imperfections seem to be visual. The day after I finished the piece, it became a workhorse, attached to my swim bag. It hasn’t been very long but so far it exceeds expectations on performance.

 

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