A first model kite - probing the kite building ground

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OK I know, this and that person made a few stitches into something kite like, that is on a larger scale quite small news - but not for me. And that is what the below is much about - a rookie's perspective on kite sewing.

A small beginner practice project to get going and to determine difficulties. The span width of this mini speedwing is 34.5cm. Trailing edge hem turned out to be problematic.

Another very small beginner practice project to get going and to determine difficulties. This truncated mini test kite bag had too little material when folding the lid around seam. Also, how should one hide the seam on the inside close to the opening?

Why build such a small kite? The main reason is to practice and identify the problematic details/procedures while wasting close to a negligible amount of material. It also makes it easier to relate to texts like ( https://sites.google.com/site/kites4all/home/kite-sewing-101 ) and provide a better motivation and focus when reading up on the craft. If you start by doing early on, your eyes might also open up when studying your own (purchased) kites and their designs.
The main remaining difficulty with the this kite project turned out to be to make the trailing edge hem so that it is in the same plane as the sail. The lesson from making a mini test bag is that when folding fabric over seams, more material than you originally thought might be required.

I don't believe that absolute beginners (like me) are an extra good source of knowledge other than that that they bother about bringing up topics and things that they wonder about that the more skilled ones don't. Possibly the lack of knowledge of how things "should" be done can lead to that new approaches are tested. I also believe in sharing what didn't go so well so that it can be avoided. Therefore also images of test pieces, failures and dead ends will be included in below (future) posts.
The methods displayed here is what I tried when making a first time mini kite. Suggestions?: Don't hide in the corner - Sing it out!

Yes this is a cheapo, plastic, budget sewing machine equipped with a slightly to thick needle for the ripstop of this model speedwing. Yet, being a kite sewing rookie, I didn't feel limited by the tool. Perhaps it is because I've never seen high quality and fancy features sewing machine and is therefore blind here?

Speedwing kite - what was (?) patented (anybody knows)?
First of all did, I chose to do non free patented kite? I couldn't find any patent document with searches like "speedwing kite patent", "speedwing expired kite patent"... I don't know if there are any patents today, but I wouldn't think so. Why? Because it was already mentioned as a patented kite in Stunt Kites 2 by Servaas van der Horst from 1994, quote: "Since certain aspects of the Speedwing are patented the kite may only be built for your private use". The patents seems to be at least 24 years old. This post ( http://www.kites.tug.com/Archive/kites/potpourri/speedwing.adjustment.tips ) dates the speedwing bridle patent to older than 15th June 1993, soon 25 years ago (and it also give advice on tuning the Speedwing bridle). In any case older than the 20 year limit ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Term_of_patent ) and if this would be a design patent the valid time would be even shorter. If the patent is expired, then web pages like this (as of February 2018):
works like a lost fishing net (no matter how good the intentions were), lying tangled at the ocean floor needlessly suffocating swimming fish for years to come, by stating it is patented. Only recently I've seen speedwings being offered commercially, Cross Kite's Speedwing X1 and X3 or De Paddestoel Speedwing Progress. Statements of patents should be published with an expected expiration date or filing date IMO. Also it is desirable that it is thoroughly specified what is patented (or a link to the filed patent). How wide a patent is is of importance ( https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/03/why-the-roots-of-patent-trolling-may-be-in-the-patent-office/ ).

List and discussion of tools/equipment
The Sewing Machine

This small compartment was very handy to keep the sewing machine gear in.

A handy needle threader holder made out of construction polyethene/polyethylene foil tape.

The not so old sewing machine was a Singer Simple 3210. The Singer Simple is very plastic but light to move around - can be slid on the table almost too easily. I gave a little more than 130 USD new for this tool. There are not much extra bells and whistles I guess, but I like the the storage space inside for small stuff that came with the sewing machine. An arrangement that I've found handy is to have the needle threader attached to a construction foil tape sticky side out tube on the right hand of the sewing machine. Finally, no matter the model of sewing machine, don't sit double folded over it for extended periods of time - put a couple of large books under it if necessary so that you sit comfortably when working.
Some handling hints: Balance upper lower/thread tension and set quite low. Needle up actions: Starting/stopping and changing backwards/forwards direction. However never change direction by manually rotating the wheel backwards - the wheel should be turned against you always. When making a sharp turn, lift the presser foot with the needle down and rotate the fabric around the needle. Use tape or glue to secure the glossy/slippery ripstop before sewing. If you would use sewing pins to hold the pieces together, the holes after the needles would remain.

The needle
Not so sharp, surprisingly blunt needles - the sharpest of them (all 90/14 machine needles in the above image) was the one I had been using all the time. It was possible to see the reflection from the window in the tip, which was not possible or hardly not possible with the sharper (and not in the above image collage) hand sewing or sewing pins that I had. To the left in this collage is the microscope used here.

After sewing the kite I looked into which needle I had been using and the state of the needle tip after the kite (and other mostly practice stuff pieces) and paper sewing. In this project I used the regular point (style 2020) needle that came with the sewing machine. It was of the dimension 90/14 (of a scale going from 60 to 110 (European standard) or 8 to 18 (American standard). A regular point needle will will go into the fabric threads, while a ball point style needle will go between the fabric threads. The ballpoint needle seem to be good for knitted fabric ( http://www.singerco.com/sewing-resources/machine-needles ). 
In the Make Magazine web-site I found a link to a graphical cheat sheet for choosing a machine needle ( https://makezine.com/2013/11/20/infographic-choose-the-perfect-sewing-machine-needle/ ): http://www.sewingpartsonline.com/blog/finding-perfect-sewing-machine-needle-infographic/ . The needle size table there seems to suggest that I instead should have gone for a finer needle than the 90/14 needle that is for slightly thick fabric (like flannel).
Not until the kite was finished I examined how sharp or should I say blunt the needle tips were - no needle (the one I had been using or the spares - all 90/14 needles) tip would puncture your skin unless you applied some force. The point diameters were between about 0.14-0.22mm and the light from the window could be reflected in all of them. Quite unexpected was that the one that I had been using all the time was the sharpest! It had slightly more than half the radius of the bluntest (spare) needle! It appears like all the times I did practice stitches and practiced adjusting the thread tensions while sewing in paper didn't do any harm to the needle tip. I guess that one should change the needle and use a matching one when doing the much thicker nose and LE dacron. The microscope used here was a mini and budget one bought at a sale for about 7USD. With some practice it is possible to hold the camera/mobile so that the images can be obtained.

Other Tools

Some tools used for the project. The French curve and the caliper belonged to my father:

  • A wood burning iron pen tool - for hot cutting the ripstop. Screw the tip in properly to conduct the heat well.
  • A revolver single-hole punch pliers. Was handy when making the card board template for the opening in the sail for the spreader fittings.
  • A french curve template for drawing the curve when making the rounded panels that will give a the sail a camber.
  • A caliper and (folding) ruler for bridle measurements.
  • An angle hook (instead of a non-existent set square)
  • A thick thread to use instead of a compass (that was needed due to the lack of grid paper).
  • A pair of scissors.
  • A "lead" pencil to draw directly on the ripstop when "cold cutting" with the scissors.
  • A book: Stunt Kites 2 by Servaas van der Horst from 1994
  • A kite: Speedwing X1 - a nice 3D reference.

To be continued...

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You will expand your tool collection with time, but what you have now is enough to make some very good kites. My avatar is the second kite I sewed. Very simple compared to the first which was a frameless foil. They are all fun, and each will teach you some new technique that will be useful in all future builds.

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Very nice start Exult. The material for my 1st build is black and orange. Imagine that :cat_shocked:. Brilliant minds think alike LOL.

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23 hours ago, makatakam said:

My avatar is the second kite I sewed.

I much like how the pattern gets inverted along the curve that could be an extension of either side's TE in your avatar. I've done some QLK pattern design thinking at the time when ordering the ripstop, but I have not yet come to the "graphical punch line" or some "panel layout twist" as I consider your QLK pattern to be an example of.

23 hours ago, makatakam said:

expand your tool collection...

...will teach you some new technique

It would be interesting reading IMO, if everyone's building aha moments, however minor, resulted in an image and a short text (though personally I might have a problem with the short part occasionally :)).

19 hours ago, Breezin said:

The material for my 1st build is black and orange. Imagine that :cat_shocked:. Brilliant minds think alike LOL.

Except for being being orange/black ripstop destined for the brilliant minds :), the price was also quite OK when ordering. Your currently empty (well "B"-avatar) avatar is perhaps reserved for your future DIY beauty in orange and black?

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Haven't really thought about an avatar. Still working on my LE and haven't cut the sail yet. Tomorrow I'll get the rest of the frame and shape shifter stand off parts ordered.


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Needle dimensions

My plan was to write about the material used rather soon after the equipment, but then I realized that I hadn't understood the needle dimensions yet. So I started to find out about it and I found things not so straight forward.

First problem I see with saying that a needle size is "90/14" is that there are no units. 90 pieces of what or 14 pieces of what - the text "90/14" just doesn't say anything in itself. If, but only if, you know the conventions you have a chance. First with knowledge about the convention the numbers are given a meaning.

The second thing is that there are two numbers for the to express the one and same diameter. If the relation between these two numbers was simple, it shouldn't be required to provide both of them.

How the size codes (Y-axis) depends on the needle diameters (X-axis). The needle diameter is here expressed as in the NM system where the unit is 0.01mm or equivalently 10µm.

The European number metric (NM) system
The European/number metric/NM system is almost sane, it is just the needle dimension expressed in units of 1/100 of a mm (or in units of 0.01mm or 10nm). As long as you know this it is nice and linear scale. E.g. NM 90 corresponds to 0.90mm - just as you would expect. If you mean that a needle is 0.9mm it would be better to write it like that directly with the unit included IMO.

The Singer/US size code
And now over to something completely different - the Singer/US size code. The nicest thing that can be said about it is that it exists (a sub) range(s) of linear needle diameters (part of this range is recognized in the above link http://www.singerco.com/sewing-resources/machine-needles ). There are thicker needles outside this range, but then the size code no longer varies linearily with the needle diameter ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sewing_machine_needle , http://www.thethreadexchange.com/miva/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Category_Code=needle_size_conversion_chart , http://apparelscience.com/index.php/apparel-science/technical/85-apparel-science/technical/150-needle-number-system ). This info is plotted in the above diagram. The non linearity starts already at needle dimensions of 1.2mm (120/19). Then, for thicker needles, a small change in the Singer size code starts to correspond to a large change in needle diameter. Another funny thing about these size codes is that to express really small values one would need to use negative values if one would extrapolate the curve for small values with a straight line. Not keeping things clear and simple takes away power from the user/DIYer by obfuscating matters IMO.

The needle tips provided with the sewing machine (yes the same image as image as above).

Types of sewing machine needles. The image is in the public domain as given in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sewing-machine-needles-types.jpg .

Looking at the µscope images in the original post  and comparing them to the Wikipedia needle graphics, the needle tips that came with the sewing machine looks like something between an universal needle and a needle for stretch material. Considering the beginner tool the needles came with, a Singer Simple, perhaps the needles provided were chosen towards the more robust side with slightly rounded tips?

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