Bivy Construction: Day 1 Learn Sewing

Lets just start this post out, I have no idea what I am doing, I just have an idea in my head and I need to get it out. I have embarked on the great journey of building my own bivy Sack.

We can start a whole debate on bivy vs tents, but that is not point of this post and all I will say about that debate is, SPEED and SIMPLICITY are the two reasons why I love bivy sacks.

I drew out some drawings on paper and even sketched out some ideas in SketchUp:

bivy designs

After some drawings, I needed something real to visualize and play with as I finalized the design. I went out to my local Lowes and purchased some Tyvek and began to sketch out and cut out my initial design.

Bivy Tyvek Design

Once I had this set up in my small apartment, I began to sketch out more final designs after being able to lay down and move around in it. This game me more of a feel of where I wanted to place my zippers and other small features.

The next big step was to purchase all the materials, a few good websites for this are:

I also needed some new tools, like a sewing machine….. Yea I started to buy all the materials before I knew anything about sewing. Sewing was going to be my huge hurdle in this project, but I pushed on anywho.

The first material to show up was my bottom part of the bivy, I chose to go with 1.0 oz Cuben Fiber from Zpacks. I placed my Tyvek over it and gave it a 3 inch buffer around the edges to create a bathtub floor.

Cuben Bivy Floor

I started out by just taping the edges with Gorilla tap just to visualize it before I taught myself how to sew.

As for the elephant in the room, I ended buying a Singer Heavy Duty 4411 from Amazon. Free shipping on a heavy product like this was one of the reasons why I purchased from amazon.

I did a little bit of research but I was also really happy to see this great YouTube Video that covered setting up this exact sewing machine:

The above YouTube video was extremely helpful once I received my sewing machine. The included directions were pretty un-helpful, and I don’t think I would have got going on my machine without the above video.

The first big task of learning to sew was following the above video and filling my first bobbin. Whats a bobbin? Glad you asked because I didn’t know there were two threads going in at once while sewing either. Since I am by no means an expert in sewing after about 1 hour of practice today, the bobbin thread come up from the bottom and the “normal” thread you see on the machine come in from the top.

Filling a bobbin from the main spool of thread

Filling a bobbin from the main spool of thread

I will admit, the first two or three tries to fill the bobbin I messed it up. The key here is once you get going speed is your friend. Filling the bobbin was the first time I stepped on the pedal of the sewing machine. The first bobbin I tried to fill, I used a very light foot and all the thread got tangled while going to the bobbin. When I finally successfully filled the bobbin, I used a much heavier and it worked much better.

The next step was threading the needle, which was another adventure but again the YouTube video proved very helpful. Before actually sewing on my Cuben Fiber floor I got out a few small squares and had at it, playing with the speeds of the  pedal and moving the Cuben Fiber through the machine.

Sewing Cuben Fiber

As you can see in the above image, there were a few issues at first. I don’t know exactly what happened each time it would look like a birds nest appeared under my machine, but after sewing a few squares I became much smoother.

Don't drink and stitch!

Don’t drink and stitch!

After a few more practice runs I built up enough courage to start sewing on my actual Cuben Fiber floor cut out. Remember how I had the bathtub corners held up by tape? Well now it was time to try and sew my first corner. It was a little nerve racking but it didn’t come out half bad:

Cuben fiber Bathtub floor corner

I left the dyneema cord in the picture to ask for suggestions on how I should attache it to all my corners. I am looking to have lines to stake out the bivy. If you have any suggestions please shoot me a comment at the end or hit me up on Twitter.

Please subscribe to the blog, or twitter, to follow me along the rest of the project!


Always Have a Plan D


New Orleans a changed City


  1. Steve

    Did you get any further on this project? Im interested in trying something similar.

    • Mike

      Unfortunately I have started over twice now…..Bivy was not the best project to start with for someone trying to learn how to sew. I did get through a couple smaller projects, like this Crampon bag:

      I also just finished my first hammock! I haven’t had a chance to use it yet, but will post pictures and a write up soon!

  2. Braden

    Hey, I see that you say that the project didn’t go well. I’m sorry to hear it. If you have any left over materials (even sewn stuff) from the project I would buy it from you.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén