How to repair a caving suit

Back in the good old days, you could hand your torn caving suit over to Dragon and they’d fix it for you. But that’s not an option in these post-Dragon days. So when I realised quite how extensive the tear in my suit was, I turned to the internet.

It was of limited helpfulness. Advice and suggestions that contradicted themselves so eventually, I handpicked myself a few of the ideas and put them together as so:

Here is my problem:

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It’s not so much torn as just that the seams have given out over time, really.

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Equipment I used:

One cordura patch, size 12 x 12 inches, as bought from eBay (red) (£4.25 + pp)
One packet of Hemline Repair needles from Hobbycraft (£2)
One reel upholstery thread from Hobbycraft (£3.55)
One bottle fabric glue from Hobbycraft (~£3)

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1) I made a pattern out of newspaper to well and truly cover the tear. I then traced it onto the cordura, cut it out and rounded the corners, because square corners catch on things.

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2) I took from my pack of heavy-duty needles the bookbinders/sailmakers needle. This thing is about three inches long and so thick that you don’t need to worry about dropping and losing it. It’s also nice and sharp so it can punch through two layers of cordura.

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3) I threaded my huge needle with the extra-tough upholstery thread, put my patch in place and began to sew. Yes, it’s hard work. Yes, you might want to take a break or two.

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4) I should have done backstitch but it didn’t occur to me until I got to the end, when I thought it looked a bit amateur. So I went round a second time filling in the gaps until I got something that looked a bit like backstitch. Or alternatively, like someone had sewed it on twice to make sure.

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5) To make sure it was properly sealed and properly held down, I coated the edges and the underneath of the hem in waterproof fabric glue. It doesn’t dry clear. It’s not particularly decorative but if you’re into decorative, caving probably isn’t for you.

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6) Ta-dah! One repaired caving suit hung up to dry. Do make sure the glue is dry before you roll it up and put it away.

I’ve only used this suit a handful of times since the repair but it seems to be holding up ok. There’s enough cordura left over to do another repair or two, enough thread and glue to do hundreds and the needles will last a lifetime (also very handy for repairing camp chairs at 7am), so you’re now set to do repairs after every caving trip.