Repairing Damage to Fabric Areas
Sunday, 10 February 2008

One of the 3 damaged inflatables I picked up this year only had cuts/damage to fabric areas.  If I can sew one up, you can too!

Tears or cuts in the fabric of an inflatable are VERY easy to repair.  You'll only need a needle and thread the same color as the damaged area.  These instructions work for both regular inflatables as well as the fabric areas on globe type inflatables.

If the inflatable you are repairing is a globe of some sort, you should first repair the vinyl areas if needed.  Working the fabric areas requires some tugging and pulling which may damage the vinyl areas more than they already are.  Repairing them first will strengthen them so that you DON'T do more damage.

Please note that I am a very amateur stitcher!.  If you know how to sew well, please eMail me and tell me how these repairs should have been done. 

Even if you have never picked up a needle and thread before, you CAN fix your inflatable.  The nylon is very forgiving, and the fans used have ample airflow so that your repair doesn't have to be air-tight.  The first time I repaired a fabric rip in an inflatable I used large running stitches of 2"-3" and they worked.  Of course, you'll want to do a better, neater job.  I went back and re-did mine at the end of the season.

Take a good look at the damage and try to plan how your repair will go.  For instance, keeping a seam between 2 colors straight is much more important than a small pucker of fabric at the end of damage. 

Depending on how bad the damage is, sometimes it is better to cut off a small flap of fabric and sew together 2 larger pieces.  Use your best judgment - since these items are so large, there is plenty of 'slop' that will allow your repair to still look good.

I'm right handed and found that going from right to left seemed to make nicer looking repairs.  Experiment a little to see what direction works for you.

I found the easiest way to do this repair was to grab a lawn chair, sit down, and work with the area to be repaired in my lap.  I could tug and pull at the whole of the item to get just the parts I needed close to me.  Being comfortable means making a better repair!

With globes you should repair any rips/cuts on interior pieces first, then work the outer pieces.  This is because it's typically easier to repair interior damage through the damage done on the shell rather than try to pull the area 'inside out' through a zipper.  Of course, if you have a lot of experience in sewing, turning the area inside out may actually create a neater looking repair (but then you would know how to do the repair already and wouldn't be reading my instructions).  The exception to this rule is the repair of vinyl areas.  Vinyl areas should ALWAYS be repaired first.

I used what I think is a modified blanket stitch for my repairs.  For each stitch, try to stay 1/8 in to 1/4 in down from the damage.  If the fabric is frayed, you may need to increase that. 

  • First pinch the 2 sides of the rip in the fabric fabric in your left hand between your thumb and fore-finger.
  • Align the rip/cut so the edges are even
  • Take a stitch by going through both sides of the fabric from the 'thumb' side to the 'forefinger' side.  This is the 'starter' stitch. 

Now for every stitch until the end:

  • Again run the needle from the thumb side to the finger side.  This will create a loop over the top of the damage.
  • Pull the loop almost taught, then run the needle through the loop in the same direction you are sewing and pull tight (warning:  Don't pull so tight that you pull the thread through the fabric and create MORE damage).
  • Continue this every 1/8 in. to 1/4 in. down the damaged area.  If you are repairing fabric areas of a snow globe, you may want to make the stitches even smaller (to prevent the pellets from leaking out).
  • Remember to pay special attention to the start and end of the damaged area.  Take several VERY close stitches in those areas to not only strengthen the area but to prevent the stitches from pulling out.

Above all, remember that small puckers in the fabric are OK No one is going to notice!  Also remember the repair doesn't need to be 100% air-tight.