Awning Bag Challenge! - The Complete Guide

Discussion in 'Camper Restoration Projects' started by roachslayer, Jul 4, 2017.

  1. roachslayer

    roachslayer New Member

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    This post explains how to construct an Awning bag using equipment at home (non-industrial).

    My 12' awning bag for my 22' 1998 Flagstaff utterly disintegrated by UV. Last month it was so bad I almost lost the entire thing on the highway. Something needed to be done!

    IMG_20170624_202151.png IMG_20170704_091137.png

    The Awning material itself was in perfectly good shape, it's just the bag that needed replacing. Also I did have one pole missing, and I figured that was fixable too.

    Awnings consist of 4 basic parts:
    1. Material (canvas or similar)
    2. Zipper
    3. Keder (mounting rope to go into the mounting rail)
    4. Frame & Poles
    Optionally, there is also a velcro edge along the awning itself if you want to add screen walls, etc.

    But... can you get these parts? Nope. Awning parts are not considered "user replaceable". I called around to every reseller and manufacturer that exists, no parts or material is available. But by golly, they are happy to sell you a complete new unit for $350+. In particular, the most frustrating thing is the lack of telescoping poles! The kind that extend and twist to lock are nowhere to be found on the planet! A painters pole wont work because they have a big fat grip and wont fold into the frame when done. Many curtain rods twist to lock at a given length, but too thin and wimpy for an awning pole. Those things are ubiquitous and common, but nooooooo, not for tents and awnings! What gives?

    We live in a society where we encourage landfill waste. One little thing breaks, throw the whole thing out and get a new one. Helpless, lazy, wasteful - don't even consider fixing and getting more life out of anything. Well, that is not acceptable to me, not just for cost, but for the environment and more. Very frustrating.

    The Challenge - Bring It On!

    No way am I dropping hundreds of dollars on this to fix one piece of failed material, and a pole. No way am I going to throw away something that is 90% perfectly fine. Time to restore my awning.

    Problem 1: Lack of experience
    Just so you know, before reading further, I have NO experience with this stuff. I don't know anything about materials, sewing, restoring, etc. This is my first go at this, and that makes it all the more difficult.

    Problem 2: The Material
    I dunno what the original material was. Some kind of tarpaulin? Canvas with a fiber mesh? I dunno, but it's long dead. I think the bag is the same material as the awning itself, not sure. It lasted 19 years, not too bad.

    I found Sunbrella seems to be the brand & material of choice. That is what I recommend, at about $24 to $30 / yard, I needed 4 yards. It's a waste because you wont even use half the material (you are making a long skinny tube). So... options are pay for 4 yards Sunbrella, buy 2 yards of Sunbrella and construct this with 3 sections sewn together, or go with a cheaper canvas. I actually opted for the latter - bought a cheaper canvas at $6/yard that was plenty strong, waterproof, and had UV resisting properties. Will it last as long? No. But I think my awning itself won't outlast it anyway, so this made more sense in my case.

    Specifically, this is the stuff I bought:
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01M8I8UCF/

    And if, despite as advertised, it lacks in water resistance, or UV, I can always add that myself.

    You also need to pick yourself up some #69 Marine grade thread (UV resistant) and a #16 needle for your machine and hand sewing needles as well.

    Problem 3: The Zipper
    No way was I going to use this tiny, lame, #5 coil zipper (see how it compares to the big #10 new one):
    IMG_20170704_091251.png

    This thing also disintegrated, by abuse and dirt for sure, but also from UV. It was crusty, crushed in places, and would not close anymore. Instead, I use a big beefy YKK #10 Marine grade UV resistant zipper, 12 feet long, awesome! Found mine on ebay here:
    http://stores.ebay.com/canvasupholsterymarineautotoys/?_dmd=2&_nkw=ykk+#10

    I found this to be a useful guide:
    http://www.sailrite.com/Choosing-a-Replacement-Zipper-Slider

    Note: I opted for Vislon plastic rather than metal because that is more common in Marine applications (can't go wrong). You only need a single sided sipper (not a double handle). You can go with either a double or single zipper though (zip from both ends). I opted for a single zipper from one end.

    Problem 4: Keder Rope/Welt

    2-flap Vinyl keder like this doesn't exist anymore!

    IMG_20170704_091412.png

    Could not find a 2-flap plastic keder/welt at all. So I went with this more common mesh type keder.
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00NLMYYP6

    ... but I do not recommend 1-flap. This is because you must fold the edge of the bag down (see other pics below). With a 2-flap keder, you just feed the top/bottom halves of the bag with the awning edge sandwiched in between, and done! Sew it. Folding the front edge down doubled the canvas and my sewing machine hated me. Hated! It was too much, and I almost could not sew this thing in the end. Somehow I made it through. Don't do that with your wifes machine. Just sayin. But it handled 2-4 layers of material fine (6+ and it choked). This is a cheap Brother brand machine, nothing fancy, and certainly NOT built for upholstery!

    Problem 5: Telescoping Poles
    As mentioned, they just don't exist. I had to settle :(. My poles are 1" outer diameter, 4ft long, and extend to about 7-8 feet with an internal twist-to-lock mechanism. The only thing I could find that even came close to this was a 7/8" 7ft telescoping pole that has button holes at various heights (lame, so not as cool). So my awning now is a franken setup with one stock pole and one lame alternative.

    https://www.amazon.com/Stansport-254-Telescoping-Tent-Pole/dp/B004Z10D16

    This requires some work because they are riveted to the frame. That is the best way to go, otherwise you need to figure out some other way to attach that wont affect the material when all closed up.

    Construction

    I don't sew, but I am mechanically inclined, and know how to watch Youtube. I also had the advantage of the old awning bag as a pattern. So I simply copied it. You are basically making a giant, long duffle bag, where the zipper of the bag is actually the bottom, and the top of the bag is actually sewn into the awning edge and Keder rope, all together. The only stitch on the outside is the top for the keder edge.

    Step 1: Cut material

    I laid the material out, got a pencil and drew straight lines with a bit long piece of flat iron as a straight edge (you could also use base board trim, or something). I cut two pieces of 9" by 12 feet in my case. I found that the factory edge of the canvas was NOT necessarily square! Weird.

    Step 2: Sew Zipper

    Yeah... how? A 12 foot zipper sewn into canvas, no problem, right? Well, here are some videos that helped me:



    I did not use basting tape. I literally just held it as I sewed it (see 2nd video). I cut more canvas (length) that I needed, so I didn't have to worry about matching anything like seen in that 2nd video. You do have to get the face right though - outside vs inside of canvas! When done, I zipped them together. Then reverse it inside-out, and sew the ends up! Invert it again to get the outside to the outside. Done! Bag is ready!

    IMG_20170701_113554.png

    TIP: in the first video at 13:10, you see that the material covers each half of the zipper so it is hidden under flaps when closed. Since my bag was designed with the zipper slightly toward the front (not directly facing the ground under the bottom), I decided to make an extra wide flap on the front/top, and almost no flap on the back side zipper, as seen in this pic. This completely covers the zipper when closed as well, no UV will hit my UV resistant zipper. Cool.

    IMG_20170704_091509.png
    IMG_20170704_091520.png

    Step 3: Pinning the awning edge

    Unzip the zipper, bring your awning up inside. Align these top edges, and pin! In my case, I had to fold the top over to prevent water from entering because I used a 1-flap keder. Instead, I recommend a 2-flap keder (like my original) so that you can just shove the raw edges up inside, unfolded, and be done with it! So in my case you see my keder is mounted behind the whole bag assembly rather than encompassing front and back with a 2-flap.

    IMG_20170701_231708.png

    BE SURE YOU HAVE THE AWNING ORIENTED PROPERLY. Top side to the front side of bag as you feed the edge up inside. You will be really mad at yourself if you sew this thing in, put it on the trailer, and then unroll it and realize your awning is upside down!

    Step 4: Sewing the Keder Top Edge

    This is really difficult! Why? Because at this point, you literally have to have this big heavy frame and awning sewn in place, moving through the machine all together! But not impossible. I placed the awning on a rolling cart (furniture roller from Harbor Freight) on the hard wood floor. This allowed me to glide it through the machine. This actually worked, but the machine itself wanted to slide and I had to have someone hold it still for me.

    IMG_20170704_091441.png

    IMG_20170701_231720.png

    Pretty cool, right? No industrial setup? No problem! Just be resourceful.

    Step 5: Seam seal

    I recommend a seam sealer to be safe, just to be sure you don't collect rain into your awning bag and kill the thing with mildew!

    This is what I used:
    Gear Aid Seam Grip Repair Adhesive and Sealant
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000OR5PHW

    Other brands and types exist. I am just familiar with this having used it on tents and motorcycle jackets with good success.
     
    BrodieB, WunFiddy, mpking and 2 others like this.
  2. roachslayer

    roachslayer New Member

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    The Final Product

    Finishing this project was very rewarding. I think I spent about $55, and it took me about a day to do. Not bad, good learning experience, and I'll get many more years out of this thing.

    I realize popup camping is not all about DIY, but for those that do want to roll up their sleeves and are in need of fixing your rotten awning, I hope this is helpful. There is enough info here that if I were to add more pics of my frame and poles, etc, one could literally make their own awning.

    The difference between this and the 1998 OEM stock equipment is night and day. That zipper is sooooo smooth and nice to operate! Oh, and it's nice not to have a rotting bag open up and drop the awning out on the highway too - that is a plus!

    IMG_20170702_114523.png
    ^ Bag is done, ready to hang.

    IMG_20170702_114647.png
    ^ Now it's the whitest part of the camper! Doh!

    Next up... restoring the exterior, trim, paint, etc!
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2017
  3. MaBrownie

    MaBrownie New Member

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    Great job! Thanks for sharing all the links and pictures.
     
  4. friartuck

    friartuck Well-Known Member

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    As my bag just did the "I don't wanna ride on the camper anymore!" splat, I will keep this link handy!
     
    roachslayer likes this.
  5. #iluvoutdoors

    #iluvoutdoors Member

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    I just sewed a new bag for my awning today. I love the keder track. I used marine vinyl from joanns. We will see how it holds up. Did your zipper coat you 23$ ?i haven't closed it up. I was thinking of using Velcro instead of zipper.
     

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  6. #iluvoutdoors

    #iluvoutdoors Member

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    I also love the cart you put it on. I definitely should have done that.
     
  7. Pat Petunia

    Pat Petunia New Member

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    I love your details
     
  8. Glyn O'Keefe

    Glyn O'Keefe New Member

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    Thank you for the info. I am now inspired to create a new bag for our awning.
     

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