by Shellie Wilson
What you need
For making a foot bag or hacky sack, you will need the following items. Once you have these, follow the instructions later on this page for making a four panel footbag.
Leather: I collect scraps of soft, thin, mildly stretchy leather as well as synthetic suede’s from various sources including fabric and leather shops, mail catalogues and other crafters. Nice, thin, supple deerskin, pigskin, etc. works best for a basic four panel bag. For multi-panel bags like the 12 or the 32 panel, use facile or Ultrasuede scrap.
Thread: Use artificial sinew split to its thinnest (comes four ply) width. Sinew comes in a huge spool for about $8. I get it from Berman Leather in Boston, tel: 617-426-0870.
Needles: For sewing real leather, use a glovers needle, a three edged needle which cuts through leather (or your finger!) like butter. Berman has them. For synthetics, any long, narrow, sharp needle will do. Some folks pre-cut their holes and lace up their sacks with a blunt, stubby needle. For mass production this may be inevitable, but a one-of-a-kind, custom product comes from intuitive placement of stitches.
Plastic Pellets: Even though these suckers come by the boatload, people have trouble finding them. Any factory or fabrication plant that makes plastic bags or injection molded objects starts with raw pellets. They spill huge piles along the railroad tracks when they unload train cars.
Making A Four Panel Footbag:
Essentially, you are going to build a sphere inside out, using four “chubby” triangles of soft deerskin or other leather. When you are nearly complete, the bag is turned right side out, filled with plastic pellets and sewn closed from the outside…
1-Thread your needle with a piece of split sinew 3 ft long, double the thread and tie both ends into a beefy (triple) knot at the bottom.
2-Lay two pieces one on top of the other (the sides you like facing inward) and begin sewing one seam with an (in and out) “running” stitch.
3-At the corner add tension to your seam giving it that distinctive “wiggly” look and add piece number three with all (3) corners touching. Sew down the next seam (as pictured).
4-Continue adding equal tension as you sew each seam and at the next corner add the fourth and final piece.
5-Now that the four pieces are attached, continue assembling the sack and sewing up the (6) seams. Remember, every corner should be the junction of three different panels.
6-After your 4th or 5th seam, you will come to a dead end. Don’t panic. When you do, use the head of the needle to loop under several stitches already in place and “hitchhike” your way back to the place that remains undone. Start and sew approx. 1/2 of the final seam and then flip the bag right side out.
7-From the outside, the final seam is closed differently. I call it a “blind” stitch because later, when you pull it closed, you won’t see the thread. First, bring the needle up and out through the lip of leather where the thread is lying, “escaping” it to the outside surface. (From now on, all sewing will be done from the outside. Ie: you won’t put the point of the needle inside the hole again). Now cross over to the opposite lip and pierce (from above) and exit the same piece with one, small bite. Cross back to the other side and do the same. Repeat back and forth until there remains about one finger width of opening (see picture).
Foot Bag Instructions
8-Fill bag to taste. If you can’t locate plastic, lentils, pearl barley, popcorn or rice works for starts (watch chipmonks!). Continue the blind stitch using up remaining space all the way into the final corner. When there remains only one stitch left, plant it so your needle exits using up nearly all remaining space.
Manicure the final seam and pull and adjust your final tension. Construct a bombproof knot directly at ground zero, cut your thread. Now carefully tuck the knot into the seam directly under the placement of the last stitch. If the placement and tension of the final stitch are done correctly, the knot will disappear entirely into the interior of the finished ball. With practice you can magically close every bag.