Introduction: A Giant Kite
Kites are fun, so why not build an enormous one? This one is 4,5x3x0,5 meters, so a total area of nearly 14 square meters. It is designed all by me, and it is made to have as much pull as possible, and i can tell you this is a beast. In just slight wind i can't hold it myself, and need to anchor it to a car or similar. It is very much fun.
The difficulty rating on this project is intermediate. You need sewing skills, and it's a good idea to have worked with kites before, but to be honest this was my first homemade kite, and my first time ever sewing, so if you have the patience, it's possible for a beginner. (Thanks for teaching me to sew mom :) )
Step 1: Design
The design is nothing revolutionary, but since i had the time, i decided to make it from the ground up. This was new ground for me, i have never made a kite from scratch myself, so it was rather interesting figuring it out along the way. The design is a Parafoil, a soft cell-based kite, with a lot of bridle lines to keep it in place. This type of kite pulls really hard, and is really stable in the wind. I based the design on existing kites, the parafoil is a very known and "easy" shape, but my only help was pictures of other kites. Much of the designing was intuition and luck, but it turned out quite good, so I'd say i got away with it.
I have made a few pictures that i hope explain all the measurements. The reason i didn't make it an even 3x4,5 meters, is that the rolls of fabric come in 1,5 meter width. There will always be some waste, so making it slightly smaller meant that i didn't have to stitch too many panels together. The triangles on the bottom for example, are 1450mm, and the big upper piece can be made of just three pieces stitched together forming one big nearly 4,5x3 meter rectangle. It's designed so that the minimum amount of fabric is wasted.
The curved top edge is probably the only even dimension, it's a flat 3000mm. This is relevant to know, for when you make the top panels.
I made a little program that could calculate the bridle line lengths for me, and the result can be seen in the table. I am pretty sure this kite is scalable to some extend, so go nuts with the calculator if you want it in a different size.
Remember that these are the kites dimensions! You need to add a sewing seam - a 5-10mm extra bit all around the edges that are going to have a seam, such that the kite ends up with the right dimensions.
Step 2: Materials and Tools
For a project this size, i have to stress one thing - this is not a cheap project. I have spend more than 400$ on materials alone, and about a month making it. I would hate to spend so much time making it, only to have it fail because i wanted to save a few bucks. I went all in, and that's necessary for a project like this.
I went and bought all my materials in a kite shop, and got some good advise on the way. If you're doing this, i can only recommend seeking out someone who has done this before, they might save you a lot of money (I saved over 200$ by going to the shop and not just ordering it online, because they got me the right things first try)
Soldering iron (for cutting fabric)
Cutting table (preferably a large metal sheet)
Lots of light for proper lighting
A good sewing machine
Plenty of space, it'll take up quite some in the living room
A seam ripper (unless you somehow manage to not make any mistakes. I made plenty..)
A very long very straight piece of wood, aluminium profile, etc. to use as a ruler
A 1 meter ruler, preferably a bit heavy so it doesn't move around too much
Kite fabric in colors of your choice (Schikarex, Chikara or Skytex 40. These are not cheap, but damn good).
I used: 2 meters of yellow, 2 meters of blue, 2 meters of red, 12 meters of black and 19 meters of white, all of them were 1,5 meters wide. That's nearly 60sqm fabric.
45 meters of Dacron, 4cm wide (reinforcement for high stress points)
200 meters of polyester bridle line
About 2500 meters (yeah, really) of sewing thread meant for kites
A rated 500kg snap hook
Flying line, 300-400kg should be enough, i haven't tested the kite in hard wind, so i'd rather play it safe here. You don't need more than 30 meters
Needles for kite fabric
10mm Webbing 4 meters (kinda looks like seatbelt fabric, I used for bridle points)
Step 3: Making Templates
I unfortunately dont have any pictures of the making of these, but firstly i started by making paper templates of all the panels.
You need one for
- 12 bottom triangles (6 black, 2 red, 2 blue and 2 yellow)
- 7 keel-1 triangles (black)
- 7 keel-2 triangles (black)
- 7 keel-3 triangles (black)
- 11 internal ribs with holes(white)
- 2 sides (black) (these are the same as the ribs, just without any holes)
- 3 upper rectangles (white) (i didn't actually make a template for these, they're plain rectangles, so i drew them without)
So all in all, i made 5 templates.
If you have the materials for it, i highly recommend making them in plywood or something more rigid than paper, because it was difficult sometimes to keep them flat and straight.
The curved edge of the rib was made by just marking out the measurements, and the drawing the curve free hand.
Step 4: Outlining the Templates
On a large table, start outlining the templates onto the fabric. Remember to arrange them as much as possible, so you don't waste too much fabric. I used a simple pen for the white panels, and a piece of chalk for the black and colored panels. The chalk stayed on just fine, but could be washed off with a damp cloth easily. It's a good idea to put lines on the fabric, indicating which edge is the top edge for the keels, and the flow direction for the bottom triangles. The bottom triangles are not equal length, so be careful not to mix them up.
Unfortunately i don't have any good pictures of this, because at this scale, i couldn't get a picture that made sense. The lines were too small to see if i fit the whole panel in a picture, but basically just draw it all up first, wait with the cutting until you're sure there's enough fabric.
Step 5: Cutting the Panels
Cutting might be the wrong word, technically i melted them with a soldering iron. The material is ripstop nylon, but as an extra precaution i hot cut all the edges to prevent it from tearing.
All the straight long edges were cut with a metal ruler as a guide, and all the curved were cut free handed. This is challenging, because one mistake can actually ruin a panel. Take your time, get to know how fast you can cut and remember to take breaks every now and then. For example, it's going to feel like a challenge to cut the circles in one go, but it's not worth it, they will look better if you do it little by little. You will get better as you're doing this, so find your own technique and pace.
Remember to have proper ventilation! Burning nylon smells bad, and i presume the fumes are not that healthy.
This step is a big one, so take your time.
Step 6: Sewing the Bottom Triangles and the Top Sheet
The first panels that are going to be sewn, are the bottom triangles.
Start by finding making sure you have the right edges, then join a colored triangle to a black triangle to form a square. Make 6 of these, and then join them to a rectangle.
This is about the first time you get a sense of the size of this monster.
The top sheet is sewn from the 3 3x1,5 rectangles, into a single 3x4,5 meter rectangle.
On the trailing edge of the bottom sheet (the one on the bottom of the kite) and on both the trailing and leading edge of the top sheet, i reinforced the edge with dacron. This is to prevent the air pressure from ripping up the seam in this very high stress area.
Step 7: Add the Ribs to the Top Sheet
As the title says, next step is to add the ribs to the top sheet. Start by marking 11 lines down through the top sheet, in all the places that will have a rib. Remember the extra sewing addition! If you draw the lines where the ribs are actually supposed to be, you won't be able to see them. You need to draw the line 5-10mm offset, depending on how much sewing seam you've made. Make sure you remember what side you're going to sew on too, otherwise it's just twice as big a mistake.
I do apologize for the lack of pictures, i was on crutches with a broken pelvis when i made this, so arranging large pieces was not always that easy. If you need any clarification, please let me know, and i'll be happy to help.
I assume your sewing skills are good enough that you know seams are always on the inside.
A trick to doing this, is to roll the whole top sheet up nicely and keeping it together with a glue clamp. Keep this inside the sewing machine, and unroll it out of the machine. This makes it much easier to control, and minimizes the risk of getting one too many layers under the needle.
Step 8: Sewing Keels to the Bottom
Just like the ribs on the top sheet, the keels need to go on the bottom sheet before joining the two halves.
The keels need to be reinforced with dacron at the tips first, to spread out the force. I made my own little pattern, but i don't think there's any best way to do this, just make sure the tips are strong. The top edge that is going to be connected to the bottom sheet also got at strip of dacron, to prevent tears.
On the tips, you will also put a 8cm strip of webbing. This webbing is to have a loop where you can connect the bridle lines later on.
Before attaching the keels, i sewed them together in rows of keel 1-2 and 3, with the correct overlap. This was much easier than to try and align them on the bottom piece.
Measure out where they are going to be, and put them on one row at a time. I gave every row of keels a double seam, to make sure they stay in place even in harder winds.
Step 9: Join the Two Halves
Starting at one end, combine the side that's already on the top sheet with the edge of the bottom sheet. Always seams on the inside, remember that. Then just work your way down the 11 ribs, and combine the halves one by one. If you measured and cut accurately, it should fit that every second rib will sit directly above a keel.
For the final side, flip the kite inside out, to get the seam on the inside. Since the openings are so big, this really wasn't any problem.
When all the ribs are done it's time for the final seam - the trailing edge. Both halves should have a dacron reinforced edge, so align those, and fold them over in half, essentially creating 4 layers of dacron. Do a double seam on the trailing edge.
Step 10: Making Bridle Lines
To make the bridle lines, i made a handy little tool first. It was simply a board, with two nails in it, spaced 50cm apart. In between there was a ruler, so when i needed a bridle say A1 - 7450mm, i could simply wrap it around 7 times and measure out the last 45 cm on the ruler. This meant it only took a few hours to measure and cut all 21 bridle lines. When you make them, put a little masking tape tag on them, and write down the letter and number, otherwise it will be impossible to figure out which one goes where.
Make a simple loop on either end, and make sure they're the same size. Then put half of the loop inside the bridle loops on the keels, and thread the whole thing through itself. This way you don't have any annoying knots on the kite, and you can make sure you get the correct length.
The loop at the other end goes in the snap hook, along with the flying line.
Step 11: Launching It
Because the kite is so big, it took me several tries to figure out how to actually launch it.
You need 3 people to launch it, or 2 and an anchor. I recommend wearing gloves, and keep an eye out for those bridle lines! If the wind catches the kite, and you're in the way of a bridle line, you will get hurt, so be careful.
Start by holding it at the opening, stretching it out to fill it with air. Once that's done, make sure the front row of bridle lines are tight, and then walk down the kite, while making stretching it out to keep the airflow going in. You should start to see it rise up with the front end more and more, until you're holding it in the very corners on the trailing edge. At this point all bridle lines should be tight, and on a coordinated cue, let go of the corners and watch it fly. Seeing it in the air first time was amazing, all that hard work, and it just flew like a dream. Rock solid in the sky, and with a massive pull. It is so gentle to look at, but trying to hold it by hand is a workout and a half. I would suggest having some sort of anchor, because holding it for longer periods is very hard.
To take it down, put on some gloves, and pull the line to the ground at the anchor. Then grab the next half meter, and bring it down to the ground and continue like that. Don't try and reel it in, that's simply not possible, instead just walk it down until you reach the snap hook.
Packing it down is not too fancy, i just found a big bag that i stuff it into. I give a little extra attention to the bridle lines though, it's just not fun to spend the first half hour untangling those. I hook the snap hook in a shoe-box and gently place the lines inside, trying to not make a mess.
That's it! This is a big project, it's difficult and a little expensive, but i really enjoyed it and it is definitely not the last giant kite i make. I hope i have inspired some of you to try it, i was a complete novice at this, but i managed to get through it, so if you're looking for at summer project, this is a very rewarding one. You get a kite that you can launch whenever the weather allows it, and it definitely pulls some attention at the beach.
If you liked the instructable, i have entered it in the "Make it fly" and the "Beyond the comfort zone" contests, i would be tremendously happy if you gave it a vote. Thanks for reading, feel free to ask any questions!