Introduction: Waterskin Canteen - DIY

About: Lehigh University grad with a B.S. in Civil Engineering and a B.A. in Architecture. Currently enrolled in an M. Eng. of Technical Entrepreneurship at Lehigh, and having a grand ol' time.

Hi all!

This is my Instructable on how to make your very own waterskin!  Growing up as a kid, hiking through the Rockies, Appalachia and the Alps, I always loved to carry a waterskin instead of a canteen, mainly because it easy to handle, and not made of rock-hard plastic (traditional waterskins were made of cow bladders and coated in resin, so unless you have access to a cow that doesn't need its bladder anymore, I think this might be a little bit easier to do). I haven't been able to find a DIY tutorial for one of these, and thought it would be a great idea to share my idea with everyone. 

If you have an old T-shirt, towel, or other fabric that you loved, but can't wear/use anymore (like a ripped T-shirt, or old jeans that don't fit), this is a perfect project for you.  And I'm betting that everyone has these materials readily available.  Let's get started.

Step 1: Materials

Here's all that you'll need to make the waterskin. 

- Duct Tape
- Yarn
- Needles & Thread
- Old T-shirt/fabric
- Cardboard
- X-acto knife
- Scissors
- Sharpie marker
- Plastic Ziploc bag
- Super glue
- Cork stoppers
- Empty plastic bottle

Price Range: $0 - $25.00 (depending on what you already have - any materials you don't have readily available can be found at A.C. Moore or Michael's).

Difficulty Level = Beginner. 

Time = ~2 hours

Step 2: Draw the Template

Using the Sharpie and the cardboard piece, draw a template in the shape you want your waterskin to be.  Some people prefer to make it more circular, and others stick to the traditional shape of a waterskin.  I've gone with the traditional, as you can see in the photos.  It doesn't matter if the lines and arcs in the template aren't perfect - once we sew the fabric together, you won't be able to spot any flaws.This template will be used to create the faces of the waterskin, and then we'll discard it.

Step 3: Sketching the Outline

Place the template on the left-side of the shirt.  Do NOT place the template directly in the center of your fabric, or you won't have enough space to cut everything, and we want to sew as little as possible in the next steps.  If there's a graphic that you really want to show-off, do your best to place the template to completely encompass it, but don't overlap the edges of the fabric.

Using the Sharpie, sketch the negative outline of the shirt by putting the Sharpie on the template, and pulling it directly off the template and onto the shirt.  This will leave a nice, negative line that we can cut out later.  I don't recommend trying to trace around the template, as that will pull and tug the fabric, and you won't get a perfect outline. 

Now mirror the template by flipping alone the symmetrical vertical line of the shirt.  It is extremely important that you leave space between the two template outlines - I used two fingers for the spacing (see the picture) - as this spacing denotes how wide your waterskin will be, and how much water it holds.  If you want it to be larger, use a larger spacing (such as three or four fingers).  Whatever your spacing, just be sure you have enough space on the shirt to cut everything out. 

Once you've positioned the template on the right of the shirt, do the negative outline again. 

Don't worry about the Sharpie getting onto the fabric either - we're going to sew these edges up, and you won't even see any Sharpie marks on the edges. 

Step 4: Cutting the Fabric

Once you're done tracing the template, you can throw it away, or keep it for future projects!

Using the Sharpie again, draw two vertical lines from the top to the bottom of the shirt (any straight-edge will work, you don't need to use a ruler), intersecting the template outlines for about 3-4 inches, (or roughly 3 fingers-worth in length).  The reason we intersect the template is because we want this outline to be like an unfolded box, and we'll sew everything together in the next few steps, making it strong enough to carry the water. 

Once done, cut out the waterskin trace as a SINGLE piece.  Do NOT cut along the intersection of the vertical lines and the template. See the pictures for a visual explanation. 

Step 5: Making the Bag

Put aside the cut out fabric for now.  We're going to make the guts of the waterskin (no pun intended).

Take the empty water bottle, making sure it is dry (you don't want the knife to slip), and cut off the top 1/3rd of the bottle.  Keep the top 1/3rd you just cut, and throw away the bottom of the bottle.  You don't need the cap either, so throw that away as well.

Next, take the plastic bag and cut the "zipper" part of it off with the scissors, keeping the cut as close to the zipper as possible.  Throw the zipper part away.

The way you fold the bag is actually very important, so make sure you do it in this fashion (otherwise the bag won't inflate when you pour water into it).  Pinch the bag in the middle, and raise it to form a "hump." Then, while still holding the "hump," fold the long edges of the bag toward the hump as well - the folding should resemble an accordion.  This will allow the bag to properly fill when it's done.

Fold the bag in half again, and push it through the hole in the bottle top.  Only feed about 1/4 of the length of the bag through the hole, as we'll need to secure it to the bottle top.  Unfold the part you fed through the bottle, and fold it back over the plastic.

Using about 7-8 inches of duct tape, secure the bag to the bottle.  This creates a nicely secured watertight seal for the bag, and gives the unwieldy bag some structure as well. 

Step 6: Stitching

Set aside the plastic components, and head back to your fabric.  Get your thread and needle out, and get ready for some very "practical" stitching.  If you don't know how to sew, stitch, or do anything with needles, don't worry - I don't know much either -  but it's actually quite easy to get a strong joint between two pieces of fabric with a relatively simple technique!

Take about four arm-lengths of thread, and quadruple up the thread while feeding it through the needle eye, and tie a few knots in the end of the thread to act as stopper when sewing the fabric.  Quadrupling your thread will add strength to your stitching and give the waterskin some more flare by being more visible.  Feel free to try any color - I used black because it pops against the light blue fabric. 

Position the needle on the inside (the side with some Sharpie marks) of the template, in the lower left corner where the vertical lines and template lines intersect (see picture for details). Bunch the edges of the waterskin template and the long vertical piece below the templates, and push the needle through.  Begin making diagonal loops around the edges of the fabric to stitch them together, with roughly 1/4 inch between loops.  Keep going until you're about 1 inch away from the end of sewing these two pieces together.  Make a few loops here, and tie off the thread,  Cut away any unsightly pieces with the scissors, and begin stitching the other long side of the fabric in the same manner.

Once you've finished the longer edges, stitch ONE of the shorter top sides, but leave the other open.  We'll need this space to insert the plastic bag and bottle top. 

Step 7: Putting It All Together

Take the plastic bag and bottle top (get rid of any air in the bag - this makes it easier to insert), and push them into the opening of the waterskin fabric (the side we didn't stitch in the last step).  It might be tough to push the bottle top through the opening if you stitched too far along the edge in the last step - if this happens, just bend the bottle top until it will fit through.  You want the bottle top to almost disappear inside the fabric, and the only thing that should be showing is the top of the bottle where the cap was. 

Once in, stitch up the last short side with the same technique we used in the previous step.  You should have some excess fabric on the top of the waterskin that wasn't stitched.  Cut these all to the same length (one is usually longer than the others), and fold them back over the waterskin (see picture).  This will create a much cleaner edge to the fabric.

Take the yarn (or any string you might have - whatever looks best will work!), and start winding it around the top of the waterskin, going over the folded fabric you just cut. Wind the yarn anywhere from 10-25 times around the top of the bottle.  This is going to keep the bottle and bag secure inside the waterskin, and adds a nice accent to our project. Again, color is your choice - blue and green just look awesome together. 

Step 8: Finishing Touches

We're almost done!

Take your cork stopper, and a short piece of thread - about 12 inches quadrupled up will do. Feed it through the needle, make a good sized knot in the end of it, and push the needle through the cork stopper on its vertical axis.  We're going to affix the cork stopper to the waterskin using just the thread.

After you've pushed the needle through the cork, leave about 6 inches of thread, and push the needle through the top of the waterskin fabric (above the yarn) to make a handy stopper.  Loop the thread a few times to make a strong joint, and tie a knot in it.  Cut off any excess thread you might find.

That's all folks!  You've made your very own, very handy, and very practical waterskin!  Give it a try with other fabrics and graphics to see what you like, but the steps are always the same.  The great thing about it is that you can experiment with other shapes too, and now you don't need to spend $45 buying one from Amazon.  Please feel free to leave comments, and let me know if you find another step to help improve the idea!