Intro: The Sleepwalker: a Mobile Sleeping Bag Experience
Have you ever been so comfortably warm in your sleeping bag you didn't want to get out, but it was time to start cooking breakfast and move forward with your day? Has it ever been so chilly while camping you wanted to wear your sleeping bag all day? Or, have you ever just wanted to walk around your home in in your sleeping bag, just because? In one afternoon you can easily modify a sleeping bag to make all of the above possible.
I was inspired a little bit by the bags by Selk'Bag (http://www.selkbagusa.com/selkbag__models.aspx) and a little bit by this bag by Alite Designs (http://shop.alitedesigns.com/sexy-hotness-sleeping-bag.html). But I was mostly inspired by those nights sleeping outside when I needed a drink of water, but I didn't want to remove my upper half from the sleeping bag just to do so. And those times laying in a sleeping bag reading when my arms and shoulders are cold, but my legs are warm.
Simply by adding arms, legs, and suspender-style (and adjustable) straps, I was able to modify a sleeping bag to fit my needs.
Step 1: Gather Your Supplies
1 Synthetic Sleeping Bag (down will be very very difficult to sew - all the feathers will fluff out and your sleeping bag will lose warmth)
1 Pair Baselayer Pants (synthetic, wool, whatever you like really. And whatever size fits you)
1 Pair Arm Warmers (these must go beyond the elbow - a lot of arm warmers are really just wrist warmers)
Super Glue/Fabric Glue/Hot Glue (Maybe)
Elastic or Webbing (Approximately 2-3 yards)
Velcro Strips (8" total)
Needle and Thread
Hopefully you already have your basic sewing supplies, so you won't need to buy them. As for a sleeping bag, I bought an inexpensive new one just in case I ruined my old one. I recommend finding a sleeping bag at a thrift store, on Ebay (what I did), or using one your currently have, as long as it isn't a really expensive one.
For the base layer bottoms, I ordered a pair online that were on sale. I wanted them to be synthetic so they would dry quickly. You could also use cotton leggings, or any type of pants. You will be cutting these apart, so don't use your favorite jeans or vintage long underwear. You could also opt for pants that had feet built in, footy pajama style.
I thought about crocheting arm warmers for this project, but because time was the limiting factor I bought a pair online that fit my needs. There are so many types of arm warmers out there, feel free to get creative.
I used elastic for the straps and it is a bit too stretchy. I would recommend webbing for solid and supportive straps.
Step 2: Cut the Pants to Fit
Holding the pants up to my body I marked them so the pants would be long enough to cover just above the knee all the way to the ankle. Fold the pants in half, being careful that they are lined up perfectly. Then, cut the pants to the desired length.
Step 3: Mark the Arm and Leg Holes
In order to know where you want your arm and leg holes, you must lay down on the sleeping bag. Situate yourself until your feet are just below the bottom of the sleeping bag. If your feet are above the bottom of the sleeping bag, the bag will drag while you walk, and you don't want this. Using a fabric marker or pencil, mark the sleeping bag where you want your leg hole to be. I just marked one side while laying on the bag, then I used a measuring tape to accurately mark the other side. Now, marking the arm holes were a bit trickier. While you're laying down, lean over and mark one arm hole (and make sure your legs are still lined up where you want them to be). Marking the arm holes is easier with the assistance of a friend to make sure everything is lined up how you want it to be.
Now that you have an arm and leg marked on one side, you can mark the other arm and leg hole accurately with a fabric measuring tape. The first leg hole I marked measured 5" above one of the seams. I followed this seam across the sleeping bag, measured 5" up and marked the second leg hole. I made a dashed line along the leg marking to the exact width I wanted the leg hole. I wanted to make the leg hole equal to that of the pants I would sew to the sleeping bag. Make sure your leg hole is big enough for your leg to fit through!
I used this same method to mark the second arm hole. I found my first arm hole mark was 4" above a seam and 2" in from the edge. Using these two measurements I marked the second arm hole. Then I made a dashed line equal to the width of the arm warmers I used. Again, make sure your arm hole is big enough for your arm to fit through, preferable beyond the elbow!
Step 4: Cut the Arm and Leg Holes
The trickiest part about cutting the arm and leg holes is cutting through the three layers of the sleeping bag. There is a nylon outer fabric, polyester insulation, and a nylon inner fabric. Make sure you are cutting through all three layers and not any more! If you cut more than this you will likely be cutting through the back of the sleeping bag.
Cut both of the arm holes and both of the leg holes. Compare the holes to the arm warmers and pants to make sure you've cut them to the correct size. Make any cut adjustments if necessary. If the holes are slightly larger than you wanted it shouldn't be a problem. You will be able to hide most mistakes while sewing the arms and legs on.
Step 5: Pin the Arms Legs to the Sleeping Bag
Starting with the legs, place the pant leg opening inside the sleeping bag opening from the outside in (the leg should be hanging on the outside of the sleeping bag. The right side of the pant legs are facing the right (outside) side of the sleeping bag. Now, look inside the sleeping bag at the leg hole. You should see the cut edge of the pant leg. Now pin these two edges together. I found it easier to sew the inside, so I placed my pins on the inside (then turned it inside out before I sewed). It works well if you unzip the sleeping bag a bit so you can easily move from the outside to the inside of the bag. Make sure your pins are going through all three sleeping bag layers and the pant leg. Also, place your pins perpendicular to the seam incase you sew over them. Repeat this for the second leg and both of the arms.
When pinning the arms make sure the thumb holes of your arm warmers (if your's have thumb holes) are lined up properly and the arm warmers are pinned to the correct side (thumbs facing in!)
Pinning and sewing the arms and legs this way will leave a nice seam on the outside of the bag and a slightly unpleasant seam on the inside. But that's great because no one is looking at the inside of this beauty!
Step 6: Sew the Arms and Legs to the Sleeping Bag
I would be lying if I told you this step was easy. Due to the many layers of fabric (some of those which are quite slippery) and the small openings, it is a bit tedious. Not incredibly difficult, though. Just know you will probably get frustrated, and that the slower you go and more careful you are the easier and happier you will be. And the better result you will have.
I sewed with the sleeping bag layer on top and the arm/leg warmers on the bottom (See the first picture). This was easier for me to maneuver. But, if you find it easier to have the arm/leg warmers on top feel free to do it that way too. I also used a sewing machine with a free arm. This made sewing a bit easier, and there was less of a chance for me to sew over layers I didn't intend on sewing.
Sew the full circumference of each arm hole and each leg hole. I found it easiest to sew half of the circumference of the hole, cut the thread, rotate the bag, and sew the other half. This way you're always sewing the left side of the hole and you don't have to manage a bunch of sleeping bag clogging the space to the right between the presser foot and the sewing machine (see photo for notes).
I used the basic straight stitch. If you're worried about the strength, make two passes around the circumference.
Things to think about before/while sewing:
-Make sure you have all layers under the presser foot (outer nylon layer, insulation, inner nylon layer, and arm/leg warmer)
-Make sure your arms or legs aren't folded underneath the presser foot anywhere or you might sew your arm or leg closed.
After sewing I trimmed the fabric (with fabric scissors) around the stitch to clean it up.
Step 7: Fix Any Mistakes
I made a few mistakes while cutting the arm and leg holes. One of the arm holes I cut a bit too wide, so I hot glued it closed.
A couple sleeping bag seams (where the orange and gray fabric is sewn together) started to unravel. I touched these up with a bit of super glue just to be sure they didn't unravel more.
The super glue didn't work as well as I liked, so I would recommend hot glue or a fabric specific glue. I like how fast hot glue dries and how easy it is to use.
Step 8: Make and Attach Straps
I used 5/8" wide velcro (with adhesive backing), because it was the same size as my straps. You can use any size available to you as long as it is equal to or smaller than the width of your straps.
For the loop side of the velcro, cut (4) 2" pieces.
For the hook side of the velcro, cut (2) 2" pieces and (2) 6" pieces.
*The purpose of the 6" pieces is to give your straps a bit of adjustability.
The hook side of the velcro will be placed on the straps and the loop side (the softer side) will attach directly to the sleeping bag. That way you won't have any scratchy, rough velcro inside your sleeping bag while you're sleeping.
I used 5/8" wide elastic for my straps. I didn't have any webbing to use. After using my sleeping bag for a weekend away I realized webbing would work much better. The elastic was a bit too stretchy and it felt like the straps weren't as supportive as I wanted. If you don't have access to webbing and are going to use elastic, I recommend measuring the elastic while it is stretched, rather than measuring it while it was relaxed like I did.
I measured the elastic to my body, measuring from my waist in the front, up and over my shoulders, down to my waist in the back. This was 46". I cut (2) pieces of elastic 46" long. If you're using elastic, make this measurement while the elastic is stretched. You'll be much happier with the result.
Attach Velcro to Straps
Lay the straps flat on the counter. On one end of each strap, attach the 2" pieces of hook velcro. On the other end, attach the 6" piece of hook velcro.
I used a sewing machine to secure the velcro to the elastic because I didn't trust the strength of the adhesive and I didn't want these straps to fail while using my sleeping bag on a camping trip. If you do this, sew the perimeter of the velcro to the elastic. I used a zig-zag stitch for extra durability.
Attach Velcro to Sleeping Bag
Put on the sleeping bag - arms in arm holes and legs in leg holes. You will notice the bag is probably slouching it's way to the ground. Pick up the bag and raise it up until it's not dragging on the ground. This is where you'll want to attach the velcro straps. Reach inside and mark this spot - with a marker or a pin - anything really.
Take off the sleeping bag and open it up. Find your mark. Starting with the back, measure the width of the bag at this point. My bag measured 26.5" wide. I wanted the straps to be 10" apart. I found the center of the back and measured 5" to each side. This is where I stuck two of the 2" looped velcro strips. Repeat this process for the front of the bag, and stick your remaining two velcro pieces centered and 10" apart.
Using a needle and thread, I hand sewed the corners of each velcro piece on to the bag for more security. I didn't use a sewing machine because I didn't want these stitches to be visible on the outside of the bag, and I didn't know how to accomplish this with a sewing machine.
Now you can attach the straps to the bag!
Step 9: Put Your Product to Use!
This past weekend I went on a rafting trip and took the Sleepwalker with me. The first morning on the river was brisk and it was wonderful getting out of bed without leaving the warmth of my sleeping bag behind. I simply put my arms and legs through the holes, velcroed the straps on, laced up my shoes and walked to the camp kitchen. I enjoyed my coffee and breakfast in this bag, and stayed comfortably warm all morning.
This doesn't just have to be used in the outdoors, enjoy your mobile sleeping bag in the comforts your own home!
The possibilities are endless.
Step 10: Changes I Would Make If I Made Another Sleepwalker
- Make the arm and leg holes a bit bigger so people of varying size could wear it
- Figure out a way to add elastic to the arm and leg holes for comfort and ease of putting on and taking off
- Make straps out of webbing not elastic
- Maybe use a rectangular sleeping bag instead of a mummy sleeping bag - the 'tail' you have between your legs can be a little awkward (except I like the hood of the mummy sleeping bag)
- OR, add a snap feature to snap the 'tail' of the sleeping bag to the back while you are walking around.