Step 1 – How and where
Have a bit of a think and then mark out where you want to cut open the bag. Visualizing is key, there are no do overs. Before opening up the bag try and shift as much down away from the cuts as possible. Containment is key, down will get everywhere, even if you’re careful. Actually put down the scissors and just get out your vacuum cleaner right here and now, you’re going to need it.

Step 2 – Starting at the top
Start by sewing along the marks you’ve made, use a simple straight stitch to close off the edges along which you’re going to cut open the bag. You can use how ever loose a stitch you want, this seam doesn’t need to hold any kind of strength, it’s simply a way to contain the down before you cut open the bag.

I started at the top, sewing shut and then cutting open the bag along the chalk marks. Almost fully decapitating the bag, but leaving off removing the hood fully for now. I want to keep the hood if possible, we’ll see if works or not, I might remove the hood altogether at a later time.

After cutting the bag open, cut strips from some left over material from my double quilt project and used this to close of the edges.

Step 3 – Opening up the bag from top to bottom
Fair warning, if you’re like me, and you love your hiking gear, this is going to feel so wrong… Like burning a book kind of wrong. Even so I straight stitch one side of the bag from top to bottom and cut open the bag along the chalk marks. I’m leaving one side open, because I’m going to stuff the bag with extra down. If you’re just turning your mummy bag into a quilt, you can stitch along the marks all around the edge of the cut out right away.
I close off each chamber with pins to contain the down. Even so down is already floating around the room in slow motion, settling in the most unlikely places, and I haven’t even started stuffing the bag with new down. I get out the vacuum cleaner, worrying slightly that my better half is going to be less than enthused with me. “You mean to say that you’ve cut open a perfectly fine sleeping bag and now our bedroom is filled with stray down…?!” Better get this finished as soon as possible and get cleaning.

Step 4 – Get out the down and get stuffing
I’ve decided to add slightly more down than I first thought I would. I might have gone a bit overboard here, and in hindsight I should’ve maybe weighed or measured how much down I added. But the down was spreading and I was getting a bit worried I wouldn’t have time to clean up the mess I’d made. The bag won’t be as light as it could be, but maybe I wont be as cold. It’s always a trade off.

My hightech solution here, was to undo the pins of each chamber one at a time, grab a handfull of down and stuff the down into the chamber, before pinning the chamber shut again. It worked fine, it was fast and relatively easy.

Step 5 – Hemming the edges
I repurposed the fabric from the cut out, cleaning it up and cutting it into 4 cm wide strips. I had more black fabric left over from the double quilt project, but thought that this was the better option. Even though both fabrics were black, there was a slight colour difference, and also I like the idea of using fabric that would otherwise have been thrown out.

It can be difficult at times, to make clean and beautifully finished seams when dealing with these thin slippery fabrics. One way of getting around this is using very thin baking paper and then carefully tearing the paper away after.

Finished quilt
You can clearly see where I’ve stuffed the top 2/3 of bag with extra down, compared to the bottom third which is left as is.

I opted to make a round cut at the bottom of the opening, reasoning that this would be better at withstanding the wear and tear of me getting in and out the bag, tossing and turning in my sleep etc.
The hood is attached with two pieces of hook and loop tape, which I hope is going to be enough to keep the hood attached. If not I might replace them with snaps or buckles. I’ve yet to test out the bag after I’ve cut it open, but I wonder if I might need somethig to keep the bag together halfway up the cut out, especially on cold windy summer nights. Maybe two loops and a piece of elastic string will do the trick, but it might not be necessary. I plan to use the “new” quilt on a short trip in august, we’ll see after that what changes may or may not have to be made.

Finished quilt weighs 522grams(18,4oz).


Turning my sleeping bag into a quilt – part 1