Make a Kite
Perhaps because she's always loved things that fly, Martha recalls vividly the day her brother won a kite flying competition. The darting tails and the bright colors against the blue sky were almost magical.
One of the nicest things about kite flying is that it's fun for kids of all ages. Jon Burkhardt, recently voted Kiteflier of the Year by the American Kitefliers Association, joined Martha to show her how to make a kite. He has been a kite-maker since 1980, is the recipient of numerous awards, and has been a lead officer of the American Kitefliers Association and the Maryland Kite Society for many years. Jon first became intrigued with kites because of their graphic-design possibilities, and has written several books and articles about them.
Jon is an urban designer by training and holds two degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is president and cofounder of Ecosometrics, Inc., a company that designs transportation services for people with special needs.
At first, a project like this may seem daunting; the materials sound unfamiliar. But constructing this particular kite is not very different from creating an applique, or designing a quilt block. If either of these crafts sound familiar to you, this task will be an easy addition to your creative repertoire. And even if you haven't appliqued before, Jon's method is as simple to learn as it is intriguing. The word applique means "to apply one material to another to ornament, or decorate."
But the kite Jon shows Martha how to make is so beautiful, and the effects of the layered fabrics are so astounding, we think you'll agree with Martha: This kite looks like stained glass.
- Tracing paper
- Ripstop cloth (often called parachute cloth) in red, yellow, and blue
- Spray adhesive
- Sewing machine capable of zigzag stitch
- Rubber-cement thinner
- 2-ounce nylon
- 3/4-inch grosgrain ribbon
- 50-pound braided-nylon kite line
- 2 (33-inch-long, 3/16-inch-diameter) graphite spars
- Heavy needle, for hand-sewing
- 2 (3 1/2-inch-long, 1/16-inch-diameter) graphite spars
- Kite reel
- Fishing swivel and hook
Start with a 28-square-inch piece of paper. Use the design from our kite template, or draw your own less-complex design on the paper.
Lay a 25-square-inch piece of white ripstop nylon on top of the paper template. Trace your design onto the nylon. Use a dark pencil, as you will be sewing along these lines later.
Trace the colored pieces of your design onto different colors of ripstop nylon. Cut them out, and, spray them lightly with spray adhesive. Affix them to the white piece of nylon, using your design as a guide for placement. If you don't like the way a piece looks, remove it quickly before the adhesive dries, and place it somewhere else.
After all the colored pieces have been affixed to the white nylon, spray a 25-inch square of blue ripstop nylon, and carefully place it over the colored pieces so they are sandwiched between the blue and white layers. Allow to dry.
Turn the nylon "sandwich" over so that the white side is on top. Using a sewing machine, sew a zigzag stich along the lines that you traced onto the white nylon earlier.
Turn the sewn "sandwich" over so the blue side is on top. Using scissors, and keeping the stitch 1/8 inch to your right, cut away the blue fabric where you want the colored pieces to show through. Turn the kite over again, and cut away any unwanted pieces of white fabric so the colors show through. Use rubber-cement thinner to rub away any sticky spots where spray adhesive is exposed.
Cut two 3-inch squares of two-ounce nylon, and cut them in half along the diagonal. On the back (white) side of the kite, sew one triangle in each corner to reinforce the kite. Hem the face of the kite with a 1/2-inch hem, double-folded.
Cut 3 inches of grosgrain ribbon, and fold almost in half. Place on a corner with the longer side underneath and the open end facing toward the center of the kite. Sew along the edges of the ribbon to create a narrow pocket, into which the spars of the kite will eventually be inserted. Repeat on the other corners. Sew a 1/2-square-inch piece of grosgrain ribbon in the exact center of the kite.
Insert the spars in the grosgrain-ribbon pockets so they form an X.
To make the bridle, turn the kite over so the top faces up. Cut a 42-inch piece and a 24-inch piece of braided nylon kite line. Thread the 42-inch piece through a heavy needle, and push the needle through the top left corner, pulling through enough line to make a knot on the other side, and the edge of the spar pocket below. Cross the spar pocket, and push the needle up through the other edge of the spar pocket. Tie the short end of the line to the long end, creating a small loop. Repeat with the other end of the line on the top-right corner. Sew an end of the 24-inch piece into through the center of the kite, knotting it behind the 1/2-inch-square piece of grosgrain ribbon on the back.
Pinch the center of the bridle (the 42-inch piece of line) into a loop about 1 1/2 inches long. Still pinching it, wrap the loop around itself, and tie a knot at its base. Pull the 24-inch piece of line from the center of the kite through the loop, and tie it loosely to make a three-point bridle. Pick the kite up by the center -- it should come up straight, without wobbling. If it doesn't, untie the 24-inch piece of line, pull it through a little more, tie it again, and pick it up again. It may take a few tries to get the angle correct.
To make the tail, cut a piece of blue fabric 5 inches wide and 24 feet long. You can applique any leftover pieces of colored fabric anywhere you please on the tail. Hem the top and bottom edges of the tail. Insert a 3 1/2-inch piece of a 1/16-inch-diameter graphite spar into each hem. The weight of these pieces will keep the tail flat when the kite is aloft. Cut 1-inch slits, about 2 inches apart, along the entire length of the tail on both sides. These slits will lend drag to the kite, which will keep it stable.
Cut a 40-inch piece of braided-nylon kite line. Pull it through the top hem of the tail, and center it. Tie a loop in each end. Remove the spar from the bottom-right corner of the kite, and slip one of the loops over it. Replace the spar in its pocket. Repeat on the bottom-left corner.
Wind the remaining braided-nylon kite line onto the reel you'll be using to fly the kite. Attach a fishing-line swivel and hook to the end of the line. Clip it to the bridle, and go fly your kite.