Sew gusseted earthbag ends with this small handheld electric sewing machine.

Sew gusseted earthbag ends with this small handheld electric sewing machine.

Touring earthbag building projects in Nepal has allowed us to gather hundreds of photos, dozens of hours of video footage, and discover lots of interesting new earthbag techniques and developments. I now have fresh content for lots of future blog posts. The volunteers and workers here are very good and so there’s quite a bit of innovation taking place. The photo above is one example of how earthbag builders in Nepal are improving the building process by sewing perfect corners on earthbags.

Good Earth bought a handheld electric sewing machine to speed the building process and create perfect squared ends on buttresses and ends of walls. Due to the extreme earthquake risk here, there are lots of earthbag buttresses and lots of buttress ends. Typical rounded/irregular earthbag ends take a lot of time, labor and materials to make straight and plumb. The process of sewing gusseted ends with the handheld sewing machine takes a few extra minutes, but the time and labor saved on plastering is well the extra effort in my opinion. Note how most bag ends (ends of earthbag tubes within the main walls) are not sewn this way. There’s no need since the tube fits snugly against the adjoining tube. The only ends being sewn are on exposed ends.

The actual process of sewing gusseted ends is best shown by video. (It’s sort of like trying to explain how to tie your shoes versus watching it done.) Good Earth is in the process of making several documentaries that will show this process and lots of other interesting things about new earthbag projects in Nepal. Stay tuned. My trip and the production of these documentaries has been generously sponsored by the Schoeck Family Foundation.


Sewing Gusseted Earthbags — 6 Comments

    • They’re in the process of creating several documentaries, including one documentary just on this school. They hope to have things finished in two or so months.

  1. Technically, in sewing, a gusset is a triangular or rhomboidal piece of fabric inserted into a seam to add breadth or reduce stress from tight-fitting clothing. Since no such extra piece of fabric is sewn into the bag, this wouldn’t be called a gusset. But, it is interesting that the commercial bags that are sold as “gusseted” don’t have extra fabric either; they simply fold a pleat into the bottom corner before it is sewn so that the pointy ends don’t stick out. I guess that what is happening with this sewing in Nepal might be called “fitted,” or something like this, in the sewing world.

    • Maybe ‘pleated earthbags’ is more accurate? I just know we’ve always referred to them as gusseted bags since that’s what the poly bag industry calls them. The end result is wonderful — perfect squared corners.

  2. It was heartwarming to watch the young lady operate the sewing machine. She was beaming with joy every time I watched. Naturally the villagers are eager to help rebuild their schools and homes, and this was her contribution. I think she was honored to be chosen to operate the machine.

    Note how the sewing machine is very fast. It only takes about two seconds to sew each part of the gusseted seam. There are three steps after turning the tube inside out: sew the end square, and then sew the two gussets. Turn the tube inside out again and then you can start filling it with moist soil.

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