Parachute fabric

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Rob Rocket

Feb 15, 2009
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Does anyone have any recommendations or favorite kinds of fabrics that are best for use in parachutes? Pros and cons?

My wife uses rip-stop nylon that she gets at local fabric stores. Often she can find it in the remanants section for a reduced price. Unfortunately, the remnants are usually the heaver rip-stop nylon that is suitable only for larger 'chutes and is often colors (such as green) that aren't the best for a parachute. But, she sometimes scores quantities of orange or yellow for about a dollar a yard.

-- Roger
Heavy high-power?
"normal" high-power?
heavy modroc?
"normal" modroc?
general sport?
i'm using ripstop nylon which i get off Ebay. worked well so far, and its cheap, easy to cut with a soldering iron - to melt the edges and isn't too heavy. and i have several bright colours like pink, orange etc.

i also got soem military parachute silk which is much lighter and easy to cut and sew. disadvantage is that it only comes in green! which is good for camoflarge for the army, bad for rocketry recovery!
1/4mil mylar
1/2mil mylar
drycleaner 1/4mil clear plastic bags
Dollar Store 1/2mil black plastic trash bags
Various light weight plastic shopping bags
Mylar party balloon material
mylar wrapping paper sheets
Real Silk
light weight Rip-stop nylon (lots of colors)
The cheap textured dollar store plastic table cloths for fun flying. They come in a variety of colors too. They are light weight and remain flexible in cold weather and don't get stiff like the Estes chutes after several uses.

For egg loft duration, 0.3 mil clear poly paint drop cloths from HD or Lowes. $1 for a 9'x12' sheet.

Mil surplus flare parachutes for high power. Well made, light weight and cheap. Rit dye them any color you like.

Cheap, dollar-store, umbrellas, so I've heard. Or free, broken, discarded ones.
I use mylar for low power. I'm more interested in the specific types of fabric you can find at fabric stores for mid and high power that compacts down well.
Hobby Lobby, Hancock & Joanne Frabrics all carry rip-stop nylon that will work for chutes from hobby to 20ft plus. The smallest I have made using it is 10 in. and the largest I have made is 24 ft.

Now certainly if you can get your hands on lighter weight more expensive rip-stop then it will pack a bit smaller but I have gotten mine into some pretty tight spaces...

Good luck!!!
Same here. I use what is commonly available from Joanna's Fabrics.

What I found harder to decide on and get was shroud lines. I ended up buying a 3,000 ft spool of 150 lb Dacron. Turns out this is the same thing that is used for strings on window blinds. Check the kite string and line wholesalers. I don't remember where I got it, but it was on clearance for $15.00. Of course the choice of colors are limited or you get what you get if you buy clearance. Mine was a light slate blue so it wasn't too bad.
I have made two parachutes out of $3 and $4 umbrellas from wal-mart. I just sew some shroud lines to them, load and launch. One works like a charm. The other has not gone up in a rocket yet.
For the lightest, most compact-packing fabric, google search on kitemaking supplies. Here is an example of some 3/4 oz fabric:

Other kitemaking sites have other weights and colors.

That is a great link. Bookmarks made!:)

The $9 or $10 a yard is a bit on the high end. I guess it would be worth it if you need the size with that light weight. I haven't had to do that yet, the standard fabic store versions at $4 to $5 a yard has worked for me so far.
Another source for .75oz coated rip-stop is

Depending on the location some JoAnn fabric store also handle .75oz Rip-stop nylon. color selection seems to ebb and flow with the raincoat season. I've found some good deals on bolt ends and seconds sometimes there.
Here is another source. The 1.5 oz coated fabrics are very stiff. Has anyone observed this and found a way soften the fabric? I have tried washing multiple times but it still scares me how stiff the fabric is when compared to ripstop from Joann's.

I have used this and the .75 oz both are what they call hard rip stop. It is nice for cutting out and sewing but does require some washing to soften it up. After I sew mine together I put it in a pillow case (before putting cords on) tie it shut and place it in a washer on hot wash. I throw a old tennis shoe in with it and wash it 2 to 3 times. Even after washing they will still be a little stiff. As for parchute material I find that the best rip stop is 1.1oz calendered rip stop. It is a little pricy if you are only buying a few yards but in my book is the best way to go for a light and strong chute.