How Do You Mend A Broken Part?


You don’t have to throw away ripped tents, busted backpacks and torn raincoats anymore. Santa Cruz Gear Repair—the only outdoor gear repair shop in the Monterey Bay and South Bay areas—fixes them all.

Story and photos by Brendan Bane

Aug. 14, 2015—Gear makes us special. It distinguishes human beings from other animals, yet it brings us closer to mother nature. Next to bottlenose dolphins, we are the only creatures to wear our tools (think backpacks, boots, jackets), and those items allow us to venture deeper into the heart of wilderness than we ever could without them.

But gear doesn’t last. We push our favorite gadgets and garments to their structural limits through overuse and occasional accidents. Tents tear, buckles blow out and zippers stop zipping. You're then made to discard your inanimate friends into the waste stream and buy new gear, thus perpetuating an unsustainable and unfortunate throwaway culture.

That is, unless you know Peter Julber. This self-professed sewing geek with 25 years’ experience in outdoor garment design and repair moved to town last year and has just opened a business, Santa Cruz Gear Repair, where he can revive anything from crashed bicycle jerseys to torn wetsuits.

“I throw around the phrase, ‘If it’s stitched, I can fix it,’” Julber says. Aided by his fleet of sewing machines, each with its own name and specialty, Julber can reverse almost any damage you can dream up. He once repaired a tent that was nearly destroyed by one of North America’s ultimate predators. “The poles, sleeves and mosquito netting were all mangled,” says Julber. “When people usually bring that kind of stuff in, they say it was a dog or a raccoon. But that time it was a bear. And the owner was in the tent!” Rest assured–the owner survived and the tent was resurrected by Julber’s capable hands and needles.

Hilltromper signup ad Head into his store, pleasantly located beside Seabright Brewery, and you’ll find an arsenal of zippers, buckles, cords, handles and fabrics. “Doing gear repair,” notes Julber, “you need a pretty hefty back stock of what I call ‘harvest material’: stuff you can cannibalize on.” Strewn about the shop are six sewing machines, ranging from the kind you've likely seen at Grandma’s place to an industrial cylinder head Cobra Class 4, also known as “The Beast.” The Beast’s needle can pierce nearly an inch of leather, so even motorcycle jackets and heavy-duty backpacks are mendable beneath its mighty point. Julber also wields a heat press, which can seal waterproof items like rainflies. (Meet The Beast, Connie, J.J. and the rest of the shop's machines below.)

Julber picked up his first sewing machine 25 years ago in Portland, Oregon. “My friend and I were just getting into backpacking and snowboarding,” he says. “We were starting to buy stuff like backpacks and clothing. We thought, ‘Well, we could make this stuff ourselves.’” After jumping head first into the craft, Julber opened his own business, Cagoule Fleece, where he crafted fleece and merino hats, scarves and gloves. Just before moving to Santa Cruz in 2014, Julber spent a year as a gear repair tech for Mountain Soles & Outdoor Threads, a Portland outdoor gear repair shop. More recently, he logged some time as a repair tech aboard Patagonia's mobile biodiesel-fueled Worn Wear Repair Truck. Check out footage of the Worn Wear Truck online and you’ll find Julber hugging customers after happily reuniting them with their improved fleeces and vests.

Julber with his trusty Consew 29B, "Connie." She makes people smile.

Before Santa Cruz Gear Repair, there was no business like Julber’s in the Monterey Bay area, or even in the South Bay or on the Peninsula; you’d have to go to Berkeley to find a specialist in outdoor gear repair.

One of the best benefits of repairing your gear instead of replacing it outright, Julber explains, is that it keeps your favorite clothing in your closet and out of the dump.

“I think it’s great that we have a movement of people who would rather repair their well-worn, beloved items that have stories instead of tossing them away and buying new,” says Julber.

The EPA reports that, in 2012, Americans sent 12 million tons of textiles like fleece, corduroy, denim and wool to landfills. Though many people may have wished a better fate for their gear, they may not have had the knowhow to repair their damaged items. Now residents of the area have another option.

“Everyone in this town has gear,” says Julber. “Eventually, something is going to go wrong with it. I’m here to fix it.”

Santa Cruz Gear Repair, 519 Seabright Ave, Suite 103, Santa Cruz (next to Seabright Brewery). 831.824.4176. Hours: Thu-Sat 11am-6:30pm; Wed by appt.

BONUS! Meet The Machines of Santa Cruz Gear Repair

by Peter Julber
Janome Memory Craft 8900 QPC, aka "JJ"—A sophisticated home machine and the go-to for light-weight, delicate repairs on down and synthetic jackets, cycling jerseys, tent panels, mosquito netting, etc

Juki DLN 5410N, aka "The Juke"—An industrial needle feed, she excels at medium-weight repairs like patching with nylon and cordura, dealing with medium weight webbing, and setting in zippers in apparel, tents and backpacks.

Consew 29B, aka "Connie"—Commonly know in the industry as a ‘shoe patcher.' With her narrow cylinder head, she’s normally used to get into shoes to do repairs on hiking boots, shoes, etc. We find she’s especially suited to outdoor gear repair because of her one unique trait: the presser foot rotates 360 degrees, allowing for stitching in any direction.  She excels at backpack repairs.

Hear it roar. The Beast is the tool for tough jobs.

Cobra Class 4, aka "The Beast"—A powerhouse of a machine, able to sew up to 7/8th of an inch of webbing, leather, and pretty much whatever can be thrown under the presser foot.  The long cylinder head makes it easy to get into the tightest corners of gear, while the compound walking foot allows for precise stitching (forward and back).  The servo motor with needle positioning provides detailed accuracy.  The Beast is the go-to machine for heavy duty repairs.

Juki MO 3612, aka "Serge"—An industrial 4-thread serger.  She is useful in repairing long rips along seams in fleece, cotton, and lighter-weight material, and for 'sealing' the edge of easily frayed fabric.

Pegasus W500, aka "Peggy," is a 5-thread industrial coverstitch machine, useful in replicating hems or sealing the edge of materials with a flat seam.

Geo Knight DK8, aka "The Knight"—A heat press used for creating clean and professional patches, plus seam-taping patches and repairs on waterproof breathable garments and tent rain-fly.

Learn more about the industrial sewing machines of Santa Cruz Gear Repair on YouTube.