Constructing A Ghillie Suit for Wildlife Photography
Applying the Threads to Suit #1- The Green Suit

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(continued from Page Two - Constructing A Ghillie Suit for Wildlife Photography - Buildling the Base Layer)

Making the Hood:
     Before getting down to the business of tying the threads to the shirt or pants, I still needed to make the hood. I would need the hood first anyway, since I wanted to start with tying the threads on the hood to get a feel for how the colors would blend. I am using a boonie hat as the base for the hood. I knew this should work well since I'd previously used a boonie hat as the base for the hood of my Leafy Camo Suit. It's comfortable, holds the hood in place, and already has a chin strap for those wicked windy days. The brim also holds the hood away from your head and neck for better air circulation, and keeps the hood away from your face too.

    Base layer of mosquito netting Overlay of 1-inch nettingAdded face mask netting

1/8-inch nylon cord ties netting
to boonie hatband loops
     I cut a piece of mosquito netting, then tucked, folded and formed it to fit the hat as a base layer. It drapes down just long enough to lay on the shoulders. It doesn't need to hang any lower than that, since the threads will extend down below that and blend into the shirt. Next I tied the mosquito net base to the vegetation loops on the boonie hatband with 8-inch lengths of 1/8-inch nylon cord. This makes the hood easily removable and interchangable. There is really no need to sew it to the hat, but you can if you want to.

     With the mosquito net base firmly attached, it made the job of fitting, cutting and tacking the 1-inch netting over it a bit easier. I used a tall kitchen canister as a stand to hold up the hat while I worked on the hood. After tying the netting on and checking in the mirror, it was obvious the hood would need a matching mask across the face area. The general purpose head mask I had planned to use with it simply was not going to blend with it at all. It was fairly easy to add a mask, using the same technique as when making the ventilation panels for the shirt, and sewing it across the front of the hood. I left plenty of room to view over the mask.

Applying the Threads:
     Now it's time to apply the outer layer of camouflage color threads. Later, in the construction of the second suit, I will go into more detail about the synthetic threads I ordered for this project. For now though, let's just get this one covered so we can see something finished.

      The choices of thread colors will depend on where you will use the Ghillie. For this first suit I wanted lots of green. The second suit will use more tans to simulate dead grasses for Fall and Winter. I started with the hood, since it was the smallest item, and would give me a chance to figure out how to arrange my selection of green thread colors to blend into something I could use. In all instances I tied the threads in groups of 3. While this might seem rather thin, I found that in the end it covered very well. The manufacturer advised it would require 5 bundles to cover one suit. I had two bundles of "forest green", two bundles of "light olive", one bundle of "dark green", and also had bundles of tan, "gray" and brown to mix in as I saw the need.

Completed hood

     One point here about the colors before I start tying threads. When I was ordering the thread, I had been disappointed that there was no dark olive green thread available to buy. The brown thread they recommended was a very dark brown, almost black, and I was afraid it would not work so well with the greens. But once I added some of this very dark brown into the green base colors, the brown threads somehow "magically" took on a deep dark olive green tone. They no longer looked brown at all. I suppose this was a visual illusion, but it was exactly the affect I was going after. This made me realize that the folks who sell this stuff have used it and tested it and know how these colors will work. I would never have thought the brown would be what I needed if they had not recommended it.

     For this first "green" suit hood, I started tying with a row of threads on every square all the way around the bottom edge of the hood, alternating between olive green and forest green. Then I moved up two netting squares and put another row of the same two colors. I continued this alternating between the two greens all the way to the top so that there was an equal amount of each blended together as my "base color". Then I added threads of the other colors here and there to put patterns and shading into the color scheme. Above the hood eye opening I used shorter threads. The threads come pre-cut about 20-inches long, so I cut some in half and tied bunches of 3's above the eye opening. This avoided the long threads dangling down blocking the view and having to waste them by cutting so much off later. I still needed to trim a little, but not nearly so much waste as there would have been. Adding more short threads on the very top of the hood will thicken up the coverage on top. Using long threads to thicken up the top will only thicken up the sides where they hang down. Long threads on top don't help very much where they tend to reveal the "roots", just like the hair on your head tends to do when parted.

  Green shirt dyed black.
(the tan collar area seems
to be a fau suede which did
not take the dye color at all)

     I used the same color blending scheme much of the time on the pants and shirt. In some places I would switch to using all one green shade or the other for several squares in a row to make it look more patchy and less blended. I also added some patches of brown and/or dark green threads as I went as well. Later I went back and inserted various colors here and there for accents. As is the case with the top of the hood, the same problem with the long threads spreading and revealing the "roots" along the upper edges of the shoulders and upper side of the shirt sleeves needed to be addressed. Adding bunches of the shorter threads in these two areas gives better coverage. All the vertical surfaces (shirt front and back, and pant legs) do quite well with just the long threads hanging over each other like layers of shingles to give good coverage. The bare looking areas are less of an issue if your base shirt and pants (and boonie hat) are a good match for the outer thread colors. The original green material of my shirt was really a poor match for the green of the threads, so I dyed the shirt darker before I ever started adding the threads.

Front of
finished suit
Back of
finished suit
     At right are some shots of the finished suit. These were taken on a June day with the temperature well into the 90's and the suit did not feel unbearably hot. In fact, I did not break one bead of sweat at all. I could feel some air movement inside the suit when I walked. I was in the shade mostly, and obviously you would not use such a suit in that kind of heat, but I was pleased with the ventilation I felt even under such conditions. I felt confident it would serve me very well in more reasonable weather.

     This was definitely a learning process. I have to admit that this turned out to be a lot of work. I easily have well over 40 hours invested in this first Ghillie. I started out with plans to make two suits and a blanket. For that I bought two 5'x9' sections of netting. It took all but a 2'x3' piece of one 5'x9' net to do the first suit with hood. The 2'x3' leftover was not quite large enough to even make a drape for the tripod. That meant it would take most of the other net just to make the second suit. I'd need a third net to make a tripod drape and lens cover. With two different color suits, I'd actually need two tripod drapes and lens covers - one to match each suit color.

     As for the synthetic thread, it was as easy to work with as I could have ever hoped. There is no chemical ordor, no lint or dust, and it isn't "frizzy" like burlap. I'm very sensitive to wool, polyester, and cannot even wear cotton sweaters, but this synthetic thread didn't seem to bother me, which was a great relief. It has two other great qualities - (1) it tends to "cling" to itself while - (2) virtually never tangling or tying knots on itself. You can wad up a handful of the threads into a ball, and pull out individual threads from the bunch without it tying itself into knots. The threads dangling together on the suit tend to bunch up and look naturally "tussled" without actually getting tangled. They brush apart easily. I don't think burlap will do this, and I'm very glad I opted for the synthetic threads. I don't know what they'll do in cold weather so far as "static electricity" is concerned. I suppose I'll find out when winter arrives. I hope I'm not "sparking in the dark" while waiting for ducks to fly in.

     This suit is seriouslly lighter in weight than the military camo netting drape I made several years ago, but it's still heavier than my Leafy Camo Suit.

Next - Page Four -Constructing A Ghillie Suit for Wildlife Photography - Applying the Threads to Suit #2- The Winter Grass Suit