Taking a tip from Siu Blue Wind, I too am typing a lengthy passage of text down here to demonstrate the enormous amount of space available should one wish to use it-- in sharp contrast to the avatar text above this part.
Take it to a nearby backpacking outfitter/outdoor specialist shop and ask them to identify the material. Oftentimes places like this (in my area, it's Hudson Trail Outfitters) will have specialist seamstresses/tailor shops that can do the repairs.
Every year I take the panniers to a local shoe repair shop. The guy does excellent work and charges only a few dollars.
These are good suggestions, of course. But what's so difficult about a needle and thread?
If it's just a tear (not missing material), you can do a patchless repair with some tough thread -- look for upholstery thread for the toughest stuff. It's still best to back up the tear with some fabric; anything will do. What I do is take an inch or two of adhesive tape ("sport tape" or the stuff in your medicine kit) and cover the tear on the inside, then stitch over it.
If there's missing material, use a patch. The next time you have a worn-out backpack or nylon shorts that you're gonna throw out, save it instead. This is your source of tough, lightweight nylon patches. Or use a piece of denim from your thrown-out pair of jeans.
This is a skill you need when on the road, anyway. Only problem, it might not look professional. But, gees, it works.
I'm just taking a guess here, they are probably made from nylon. I've never seen cotton in an ordinary pannier (I realize there are exceptions). Many local fabric stores do sell nylon by the name of "flag cloth", and is all you realy need. Do not get the real thin stuff often called "ripstop" or "tafetta" (the thicker stuff may have ripstop grids as well). Make the patch as large as needed and add an extra inch so you can hem the edges. Use a zig zag stich and sew around the edge of the patch, then around the edge of the hole, then some more stiching just for the heck of it. For extra security use some shoe glue and coat both sides. Obviously a sewing machine will help. An iron on patch could work as long as you get a patch made for synthetic fabrics. Even then, securing the patch with sewing is a good thing. If you have a sewing machine or patience and a needle, why pay someone else to do it? Other sewing tips, use non-cotton upholstery thread and a needle made for sewing denim.
Trek 600 series touring bike, Trek 800 hybrid, Bianchi
Originally Posted by Bolo Grubb
Nothing at all, just asking for what others have done. Yes there is missing material, so a patch will be needed. I will likely sew it up myself, but wanted to know if anyone else had any better ideas.
Thank you all for your responses
Needle and thread won't likely last long, depending on the size of the hole, the type of the hole (is it a puncture a hole or a rip, and where's the location---is it a load bearing location, and finally, what's your sewing experience. Photos of the holes and panniers would be nice here, would help us all figure out what you're going to be dealing with.
Feel free to PM me if you're determined to hand-sew this; I'd be willing to give suggestions on how to go about repairing it. Hand sewing will basically imitate what ncscott has suggested with a machine; hand sewing will just make your fingers and hands sore, esp if it's cordura. And, I'd add the recommendation of something like a waterproofing for the seams and the other needle holes once you're done sewing....don't want to get the tie wet on that commute, do ya? Gore (as in Goretex) used to make a great product that comes in a tube and is applied just to the holes and the seam, and is invisible. SeamSeal? GoreGoo? GreatGore? I forget the name (obviously), but, I think it's still around and the end result is an invisible waterproofing that can be applied directly to the hole, and no need to cover an entire area around the hole (and thus, no ugly water-proofing stain). The stuff I'm talking about is not a liquid, it's more like a glue, and clear and thick, and comes in a tube, not a bottle.
Tip for Everyone:
For most synthetic fabrics, to treat the edges to keep them from fraying, you can VERY CAREFULLY use a lighter to treat the edges of a patch and/or rip, instead of using a zigzag stitch (which is available only on sewing machines). The edges will melt, in theory minimally, if you just barely touch the edge with the heat of the flame, and remove it fast. Be ready to blow it out if you keep the flame too long on the edge. You'll see the melt; should be a hairline melt. To be effective, the entire edge needs to be melted, a nice hairline -thin plastic edge to your patch.
It's a bit tedious and smelly, but extremely effective. Practise first on scraps!