Companions’ cover.

I think I’m on a roll with this boat canvas thing. I made a companionway cover for Marty & Sue’s boat. I love the color. It’s insulated, with a layer of Reflectix between two layers of marine Sunbrella. Stitching it was a bit like wrestling a bear at times, but my new machine handled it well. 🙂

Whatever works.

One of the salon cushions on our Catalina 320 tore along a center seam. I tried mending it once and it just tore again, as the fabric had significantly weakened along the seam. I think the material is Ultrafabric Brisa Original (from around 2005).  I haven’t been able to find a color match yet. It’s just as well, though, as the fabric runs around $65/yard. I’m not ready to reupholster the entire set of salon cushions yet. Soooo, what can I use for a temporary fix?

I decided to repurpose a length of Tear-Aid Type-A tape that I originally got to patch a few holes in our Sunbrella bimini skin. It should adhere well to Brisa’s polyester and rayon backing. It’s not supposed to be sewn-through, but I don’t need a waterproof seal. I simply want to use it to patch along the back-side of the rip and to strengthen and reinforce the area around the tear so I can stitch a new seam through it, about 1/4″ in from the tear.

So I gave it a shot… and I’m happy with the repair.   Now I just need to wait and see how long it holds up.  Fingers crossed!

Before:

 

And after…

If you’re interested, here’s a few pics as I tried the fix.

I removed the cover from the inner cushion pieces, and ripped out the old seam on all 3 pieces of fabric involved in the seam.  The alcohol is to clean the Brisa fabric backing, where I want to apply the Tear-Aid.  The hair dryer is to help me flatten out the old folded seam allowance, and also to help dry the backing after I cleaned it.

Both pieces of Brisa are torn along the old seam.  I’ll need to patch both pieces in a similar fashion before trying to sew a new seam.

Tear-Aid says to clean the application area with alcohol and let dry.  As I cleaned the fabric with alcohol, I saw that the backing material was rotted away in places.   So I removed all the non-adhered backing along the tear.  Not sure how it got in this condition.  Maybe something caustic spilled here and weakened the fabric.  Or maybe 15 years is all you can get out of Brisa.

After cleaning and drying the pieces of Brisa, I used scotch tape on the right side (outside) of the tear to hold the edges of the tear together, temporarily.  I’ll remove it after I apply the Tear-Aid to the wrong side (inside) of the torn fabric.

I cut a length of Tear-Aid Type A tape and applied it on the backing-side of the Brisa fabric along the tears.   Tear-Aid recommends leaving an inch of patch around any torn area, but I didn’t have that much of material along the old seam allowance, so I used a smaller piece than they’d probably recommend.

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I removed the scotch tape from the right-side of the pieces of Brisa, and clipped the right-sides of Brisa together to prepare for stitching the new seam.  This time I’ll sew THROUGH the newly applied Tear-Aid, approx 1/4″ in from the tear along the old seam.

Stitching the seam was a bit challenging, as the adhesive from the patch gummed up the needle every 6 inches or so.  But, as long as I cleaned the needle each time with alcohol, it stitched pretty well.  I used a ballpoint (recommended for Brisa) needle, size 16, and V-69 poly thread, and I also found I had to lower my top thread tension.

There you have it.

Cover-up.

My latest canvas-work project… a cover for the grill off the back of the boat.  Voila!

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Making my own pattern was definitely the hardest part.

If Monte stands around too long in one place, I’ll make a cover for him, too!

So, sew.

I’m slowly working down my boat sewing project list. I made 5 winch covers for our jib sheet winches, house top winches, and windlass. I used Sailrite’s pattern and instructions as a guide. My takeaway: it is not easy to sew a circle onto a rectangle.

I also replaced our frayed and yucky bimini straps, having to sew a loop and attach the fastener-buckle thingie before installing.

Bring on the next project!

Doo-hickeys.

First some terminology…

Sailboats have barriers along the perimeter of their decks that are meant to keep people from falling off. We call these barriers lifelines. Lifelines have gates that can be opened to let people walk through them when docked or rafted up. These gates are typically created by putting a piece of hardware that opens and closes on the lifeline at the gate called a pelican hook.

Still with me?

Pelican hooks have a tiny little ring that you pull to open them. It’s usually difficult to grab the little ring just right.

To make it easier, you can put a little fob, or lanyard, on the ring that you can more easily grab and pull the pelican hook to open the gate in the lifeline.

Long story short, today I made a set of these lanyards for Nirvana’s lifeline gates. 2 for port, 2 for starboard.

Installed…

Here’s how I made them if you’re interested.

The easy part is learning how to tie the individual cobra weave knots. So I’ll leave that out and just share one of many links that I looked at to help me figure out the basic cobra knot: here. The hard part was figuring out the best jig or setup to easily secure the cord while tying the cobra knots. I’ll share what I came up with.

What you’ll need:

– 95 paracord (1.75mm wide)

– measuring tape

– knife

– lighter or hot-knife to melt cut ends of the cord

– carabiner with 2 big paper clips attached (the jig I came up with)

– tweezers and/or a crochet hook to pull the working ends of the cord back through and under the cobra weave knots to bury them and finish the lanyard

To make a 3-1/2″ finished lanyard out of 95 paracord, I used 44″ pieces for each lanyard. Cut to length and fold that in half.

Tie a simple overhand loop knot 3 1/2 inches from the midpoint of the piece of cord. This defines the finished length of the lanyard.

The carabiner and paper clips make up my jig for holding the cord while tying the cobra weave knots. Other people use different things; pegboards, wire harnesses, etc. Basically, you want something you can pull against to keep the cord taut while you are tying the cobra weave knots with the two working ends of the cord. This is what worked for me.

The carabiner can easily be clipped onto a drawer handle or hook. The paper clips make it easy to loop the 2 working ends of the cord to start the first cobra weave knot. And they make it easy to slip the finished lanyard off them as well.

Before tying the first cobra weave knot…

After tying 3 to 4 cobra knots…

Keep tying cobra weave knots (9 or 10) until you have about 1 inch of the loop left. Remove lanyard from carabiner and paper clips.

To finish the lanyard, you need to pull the working ends of the cord back under the length of cobra weave knots that you just tied. This will bury them and keep the lanyard from coming untied when it is in use. This is where the tweezers and/or crochet hook come in. I pulled the working ends under about 4 or 5 of the knots.

Then trim and melt the cut ends of the cords; the finished lanyard…

Good luck!

Momma’s got a brand new bag.

My boat sewing projects continue. This week I made a pair of new halyard bags for Nirvana. These replace the tattered ones that originally came with the boat.

They sit on the bulkhead in the cockpit and stow all lines coming from the rope clutches on the top of the house.

Nice!

They are made from vinyl-coated polyester mesh, Phifertex Plus, which has a slightly tighter weave than the original material. I added grommets in the bottom of each pouch to help water drain.

And one burgee will rule them all…

Monte recently relaunched our home-built 17′ Wittholz-designed wooden catboat, Cupholder, in Lake Travis. We spent countless hours making her, and even more sailing and playing with her on the lake. It’s nice to see her back.

Ten years ago I made nautical signal flags, aka burgees, of the letter B for ours and our friends’ boats on B-dock. Somewhere along the line, Cupholder’s was misplaced. So this morning I made another B-dock burgee for her.

Nice. Very nice. 🙂

Canvaswork bits & bobs.

I have been entertaining / vexing myself for the last week or two with a further foray into learning to sew boat-canvas projects.  This time, it was two projects for Lori and Trident; a propane canister bag in her Sunbrella color (forest green), and a lee-cloth made out of Phifertex, bordered with Sunbrella.  A lee-cloth is a sheet of fabric attached to the open side of a settee in the salon of a sailboat; the purpose of which is to keep a sleeping sailor in her berth, as opposed to flying across the salon during a rough passage.

We could have used one on the crossing from Florida to Texas back in February.  On that trip, Joe was thrown from the settee while asleep during his off-watch time and hit his face on the other side of the salon.   I’ve never seen nor used one, but Lori and I did a bit of prototyping last time I was down in Kemah and I came home with a sort of pattern.  Her settee is about 6 1/2 feet long by 20+ inches deep.  We agreed that a 4′ x 4′ finished dimension would work, with a field of Phifertex, bordered by about 3 1/2″ of Sunbrella on front and back.  Lori also asked for a run of Sunbrella up the middle, to give it a bit more structure when strung up, and a pocket for phone, glasses, headlamp, etc.   It will be anchored on the boards below the settee cushions and secured fore and aft above the cushions, by smallstuff tied to grommets.   Lori picked Phifertex because it is an open mesh vinyl fabric, to allow for airflow.  I found it to be a great fabric to work with.   I’ll be ordering some for my next project – new halyard bags for Nirvana.  Stay tuned.

And…. Voila! <<use your imagination to envision this lee-cloth being displayed against the settee of a sailboat, and not the couch in my living room>>  The pocket ended up a bit wonky, as I was running out of material, but it’ll work.

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If you’re not into sewing or canvaswork, you may want to stop reading now.  Because I will document here some of the things I learned working with Sunbrella using my valiant, but limited, Kenmore model 385 sewing machine – for no reason other than I would have loved to have known some of this ahead of time, as opposed to learning by trial and error.

  • A walking-foot sewing machine (which mine is not) is really the right tool for the job.  As it consistently pulls the fabric from above and below at the same time.  My home sewing machine only has traditional feed dogs below.  As a result, the stitches are rarely consistently spaced, due to variations in how fast/smoothly the fabric feeds under the needle.  An industrial sewing machine is designed to handle the fabric thickenesses I’ve been doing and much more, with much more ease and less pain and suffering (and swearing) and re-doing on the part of the operator.
  • Longer stitch lengths are desirable.  The max stitch length setting on my machine is 4… not sure exactly what that translates to, maybe 4 mm stitch length (?).  But whatever it is, it is not big enough.
  • My Kenmore, surprisingly, has handled everything I’ve thrown at it so far, the max of which was about 6 layers of Sunbrella and 1-2 layers of Phifertex.  Not bad.  I’m using a 110/18 needle with V-92 bonded polyester thread.  If you want beautiful and consistent topstiching, however, you’ll need to spring for a Sailrite or similar walking foot, industrial machine.
  • Pinning through several layers of Sunbrella requires fingertips of steel.  After watching a number of videos, I learned that the pros rarely use pins.  They use double-sided basting tape to hold surfaces of fabric together until they are stitched.   What a great thing!
  • My sewing machine is not rigged to use the ginormous spools of thread canvas work requires, they are too big to sit on the tiny pin on top of the machine for a normal spool of thread.  In addition, the thread has a habit of falling around the bottom of the spool, aka “pooling,” which can mess with your thread tension.  Instead, they need to sit at table level (or lower) and feed up above and then down to the machine.  I don’t know what this doohickey is called, but I’ve seen them on industrial machines, and made one of my own out of a wire clothes hanger, cutting and bending it to do my will.
  • Speaking of tension, whatever the max tension on my machine is, it was not enough for some stitching tasks.  I had to literally pinch the top thread in my right hand to add additional tension so that stitches didn’t loop on top of the fabric for one or two parts of my projects.  I found this to be the case, in particular, when topstitching the webbing that I used on top of the Sunbrella for the propane bag projects.  It didn’t happen when stitching just Sunbrella and/or Phifertex, thankfully.
  • Sunbrella doesn’t like to stay folded very well.  If you run the point of an awl along your fold line, though, it yields a bit more, helping to hold a hem until stitched.
  • A soapstone pencil (a common quilting notion) came in handy for marking Sunbrella.   It marks the fabric nicely, and easily erases with a damp cloth.   I found a #2 lead pencil and eraser worked great for marking the Phifertex.
  • Cutting Sunbrella can be a pain, because it frays.  The right tool for the job is an electric hot knife.  But I stuck it out using only my fabric shears, followed by an application of glue along all the cut edges to minimize fraying.  This took forever to apply and to dry.  Then I took the time to double turn all the hems, so no cut edge was exposed.   If I do much more of this, a hot knife is definitely in my future.

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I’ll stop there.  If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading!  I hope some of this helps a fellow newbie canvasworker.

Boat run.

We are pet sitting this week – our niece, Julie’s, dog, and Doray & Tom’s parrot.   Because of that, we have been sticking close to home.  But, today we took the opportunity on this beautiful day to take a drive.

We stopped by several vantage points around the lake.  With the emergency flooding situation behind us, Lake Travis is dropping about 1.5 feet a day now, currently at 695′ above mean sea level.   The butterflies were thick today, which makes me very happy – so much of what humans do have hurt their populations over the years.  It’s nice to see them out there despite us.

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I believe these are Queen butterflies, on blue mistflower.  I think I’ll plant some of this in my yard!

We also stopped by the marina to check on our boat.  Our marina’s staff has been doing a wonderful job keeping all the docks floating and clear of obstacles.  They are running a shuttle to the docks for boat owners, since the lake is still flooded, and the water level is still about 15 feet above the parking lot.  Everything looks fine.  Our batteries are doing well (electricity has been off to the docks for 12 days, so far).

I brought my completed propane bag out to the boat and hung it.  It works great, and I found the perfect spot for it.

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Sewing project for the boat.

The grill on our boat uses propane, the kind in the little 1 lb green Coleman canisters.   We have been stowing them in one of our cockpit lazarettes.  However, that compartment is not made to hold and properly vent propane gas, which sinks.  That means if a canister were to leak, the gas would collect in the lowest point of the boat; the bilge, waiting for an errant spark to ignite it.   Not good.

You can purchase a storage bag to hang on the rail of a boat to hold a few propane canisters, allowing any leaked gas to dissipate in the air over the water.  Magma (a marine grill vendor) sells one for under $35 which holds 3 canisters.  But it only comes in black and royal blue.  Nirvana’s canvas is navy blue (Sunbrella marine canvas in the color called Captain Navy).   For that reason, and also because I’ve really been wanting to try to sew something made out of sunbrella with my 20+ year old Kenmore 385 sewing machine, I decided to make it instead of buying one.

Lori happened to have an old bag in need of repair that I could use as a pattern, which was really helpful.   I ordered a yard of 60″ wide Sunbrella from Amazon, several 110/18 sized sewing machine needles, some size 69 bonded UV-resistant polyester thread, a heavy duty zipper, and some nylon webbing and plastic buckles.

The prototype:

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You can’t see them in the above picture, but there is a brass grommet and hole in the middle of the bottom of the bag, under that loop in the strip of webbing that runs along the bottom.  It is intended to allow water out of the bag when it’s hanging, if it rains.   The loop, I assume, is to tie a downhaul to the bag when it is hanging, so that it doesn’t swing back and forth while you are underway.  I decided to make my bag with 3 loops, and 3 grommeted drain holes, one under each loop.

The pattern I made, and some notions.IMG_6027

The first step was to install the brass grommets (which you can’t see in this pic either, but they are under the black webbing running down the middle of the canvas in the picture below).  Next step: pin and topstitch the webbing onto the outside of the bag, allowing for loops and buckles to be sewn in as you go.

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The next step was to sew the zipper on, and then sew the other two seams.  And VOILA!IMG_6043

View of side zipper.IMG_6044

I’m so thrilled that it turned out, AND that my current sewing machine was able to do the job.  I will definitely plan a few more boat canvas projects.

*smiling a satisfied smile*  🙂

For a carpenter.

I made a tool apron for Monte about a year ago. I copied the design of an old, worn one he had. It was a prototype, but has held up nicely. He recently suggested a modified version to better fit the tools he most commonly used – a little bigger pocket on his right hand side. I sewed a new one today.

I cannot sit down at my sewing machine without flashing back to memories of my mom sewing, and teaching me to sew, many years ago. This isn’t a prom dress 🙂 but I enjoyed it as a small project.

Its made out of stiff cotton duck cloth. I edged it on all sides with 1/2″ polyester bias tape; triple topstitched to reinforce. I used 6 feet of 1″ soft cotton twill tape for the tying waistband, which I folded in half and triple stitched for strength. Start by making a trapezoid shape with the duck cloth – 16″ tall, 16″ wide at the top; 20″ wide at the bottom. The trapezoid gets edged on all 4 sides with the bias tape. Fold up the bottom to make a baggy pocket 7″ tall. Stitch the sides. Stitch the pocket divider. Stitch the waist tie on. And voila!