Rainy day project.

I knocked out a quick project today as rain soaked the yard. It’s a bag to hold a 3L boxed-wine bladder. Boats don’t much like things made out of cardboard; roaches do. So we don’t bring cardboard on-board. This bag will hold, hang, and dispense the wine instead, so we can toss the box for recycling. Yes, that’s right, I just ooze class. 🙂

Swing into spring.

I just finished a new canopy cover for my friend, Irene’s, garden swing.  I popped over this morning and we put it on.  Looks great!

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Aloft!

Okay, I’m a tiny bit ecstatic. I finished the mainsail repairs today. And the slow, endless rain of the last week or so has moved on. So we drove out to the marina and tied the main back on, then took Nirvana out for a sail for the first time in about 3 months. We hoisted both the main and the jib. It was the first time taking Nirvana out since I repaired each of the sails. The winds were light, but I loved seeing them out and in the wind.

Ready to sail.

Time has flown by since we took Nirvana’s mainsail home at the beginning of December.  But we’ve not been idle.  We’ve had a lot going on; a few visits from family and friends, an Atlantic coast boat delivery, the holidays, the bathroom remodel, yardwork, life, etc.  But I think I’m almost ready to start repairing the main.

I’ve made a scale drawing of the sail and all its detail (including seams, layers of dacron, batten pockets, luff and leech tape, direction of the warp & weft/fill – or weave – of each piece of the sail’s construction, etc).  On top of that, I marked the location of the damaged areas that need to be repaired.  Using this, I can figure out a strategy of what pieces to replace, the dimension of each piece, and then lay them out on scale drawings of 54″ wide dacron yardage so I can figure out how much I need to cut out all the pieces with the weave in the required direction.

Nirvana’s sail is a bit unusual – at least for a US boat – in that it has a furling boom (a Forespar LeisureFurl furling boom).  It’s a very nice upgrade that is reportedly prevalent in Australia and New Zealand sailboats.  We like the convenience and the fact that our furling boom allows us to have full battens in our main.   As I’m preparing to repair the mainsail, I’ve learned that sails for LeisureFurl booms are built with multiple layers, or plies, toward the leech end of the sail, which is required to ensure proper furling of the main.  It just makes things a bit more interesting (complicated), as that is where the majority of the damage is.  I’ve also spent time on the phone with Sailrite and Forespar to ensure I use the right weight of dacron for the replacement pieces.

The repairs I plan to make to the mainsail include:

– Replacing the bolt rope tape on the luff of the sail.  This goes into a track on the aft-side of the mainmast as the sail is raised and lowered.  It is well worn due to wear and UV damage.

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– Replacing the dacron tape along the leech of the sail.  This is well worn and cracking due to wear and UV damage.

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– Replacing areas of varying widths along the entire leech of the sail where UV damage has degraded much of the top ply of dacron.  The previous owner neglected to replace a worn sail cover before selling her, probably for a couple of years, resulting in a wide swath of cracked and torn dacron that remained exposed to the sun when the main was furled.

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I’ve been taking my time, as sail work is new to me, and I have a lot to learn.  The first 2 sets of repairs are straightforward.  The third set of repairs is non-trivial and essentially requires replacement of much of the top 2 plies of the sail.

The picture below shows the drawing I’ve made of the port-side of Nirvana’s approximately 13 1/2′ x 38′ mainsail.   The brown lines represent the batten pockets that are on top of all the layers of dacron and the luff & leech tape.  I essentially need to remove and replace the pink and blue layers of dacron on the aft-end of the sail.

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Because of the order in which the parts of the mainsail are sewn,  I’ll have to pull up the existing batten pockets to remove the worn pieces of the sail, then sew in the new pieces of dacron, and then sew the batten pockets back down, before sewing the luff and leech tape on.  I’ll also have to replace a couple of the numbers on the sail when all the repairs are done, as some of the sections that need replacement are under the sail numbers.

This is definitely more complicated than the repairs I made to the jib a few months back.  But, I’m cautiously optimistic that I can do this.  Stay tuned to see how it turns out.

 

 

 

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. 🙂

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!

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.