Saturday, October 1, 2016

Sewing a Canvas Boat Cover

by Sally Bibro

Purchasing a ten year old power boat brought both the excitement of a larger vessel with more creature comforts and the need for some repairs and upgrades. Not the least of these was the need to re- place the canvas deck cover. After researching the market for custom made canvas, we realized this would be a costly project estimated to be at least five thousand dollars. I had constructed seat cushions, curtains, and other accessories for our previous boat, so I decided to investigate the feasibility of taking on the canvas project myself. What unfolded was a job that tested my sewing skills and my ability to plan and complete such an ambitious project.
For the sewing projects that I had completed for our previous boat, I relied heavily on a marine canvas company, Sailrite. This company was started by husband and wife sail boaters who wanted to be able to complete their own sailboat projects and sail repairs. Over the years Sailrite has grown into a sec- ond generation family owned company that is an excellent resource for anyone who is interested in a wide range of do it yourself projects from marine applications such as canvas covers and sail repair to upholstery, window treatments home dec, outdoor living, and more.

Sailrite has developed an extensive library of free videos to demonstrate and teach a multitude of construction techniques, tips for choosing fabrics and other materials, tools and more. They offer both an online and print catalog with a huge selection of fabrics, trim, thread, findings, etc.
Once again I turned to Sailrite to plan the project and acquire the necessary tools and materials. I ordered all the materials and tools needed from this company including Sunbrella canvas, clear Strata- glas vinyl, heavy duty weatherproof thread, heavy duty zippers, snaps, a hot knife and fastener installa- tion tool. Along the way I received excellent support from the folks at Sailrite.
I spent about a month gathering information on materials, supplies and tools needed to do the job. I already owned a Sailrite heavy duty sewing machine, capable of sewing through multiple layers of canvas and other materials such as vinyl. I purchased a hot knife to cut the Sunbrella marine grade can- vas, and a snap fastener tool. I was ready to start.
The first step was to make a pattern. We had de- cided to alter the cover from the one that enclosed the entire cockpit area to a drop down curtain.
Consequently, I couldn't use the old cover pieces as patterns. I used plastic sheeting material called Duras- crim to make the five pieces needed for the new curtain enclosure. Once that was done, I needed to plan how I was going to lay out and cut the pieces.
Several obstacles needed to be overcome. First was creating the necessary space to store the vinyl sheets prior to use, lay out the canvas and sew the components together. At one point in the process I had vinyl sheets laid out flat on my laundry room floor.
The sheets came in 54 by 110 inches and needed to stay flat until used to create the clear panels. The family room became the cutting area. I used two 4x4' folding tables to make a large cutting and assembly table. I also had to rearrange my sewing room to accommodate long and wide panels so there was enough room for the pieces in front of and behind the machine.
The planning and patterning took the majority of the time needed to complete the project. Once I had the materials and logistics under control, I was able to complete the actual sewing over a period of a couple of weeks, working on it a few hours a day. The final step involved installing the canvas, a job that couldn't have been done without the help and skill of my very
handy husband.

The canvas cover is now in its second season on the boat, and I'm pleased to report it looks as good as the day we installed it. Yes, it was a huge undertaking, but in the process I advanced my sewing skills, learned a lot of new techniques and gained confidence in my sewing abilities. And best of all, we saved approximately $3,500.00 over what it would have cost to have the cover made professionally. 


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