Thursday, August 5, 2010

Replacing vinyl windows

This project was originally posted on Windborne In Puget Sound, in August, 2010.

Nothing outlasts Sunbrella.

But eventually, those vinyl windows in your hatch covers will die - turn yellow or brown and go opaque, long before the Sunbrella is finished. Hatch cover vinyl seem to be far worse at this than the vinyl in dodgers - perhaps because the sun strikes it more directly. Ours had gotten pretty bad. Here's a piece of old vinyl next to a piece of new:

So Jane went to Seattle Fabrics and got some new vinyl. Now the $64 question is how to actually do the job, without losing the shape of the fabric? Once the old vinyl is removed, there will be nothing to hold things in place. The standard technique is to sew the new vinyl in behind the old vinyl, and then cut the old vinyl back to the inside edge of the opening. We did not like this because:
  • Jane's machine would never sew thru two thicknesses of vinyl
  • Now the edge will twice as thick as it was before. Imagine doing this a third time, or even a forth.
So we needed a different process. We devised this one (we work as a team on this kind of thing):
  • On the back side, use a pair of scissors to cut the old vinyl between the two lines of stitching. Be careful to cut only the vinyl, and not the folded-under Sunbrella.
  • Pull the threads and remove the outer strip of old vinyl, leaving the inner seam in place to hold things in register. If the inner seam lets go because the thread is too rotten, use seam tape (basically just adhesive on a transfer back) to stick the seam in place.
  • Lay the new vinyl in place. Make a bunch of tape loops and stick the new vinyl to the inside surface of the old vinyl - to keep things lined up while sewing. (We tried a lot of things here - this was by far the easiest.)
  • Resew the outer seam, fastening the new vinyl in place
  • Now remove the inner stitching and remove the old piece of vinyl completely. The shape is retained because the new vinyl is already stitched in place
  • Sew the inner seam.

This worked flawlessly for us.

Oh, and by the way, if yours is not a "walking foot" machine, you will probably have a lot of trouble keeping things lined up and moving correctly under the presser foot. The feed dogs, pulling on only the bottom layer of fabric, want to move the bottom layer with respect to the upper layers, which are dragging on the under side of the presser foot. We'd recommend you get one of these inexpensive "walking foot" attachments. It is not actually a walking foot, more like a "dragged foot", but it works wonderfully. I paid $24 for ours from Gone Sewing on eBay. They were very helpful in making sure that I had the right attachment for Jane's machine (the attachments are available for most machines).

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