Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sewing new bug screens for hatches

Aboard s/v C'est la Vie, Jeff and Anne regard sewing as a "purple" job.  Today, it's Jeff's turn...

Our existing hatch screens, made by Anne over 7 years ago, grew threadbare.  So now it is my turn to sew the hatch screens.

With all the Outward Bound Staff departed we utilize the large spaces in the Sunset Island Lodge as work areas

The west end of the dining room converted to sewing loft.

Having ample space to lay out projects is incredibly helpful.  For this endeavor a portion of the dining room became the sewing loft and the salon floor a space to draft out patterns.

I utilized plastic sheeting for the pattern material.   Patterns represent the "no-see-um" screen portions of the hatch covers.  Due to it's light weight I find the screen difficult to work with so patterns assist with the layout and cutting.

Basic geometry - a framing square,
straight edges, a 3' piece of string,
and a tape measure were used to
create the patterns.    

Fortunately C'est la Vie's two hatches are square.  The center hatch frame measures 22" x 22".  To leave ample room for operating the hatch, I created the pattern based on a 24" square.  The forward hatch measured 20" x 20" thus I used 22" for the pattern.

Each hatch screen consists of two panels of "no-see-um" material.  The curved section wraps around to form the sides and back of the cover.  The rectangular  section follows the arc of the leading edge of the hatch as it moves from a close to open position.

Two patterns - the upper two panels
are for the smaller forward hatch. 
The larger patterns in the foreground
are for the  center hatch.

I use two sided tape to join and test the patterns.  Satisfied with the fit, the patterns are laid atop the screen and weighted down to hold the pattern and fabric stationary and wrinkle free while cutting.

Ready to cut the screen.   Battens, straight edges,
and a square are used to hold the fabric & 
pattern stationary while cutting.

Attempting to cut clean edges on the screen is futile.  I hide all the edges of the screen in the finish product.

For joining the screen sections prior to sewing, I use two sided basting tape (I gave up on pins a long time ago.)

Joining the two screen sections with basting tape.

The screen material is too flimsy to securely hold stitches.  My solution is to use 1" nylon webbing as binding tape on the screen to screen seams. This method has the added benefit of hiding those rough edges on the screen.

Finally time to begin sewing.

We own a Sailrite LZ-1 and purchased a 1" binding tape attachment along with the machine.  This attachment is a must have in my opinion. Similar attachments are available for most machines.

To more easily differentiate between to hatch screens, I used yellow binding tape on the center hatch and blue tape on the forward hatch.

Filling tubular webbing with lead cast net weights.

Tubular webbing filled with lead cast net weights serves as the ballast in base of the hatch screen. The lower edge of the screen and the weighted webbing are hidden inside a Sunbrella base.

The long sunbrella base sections.  

Since the sunbrella is a heavy fabric and the base sections are simple in shape, I did not create patterns for these pieces.

Sewing the base proved more complex than I originally speculated. Initially the two sections of the sunbrella base were sewn onto each side of the screen (i.e. interior & exterior.)   Next I tacked one end of the weighted tube onto the sunbrella base.  Finally I joined the two bottom edges of the base.

Test fitting the final product.

Can't say I'm eager for a buggy night at anchor, but at least we are a bit more prepared.

More images from this project are available in the Hatch Screens - Spring 2013 photo album.


  1. What kind of thread did you use on your screens? I have to repair our sailboat screens. Thank you.
    Sally Weigand

    1. I don't know what Jeff & Anne used, but I no longer use anything except Tenara/Helios teflon thread for anything that will get UV exposure



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