Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Navigating Foamy Seas of Fabric

Up in Alaska aboard s/v Wayward,work turns from the rigid determinism of wood to the flexibility of fabric...
That's some chalkboard, "Einstein"!

Every point on the mollusc is treated as a space-point, and every material point which is at rest relatively to it as at rest, so long as the mollusc is considered as reference-body.
From Relativity by Albert Einstein

Navigating Foamy Seas of Fabric

To those of us used to the Newtonian absolutes of 'rigid' plywood, turning to fabric is to enter the undulating reaches of Einstein's relativistic universe.

Fabric is visibly flexible. Roll out a strip of it, and it may lay straight. Or it may curve like a banana, one way or the other. Or snake both ways. It can fold, hump and pucker, too, leaving its two dimensional plane. Hang an end over an edge, and it has the tendency to siphon itself to gravitational equilibrium. Fortunately, in the era of synthetic threads, we don't have to worry about shrinkage in the temporal dimensions!

Foam - at least the cushy sort - isn't much better.

To tame the mollusc, we need an external reference... in our case, the straight edge of a long-ish table in the caretaker's cabin. Line up one edge of foam or fabric with that (and keep it aligned) and smooth it flat, and we've imposed a reference edge and a planar surface. After that, it's just a matter of layout, cut, fold, and sew to the lines.

Of course, folding is something we seldom do to plywood.

Spatial visualization of flat stuff folding into shape tries the imagination. Some folks have developed it more than others. But really, unless you're a genetic sport, it starts out hard. Practice makes perfect. Like learning a new dance, the first attempts tread on toes. First one is a mind-bender; second is not half-bad; third a piece of cake.


As in all things, we looked for the KISS approach. No piping, fancy shapes, zippers (velcro, instead), etc.. We sewed a single join around the perimeters. At the corners, where excess gathers, we fold under as one would wrap a package in paper. Here and there we tack any floppy excess with thread and needle, or dart it out, as seems indicated.

A confused sea

Tips n' Tricks (from the Ignorant):
  • Bobby pins can be used to secure hems for sewing... not as prickly as pins.
  • Hot Melt Glue can often be used to tack things together... be sure to press the 'dots' flat before they cool!
  • Woof and Warp (the long and cross threads in fabric) are freebie square and parallel... follow them and it's hard to go wrong.
  • An Electric Knife cuts foam cleanly... the double bladed, turkey carvin' kind.

Dinette, cushions, left
Settee cushions behind
Folded Bunk (upside in), with ice blanket showing
Loose fit will snug up when finished with Hook n Loop

Salon Seats and Backrests:

These were all variations on a theme. Simple boxes in simple wrappers.

The only complication was that we wanted to use a second type of fabric for inboard faces. It was from SLACKTIDE's bunk, and we like to carry a bit forward from each boat. Also, we under ordered the blue nylon seconds by about a yard.  8/


Pretty simple in retrospect, but we burned a lot of braincells on this one.

First, our 60in cloth has to be joined to cover the 72in x 78in bunk. A longitudinal join, we figure, runs up where our sensitive upper bodies lie, like a miniscule bolster. A transverse join runs across our shins/calves, and seems much less intrusive. So that was our choice.

Our foam is open cell. Moisture travels downward and condenses at the first cool surface (the plywood bunk deck, in this case) and soaks the mattress from the bottom up. One semi-fix is to raise the mattress on a low lattice for airflow under, which evaporates and transports moisture. But also, we laminate a layer of close cell foam on the upper surface. This keeps moisture to the upper surface where it can harmlessly evaporate. Plus it firms the total foam, which we like for sleeping.

Next problem is that, to access the under-bunk storage, the bedding has to fold in half around the long axis. If the foam is a single block, this is AWKwaaaaard! But if we cut the foam into two blocks, then, if not compressed equally, we get a cliffy rift along the centerline.

Our solution was to cut the foam in two along the long centerline, then glue the close cell foam in a contiguous sheet to both surfaces, crossing the divide. We left the first foot to either side of the divide unglued.

Our cover unfolds to resemble a couple of bicycle panniers; two pockets topped by a flap that tucks between open and closed cell foam into that first, unglued foot.

The entire cover is made from a single strip 'scrolled' from one flap, down the divide face, across one bottom face, up the side face, all across the top face, down the other side face, across that bottom side, up the divide face and tucked between foams. End faces sewn together pillow-case style along the mid, end face (not shown). Whew!


The fabric and closed cell foam form a longitudinal hinge for folding the mattress over. Meanwhile, since it spans the divide, it eliminates that cliffy ridge. Result... works like a charm and comfortable!

Looks like we made harbor.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Cheap Boat Tricks – Cockpit Floor Mat

Please welcome new contributors Melissa and Mike, of s/v Galapagos, a 1975 47 foot Olympic Adventure ketch! For their first contribution, Melissa shows us a cheap and easy addition to cockpit comfort...
This little project has all the qualities that make a project satisfying for me: creative use of a material, hunting and gathering all the crafty pieces, long straight seams to sew, fairly low level of difficulty, and lots of colorful bang for less than 50 bucks. In this case, much less, only about $32 all in. Woo hoo!


Don’t ask me what I was doing in World Market because truly I don’t even know. I had just bought fabric for another project over at the fabric store and with time to kill I  wandered in just to look around. That’s usually a dangerous thing, but since I’m determined to NOT buy anything for the house, I felt safe. But then, I found these cool mats made from woven recycled plastic. Hmmm. The little grey cells began to process all the possibilities and 20$ later I left with a 4×6 mat destined to cover our cockpit floor.
Want to make one? Here’s how I did this one.
You will need: your mat, scissors, outdoor thread, outdoor fabric in a matching color, masking tape, butcher paper and tape for the pattern.
  1.  Make a pattern of your cockpit floor. In our case, I needed to cut out a circle to fit around the steering pedestal. Sure, the engineering types reading this will come up with a thousand easier ways to make a pattern, probably using things like numbers and formulas and measurements. I prefer my patterns to be on paper. I’m tactile and visual, and I just feel better having a template I know fits exactly. Or at least close. I used left over butcher paper I had from making the patterns for the aft cabin berths.

  2. Center the pattern over the mat. It’s easy to do this by folding the pattern in half the long way and marking the middle, then repeating in the other direction. Do the same thing with your mat. Mark the middle on each side, then lay the pattern on top of the mat, making the marks match up. Then trace around the pattern using a sharpie marker.

  3. Now put tape along the edge of the line. The purpose here is to keep the mat from unraveling when you are cutting it, before it is sewn. With this mat, that was only an issue in one direction, but I didn’t know that before I cut, so better safe. Place the tape on the inside of the line. Cut along the tape and get ready to sew. I used sail thread that I already had, but be sure to use outdoor thread. I sewed this on my Brother sewing machine, which is a regular machine. It handled this just fine. Sew along the middle of the tape to secure the edges.

  4. At this point, make sure your mat fits the cockpit floor.

  5. Make the binding.  Cut 4″ strips from your chosen fabric. Using an iron, fold the fabric in half, then fold each side in half again. Use the iron to make crisp edges. Then cut 4″ strips along the bias of the remaining fabric for the binding for the circle cut out, if you have one. fold and iron that the same way.

  6. Sandwich the edge of the mat in the folded binding and sew along the edge, binding a blanket. Use the bias cut binding to do the circle.
Et voila! This will be exposed to UV rays all the time, so who knows how long it will last? But who cares? For that price, it was worth it just for the fun.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Canvas, Round Two

This post originally appeared on Windborne in Puget Sound

In the past few days, we had an appearance (sadly brief) of nice spring weather... weather where the following all coincided:
  • It wasn't raining
  • It was warm
  • It wasn't windy
For this year, it was that last item which has been the rarest.  But all three things did indeed happen, and so I got out the DuraSkrim and patterned the forward roof panel on our bimini.  As I did for the rear panel, I patterned right over the existing canvas.  This allowed me to have everything tensioned and in place, so that the replacement panel should fit well.  I hope.

The pattern, before trimming
And glory of glories, the weather held for the next day, which allowed me to use the pattern to cut out the pieces to make the roof panel.  As you can see from the picture above, there simply is not enough room to do this down below on Eolian, out of the weather, making this an outside job.

Our existing dodger has the roof panel and the forward panel (the "windshield") attached, making the combination large and unwieldy.  I will not be continuing that design.  Instead, I will use Common Sense fasteners (male on the roof, female on the forward panel) to fasten the panels to each other.

I expect to start sewing on Friday, but I doubt that I will finish this weekend.  Besides doing the sewing, there is the matter of the installation of all those Common Sense fasteners.

[Finally, a brief note to those of you to whom I cryptically mentioned Wood's metal:  that post is coming, it's just not far enough along yet.]

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