Sewing Smashup (Part 1)


Just before we left Florida in October I placed a seemingly mishmash order from Sailrite for all of the items I was missing in order complete my outstanding list of sewing projects. One more zipper, a different sized snap, a few more yards of fabric…. I was confident now that I had all my supplies,  I’d for-sure get my projects done.  Silly me, even with the number of weather days we’ve had I haven’t made it through my list. Most of my to-do items have to do with shade and ventilation, something that has not been a concern of mine it the last few months, and so they are still to be done.  But I did get a few done—YAY!  ….and now that I’ve got the momentum going…watch out!

Cockpit Beanbags:


Our cockpit has a few ergonomic challenges and since we spend so much time sitting/lounging/napping there I made us a set of beanbag wedges.  Wa-la  instant comfort.  I used Sunbrella so they can just stay outside (and stay clean).    They are excellent for wedging yourself into a comfy spot when on a rolly passage or finding just the perfect angle for reading a book. Only I should have made three; Kai likes them too.

**I learned from the last beanbags I made that the beans get compressed and they have to be occasionally refilled so this time I added YKK Zippers and just put a stitch through the slider to keep them from accidently opening.


Seatbelts for the Jerry Cans:

We have a lot of jerry cans on the deck and we found that we were not always very diligent with retying them to the rails every time we used them so we’ve lost more than a few sun covers and occasionally had the cans go sliding across the deck during a squall. (Not so shipshape of a situation) To make it easier and quicker to keep everything lashed in place all the time I made webbing straps with buckles.  Since making them all their very own seatbelts we haven’t lost a cover or can.  We will still lash them with rope for any crossings, but we always double everything up then anyway.  On the same theme, I made two straps on the stern rail to clip up the davit lines.  We use these a couple times a day and it just makes it faster and easier, I guess neither of us were speedy knot tiers because now the lines are always secured. 55 cent buckles that hold up to the sun, gotta love the little things!

**I used the polyester UV resistant webbing


New Zipper for Wetsuit:

One of my wetsuit tops came with a metal zipper slider and since we don’t have the luxury of washing our dive gear down with freshwater after each use, it corroded out. A new YKK plastic zipper—and all is new!


Puppy Proof Fish Hooks:

Our little Kayla (our previous pup) once got a fish hook in her mouth, it is an experience that I would like to never repeat.  Kai has an understandable obsession with the lures on Keith’s fishing poles and though we store them where he could never reach them, I though it would be safer for him, and maybe us, to have safety covers for the hooks.  A scrap of fabric and a strip of Velcro was an easy solution.


Multi-talented Sailrite:

I love my Sailrite, it does the tough stuff like stitching the double layer leather chafing patches on the bimini extension or sewing through the outdoor carpet strips used to protect the enclosure glass.  But it also does the delicate stuff-like dinner napkins.  We don’t use paper napkins on the boat but the cloth ones I had were looking a little worn out and stained so I made us a few more sets with some remnant material.  While I had out the remnants bag, I stitched together a few new toys for Kai; they don’t have pet stores out here and while I had a big stash of toys for him before we left, he has gone through them all already.

**Just a note to other cruisers/to-be cruisers: While in George Town we heard several cruisers asking over the VHF radio if there was anyone with a Sailrite Machine they could borrow. Sorry, I did not let my precious machine go for a dinghy ride across the harbor in someone else’s boat.  I also heard almost as many calls for people needing needles because they had used their last one.  So, if you are headed out and have a Sailrite onboard, I’d suggest ordering several extra packets of needles of different sizes and different weight threads (you never know-you might want to make something other than sails too).  The machine is amazing, but it doesn’t do a thing without thread and needles.

Recycle, Reduce, Reuse

When we moved aboard well over a year ago we decided not to get a storage unit.  I was good with that, but what to do with all of the stuff that didn’t really belong stowed on the boat but might handy to complete something on the to-do list before we departed?  Shoved into my SUV, that’s  what.  I filled it to the roof with things I just couldn’t part with, but knew had no place on board.  Literally to the roof, I don’t know how I haven’t run someone over backing up and I certainly haven’t gone through a single drive-thru without feeling the judgment of being a full-blown hoarder these last months.  The contents are mostly “supplies” for projects and the thought was they would get consumed as the to-do list dwindled.  Among my hoard of supplies I was lugging around several random pieces of teak; the old dodger, bimini, and sailcovers; a bag of styrofoam beans for the beanbags; and lots of odd pieces of foam, batting, and fabric scraps.  Not much has gotten consumed and my car still only had room for only me-no passengers. With the fact that we are quickly approaching the day where I need to sell my car I had to get busy clearing it out one way or another so I started recycling, reusing, and eventually reducing the hoard in my car.

First project was to use some of the teak and build a book shelf in the aft cabin.  Oddly, we didn’t have a single shelf in the boat that would  hold a full size reference book or guide book and I thought it was finally time to remedy that.  The finishing work is still in progress, but the books are on. I think it’s pretty good for only using recycled wood. A rope cleated to the bulkhead will keep things in place.


Next was to salvage as much canvas as possible from the old dodger and bimini.  I made two storage bags for the dinghy, one is for the anchor and line and the other is for our snorkle gear.  They snap on to the handles and keep the dinghy floor uncluttered yet remove easily.  I think they are going to work well, but didn’t put too much effort into the craftsmanship as I am considering them my prototypes.  I’m sure the second generation might have some modifications.  

Moving on, it was time to give Kai a place of his own in the dinghy.  He is too little to stand on the floor and see out and doesn’t have the sea legs to stand on the tubes which means he usually ends up sitting in my lap, which is fine now but someday soon he will be all sandy and salty and I probably won’t think it’s so fine anymore.  Enter Kai’s bucket.  Now he gets front row action while sitting/standing securely in the dinghy.  We tried it out already and he seems thrilled with his booster seat :). Bonus, when he isn’t in the dinghy with us the canvas will also hold our 5 gallon look-bucket for diving or anything else we don’t want sloshing around on the floor.  Note: the photo of the new dinghy organizers is pittyful, but there will be plenty of dinghy photos in the near future-you know when it becomes our only vehicle 🙂 

With plenty of old Sunbrella left I moved out of the dinghy and up to the mother boat and made what I think will be a great add-on to the bimini/enclosure setup in place.  The bimini ends just before the cockpit does due to the main sheet so when it rains the cockpit (and cushions) get very soaked if the enclosure panels aren’t in place which they frequently aren’t in place because it makes the cockpit a steamy greenhouse when all closed up. To keep the cockpit drier and shadier I made two little pieces that zip right onto the bimini with grommets on the back.  Super simple, yet very effective. I like how well they follow the curvature of the bimini on the grommet side.  Yeah for shade!  I’m liking these recycling (completely free) projects!

The bag ‘o beans was used to make Kai a bean bag bed and our cockpit bean bag wedges were fluffed up.  I even filled up one of my handmade bead embroidered pillow covers for some outdoor-friendly whimsy in the cockpit. (It’s a leafy seadragon-it’s hard to tell in the photo). With those complete, I had one more bulky item out of the car, I can almost see the backseat now.

I used up some small scraps of fabric to make a canvas water bucket.  Canvas water buckets come in handy when you have to rinse the deck off due to a little pup having been trained that it is OK to do his business there.  Our last one wore out.  I added a tag with glass marbles on one side of the bucket so that it tips and fills with water easily.

Welcome to my Sewing Room

Ok, it’s really just the V-berth, but every space on a boat is multi purpose.

At the heart of my workspace is my new LSZ1 sewing machine from Sailrite. Let me just say it was Keith that really thought we should go ahead and buy the new sewing machine reasoning that with it we could do the mizzen sail repairs ourselves and make a copycat Gailsail storm sail, thus paying for itself quickly. (We just won’t dwell too hard that those are the two projects I have not gotten around to yet 🙂 )


Anyway, the LSZ1, I knew it was a tough little machine but still had serious reservations about just how much it could handle. I was coming from a serious commercial Juki LU-563 powerhouse and didn’t think anything could compete with the power of it. Guess what, the Sailrite machine has earned my respect! I haven’t found anything yet that has given it any pause. And I have shoved some tough stuff at it. The sail covers frequently had 6 layers of Sunbrella and 4 layers of sailcloth going through at one time, more at seams. Didn’t hesitate. Not one skipped stitch either. Impressive. The shade awning had some real thick layers at the reinforcement points too, no problem.

The toughest challenge I threw at it was the cushions. Sunbrella usually is about 7-9 oz per yard weight. Storm sail cloth is about 9 oz. per yard weight. The Crypton upholstery fabric I chose was 16.9 oz per yard weight and with welting and seams I frequently had 8 layers cranking through it. That little machine didn’t care at all. Wow.

Oh, and by the way–the cushions are done!!! I love them. We went old school, with welting and buttons. I think it matches the traditional interior of the boat. Well, I’m not completely done, I am dying to make fun new throw pillows to brighten them up. Like frosting on a sugar cookie. Ah, but that will wait as it isn’t really a priority. I am packing fabric and it will be a fun rainy day project once we get cruising. Until then, my plain white pillows will do-I have a mizzen sail to repair instead.



So where is the rest of my crafting and sewing stuff? Everything but the fabric is in one very tightly packed locker. There is most definitely a one-in-one-out rule going on in there as it is filled to the brim with my canvas and crafting supplies. The bolt fabric is on a long shelf above the fishing poles and my folded fabric is in a waterproof bag. I am all set to keep on sewing. Of course I have a happy helper to assist. Kai is ever eager to press the foot peddle, ready or not.


Where were we ONE year ago: Chugging Away


Choices, choices, choices.

It’s like a fabric store confetti party going on in here! I am recovering the settees and have had my usual indecisive fuss over the past few weeks.

What I want is creamy, soft, and plushy.

What I have is a mechanic, black dog, and a dining table.


I started with the usual outdoor brand fabrics but couldn’t find something I loved or that felt soft enough and regular upholstery material wasn’t going to hold up against the sun and stains well enough. Then I found Crypton fabrics. They are used in hospitals and restaurants yet feel super soft. They are crazy stain resistant and clean with laundry soap or even bleach. I got a free sample from the website. It came with a swatch of their fabric, ketchup, soy sauce, a crayon, a highlighter, and a packet of Tide all zipped up in a cute pouch.

Ooh. I do love an experiment!

I thought I might add a few things to the stain test-like blueberries, chocolate, butter, olive oil, grape jelly, honey, soda, and Mio (AKA: safety-orange food coloring) because it is our dining room cushions and these things will spill on them eventually. Then I added winch grease and blood, because again, it’s a boat and we can be messy.


I documented my stains, to make it an official experiment, and smeared and rubbed away. It was kind of fun. Keith liked the blueberry part the best.

I set it out in the Florida sun to cook.

Then I wiped it off, mixed up my teaspoon of laundry soap and washed it up.

I hung my sample (and the towel I used to clean it with) up to dry.

Perfectly clean!!! The Crypton, I can’t say the same for my dish towel.

Well that just narrowed down my search. We want the blueberry proof fabric! Keith and I picked out our two favorite and and ordered a yard of each to decide. Anyone who knows me, can already tell you what colors I chose. I have an extremely small color palette comfort zone; I am a bit predictable.

Hint: think sugar cookie (without the pretty icing)


One of the biggies on the to do list has been to sew some sort of “stack-pack” style sailcover. It wasn’t a convenience thing it was a serious safety thing. Take a peek at our boom, we can’t reach most of it. Not only is it very high, but with the bimini and dodger it was completely inaccessible. Bringing down and flaking the mainsail in the flat calm river was an ordeal, as was putting on the sailcover. Reefing at sea?-eeeek. It required balancing on the varnished (slippery) coaming and the top of the lifelines with nothing to hang onto except the bottom of the boom itself. Stupidly dangerous.

So, I set about making a new sailcover with lazyjacks. It’s basically two, flat pieces of canvas. Attach it to the boom and hang it from the mast. Easy.


I started with the Sailrite PDF instructions and the free full instruction video, but I wanted to make some custom changes. (If I hadn’t it really would have been easy) Namely, I wanted to use the slide slots we have in the sides of our boom as the attachment points for the bottom of the cover, line the entire sail cover with Dacron, and keep all of the weight-bearing seams away from any sun exposure. Decreasing windage was also a big priority while at the same time being mindful that we can’t even reach the boom, we really can’t reach the top of the sail cover and shove the sail in, it had to fit in the cover on its own when it’s lowered. And so began my complicated easy project.

I thought the dodger was the hardest piece of canvas to sew. That took me four full days. This sail cover is coming in at just under four weeks! I did make a mock-up using the old sail cover, so technically, I made two in a month. (The mock-up version is the second photo with the striped, tablecloth looking fabric on the bottom)

At times I got quite frustrated, like when I discovered it made a spectacular rain catcher :/ , but I think I finally got all the kinks worked out. It no longer catches rain, it does catch the sail, it is fully lined to protect from chafe, none of the working seams are exposed to the sun, doesn’t interfere with reefing lines, and it looks pretty tidy too. And most importantly, no more standing above the lifelines!


20140821-215536.jpg^don’t judge this one-it was my pattern!





I’m going to forget for a little while longer that I still have a second mast and sail to tend to.

Where were we one year ago: All Aboard

Sneak Peak at Up-coming Projects

I got a few boxes in the mail…………..

……………..and you might recognize where they are from!

I’m thinking these following items will be getting crossed off the list soon:

“Stack-pack” mainsail and mizzen sail covers
Mizzen sail repaired
Shade awning(s)/rain catchers
Propane tank cover
Dingy storage pockets
New interior cushions
Organizing pockets by the companionway
Freezer cover
New outboard motor cover
Surf board (and paddleboard?) covers
Snaps switched to twist-fasteners on the enclosure
Custom bedding for aft cabin
“big-boy” Kai bed (he hasn’t had one because he eats them when he gets too tired-silly puppy)

Time to get busy!

Where were we ONE year ago: Enclosure (still sewing I guess!)