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Do-it-yourself canvas?

Old 10-01-2008, 07:00 PM
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Default Do-it-yourself canvas?

Having trouble getting this posted. . . . hmmmmm. . . http://www.thehulltruth.com/images/e...s/confused.gif

I want to put some canvas on my boat from the bow rail up to the rail on the front of the center console.

Has anyone ever done that kind of stuff?
Can you sew light weight canvas with a regular sewing machine?
What about installing heavy duty snaps?

Are canvas shops expensive?
Old 10-02-2008, 05:27 AM
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Default Re: Do-it-yourself canvas?

It depends on your sewing machine and more on the thread and needles your using. I bought a really old 1940's sewing machine off ebay to do some canvas work and it does OK on everything but when I try to do multiple layers of canvas/zipper/edge strip all at once which is really thick. The trick is to make sure you buy the right thread or your wasting your time. It needs to be UV resistant or it will dissolve in a matter of months (NO Walmart thread). Go to www.sailrite.com and read some of their tutorials and they explain some basics that will help. Their prices are high but they have everything you would need for a project from one place. I've also bought canvas supplies from a company called Rochford Marine Supply who sells factory seconds fabrics at outstanding prices. I got fifty yards of Surlast for a boat cover for around three dollars a yard and I wasted less than a yard due to bad fabric. Home machines will do the basics but get the appropriate needle to go with the thicker UV resistant threads. Sunbrella is easy to sew, I taught myself very quickly and have now made a full size boat cover, tire cover, anchor shade bimini top and some duffle bags. I had no idea what I was doing when I started last winter. There are a couple of good books out on canvas making as well that help with what type of stitches and such for different applications. Good luck. I did it because I'm cheap, but it was very rewarding to see the finished product of something you did yourself.
Old 10-02-2008, 06:24 AM
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Default Re: Do-it-yourself canvas?

My mother had a slipcover business for many years, I was a part time helper for a long time as a kid, so I have some abilities in this area.

I had some inclination to do a couple new covers myself for my boat and a couple other friends. I visited the Sunbrella booth at the Miami Boat Show a few years ago, walked away with some great info.

R227 is giving some real good info. I found that most of the modern sewing machines are pretty flexible in their abilities, I don't believe it would take anything special to sew Sunbrella, but forget heavy canvas.

After toying with the idea for a little while, like so many, it got shelved.
Old 10-02-2008, 06:26 AM
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Default Re: Do-it-yourself canvas?

This is fairly obvious but you get what you pay for with canvas. I found a nice old guy here that does OK work and is cheap. I passed him on to some friends with the warning that his work was fair at best. Of course one of them was still unhappy when there were issues.
Old 10-02-2008, 06:31 AM
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Default RE: Do-it-yourself canvas?

HillbillyTrader - 10/1/2008 9:00 PM

I want to put some canvas on my boat from the bow rail up to the rail on the front of the center console.

Can you sew light weight canvas with a regular sewing machine? YES
What about installing heavy duty snaps? BUY A KIT FROM WAL-MART OR FABRIC STORE, EASY TO DO

Are canvas shops expensive? YES, COMPARED TO A DIY JOB.
Old 10-02-2008, 07:19 AM
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Default RE: Do-it-yourself canvas?

You can customize your cover for whatever you want to accomplish. In this case I don't want to keep the cabin closed up, so with this cover the portholes can stay open and so can the cabin hatch. the fly at the rear allow lots of air flow and no rain. Windshield and instruments stay covered, too.

Sewing is like welding; it takes a lot of practice to make the job look professional. OTOH, this is a boat cover, not a competition, and it's a lot of satisfaction creating something that's useful.

Old 10-02-2008, 03:58 PM
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Default Re: Do-it-yourself canvas?

Florida R227 gives some very good device. I have an older heavy duty Brother which will do 3 to 4 layers of Sunbrella. I use Pfaff needles. I like Sunbrella, it is durable, lasts 10 to 11 years. You can use a gortex thread for extra longivity but a good dacron with UV inhibitors works well. I have a professional Grommet punch, and manchine, as well as tools for the various snaps. There are also some specialized long pins which are very useful in mock ups. I also like the spring clamps to hold the cloth. A white pencil works well for marking dark fabrics. I like to put a piece of 6 to 8 oz dacron in the turned over edge of Sunbrella to give re-inforcement where snaps or grommets are placed. Start with a small project and work up.

If you get serious a double walking foot really helps. Keep the fabric under control--and watch your fingers. Be sure that your machine is in top condition.
Old 10-02-2008, 04:30 PM
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Default Re: Do-it-yourself canvas?

There are some things that should be left to professionals. Canvas, if you want it done right, is one of them.
Old 12-08-2008, 10:24 AM
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Default RE: Do-it-yourself canvas?

Stop, don't do it because your waisting your time. You will need a 92 weight thread for sewing plus the proper type of marine grade material. UV and UVB are the two main things that degrade every and all things concerning boats. I would strongly recomend a professional marine canvas shop to get your work done.
Old 12-08-2008, 10:40 AM
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Default RE: Do-it-yourself canvas?

kwsc - 12/8/2008 1:24 PM

Stop, don't do it because your waisting your time. You will need a 92 weight thread for sewing plus the proper type of marine grade material. UV and UVB are the two main things that degrade every and all things concerning boats. I would strongly recomend a professional marine canvas shop to get your work done.
Wow, great first post, ONLY 2 months after the OP asked ??? Oh well welcome aboard THT ....You will see much faster response time is usually the norm here.

Just a tip,
Big R
Old 12-08-2008, 10:51 AM
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Default RE: Do-it-yourself canvas?

I'm considering a similar project, though mine seems on a slightly easier scale ;? ...3 side curtains with windows to enclose a pilot house on a center cockpit boat. I did get a quote from a premier canvas guy. $2400. Yikes!! I'm thinking that materials can't be more than a couple of hundred and it seems all is readily available on ebay and the web. Haven't yet convinced my wife that I can handle her sewing machine but I'm working on that.

Basically what I'm facing is 3 rectangular pieces of canvas (sunbrella), 2 zippers, 3 windows and a few snap buttons. How hard can it be? Haven't been able to figure out how to attach the curtains to the top. It seems that most use some kind of extruded track, but I'm thinking that would be good if the curtains needed to slide?


Anybody remember how their side curtains attach to a hard-top roof?
Old 12-08-2008, 11:07 AM
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Default RE: Do-it-yourself canvas?

BIG R JR - 12/8/2008 1:40 PM

kwsc - 12/8/2008 1:24 PM

Stop, don't do it because your waisting your time. You will need a 92 weight thread for sewing plus the proper type of marine grade material. UV and UVB are the two main things that degrade every and all things concerning boats. I would strongly recomend a professional marine canvas shop to get your work done.
Wow, great first post, ONLY 2 months after the OP asked ??? Oh well welcome aboard THT ....You will see much faster response time is usually the norm here.

Just a tip,
Big R
Yeah, I'd say his tip may be a little late in coming
Old 12-08-2008, 12:02 PM
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Default RE: Do-it-yourself canvas?

Photoguy - 12/8/2008 10:51 AM

I'm considering a similar project, though mine seems on a slightly easier scale ;? ...3 side curtains with windows to enclose a pilot house on a center cockpit boat. I did get a quote from a premier canvas guy. $2400. Yikes!! I'm thinking that materials can't be more than a couple of hundred and it seems all is readily available on ebay and the web. Haven't yet convinced my wife that I can handle her sewing machine but I'm working on that.

Basically what I'm facing is 3 rectangular pieces of canvas (sunbrella), 2 zippers, 3 windows and a few snap buttons. How hard can it be? Haven't been able to figure out how to attach the curtains to the top. It seems that most use some kind of extruded track, but I'm thinking that would be good if the curtains needed to slide?


Anybody remember how their side curtains attach to a hard-top roof?
With windows, the cost of the glass, depending on the brand, can justify this guys price- Strataglass is pricy stuff... Also- with glass, you want a pro to do it, imo, it is a critical thing as you don't want wrinkles or bad cutouts, scratches and bad horseshoes.
Old 12-08-2008, 03:12 PM
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Default Re: Do-it-yourself canvas?

Start with something easy first....i redid a seat on my boat and it came out good...the key is to get a stiff needle that will go through several thick layers of material, like others have said....the other key is to get a near industrial strength machine to push it through...im sure if you looked on craigslist you could find one...
Old 12-08-2008, 03:53 PM
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Default RE: Do-it-yourself canvas?

All good tips. My plan for the windows is to use the inexpensive clear vinyl. they will be smaller in size, one in each of the 2 sides and one in the back. Ultimately, the purpose of my enclosure is to provide a little privacy for the porta potty, and secondly to keep honest people honest while she's tied up at the dock. I don't anticipate ever driving the boat with the curtains in place unless there's some unexpected bad weather which would be unusual as I'm a pretty fair weather boater. I see the curtains as being rolled up almost all the time 'cept for when I'm not at the boat.

It's a long cold winter here in New England...could be a good time to work on a project like this.
Old 12-08-2008, 05:00 PM
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Default Re: Do-it-yourself canvas?

Canvas and upholstery work is certainly not out of reach for anyone willing to give it a try. You can sew any of the marine materials with a regular sewing machine but you are going to face problems when you start layering and binding the material. All of the sewing machines we use in my shop are the walking foot kind which allows really thick sections to be fed through the machine very easily. When you sew even a simple vinyl cover for a cushion, you may be sewing 6 layers of material at a time. My first sewing machine was a sailrite model which has a walking foot and a very small motor. It sews great and is very reasonably priced.

Before you start your project, look around at the canvas installed on another boat and try to pick apart how it was made. When you are ready to begin, take your time, and think your way through the project. Sewing can be almost as fun as welding!

Raymond
Old 12-08-2008, 06:52 PM
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Default Re: Do-it-yourself canvas?

Its easy to do, just time consuming. Installing the snaps on the T-Top, then making the pattern and sewing. Zippers are easy to install, even the "U" shaped zippers. There are DVD's online that show how its done, and can save you lots of grief to view before even trying. I did my 5 sided enclosure, all cushions, and T-Top bags. You need a good machine as the newer plastic geared machines aren't up to the task of multiple layers of Sunbrella with clear vinyl sandwiched inbetween. I bought a Sailrite machine for the job, and have it for sale now, if you are interested. The machine will pay for itself with even a small job.
Old 09-03-2010, 05:19 AM
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I (we've) done it all ! Safety aside (separate concern), we've proven time after time that you can do it twice if absolutely necessary and come out fine and at less than half price. (General rule, of course.....) Our projects on a 40 ft trawler include, canvas, diesel repair, plumbing, sewage replacement, complete rewiring (I'm pretty good here), Teak flooring and walls. Custom beds, Self-designed half tower with lashed bimini. I'm a hacker, but persistent and we get many compliments. Go for it !
Old 09-03-2010, 06:53 AM
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I did my own too. Bought everything I needed on line at outdoortextiles.com. Sunbrella, snaps, zippers, clear vinyl, etc. It came out great and is still holding up fine after 5 years. I think it cost me 2 or 3 hundred bucks to make a 3 sided wrap around enclosure for my T-Top. Would have easily been over a grand to get it done. I did spend some time it now!! You need to practice your sewing on some scraps before diving into the real thing.

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