Monthly Archives: February 2016

Upholstery project

I’d managed to avoid having too many projects of my own on Sol Purpose, but now the time had come! The cushions in the salon were reupholstered by the previous owner, but now both the foam and the fabric were looking a little (or rather a lot) the worse for wear.

Upholstery 007

We looked at a LOT of fabric. We wanted something dark enough not to show every speck, but no so dark that it would look oppressive in the salon.  As this is our home, we also wanted something that wasn’t nautical or marine-related.  We narrowed the field down to a few and obtained some swatches from Sailrite, so that we could see they would work in our salon.  At long last we settled on Stanton Greystone, a striped Sunbrella upholstery fabric.

Next we took a look at the cushions. Those on the starboard seat are not used very often, so we decided that the original cushions could be recovered.  Not so for the port side.  The cushions were flattened and very uncomfortable to sit on, so we decided to replace those, and in the process, to take the opportunity to divide one long cushion into two shorter ones, to provide better access to the under-seating storage.  Moray researched the various types of foam, and decided on a 5 inch thick, high resilience, open-cell foam, which he purchased from foamonline.com.  He provided the sizes and the company delivered the ready cut cushions.

Now I have done a little sewing in the past, but never anything as ambitious as this. Add to that  the fact that we had picked a striped fabric which makes the whole project more complicated, and I’ll confess to being more than a little daunted.  Thank goodness for the Sailrite instructional videos.  I think I can probably quote them verbatim by now, I watched them so often!  I can’t stress how great a resource these are.  The main one I used was http://www.sailrite.com/How-to-Make-Salon-Cushions-Video.

So next we calculated how much fabric we would need. We gave ourselves enough leeway to make a mistake, as well as to have sufficient to line up all those stripes.  We chose a cushion underlining for the cushion bottoms, rather than use the Sunbrella.  This had the dual purpose of making the cushions non-slip and breathable.  We also purchased 25 ft of YKK zipper #5 and sliders.

To get some practice making the templates, cutting the fabric and stitching accurately using our Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 machine (which Moray purchased a few years ago when he made the awning), I used some old sheet fabric to make covers for the cushions which would serve as a lining to protect the foam. Once I had done that, I could put off the deed no longer.  I started with the backrest cushions, as this would need to be in place to set the stripes.  I carefully dismantled the existing covers and used these as templates.  Of course, every one was different!  I was now at the point of no return!  I took the fabric, templates, tape measure, marker and hot knife up to the marina’s mail room, as I have nowhere large enough to unroll sufficient fabric.  Once there, I bit the bullet and marked up the fabric before cutting it, just as my new best friend at Sailrite instructed!  Once done, I brought everything back on board to start stitching.  The machine is relatively easy to use, and this part went smoothly.  I did need to make adjustments on a couple of the backrests to ensure that they were taut enough, but nothing major.  The hardest part of this task was stapling the fabric to the seat backs.  We tried a couple of electric staplers but neither was up to the task.  We eventually went for a pneumatic stapler, running off a compressor, which worked perfectly.

upholstery 003

Next we made the snap together buttons with the fabric for the backrests, again using the Sailrite video. They are a little fiddly, but looked good once they were finished.  Moray attached the buttons before finishing the backrests with marine ply.

Now that they were done, I moved on to the cushions themselves. First, I covered the tops and visible edges of the cushions with batting to add a little more comfort and to give a rounded edge.  Next,  using spare fabric strips stuck on to the cushions, I lined up the stripes with those on the backrests and made my way back up to the mail room, two cushions at a time!

This part of the cutting was more laborious, as I had to ensure that the top plate of the cushion lined up with my spare fabric strips, and then the front and rear side pieces had to line up with the top. It was time consuming, but I didn’t want to mess this up.  The bottom plate was cut from the underlining, so no matching needed to be done there.

Once the pieces were cut, it was back to the boat to start stitching. First of all, following the Sailrite instructions, I made the zipper piece.  My only experience of sewing with zippers was using the pre-fabricated short zippers.  This was going to entail cutting a zipper to size, stitching it into place, making the stops so that the zipper would close, all while keeping the stripes in place!  I took my time, and it was actually not too hard to do.  Next I stitched the four side pieces together, before attaching them to the top plate.  On the first one, I did not pay enough attention and one of the pieces was upside down.  I learned my lesson, and took more care with the placing on all the others.  I also had a few occasions when attaching the top and bottom plates to the side pieces that the corners did not fall correctly, but after unpicking all the stitching and starting again, it always worked out!

We had decided to purchase silk film to wrap the cushions, which would make it easier to put the cushions into the cover. The process is to wrap the foam in the silk film, suck out the air using a vacuum cleaner and then put the flattened cushion into the cover.  Once the vacuum is turned off, the cushion rapidly expands back to its usual size, filling the cover.  Unfortunately, this did not work for us as our vacuum did not have sufficient suction, so it was back to the usual contortions to fit the covers.  Maybe if we ever get a more powerful vacuum….

One final step we decided to do was to make removable covers for the backrests as these would not be washable. I cut rectangles of fabric, lined up with the backrests again, and stitched a one inch hem all around.  Moray attached snaps to the backrests and then to the removable covers.  These can now be removed to be washed.

upholstery 006

All in all, the project took about 14 days, but it was time well spent!  Below is a collection of shots showing the final product.

Sailrite liked the work enough to post it on their Facebook page…

Debbie and Moray knew they needed new cushions for their saloon aboard S/V Sol Purpose. So they replaced the foam and…

Posted by Sailrite on Thursday, February 11, 2016