How to Pick the Best Fabric for Your Cockpit Cushions

You spend a lot of time in your boat’s cockpit, so you naturally want the most comfort and function out of your cockpit cushions. We’ve already shared our video tutorial on how to make cockpit cushions, but today we’re going to follow up with an in-depth look at the pros and cons of the different materials you can use to put those cushions together.

Consider Your Foam Choice

For the best performing cushions, the choice of which foam and fabric to use should influence each other. Let’s start by taking a look at foam. There are 3 types of foam we recommend for cockpit cushions: closed cell, polyurethane and Dry Fast foam.

How to Pick the Best Fabric for Your Cockpit Cushions

A common priority is cockpit cushions that will also float. If you want your cockpit cushions with floatation, you’ll want to use closed cell foam. Closed cell foam can be wrapped in just about any type of marine material, because the foam itself won’t soak up any water or moisture. Polyurethane foam is the standard for OEM boat manufacturers, but it soaks up water and takes a long time to dry out so we recommend covering the foam in vinyl. The waterproof vinyl will keep your foam nice and dry. The third option is Dry Fast foam, which is a very breathable foam and allows water to run through the cushion. We recommend using a breathable fabric like Sunbrella or a mesh fabric to accommodate this main feature of the foam.

To learn more about theses different foam options to pick the one that’s best for your needs and tastes check out the second part of our Cushion Foam Series, 5 Types of Outdoor Cushion Foam.

Fabrics & Their Advantages

There are three main types of fabric that we recommend for cockpit cushions (vinyl, woven and mesh) and each has its pros and cons. Let’s break each choice down.

Vinyl

How to Pick the Best Fabric for Your Cockpit Cushions
The pros of vinyl are that it is waterproof, very durable, relatively inexpensive, and it’s the easiest of all three options to clean. We really like Morbern Seabrook Vinyl and Naugahyde Universal and All American vinyl for cockpit cushions applications. The Naugahyde brands cost a little bit more, but they feature a protective BeautyGuard finish that adds to their durability and is a big plus. The cons to vinyl are that it can be very hot to sit on and can have more of a plastic look than a woven fabric.

Woven

How to Pick the Best Fabric for Your Cockpit Cushions
Woven fabrics offer a beautiful appearance with a true fabric look and are the softest to sit on. Woven fabrics are breathable and you’ll want to select one with water resistance for the demands of the application. Sunbrella is our favorite brand for a woven cockpit cushion fabric as it’s breathable, durable, water and UV resistant and easy to clean. The drawbacks here are that woven fabrics are not as durable over time as vinyl or mesh and are not quite as easy to clean as vinyl.

Mesh

How to Pick the Best Fabric for Your Cockpit Cushions
By mesh we mean fabrics like Phifertex and Phifertex Plus that are sturdy, vinyl meshes. These fabrics are ultra low maintenance and will last a long time. When used with the right foam, you can leave mesh cushions out in the rain with no worries. Because the mesh will not block any water from reaching the foam, this fabric should only be used with Dry Fast foam. The open weave of this fabric can also allow contaminates to reach the foam, which could shorten the lifespan of the foam. Mesh can be a little uncomfortable to sit on at times and can be trickier to clean than other options because you need to remove the foam before cleaning.

The Hybrid Approach

You can always create cushions that use a combination of two fabrics, like using Sunbrella on the top of the cushions and then Phifertex Mesh on the bottom with Dry Fast foam. This gives you a comfy seat but allows great drainage for the Dry Fast. We like this approach, but it does eliminate your ability to flip the cushions, if this is something you do frequently.

As you can see, there are several factors to consider before building new cockpit cushions and the right pairing of foam and fabric really depend on your preferences and how you like to use the cushions. We hope that now you have all the information you need to make an informed decision on what is best for you and your boat.

Find all the foams and fabrics discussed here for your cockpit cushions at Sailrite.com.

Have you made your own cockpit cushions before? What foam and fabric combination did you use and why? Share your design decisions with us comments.

A hotknife is a great tool for cutting rope because it will melt the end of the rope as it cuts, keeping the line from fraying and coming unraveled. If your hotknife isn’t cutting your rope like you’d like, we have a quick tip for you that will make a big difference.

Tips for Cutting Rope with a Hotknife

The rope on the left was cut through tape. The end on the right was cut without.

When you try to cut rope with your hotknife, is it turning the end of the rope into a blob? Sometimes the rope unravels a little as you cut and then melts which creates a mushroom shape. This can be frustrating because the end won’t feed easily (if at all) through blocks, pulleys, cleats and more. How can you prevent this problem?

Here’s our trick: wrap masking tape around your rope where you want to cut the line. Then cut through the tape. The tape keeps all the strands together so they melt in a consistent way. With this simple trick your rope end will stay it’s original size for easy feeding. To best ensure your rope won’t fray, it’s always a good idea to whip the ends, even if you use a hotknife.

Tips for Cutting Rope with a Hotknife

For more hotknife tips, check out our post: What Can You Cut with a Hotknife?

Get your own Sailrite Edge Hotknife exclusively at Sailrite.com.

Do you have any quick tips for working with a hotknife? Share them in the comments!

 

With any project it’s important to have all the right tools before you begin. One tool that is really helpful when working on re-upholstery projects is a swiveling work table. With a simple table like this you can set your upholstered piece at a comfortable height and turn the table instead of having to awkwardly wrestle the chair around over and over. We built our own upholstery table and we made a video of the process so you can make one too.

How to Make an Upholstery Work Table | Sailrite DIY Advice Blog

We designed our work table based on the table our upholsterer, Cindi, uses in her own studio at home. It features a soft top upholstered with Trunkliner fabric, a bottom bay where you can keep your tools, and swivel casters on the bottom for easy movement of the table. This table is a simple build and goes together quickly; it could easily be made in a day.

Watch the video for full step-by-step instructions.

Materials List:

  • 2 x 4 Boards:
    • 4 – 32” long
    • 4 – 35” long
    • 4 – 24” long
  • 2- 35” x 35” Sheets of Oriented Strand Board (OSB) 1/4” – 1/2” thick
  • Drill & Driver
  • 2-1/2” & 1” Screws
  • Stapler & Staples
  • 4 Swivel Casters
  • Tape Measure
  • Circular or Table Saw
  • 2 yards Trunkliner Fabric

Once you get your work table built you’ll be all set to start upholstering! We have more great re-upholstery tutorials coming soon, so be sure to subscribe to the blog to not miss a post.

Picking out all the proper snap fastener components for your canvas projects can be daunting if you don’t know what to look for or where to start. That’s where we come in! Today we’re going to focus on selecting the right barrel length on your snap fasteners for the thickness of your fabric.

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The barrel is the part of the fastener that gets riveted to the piece’s mating component. In other words, it’s the straight stem-like part that comes out of the button top. If your barrel is too short, it won’t be able to rivet through all of your fabric layers but if the barrel is too long, it will get in the way of your snap functioning.

11/64” and 3/16” is the most common barrel size for buttons. Here’s a helpful chart for quick reference that breaks down which button barrel length is best for the layers of canvas in your project. The numbers for “layers of canvas” are based off of layers of Sunbrella Marine Grade material.

Layers of Canvas Barrel Length
2 – 6 11/64″ & 3/16″
6 – 9 1/4″
9 – 12 5/16″

The eyelet part of a snap fastener also has a barrel, but it’s sizing is a little different. Since the eyelet rivets to a larger piece of hardware, the stud, the 1/4” barrel for eyelets is standard for most projects. However if you’re assembly is very thick, over 7 or 8 layers, then you’ll want to move up to the 5/16” barrel.

To learn more about installing snap fasteners, check out on post on Selecting the Right Snap Installation Tool.

Find all the snap and fastener components you need for your next project at Sailrite.com.

Last week we shared our first major re-upholstery video, How to Reupholster an Armchair, and today we’re back to finish up that project and show you how to sew the seat and backrest cushions for your newly reupholstered chair frame. These cushions sew together like most box cushions; they just have a few added curves so if you can sew a simple cushion you can tackle this project.

How to Make Armchair Cushions via Sailrite's DIY Advice Blog

Before you start patterning your cushions, it’s a good idea to put the old cushions back on the chair frame and inspect their fit. When we did this, we noticed that the seat cushion stuck out a little far over the chair base. We made a note of this right on the old fabric to remember to pattern our cushion about a half-inch smaller at the front. It’s also a good idea to feel around the cushion for any lumps or inconsistencies in the foam.

When you take your cushions apart, you’ll want to inspect the foam to make sure it’s still in one piece and seems sturdy to reuse. You can always replace the foam with a similar sized piece if you aren’t happy with the quality upon inspection. We noticed that our cushion had an empty space in the front where it felt like the foam had slipped back. When we took the cushion apart we re-wrapped the batting around the foam and then we added a little extra batting to the back to be sure the foam would stay in place.

In this video, you’ll learn how to carefully match up the patterns on your fabric to create a cohesive design on the chair as well as how to pattern and sew the box cushions from start to finish.

Materials List:

Now we have a completely recovered chair to enjoy! You can find all the tools and materials you need to complete your own chair re-upholstery project at Sailrite.com.

How to Make Armchair Cushions via Sailrite's DIY Advice Blog

If you’re interested in re-upholstery, we have more upholstery projects coming up. Subscribe to the blog in the right column so you don’t miss a post!

Sunbrella offers several great lines of marine fabrics, most of which come in standard, solid colors. We love these products and their color line, but when so many fabrics look alike it can be hard to know if you’ve ordered the best one for your application. Each of Sunbrella’s lines has its own unique properties that make it perfectly suited to different projects. We’re going to break down the differences between all these marine solids, so you can rest assured you’re making the best choice for your next project.

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Sunbrella Marine Grade

Sunbrella Marine Grade is the standard cover cloth of the marine industry. Like all Sunbrella fabrics, it is a 100% solution-dyed acrylic fabric and is soft, breathable and UV, water, and mildew resistant. Sunbrella Marine Grade will not noticeably shrink or stretch and both sides of this fabric are the same, so either side can face out. Sunbrella Marine Grade is suitable for use in awnings, dodgers, biminis, sun bands, boat tops, sail covers, outdoor covers, outdoor furniture, cockpit cushions and enclosure curtains. Marine Grade fabrics are 46” wide, but select colors also come in 60” width. These fabrics are exactly the same, just wider.

Sunbrella Plus

Sunbrella Plus features all the same properties as Sunbrella Marine Grade fabric but with an additional urethane coating on one side of the fabric. This coating gives Sunbrella Plus fabrics more moisture and abrasion resistance than regular Marine Grade. Sunbrella Plus fabric should be used with the urethane-coated side facing down. As the coating does reduce the breathability a bit, this fabric is most suitable for awnings, dodgers, biminis, boat tops, and enclosure curtains but not cover applications unless vented.

Sunbrella Supreme

Sunbrella Supreme features an acrylic flocking adhered to the back of regular Sunbrella Marine Grade fabric with a urethane adhesive. This bonding process makes the fabric almost completely waterproof. The flocking is short cut fibers that create a soft surface that won’t scratch varnish, paint, gel coat and plastic. Use Sunbrella Supreme in applications where the canvas lays against delicate surfaces and for dodgers, biminis, and enclosures. Some Supreme fabrics have a dark top but lighter flocking, which is great if you want all your boat canvas to match but also want to brighten up the interior of your cockpit. Sunbrella Supreme should be used with the flocking side facing in.

Sunbrella Clarity

Sunbrella Clarity is very different from the other three, in that it was specially engineered for awnings, not necessarily for marine applications. Clarity features a durable polyurethane undercoating for excellent water resistance and a special finish on the top that uses sunlight and rain to remove organic contaminants and stains (like roof-run off) from the fabric. How this works is that when sunlight hits the awning the properties in the fabric are triggered to cause organic materials like oil, mold, mildew, grime and VOCs to decompose. Then the rain washes these materials away. Unlike other Sunbrella fabrics, water doesn’t bead up on Clarity, rather it wets out, which is part of the cleaning process. This technology makes Clarity the perfect choice for hard to reach awning applications, as it’s mostly self-cleaning. We recommend Clarity for commercial and residential awnings, canopies, market umbrellas, and other hard-to-reach shade structures as well as marine tops and boat awnings. Clarity should be used with the smooth, soft, uncoated side facing up (exposed to the outside).

Sunbrella has a lot of great acrylic fabrics to offer and hopefully now the choice between them will be a little less daunting.

See the full line of all Sunbrella Marine Grade & other exterior fabrics at Sailrite.com.

Have you used any of Sunbrella’s specialty fabrics like Plus, Supreme or Clarity on your projects? What do you think of them? Share your experiences and opinions with us in the comments section below.

When you’re using a zipper that has to be cut to size, you need to install a zipper stop to keep your slider from falling off the teeth at one end. There are a few different methods for installing a stop at the end of your zipper and today we’re going to discuss the pros and cons of the three most common zipper stop methods.

If you’re using a finished zipper that’s exactly the right length for your application you won’t need to install a stop, those zippers already have one installed at the end. However, if you cut your finished zipper to size or if you’re using a continuous zipper then you’ll need to add a stop to one end (or both).

3 Types of Zipper Stops

1. YKK Top Stops

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YKK, the manufacturer of our zippers, makes replacement top stops that are similar to the ones they install on zippers at the factory. These top stops are little metal pieces that you can bend over the teeth of your zipper. They have a low profile and are available in white and silver for both Coil and Vislon zipper teeth. These stops are easy to install and can be added after sewing if you wanted to remove the zipper slider while you were sewing.

2. Fabric Stop

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To not have to buy any extra pieces, like the zipper stops, you can use scrap fabric or binding to act as a stop at the top of your zipper. To do this, cut a small rectangle of fabric or binding and fold it over the zipper teeth. Sew it in place while sewing the zipper onto your application to create a nice, clean-looking top stop that blends in with your fabric. This method is simple and looks great, however it does require you to keep the zipper slider in place while sewing. This isn’t a big deal, but you will need to be aware of the slider when sewing.

3. Cut & Melt Extra Teeth

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This third method is another resourceful way to use the materials you already have. On a Vislon zipper, cut off two zipper teeth from the discarded part of the zipper. Fit those teeth into the teeth on the end of your good zipper. Then use a hotknife to melt the teeth together. This creates a subtle and permanent zipper stop. This method can be done after sewing, if you prefer to sew without the zipper slider in place, however it does require a hotknife and can only be used for Vislon zippers.

As you can see, there’s really no right or wrong way to stop your zipper slider, it’s all up to your personal preference.

You can find zippers, top stops, sliders and other zipper accessories at Sailrite.com.

Do you have a preferred method for zipper stops? Would you try another method now that you know more? Share your ideas in the comments!

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