If you have a home sewing machine that can handle sewing heavier fabrics, you probably will want to use a heavier thread, too. Most domestic sewing machines can sew with V-69 thread, but the machine probably doesn’t have a place for you to set such a large cone of thread. We have a couple of quick tips that will help you get the best feed off your cone of thread on a home sewing machine.

Cones vs. Spools

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First, let’s talk about why these large cones of thread need to be treated differently than the typical spool. Large cones of thread, like the ones we sell at Sailrite, require the thread to be pulled off the top of the cone for smooth and consistent tensioning in your sewing machine. Conversely, on smaller spools of thread, the kind that are traditionally used for home sewing, the thread pulls off the side of the spool. These smaller spools can sit on a post on your sewing machine but this situation isn’t right for the larger cones.

Thread Stand

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What to do? The best way to get clean feeding off the cone is to use a thread stand behind your machine. We have two options of thread stands, one with a plastic base, and another with a sturdier metal base. Both of our thread stands are under $10 and will be great for this application.

Cone on the Floor

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If you’d prefer to not invest in a thread stand or you can’t wait until it arrives, we have a trick for you. Set your cone of thread on the floor behind your sewing machine and pull the thread off the cone and up over the back of a chair and then thread it into your machine.

If you’re not sure if your domestic sewing machine can handle heavier fabrics or thread, it’s always good to do some test sewing. We have tips for this in our post “Can My Sewing Machine Sew Canvas?

Do you sew canvas on a domestic sewing machine? What have been your challenges? Do you have any tips or tricks to share? We want to hear from you in the comments!

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The time has come. We’re finishing up our full powerboat enclosure that we’ve been working on for Project Powerboat today with the aft curtain. Our aft curtain includes a zippered, roll-up door and is attached at the top to the radar arch with awning track.

The previous aft curtain on this boat attached to the radar arch via snaps. We chose to use an awning track instead because it offers a sleeker, cleaner look and is very secure. Plus, the old enclosure had some issues with water running in between the snaps when it rained, and the awning track system will prevent those issues.

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Part of the aft curtain before

This attachment system consists of the awning track attached directly to the radar arch with an awning rope running through the track. The fabric panels then attach to the awning rope with a zipper. To assemble this we first bent and installed Flex-a-Rail Awning Track to the radar arch. To get a clean look and to protect the zippers from the sun, we created a small Sunbrella flap that we attached to the flange of our Keder Awning rope. Then we installed half of our zippers (the side with the starter pin) on the awning rope flange as well. The result is a hidden zipper and rope, which we think looks really great.

For our enclosure we used Sunbrella Marine Grade fabric for the facings, but vinyl is also a popular option. Stamoid or Weblon Regatta vinyl would both be great fabric options, if you prefer vinyl. And, as always, the principles used in this video are also applicable for sailboat enclosure projects.

In this video you will also learn how to bend awning track and install it on your boat, pattern your aft panels, sewing and installing zippers, and adding fasteners.

Materials List:

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All the materials needed to make your own full boat enclosure are available at Sailrite.com.

This wraps up our full powerboat enclosure series, but we have more tutorials from our Project Powerboat still to come, so be sure to subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss a post!

When you see “waterproof” and “water resistant” in descriptions of fabrics on Sailrite’s website, you might be thinking to yourself that those two terms seem interchangeable. While they do seem incredibly similar, they convey very different meanings and should be taken into consideration when choosing an outdoor fabric.

Let’s Define the Terms

Waterproof: Fabrics marked waterproof will always repel water. They do not let water soak into them under any conditions, even if the fabric is old. These fabrics are mostly vinyl, vinyl-coated or laminated.

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Vinyl is an example of a waterproof fabric

Water resistant: Fabrics that are water resistant have been treated to repel water from their surfaces, but if the coating is old or water is pooling on top of the fabric they can soak through.

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Sunbrella Marine Grade (seen here) is a water resistant fabric which causes water to bead and run off its surface.

Water Resistance & Breathability

Waterproof looks like the way to go all the time then, right? Well, not quite. One of the biggest tradeoffs of a waterproof fabric is breathability. Waterproof fabric, by its nature, doesn’t let anything through its surface, and this includes air. This isn’t a big deal in some applications like awnings or speedboat interiors, but can be problematic for covers.

When air and moisture get trapped underneath a cover, mold and mildew and grow and cause serious problems. If you want to cover your boat, for example, in a vinyl or laminated waterproof fabric, we recommend adding a vent, like the Boat Vent II or the Vent Aire Ventilator, to prevent this moisture build up.

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Boat Vent II installed in a Surlast pontoon boat cover

If you value breathability more than full waterproofness, you can still use breathable, water resistant fabrics for covers. If they have a good pitch (from poles or the angle of an awning) the water will run right off these water resistant fabrics and they won’t require vents—although many people like to vent these covers, too.

There are also, of course, applications where waterproofness doesn’t matter that much. Patio cushions and pillows are a great example of this. Water resistant fabrics are desirable here because they will protect from the elements but the breathability makes them a more comfortable seat. And, since cushions can be brought inside and out of the rain, a fully waterproof fabric probably isn’t necessary.

Conclusions

In conclusion, while truly waterproof fabrics are great for protecting your boat, patio furniture and more, they can cause problems as covers if not properly vented. Water resistant fabrics offer much better breathability but need to be tented in a cover application. So, it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons for your application and, of course, your personal preferences. But now you have to tools to make the best decision for your next project.


For more information on what to consider when choosing an outdoor fabric, refer to our Outdoor Fabric Selection Guide or our How to Choose an Outdoor Fabric post.

What’s most important to you when choosing a cover fabric? Share your opinions in the comments.

With all the different types of boats out on the water and the different preferences of their owners, often the projects we feature in our how-to videos are just a jumping off point and our customers use their own creativity to customize projects to their specific vessels. Today we’re letting one of our customers take over and tell you about how he did just that for his boat.

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Meet Larry Calfee of Vacaville, California. Larry has been sewing projects for his boat, RV and home for a number of years and recently, with his new sewing machine, he built himself a new sail pack. Larry’s Catalina 42 was significantly bigger than our Seaward 22 so he made a few modifications to our Sail Pack Video Instructions to make the design better suited to his boat.

Here’s what Larry had to say about his project:

“Sailrite crew and fans,

Recently I purchased a Sailrite 111 with the MC-SCR System to do DIY projects for my home, RV and boat.  I love the machine and its ability to handle multilayer material at [a] slow controlled speed.  My first project was to make a sail cover for my boat.  I have watched the Sailrite [How to Make a Sail Pack] video many times going over the details and preparing for my project.  For the most part, I followed the directions on the video with regards to basic construction and measurements.  There were a few areas that I wanted to do differently and I have listed them below.

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1. I wanted to use something other than PVC pipe for my battens.  I have sectional fiberglass tent poles, which are linked with thin elastic cords.  I happened to have these from an old tent but I have seen replacement poles at Wal-Mart and I am sure they are available from other sources.  A single pole seemed too flimsy so I used two taped side by side so that the joints did not overlap.  My boom is 15 feet long, so transporting a 15 foot batten section was problematic, but because the tent poles are sectional, I was able to tape them up to a convenient length, folding them at the junctions and finish taping at the boat before installing them into the pocket.

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2. Since my sail was much larger and heavier than the one in the video, I felt I needed additional reinforcement for the cover.  At each of the lazy jack attachment points I added a strip of Sunbrella fabric 6″ wide folded to form a double 3″ layer and sewn to the inside of the cover in an inverted V formation.  The strip nearest the mast was a single strip as it was applied somewhat close to the forward most portion of the cover.

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Here is the inside of the cover at a lazy jack attachment point. The one inch nylon strap enters through the slits next to the batten pocket and is sewn onto the inverted V reinforcement strips on the inside face of the cover and onto the reinforcement patch on the central zipper flap.

3. I did not want to tie the lazy jacks under the batten so I made a loop so that it is attached to the cover and the lazy jacks are then attached to that loop.  The loop is made from a strip of heavy one-inch nylon strap folded in approximately 1/3” length wise and sewn with the machine.  The Sailrite 111 easily handles this thickness.

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4. Attachment of the cover to the lazy jacks is with 2-3/8″ stainless steel carabiners through eye loops in the lazy jack ends.  This makes it relatively simple to disconnect the cover.  Lazy jack line tension is adjusted by using an inexpensive device I found at our local hardware store.  It is attached to the standing portion of a lazy jack line with the bitter end going through the loop on the sail cover and then coming back to the device looping around the end and then snugged through the jamb cleat like end to fasten the end without knots.  This must be similar to the monster tie in function but much smaller.

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5. The aft end of the cover seemed to be too open both to sunlight and birds. I added a twist snap to the mid portion of the aft opening of the sail cover to close it. I used a double thickness strip of material folded over the back edge of the cover and sewn in place as the attachment point giving 5 layers not counting the hem.

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The finished sail pack installed

This past weekend I used the cover for the first time.  I was able to douse the main easily by myself in a matter of a few minutes.  This chore had become so burdensome that I was reluctant to raise the main without crew on board to assist with dousing, flaking and covering the sail.  I am nearly 70 [years old] and this system is so much easier that it will give me years more to enjoy sailing our boat.

I particularly appreciate Sailrite for providing the detailed videos that made this project so straightforward.  A number of years ago I bought a used industrial sewing machine that was designed for garments.  It would sew and allowed me to do a few projects but can’t compare to the new machine. The Sailrite 111 is pure joy to use and I look forward to many more projects for the home, boat and RV.  It sounds like a paid advertisement but it is the truth and completely unsolicited.”


 

Thanks so much for your kind words Larry and for sharing your project with us!

Have you made interesting modifications to a Sailrite kit or video project that you think could help others? Send your stories to marketing@sailrite.com and we might share it on the blog!

When installing hardware on the deck of your boat or when you’re adding new portholes, hatches or windows, it’s important to properly bed the hardware to ensure that water can’t get into your screw and bolt holes and cause rot and other problems. Bedding is the process that seals water out of the hole in your deck by using a silicone or rubber sealant. Today we’re going to compare and contrast the two most popular sealant options; marine silicone and butyl tape.

Marine Silicone

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Marine silicone, like our 3M Marine Mildew Resistant Silicone, is a readily available bedding and sealant compound. It is clear in color, works on fiberglass, wood, metal rubber and vinyl surfaces and cures in 24 hours. Silicone is great for use as a galley and head sealant, gasket adhesive, or bedding compound for portholes, hatches, windows, and marine hardware. Silicone seals and waterproofs while remaining flexible and is especially great for Plexiglass or Lexan surfaces.

Silicone does have a few drawbacks that you’ll want to consider. Many sailors find silicone messy and difficult to clean off your boat. To make matters worse, your boat’s gelcoat is prone to absorb leftover silicone that squeezes out from under the hardware and then the silicone attracts dirt. To prevent this, the best way to clean up the silicone is to wet sand it off, rinsing your sandpaper frequently to prevent grinding the silicone deeper into the gelcoat. If your hardware ever needs to be changed out, you’ll need to completely remove all of the old silicone before re-bedding, which can be a lot of work.

Silicone has a mediocre shelf life. Once a tube has been opened it will last for a year or two before drying out. A 3 oz. tube of marine silicone is comparable in cost to a 45-foot long roll of butyl tape.

Butyl Tape

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Butyl Tape is a non-hardening, elastic rubber that is great for bedding applications on boats. It can be used to waterproofing holes made for bimini and dodger frame fittings, snaps, awning track installation, stanchions and much more. Butyl tape is a soft, malleable material that can be easily trimmed, pressed and formed to create a water and airtight seal. It also increases adhesion with age after it’s applied, so it creates a long-lasting seal. Go ahead and really tighten your screws; you won’t squeeze out all the butyl no matter how hard you tighten the fittings.

Butyl tape is easily removed from hard surfaces without damaging the surface, even after years in the application and the same roll of butyl tape will last for years and years on the shelf.

Butyl tape also has some drawbacks and applications where it shouldn’t be used. Butyl tape will get hard in cold weather and will need to be warmed with a hair dryer if it’s below freezing before applying. Most importantly, Butyl tape can be broken down with mineral spirits, so it should not be used to bed fuel fills or vents as the fuel can damage the butyl and the seal.

Conclusions

We recommend using butyl tape for bedding deck hardware due to its ease of use and cleanup, longevity (both in an application and on the shelf) and affordability. However, there are applications where marine silicone is preferable like bedding portholes, bedding on plastics, or for other areas where butyl is not recommended. Additionally, marine silicone can be painted over, which may be a plus for you. Ultimately, it’s a choice of what you’re comfortable working with and what compound will best suit your application.

You can find both marine silicone and butyl tape at Sailrite.com.

Which is your preference for bedding deck hardware? Have you had positive or negative experiences with silicone and butyl tape? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Today we’re back working on the full boat enclosure for our Project Powerboat. The next piece in the puzzle is the front curtain. The front curtain on our boat will attach to the side curtains with zippers and then snap across the front, along the top of the windshield. Let’s take a closer look at how these curtain panels come together.

Our front curtain is actually made up of three panels that are all attached at the top to the bimini by one long zipper. Our curtain is made up of three panels because our boat has a door in the center of the windshield, so we made the center panel of the enclosure to roll up to allow easy access through the door. The roll up window features webbing straps to keep it in place and Velcro flaps to protect the zippers that run on either side of the roll up panel. We cover how to make all of these accessories in the video.

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The old front curtain

As we did for the side curtains, we made the front panel out of 30 Gauge O’Sea Clear Vinyl Window Material trimmed with Sunbrella Marine Grade Facing with a Shelter-Rite Vinyl backing.

In this video you will learn how to install a zipper to your bimini top, pattern for your panels on your boat, sew facing and zippers, make Velcro zipper closure flaps, and install snaps along the bottom of the curtain.

Materials List:

You can find all the materials needed to make your own enclosure front curtains (and all your other enclosure panels) at Sailrite.com.

Don’t miss out, we have even more great powerboat projects coming out in the next few months be sure to subscribe to the blog and get every post delivered right to your inbox!

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Most people are familiar with regular snaps; buttons, sockets and studs, but we get a lot of questions surrounding the gypsy stud. As sort of a hybrid of snaps, it can be less intuitive to figure out how to use this snap, but once you do, we think you’ll find it very handy around you boat.

A standard snap set up features a button riveted to a socket, which snaps into either a screw stud or a stud riveted to fabric with an eyelet. A gypsy stud is often called a “double stud” because it is used to attach two or more fabrics to a single stud.

The gypsy stud is the connector portion with a stud on the top and a rivet on the bottom that can be attached to a socket. So, a button and socket assembly can snap into the top of the gypsy stud, and it’s socket bottom can, in turn, snap on to another stud.

Here’s a diagram that shows how gypsy studs fit in to an application.

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These studs are great for spots on enclosures where side curtains join each other and need to share a stud or where the side curtain meets the dodger. They can also be used for adding bug screens to your enclosure curtains without drilling more snaps into your boat, for making an overlapping table skirt, or for adding a removable door panel to a boat cover.

Gypsy studs can be installed with a regular snap fastener installation tool, but you have to be very careful when installing it that you don’t damage the rivet portion of the stud. Easier options for installation are to use the SnapRite System or the Pres-N-Snap Tool. To use the SnapRite System you will have to buy the proprietary SnapRite Gypsy Studs, which have a hole through the center, but then the installation can be done with the basic SnapRite Dies. For installation with the Pres-N-Snap tool, you will need to have the Pres-N-Snap Stud to Gypsy Stud Die.

You can find all of these snap components and installation tools at Sailrite.com.

Do you have a great application for gypsy studs? Share your ideas and experiences with us in the comments.

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