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Sailrite is proud to sponsor the DIY efforts of Eben and Genevieve Stolz, the dynamic duo behind the cruising blog It’s a Necessity.

Eben and Genevieve Stolz know the DIY lifestyle. A few years ago, in order to maintain their cruising lifestyle with their two daughters, Arias and Ellia, the couple needed a bigger boat. They found that boat, S/V Necesse (a 41-foot Morgan Classic and a total fixer-upper) in Georgetown, Bahamas and sailed her back to Miami, Florida for a re-fit.

DIY Aboard S/V Necesse

The whole family: Eben, Genevieve, Arias & Ellia

They spent two years of hard work redoing nearly the entire interior before they set sail again. Now this hard-working cruising family is back at their boat projects while waiting out hurricane season in the Virgin Islands. I recently got the chance to talk with Eben about his latest DIY projects and his experience as a DIY sailor.

One of the recent and biggest projects Eben took on for their boat was building a dodger. The dodger project was one Eben had been mulling over in his mind for years before he set to work.

“I bought Strataglass and Sunbrella fabric from [Sailrite] like three years ago and did my bimini,” he said.

Eben had always planned on making a matching dodger, but without a template to follow for the project, he decided to wait and think the project through more before starting.

“I sit and look at things for a while,” Eben said.

He recently got the push he needed to finally start on his dodger when a fellow cruiser lent him old VHS tapes outlining how to build a dodger. The video didn’t do things exactly the way Eben wanted for his boat, but it gave him a good starting point. So he pulled out his materials from storage and set to work bending and building the frame.

DIY Aboard S/V Necesse

Eben uses his Edge Hotknife to cut Sunbrella for the dodger

After bending all the tubing by hand on his boat, Eben installed the dodger frame. Then he used the frame to template the fabric panels. Friends of his had offered him their office space to sew in, so he took his templates and fabrics to land to sew it all together.

In the office, Eben laid painters drop cloths on the floor to keep his Strataglass from scratching during fabrication. Then he patterned and basted all the pieces together and started sewing on his Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine.

“I was a little worried about sewing the 40 Gauge Strataglass,” he admits. “I didn’t know if the machine would handle it.”

But once Eben started sewing, his fears were quickly assuaged. “[The machine] went through it like butter,” he laughed.

Throughout the process Eben was meticulous in his planning so everything would come out just right, carefully adding zippers around the whole frame and installing fasteners one at a time to ensure a perfect fit. The close attention to detail really paid off and the finished dodger looks great. Genevieve wrote on their blog that the dodger “gives our boat a whole new feel.”

DIY Aboard S/V Necesse

Eben’s sewing set-up in his friends’ office

Eben said the most challenging part of the dodger project was the surroundings he had to sew in. Having a small space to sew a large project meant having to roll the Strataglass to sew while being careful not to scratch it and sewing slowly to make frequent adjustments.

“Not having a huge space and not having an even plane with your sewing machine to sew on [was a challenge],” he said. “It’s feasible but it’s not like having a sail loft to work in.”

Eben has a long history with DIY and sewing especially. He started sewing when he was just 10 or 11 years old because his older brother had taken up the hobby. Together they started sewing their own snowboarding gear.

He says he’s always had a DIY spirit and a drive to learn new things.

“People say I have a lot of talents, but I don’t. I just think I can do anything,” Eben said. “If someone else is doing it, I want to figure out how to do it, too.”

Eben eventually fell away from sewing until he and Genevieve were living in Miami working on their boat refit. There he met a guy with a canvas shop who hooked him up with a Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine and Eben started sewing for the boat. He made their bimini and all new cushions for their salon.

He now describes his Ultrafeed Sewing Machine as his “number one tool.”

“Every day I use it I’m impressed,” he said.

One of the features Eben really likes about the Ultrafeed is that it doesn’t draw a lot of energy, so he can run it off his Honda generator. He frequently takes the generator and the Ultrafeed out to the beach to sew.

“The Sailrite weighs more than the generator, so that says something about quality,” Eben said, laughing.

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Fitting the fabric on the frame

Having his sewing machine onboard also means that he frequently gets requests from other sailors to sew projects for them. He recently made “bat wing” boom awnings for cruising friends and has plans to help a neighbor with a dodger. Aside from helping fellow cruisers sew boat projects, he’s never sewn officially as a job.

Eben said he focuses his efforts on projects for their own boat.

“It gets expensive being in the boating world,” he said.

Eben’s two other go-to tools for his canvas projects are the Pres-N-Snap Tool and the Sailrite Edge Hotknife.

“Those are amazing,” he exclaimed.

Eben described how he would carefully and meticulously hem all the edges of Sunbrella projects before having a hotknife to ensure none of his edges would ravel.

“The hotknife is the best thing available for sewing. Having the hotknife saved me 6-7 hours of work on the dodger and really put my mind at ease that nothing would unravel,” he said.

DIY Aboard S/V Necesse

The finished dodger during a sail

Eben shared his advice for other DIY sailors looking to sew their own canvas projects.

“Think you can do anything,” he said.

Eben also recommends careful planning and being methodical in your approach.

“Waste time over planning,” he said. “You know how they say ‘measure twice, cut once’? I’m more measure seven times, cut once.”

He also recommends taking advantage of all the sewing resources available online and over the phone.

“Use the assets available—use Sailrite’s customer service,” he said. “Sewing can be a pain when things go wrong but you can be on the right track again with just a phone call.”


To learn more about Eben and Genevieve and to follow their cruising journey, visit their blog, It’s a Necessity or follow them on Facebook & Instagram (@sailing_necesse).

2004 was a big year for Paul Seeberg. It was the year that he and his wife, Millie, bought a MacGregor26 sailboat and started sailing with the North East Trailer Sailor’s Club. It was also the year that Paul began sewing for his boat. Ten years later, Paul is still hard at work on boat projects and sharing his passion for sailing and sewing with others.

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Paul aboard his Olson38 s/v Mildred Rose

Paul’s sewing projects began humbly when his wife wanted some curtains for the cabin of their boat. Paul had some basic sewing skills he had learned in 8th grade home economics class and he figured he could sew curtains. Along the way, he had some difficulty with the project and called Sailrite, where he got some helpful advice for his project.

On completing his curtain project, Paul figured that sewing for the boat was something he could do more of, so he bought a Sailrite Ultrafeed Sewing Machine and started working. He started sewing sheet bags for himself and then for other members of the yacht club.

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Red Sunbrella Lifesling Cover

In 2009 Paul bought a bigger boat, a 1968 Olson 38, Mildred Rose, and got to work creating new canvas covers for her.

“Following [Sailrite] videos, I made a hatch cover, curtains, pillows, a really nice binnacle cover, and a lifesling cover,” Paul said. “We’re the only boat in the harbor with a red Sunbrella lifesling!”

Some canvas projects he made mostly for the fun of sewing, not because they are a necessity on his boat.

“Some times I make things just for fun, like the hatch cover. But it made a big difference keeping the cabin cooler,” he said.

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Two of Paul’s Projects: Binnacle Cover & Hatch Cover

After getting all of those projects under his belt, Paul felt ready for a bigger challenge. He needed a new dodger. He had the project quoted by a few canvas shops, but they were asking too much money. Paul knew that after all the projects he had done so far he could make his own dodger for less.

Paul watched Sailrite’s How to Make Your Own Dodger DVD 10-20 times before even started the project, wanting to make sure that he understood every detail.

For large-scale projects like this, Paul believes it’s important to learn everything you can about the project before starting.

“You need to be able to see things in 3 dimensions in your mind. I don’t sew one stitch until I’ve thought through the project beginning to end,” he said.

Paul’s dodger design would test all of his sewing skills. He was going to have to sew zippers, install fasteners, and even make a roll up window.

When Paul started sewing, the dodger project brought on the challenges. The scale of the dodger made it difficult to maneuver and all the material proved tricky to roll up under the arm of the Ultrafeed.

“Making something that’s 10-12 feet long in your basement is difficult,” he said. “It grows quite big.”

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The finished dodger installed on s/v Mildred Rose

Paul credits the video with helping him accomplish such a large-scale DIY project.

“The tips I learned in the video were invaluable. There’s no way I could have made it without it,” he said.

All of Paul’s hard work paid off and his dodger looks great. It’s now the project that he is the most proud of.

“The dodger is the most accurate. It’s done the best,” Paul said. “Because of the sheer scale of the project I’d have to say it’s the one I’m most proud of…it was harder than I thought.”

As with a lot of DIY projects, Paul would do somethings differently on his dodger, but it has been met with rave reviews from his friends and fellow sailors.

“People who go on the boat can’t believe that I made it,” Paul said. “I can see all the flaws, but someone casually looking at it thinks it’s beautiful.”

Paul’s advice to fellow DIY-ers is to know your skill level, to not be afraid of a sewing machine and to be confident.

“Just have confidence. If you don’t have confidence, then forget about it.”

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Paul’s dodger and “flying awning.” He made the awning himself and modeled it off other awnings he had seen around the harbor.

Paul feels like he’s had a lot of help becoming a sailor and DIYer and he likes to share the knowledge that’s been shared with him. One way he does this is by teaching seminars at the Boston Boat Show each spring. His current seminar is about transitioning from a small boat to a larger one, but he hopes to teach a sewing class in the future.

“Sewing is not as scary as people think it is. I think a lot of people have the skill set. I want to show them what a Sailrite machine can do,” he said.

For himself, Paul has a list of projects he’s waiting to try next like a sail cover, cockpit cushions and a main sheet bag.

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