made our own cushions for Little Cruiser, which cost us practically nothing since we
used 3" egg crate foam
(the kind that you see in hospitals and nursing
homes) that was given to us for free along with some surplus upholstery fabric that we
bought for $2 a roll
at the local Thrift Store. The
foam proved to be very comfortable, but the fabric got easily wet and
stayed wet. The upholstery covers were used for two trips, 1993 and 1994, and then we
decided to make new ones out of some lightweight waterproof rip stop nylon that we had
left over from an awning project. These improved covers lasted for
three winter Bahamas trips,
but eventually the waterproof coating began peeling off badly and the white fabric
became grey and unsightly. Our most recent covers are made out of
orange nylon pack cloth, and we've been fairly pleased with them. These
covers have survived two winter Bahamas trips, and they should be useable for
our next voyage in 2006. However, we recently noticed some mildew
stains on the bottom
along with some minor degradation of the waterproof coating. Therefore, we
may give some lightweight marine
polyester a try in the future. Fortunately, our boat and our cushions are
relatively small, and all this experimentation has cost us very little over the
years. Finally, the foam for our cushions has started to bottom
out after seven winter long trips (20 months); thus, we replaced the foam this
year with some more free 3" egg crate. The only complaint we have with
this foam is that it is a bit bulky, and some might prefer using a thinner 2"
foam substitute. One good choice that's been recommended to us by several
friends is Lux Foam, which is available by mail at the
Original surplus upholstery fabric cushions and the newest set.
Making the cushions
1. Fabric selection: Always buy extra. We prefer water resistant materials since our boat cushions often get wet. Our latest cushion covers employ coated packcloth because it is relatively inexpensive, tough, lightweight, water resistant and easy to sew. Some people might want to try Sunbrella/marine polyester or even Naugahyde, which is longer lasting; however, it is more expensive and harder to sew on a home machine. However, just about any sturdy fabric will do.
2. Making patterns: Go to your boat and figure out what cushions you want
to make. Bring along a roll of brown craft paper. Tape this down
over the berth or seat, and trim it to size. Double check
it carefully. This will be your pattern. Next tape your patterns over some foam.
Trace it out over the foam, but do not cut it out yet.
Now add a 1/4" to the top and one side so that your cushions will be snug
when they are in their covers. A cushion cover will be made up of a top piece, a
bottom/back piece and a side piece which we call a tabling. The top and
bottom piece will basically be copies of your patterns with a 1/2" margin added for
sewing. The tabling width will be equal to the width of the foam, plus an
inch for the seams, minus 1/4" to allow for a snug fit. For example, if your
foam is 3" thick, then the total width of the tablings will be 3 3/4"
= 3"(foam) + 1"(seams) - 1/4"(tight fit).
Cutting the fabric: Now roll out
as much fabric as you can on a smooth floor, and tape it down securely
every foot or so. Make sure the good side is facing down since you want
to write on the back side. Next tape the patterns you made onto the fabric, making
sure that it is properly orientated according to the thread pattern. We
like the weave to go up and down on our cushions. Also don't
forget that the top and bottom panels are mirror images of each
other. Trace the outline of the pattern with a pen. This will be
your sew line. Then use a long ruler or a 1/2" wide stick to
trace the 1/2" outside seam. Do not cut this pattern out yet. Go on to
the next panel until there is no more room on this section of fabric. Also, Don't forget
to squeeze in some tablings around the margins of the fabric.
Using a long ruler, draw out your tablings including the sew line. (
ie. 2 3/4" plus two 1/2" margins). When all this is
done, carefully cut everything out with a
good pair of scissors. Remember to cut along the outside of the
panels and the tablings and not along the sew lines! Keep rolling out
the fabric, tracing your patterns and cutting out the parts until you are
4. Preparing to sew: We use an old
commercial Singer sewing machine that we bought inexpensively
years ago, but a home machine that is properly adjusted should work
just fine on medium weight pack cloth. Sunbrella will be harder
on a home machine because it is heavier. Next figure out
where you are going to position the velcro
opening. This is where the foam will fit through when the cushion
covers are complete. Usually this will be in the least
conspicuous spot, like up against a bulkhead or on the side of the
boat. The opening will be about six inches shorter
than the side it is on, and it will be centered on that
seam. This works out to be 3" from the corners.
5. Assembly: Start with the TOP panel first since the opening will
be on the bottom. Also make sure beforehand that the tabling will reach
all around the whole cushion. Often times two pieces of tabling will need
to be sewn together beforehand to finish the cushion. To begin, the tabling is
stapled to a corner. Remember to leave a minimum of a
1/2" extra for sewing to the other end. Also note that the two pieces
should have their "good sides" facing towards each other. Next the tabling is matched with the
seams and stapled along the entire side of the top panel. Now you can
begin carefully sewing using about 8 straight stitches per
inch. When you reach the next corner, make little triangular cuts about
1/4" -3/8" in depth to ease sewing in this area. Be careful
not to extend your cuts into
the sew line. Continue sewing until you reach the starting point, at which time the two
ends of the tabling are sewn together. Finally the bottom pattern is matched
and stapled onto the tabling. This time, however, you will begin at the point where
one side of velcro opening begins. This works out to be 3" from one corner. You will
then complete the sewing as before, and you will end at the other
side of the velcro opening.
6. Finishing up: With the
cushions still inside out, stick each half (one hook and
one loop) of the 1/2" self adhesive velcro to the outside (good side) of the open seam. Make
sure to sew each side down individually with
a zigzag stitch all around it's edges. Then proceed to attach
the two velcro strips together like they are suppose to go, and sew the two together only at their
very ends. Finally, place an extra row of straight stitches around all the original seams for good
measure. Now turn the cover right side out, stuff the foam
in it, and go try them out in the boat.
In 2008 we made a new set of cushions for Little Cruiser which you can see here.
1. Outdoor Wilderness Fabrics Inc Before ordering any fabric, get the fabric samples so that you can pick exactly what you want. We actually need to see and feel the sample before we are going to order a bunch of yards of the stuff. Also look out for the "close out" specials where you can get some really good deals on some of the fabrics.
2. Seattle Fabrics Another good source for fabrics.3. Sailrite- A good source for marine fabrics like Sunbrella, Naugahyde and sailcloth.