My mom just finished a massive sewing project that I need to show off!
She sewed clothes (or chaps) for their new dinghy! My parents live on their large sailboat and have invested huge amounts of love, effort and money into their home over the last 15 or so years. This latest project is an example of the lengths they will go to keep things ship-shape!
Dinghy chaps protect the inflatable pontoons from wearing in the harsh sun. When my parents sailed to Mexico they came back, after a year, with a dinghy that had basically melted from the glare of the sun. The rubber was sticky, mottled and weakened. These chaps will prevent this new dinghy from experiencing the same fate!
My mom did all the patterning for this project herself and photographed the process. She followed a tutorial from Sailrite which is the go-to website and shop for sailors who sew. It’s actually worth checking out as a garment sewist as their video tutorials are amazing and could teach new skills for dealing with heavy fabrics while their shop carries some very interesting tools that you wouldn’t find at your average fabric store.
Whenever my mom creates a canvas structure for the boat (hatch covers, canopies, sail covers, window covers…a boat actually requires a huge amount of textiles!) she begins by shaping clear plastic and using a marker to note the many details.
The plastic pattern then needs seam allowances and hem allowances added just as one would for a garment pattern. The scale of everything is just far bigger…the shape of the dinghy looks just as complicated to fit as a human body!
She has become very skilled at knowing which points will need reinforcement when sewing for the boat. Because her canvas work is exposed to the elements and also to a lot of friction, many areas are beefed up with the addition of leather Or vinyl and heavy bindings.
All of her sewing is done on a special machine designed for sewing sails. It is very heavy duty and only does zig zag. When I sit down to use the machine I feel like a novice. It has a walking foot and the timing is very finicky but, unlike many machines designed for the home sewist, every aspect of the machine is meant to be adjusted as you sew. When the timing goes off while a sailor is fixing their sails miles out at sea, it is necessary to be able to fix it themselves! That used to be a huge procedure for my mom when she first got the machine (complete with snarled bobbins and a snarling sewist) but she’s quite quick at it now.
When my mom isn’t sewing for the boat, she sews for my Dad using our patterns. She tends to sew him some new clothes each time she’s off of work for a stretch (she is a school principal). Her latest makes were a Finlayson Sweater and some Fairfield Button-ups. She shares her Thread Theory makes on the Thread Theory Sewing Community on Facebook. It’s a happening place these days, so be sure to check it out if you are a Facebook user!
Thanks for sharing your progress photos, Mom. I hope the new chaps get plenty of use and hold up well…and, of course, I love the name of the new dinghy (named after our baby, Noah)!