Boat Canvas Project #1: Mainsail Cover

We have been itching to replace our boat canvas ever since we got Minuet. Someone in the boat's past had decided to put blue canvas on a beige boat with brown trim. The finished look did not appeal to our sense of aesthetics.

Even a bad color choice tends to hang around for a long time, because boat canvas is durable, custom made, and very expensive. I know how to sew, however, and invested in a Viking 5530 sewing machine a few years ago. This is a 40 some year old machine that has a powerful motor and a low gear that can punch right through heavy duty projects. There is also a company, Sailrite, that sells kits and materials for those who want to make their own boat canvas and sails. Our canvas needed more repairs than usual at the end of last season, so we decided this was the year to replace it.

We saved much money by buying kits for a new mainsail cover and dodger, especially since we got 10% off everything. Gotta love a sale. For those who don't know boat lingo, a dodger is tent-like, and shelters the companionway, which in turn is the entrance down into the boat's cabin. A dodger materially increases comfort on a boat, keeping water out of the living quarters and providing shade and a windbreak.

Project number one was the mainsail cover. Much bigger pieces of fabric, but all straight seams. I finished it last weekend, and am very happy with how it came out.

Here is the project in progress. I'm pushing about 13 feet of canvas through the machine in this pic. The kit comes with clear double-sided tape, a godsend for holding a project like this together. No way are you going to stick pins through material this thick!

Everything has been sewed together. The next step will be to install the hardware. The project stretches from the dining room table across the kitchen floor. Did I mention it is 13 feet long?


Here is the finished sailcover, with hardware and decal installed. To the knowing, the decal says "I made this myself. Installing the hardware took a soldering iron, to burn through the big holes, a drill, to make the small holes, and a mattknife, to make the narrow slits. All holes had to go through 3 layers of fabric.

Some additional project notes:
- The material is Sunbrella, an acrylic canvas with good resistance to sunshine.
- The thread is V69 bonded polyester.
- The sewing machine needles are size 120/19.
- The Viking 5530 can sew through 9 layers of Sunbrella, but not happily. Considering that the machine does have some plastic gears, and I am on my second low gear assembly, I am going to try to not have as much bulk in the finishing details on the dodger wherever possible.
- We used the old mainsail cover as a pattern, so we are confident that this will fit well.
- I used NO velcro. I hate velcro. It does not hold up over time. When you are building a heavy-duty fabric piece that will be used for many years, velcro just doesn't make sense.

Onward to the dodger! We will be taking apart the old one to use as a pattern. I plan to take lots of pictures and draw a lot of diagrams during the deconstruction, as a dodger is a more sophisticated piece of sewing.


  1. Fantastic job! I wonder how your new dodger turned out. Do you have any photos of that project?

  2. Fantastic! Canvas covers protect the boat and many of its different parts. If a canvas gets a tear in it, then it will not protect it as well. With all the snaps and pulleys, the canvas can be vulnerable tomany different types of problems in addition to tears. thanks!~ Britney Taylor


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