Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fortuitous Log Book that can be Printed

Here is a link to the Excel workbook with all the logs (templates)...

Fortuitous Logbook Template

Basically, you can download and modify the logs for your own purpose.  You can print a bunch of copies of various workbooks and put them in a bound folder such as a photo album if you want it to look good.

My oldest girl used leather and created a bound "captains logbook" for me for Christmas.  I absolutely love it.  I wouldn't trade that logbook for a new engine.  I know that every hour she spent locked in her room creating that book, she was thinking about me.  I found out she spent hours upon hours researching how to bind books on youtube and then buying supplies, cutting, gluing, etc, to make the book.

Both my daughters figured out early how to tie my heart into a stopper knot.  It is for them I bought Fortuitous.  Every time they ask to climb the mast, I stop what I am doing and help them aloft.  Once we set sail, it is all about them and Mary Beth.

Still inspired - I think I will post my homemade log books and boat manuals

I was inspired to post the cushion videos, but I have more...

I created my own "log books" for Fortuitous and a boat manual for the Nauticat 52 - Fortuitous.

Much of the manual is specific to Fortuitous, so it is not worth posting.  It is based on the original manual and a lot of information on sailing a Ketch.  It has a lot of information on the systems specific to Fortuitous...  Much of it is for guests.  For instance, we have pictures of how we dock Fortuitous in various situations, so that guests can understand the procedure if they want to assist as crew.  Fortuitous is a fairly heavy boat with a counter-clockwise prop and it is important to us that guests understand the rules and plan before we approach a dock...

However, the log books are word documents that I created to print out and put into a binder.  I found very little assistance on the Internet, and frankly, I like my log book pages better than anyone else's I found.  They would be easy for people to modify and print for themselves.  They include the following:

  • Radio Log
  • Trip Summary
  • Watch Log
  • Daily Checklist
  • Monthly Checklist
  • 6 Month Checklist
  • Yearly Checklist
  • Safety Checklist
  • Safety Equipment
  • Parts List
  • Repair Log
  • Needed Repairs
  • Fuel Record
  • Fish Log
  • Guest Register
I know that I must seem a bit OCD, but it was cheaper to make these myself and print / bind them myself.  Over the winter, I couldn't sail, so I spent my time on things I could do.  I keep them in a binder on the helm station and edit them frequently.  It helps me avoid simple errors.  The "needed repairs" log has been the most used and it has really helped organize the repairs.  All the major and/or quality of life issues were not forgotten and quickly repaired.  The kids have learned to simply put an entry in the log if they want it fixed.

In the meantime, I am becoming pretty good on everything from the engines to the heads.  For instance, I (and my wife as she leads or assists with all repairs) know exactly how to repair (and thus operate) the two automatic and manual bilge pumps.  We know how the engine is cooled and have sucked water through the exhaust hose to prime the system (that was fun.)  We know the radio, we know the heads and holding tank.  EVERY light works - not many 30 year old boats can say that.  I am currently inspecting every electric wire and removing anything that could be a danger / hazard before we set out on our trip.  My wife is re-bedding the portals.  And so on, and so on...  Fortuitous is looking good.

Final layout of cushions

We are done with the first six.  We selected a teal for the cushion backs.

The spare material was used by my kids to create throw pillows.  We found a patterned fabric for the throw pillows that contained the colors of the back and bottom cushions.  That was a nice touch.

I don't have a picture with me, but the pilot house and saloon look very nice with the new cushions.

Now, we have to stain and work on the wood in the interior to make it also look new.

Turning the cushion outside out

This is always fun.  We turn the cushion outside out and we inspect the corners.  If we find a flaw, we fix it now before putting the cushion in.  The cushion will add pressure to all the fabric.

When turning the cushion outside out, you push the corners out.  At this point, it is good to have already clipped the excess fabric from the corners.

Of course, everything looks good at this point.  It isn't until the foam is inserted that you realize how well you did.

Since I just thought of it, let me provide a word on "batting."

Basically, the foam has "batting" which is like the stuffing of a pillow put all around it.  This will make the cushion cover smaller than the foam and batting which are inserted into the cushion.  This provides stiffness.

So, we size the cover to exactly match the foam.  We add batting around the foam (already added in our case since we reused foam+batting).  The batting adds to cushion comfort and it smooths the edges of the foam so that the edges are not visible through the fabric.  The batting is glued to the foam.  There are videos on Sailrite about batting.

Rounding a cushion corner (sewing)

Here we are rounding a corner.  It isn't that hard.

You can sew back and forth a few times in each step to reinforce the stitch, but I didn't want to do that with this fabric and as mentioned before the thread is very strong.

The corners were looking good in any case.

Note that we hand cranked around the corners and we would put the needle down before we raised the foot of the sewing machine.

Clipping excess fabric off the inside

Another short video showing the inside of the cushion fabric being prepped.  At this stage it feels good to be so close to being done with a cushion.

Little did we know that we were only 1/3 the way done with the cushions.

A view of the cushion top

This is what the top of the cushion will look like when the three sides are attached, and prior to the bottom being attached.  Again, this is a cushion where both the top and front will be visible.

There are a lot of videos here, but it was all to jog my memory in the future.

Cushion assembly line

We have an assembly line going.

After our first cushion, it became important to create an assembly line.  This helped us to remember each step.  We performed the task on a cushion and then the next cushion and the next.

When we sewed our very first cushion, we wrote down the steps in order.  The first cushion refined the process.

We would break each step into 2 parts, so that I could perform a task and Mary Beth could perform a task in parallel to speed things up.  I would tape and she would sew or vice-verse.

More attaching zipper to cushion

Remembering this cushion does not have a 4-side boxing, here we are attaching a zipper in back and the two sides.  The cushion top will fold over to create the front side.

Also, this video points out that before we ever sewed, we tested needle tension.  We would sew samples of the cloth together and make sure the thread met in the middle.

I would also test that the fabric was being pulled through the machine evenly.  On a sailrite machine, this is not a problem since both the bottom and top are pulled.  On this machine, it can be a problem and we need to make sure the sewing foot is not too tight or too loose.

The solution was simple.  We test sewed fabrics together before sewing the real thing.

Attaching zipper to cushion

Please remember this cushion is not the same cushion we were sewing in the earlier blog posts.  This is the 3rd cushion we made.

This is a cushion with a visible top and front fabric and a zipper in back.

You can see how the cushion is put together.  The zipper side is 5" wide and in the back.  The top fabric has an extra 4.5" that folds over in the front to sew to the bottom.  The 2 sides are without zippers and are 5" wide.

Zipper almost ready to sew

One more video of the zipper in place prior to sewing...

Note that the zipper tape did not line up with the far edge/sides.  In future cushions, we avoided that.  I made sure the zipper tape was attached to both sides from the middle out with the teeth matching the way that they were originally locked together.  I learned to use only the slightest pressure when applying the zipper tape to the cushion with the seam tape if I wanted edges and original teeth to line up perfectly.

It didn't make a difference, except that I like things to line up perfectly.  The tape in this video was simply trimmed shorter and that was that - no problem and the zipper worked perfectly.

How to attach zipper in the side of the cushion

This video shows how the zipper will be attached.

The video says it all.  I don't think the formula changed much after 20 cushions.  We did get better at positioning the zipper ends.

It should be noted that this is the one sew that WILL put the needle through the seam tape.  As such, the needle will have glue on it after you sew.

We easily got the glue off the needle and out of the sewing machine with a simple trick: WD-40.

A spray of WD-40 and the glue came right off the needle.  My wife may now understand the WD-40 obsession.

Measuring for a side zipper

When cutting a side that will have a zipper in it, the question is how tall to make each cut.

Our foam required 4" sides.  With batting, the sides are actually a little larger when inserted, but the compression makes the cushion firm.

So, a side without a zipper would have 2x 1/2" allowances on the top and bottom edge and would be cut 5" wide.

However, when you insert a zipper into the side (obviously the back side) of a cushion, you have to cut 2 strips that when zippered together is 5 inches.  So, how much to you allow for the addition of a zipper?

You cut 2 strips 3 3/16"  Basically, you give 11/16" to the zipper (at least with our material).

We experimented with a small piece of fabric by adding a small piece of zipper tape and seeing the end resulting width.  You can do the same.  Cut two strips of a known width and add zipper tape to both and zipper together.  Then, see how wide it becomes.  Adjust your measurements accordingly...

For us, and our material, two strips at 3 3/6" zippered together created a 5" back side.

Finished cushion - one final repair to make

So, the cushion is finished and looks good.  This was our second cushion.

We forgot to sew the end of a zipper shut.  The result was that when the foam was inserted, the zipper opened, followed by the fabric "opening" aka ripping.  It was a small rip that we repaired.

We never again failed to sew the ends of the zipper tape shut.  Rookie mistake.

BTW, zippers are not that difficult to sew.  Don't be intimidated.  After you sew your first zipper, they will become the choice way to close any fabric.  They are really easy to sew.  Try it once.

For some reason, we were intimidated before we sewed our first zipper.  After the first one, we realized there were much harder things to sew onto a cushion.

Always sew with outsides together

Oooppss, when I went to match up the darts, they didn't align.  I put the seam tape on the wrong side of the bottom cushion.  It was a good thing I had the darts as they quickly misaligned and informed me something was wrong.

I had to remove the tape and put it on the other side.

The rule when sewing cushions is that the "outsides" of the material are always facing together prior to sewing.  As such, the seam tape would have gone on the outsides of the material and then they would have been pressed together and then sewn.

That was easily fixed, but was annoying that I had to remove the tape and place it all on the correct side.

Clipping the corners

While "inside out", you can cut some of the excess fabric off the corners that you have just sewn.  This will make the corners look better when you put the cushion right-side out.

Remember, that as long as you do not cut across a stitch, you can cut away any inside seam material.

Another side note.  Any time that we could, we would remove the seam tape after sewing.  Sometimes, that is just not possible, but we felt it was more professional.

Boxing sewn to top, ready to attach to bottom

We have sewn the top to the boxing, and are ready to attach the bottom in the same fashion.

This will create an inside-out cushion.

I mention that we "clip the corners."  Basically, after we sew the corners, we clip the extra fabric off the inside corners to make it easier to turn it inside-out.

We unzip the zipper before sewing.  That is easier than unzipping it after we sew.  Remember that the cushion is going to be inside out, so the zipper pull will be on the inside.

We used the zipper pulls that have "locks" on them, so that they have to be pulled on to unlock.  That would be a real pain to unzip from the inside.

Boxing Taped to the Top of the Fabric

Here we have the boxing taped to the top of the fabric and are ready to sew.

Two comments...  ...things we learned after we made a few more cushions.  These are minor details that came with experience.

First, in later cushions, we decided to always fold the side seams towards the back.  Once positioned over the foam, any side seam might become slightly visible over time (as happened with the old fabric).  You want everything to look uniform, and you certainly don't want a seam impression in the front side of the cushion, so always bend them to the back before sewing over them.

Second, always, always, bend the seam the same way when sewing the boxing to the top and bottom fabrics.  A seam folded forwards on the bottom sew and backwards on the top sew will create a bend that will have to be fixed.

Sewing Around Corners - Made Easy

So, this is the part that I had to research.  How do you sew around the corners for a cushion?

Basically, you should watch the video.  You need relief cuts.  You need to position the fabric together using the darts.  Use fabric tape to hold the fabric in place.

Instead of making a 90 degree turn at the corners, make 2x 45 degree turns and have 2-3 stitches between them.

I am pretty sure I showed the sewing in other videos.

Making Darts

So, darts are little triangular cuts that are used to line up the fabric.

It takes and extra 10 minutes to create them, but the process itself helps to insure the fabric all lines up.

I will admit that by the time we got to the 20th cushion, we stopped making darts on the sides, but by that time, we were pretty darn good at matching things up.

Basically, when you measure and create darts, you have to "think through" the next steps and how everything should line up before you sew.  Also, they are very handy start and stop points for the seam tape.  You should take the time to create and line up darts for all your first cushions.

Today, I would still make darts everywhere if I were sewing a cushion that is more than 3 feet wide, because even a 1/8" misalignment can cause the cushion to skew and look bad in the settee.

Thoughts on Sewing the Fabric

So, here we are doing some sewing.

We learned some things after sewing the first cushion or two and after this video was made.

First, we decided that the "reinforced stitch" on the machine was the wrong stitch to use.  We changed our stitch to a simple straight stitch.  Here is what we decided:

  1. A straight stitch is much faster and uses less thread.
  2. The thread we used (V-69) was a very strong thread and was not going to break.
  3. The reinforced stitch was poking too many holes in the fabric and thus was defeating the purpose by weakening the fabric.  Yes, there was more thread holding the cushion together, but we were weakening the fabric with all the sewing, and that was worse.
In any case, all the cushions are holding together quite nicely after a few months of use, so a simple straight stitch with a strong thread is the way to go.

Finally, after a few more cushions, we realized we could easily sew past the edges and the machine did not care.  We had an old $99 Singer that used to create nests when we sewed past the edges.  This Viking machine did not create nests, and we eventually figured that out.

Sewing Together the Boxing

We used seam tape.

We sewed exactly at 1/2".  We have a 1/2" guide on our sewing machine.

Because we used a rotary cutter and not scissors, our cuts on the fabric were very exact.  That allowed us to easily position and tape the sides together.  We only had to make sure the edges were flush against each other.

Remember that the outsides of all fabric are almost always placed together, and you sew on the insides of the fabric.  Then, the fabric is turned outside-in to provide a nice looking cushion.

Measuring a "boxing" or the sides...

This very confusing video talks about how to measure the sides.

Originally, the videos were only meant for my personal viewing in a few years, so I made them to jog my own memory.


First, this cushion is not a "normal" cushion with a front.  That is why the top fabric and the bottom fabric match exactly.  This is why we are also creating all 4 sides.  This cushion was a corner cushion in the pilot house.  The other cushions had the top fold over to create one of the sides - the front side.

This cushion used 2 long pieces of fabric for the sides.  Each long piece covered 2 sides.

The question was "how long to cut each long piece?"  The answer was that you still only give 1/2" allowance for "every edge".  Rounding a corner did not change the fact that every edge is simply given 1/2" allowance.  It is hard to understand that watching the video.  It really was not that hard and could have been explained better.  Sorry.

If in doubt, cut a scrap sheet and tack it to the fabric to see if the measurements will work.

Marking and Cutting the Fabric

We had a nice kitchen table to lay out the fabric.  We marked it and then cut it with a roller cutter.

We had a self-healing mat that we placed under the fabric when we cut it.  We used an 18" metal ruler as a guide when cutting the fabric.

Positioning the Templates on the Fabric

The next step is figuring out the best way to use the fabric.  We don't want to waste fabric.

We put all our cushion templates on the fabric and arranged them to use the minimum amount of fabric.

This fabric, btw, is the bottom cushion fabric that is breathable and lets any moisture out.  Nobody will see the bottom of the cushions.  It is a cheaper fabric, also.  It is called "Cushion Underlining" and is under $7.00 a yard.

This is pretty straight-forward watching the video.

I should also point out that we learned a lot by examining how the old cushions had been made.  The old cushions used underlining.  By using the old cushion covers as "guides" and "suggestions," we avoided many mistakes.

Creating a Cushion Template

We needed to create templates for the fabric as our cushions were not rectangular.

We used notebook paper and scotch tape to create a large piece of paper.

We put the foam on top, and we drew the outline.

We then added 1/2" to every side, and cut out the template.  That gave us a template for the bottom of the cushion.

The top of the cushion was not exactly like the bottom, because the front of the cushion is a continuation of the top.  The top template was the bottom template + a 4" front.

Once we created all the templates out of notebook paper, we laid them out on the fabric to find the best use of fabric before we cut them out.  See the next video...

In the video, I say we had 5 more to do, but we ended up recovering every cushion which meant we did 20 total.

Introduction to Recovering a Boat Cushion

We did the cushions ourselves (20 of them).  We also sewed fitted bed sheets, curtains, and a cover for the life raft.  We are about to sew a water catcher to help us collect water and provide shade over the pilot house.

I actually filmed our recovering of the cushions, so I could remind myself how to do it in a few years.  

Here are the basics:

  • Watch the Sailrite videos...  
  • We decided to order fabric from Sailrite as their videos really assisted us and the fabric quality was excellent compared to local stores.  We couldn't find the same quality in any local stock, and the local stores charged much more for the same fabrics when ordered from their warehouses.
  • We ordered over $30.00 of fabric samples from Sailrite so that we could compare and contrast them.  That was good.  We were not afraid to call / email Sailrite and ask questions.
  • We kept the old foam, because it was good quality and new foam is so expensive.  We just cleaned the old foam the best we could.
  • 20 cushions took a full month of nights and weekends, but we probably saved over $3000 ($4500 by not buying new foam).  I have a cost breakdown I could dig up.  We sewed every night and every weekend - two people together.  (I would pin, for instance, and my wife would sew in an assembly line fashion.)
  • We debated buying a Sailrite machine, but decided we were very tight on money and bought a $300 Viking sewing machine instead.  The Viking did the job, but the Sailrite would have been great and better to take with us on the boat.  The Sailrite sewing machine would have been $500 more.
  • We did a "trial run" with old bedsheets first on a cushion.  That gave us extremely valuable experience.  For instance, we learned the old fabric was useless as a template.  We learned that we should measure everything based on the foam.  If we had first used our new fabric with the old fabric as a template, we would have ruined the first cushion and possibly become demotivated.
  • We chose solid colors, so that we did not have to constantly match together the patterns.
  • We bought good tools, so that we could easily cut and shape the fabric.  From seam tape, to a hot knife, to a roller cutter, it makes a difference.  Of course, we had 20 cushions and a lot of other projects.  We love our fitted sheets.  We still saved a lot of money if you consider each cushion was $250 - $300 for a professional to recover.  Fitted bed sheets are also expensive, but now I can sew up a new sheet any free evening.
  • Buy more than you think you need.  The worst feeling is running out of fabric tape, thread, fabric etc, because you were trying to save $25.00 or even $10.00.  Buy an "extra" yard of fabric, and if you do not use it on cushions, you can use it on throw pillows.  We have 6 nicely matching throw pillows and a matching mouse pad for our saloon with left over fabric.
  • Finally, now, I can sew up a cushion, a bed sheet, or a cover for any part of the boat in a simple evening.  The experience turned myself (and my wife) into a very fast sewer and that translates to more amenities.  For instance, I quickly sewed up a cover for the life raft and a hammock for the kids one evening.  I had an extra few hours and I didn't think twice about it.  I used to sew very slowly, but now I complain the machine is not fast enough, and I rarely need to "pin" any of my boat projects.  I can create a 1/2" seam by eyesight and finger movement alone while the machine hums along.  20 cushions will teach those skills.