Making Our Own Cockpit Cushions

P1060455I took a sewing and cooking class in middle school in which I learned some basic sewing. Fast forward nearly 30 years later and I have done almost no sewing since. I am definitely not an experienced seamstress and so it was with some trepidation that I bought a Sailrite sewing machine and the supplies for some major canvas projects on our boat.

While the sewing machine was crossing the ocean from the USofA to Fiji in a container, I watched a bunch of videos from Sailrite’s impressive stock of free tutorials on their youtube page. In addition to their project videos, if you are inexperienced like me, I particularly recommend their basic sewing videos and their sewing machine tension adjustment videos.

As previously blogged about, the first projects I worked on were simple repairs to the sacrificial sun covering on our jib, our mainsail cover, dodger, bimini, and our mainsail. Because I was mostly working with UV proof GoreTex TenaraP1060459 thread on these sun exposed bits, I had a great deal of problems maintaining proper thread tension and I was very happy I had watched all of the tensioning videos and read through Sailrite’s tensioning and Tenara/PTFE section in the small manual that came with the machine. Even so, occasionally as the fabric thickness changed on the jib I would drop a zig or a zag and get a single straight stitch. As this was simply the sunbrella covering, the stitching of which has partially rotten off twice in the sun, I am still glad to have chosen the Tenara.

The first major item of new business that I tacked were cockpit cushions. Somehow, we have managed to cruise for nearly 5 years without them. We have had blue chairs a la West Marine, and we still have (and enjoy) our beanbag pillows from Tahiti, but we were seriously overdue for some arse cushioning.


Sailrite’s video on making your own cockpit cushions, available free on their site, is truly impressive as an educational -instructional piece. The video is clear and precise. Everything I needed to do the job was explained including a materials list and project checklist. They spend time going over the complicated bits several times and show the simple bits only once.  I must have watched the entire video 4 times and parts of it a half dozen more during the project and by following their directions, magically, everything turned out. Each time a cushion fit into its home I was a little stunned.

cc3 (2)Our cushions are not professional quality and the small irregularities of an amateur sewing on her own boat while floating at anchor in Fiji are obvious to me. However, having seen what “pros” produce in our current location, we are confident that our final product is as good as what we would pay for here and of course, at a huge savings, plus the pride of having made them ourselves. If I hadn’t already paid for the sewing machine with our maintenance projects, I certainly covered the rest of the cost by making our own cushions.

cc2 (2)
Lesson learned: I wish I had watched the video before ordering materials – definitely a mistake. I would have ordered piping instead of making my own (possible to do, certainly, but time consuming and not really money saving), would have done a better job of estimating materials and I would have ordered a hot knife. With that said, I was able to do without the hot knife and as we won’t be pulling the covers off often I think that it will be fine. Regarding the Sailrite machine, I don’t have a lot of experience with sewing machines so all I can say is it has ploughed through every job I’ve put at it, fairly easily (except slippery Tenara).



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