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Custom Salon Cushions for a Sailboat | Getting Crafty

No, we are not selling the boat, but if we did, I would definitely use this photo to help sell her. Or maybe this one:

At long last, our salon cushions are re-done. They've been re-done for a year and I just haven't been able to sit down and blog about them. Considering that I bought the fabric to re-do them when I was pregnant with Cora though, a year's lag time for writing about them is not too bad.

You can click on this link to see what our old cushions look like, or, just envision a worn, maroon-colored, 1970's, Escher-esque print with repeating swans. It was awful.

In fact, here you go. You can see the fabric in the top cushion in the photo below:

Diana trying out the first round of new cushion covers.At first I thought I'd go with solid-color bottom cushions because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to find a fabric that complemented the awesome stuff I had chosen for the top cushions. However, first lesson learned: solid color Sunbrella will show everything you spill on it. Yes. I know. You can "spot clean" Sunbrella. But when you have kids in the house, you will be constantly spot cleaning. You need a fabric that hides things. 

So I went with multi-colored stripes and love how it turned out.

I did everything on the bottom cushions myself: sewing, piping, zippers, snaps.

More things to consider. Large fabric repeats can make a cabin look larger or smaller, depending on the fabric and the boat. Same thing with small pattern repeats. Buy a little and then test it out in your boat before you commit to purchasing a lot of expensive fabric.

Newbury in Bright, from Liberty Lifestyle Fabrics, sold by Fresh Modern Fabric on Etsy

Some fabric could make you feel seasick when underway. The fabric above is a perfect example. If I stepped onto a boat with cushions done in this, I would want to hurl. Avoid any pattern that seems to "move."

Both the stripes and the regal pattern I picked for the upper cushions hide stains, markers, and smears from food very well. Cora figured out that the fabric was also a perfect "felt" board. Genius!

I had a local upholstery shop, Patsy Carter Design, do the top three cushions for me. While I have the ability to do them, I was too pregnant, and had no time or energy to do them myself. I made the piping though, and they used it for the cushions. Since I do this kind of work, I had a number in my head of how much I would charge for a job like this. When Patsy said the same number, I hired her on the spot.

On to the cushions I did myself. 

Nothing on a boat is straight. If I had dropped this cushion off at a canvas shop and asked them to re-do it for me, they would never have known what way to place the direction of the lines.

July 2012 - Eric works on the bowspirit. I work on the cushions 2 months pregnant with Lyra.

I spent a lot of time pinning and repositioning the fabric on each cushion so the lines were all straight, cushion to cushion.

Finally nailed it.  I also added snaps and waterproof covers on the portions of the cushions where Cora (and now Lyra) spend the most time.

The pattern on that fabric also had to be aligned cushion to cushion.

Rant: when I hear people complain about "how expensive it is" to have boat upholstery done I have zero patience. People want custom work done at cookie-cutter prices. Nothing on a boat is ever a cookie cutter shape. Each and every piece is a custom fit. The seamstress does not have a pattern. It is always custom done. If you want it done right, pay them for their expertise. 

High-trafficked areas: I'm considering adding a patch of vinyl or something else creative to the end of this cover along the seaberth. We set things on it when getting stuff in and out of the fridge and there is always some random stain that makes me want to wash it once a week or so. Cushion wrangling is not high on my priority list, however, so I think I may add something that can just be wiped down.

Likewise, the part of that cushion that looks a bit stained, is. This is where Eric grabs when he gets up from his seat. No matter what I do to clean it, the fabric stays a bit discolored. This is a problem with having white in your fabric, though overall, I'm so glad I picked the white background because of how it brightens up the boat.

Consider where people grab (or frequently step on) cushions when designing yours. 

Lyra living it up at 5 weeks old in La Cruz, Mexico.

This cushion gets the most traffic on the boat. It is where I sit. Where I nurse. Where I type. And where Cora climbs in and out of before and after meals. It seems to always be in the wash. I would have made two of these if I had known how much puke/poop/food would always be on it. Then I could at least rotate them.

More lessons learned: use a hotknife. For my previous jobs I was able to borrow a hotknife from a friend, but didn't have it available to me this time around. I should have looked harder for one.

Several parts of the hems on my heavily washed cushions are unraveling. I'm now patching them with some felt I had on hand, but yep, a hotknife would have extended the life of them.

Oh well. Kids have already given them a super short half-life as it is.

Adding quick front/back patches to places where the seam is coming apart.

Sailrite knows what it is talking about. If you are re-doing your own cushions, take the time to add some batting. It really plumps up your cushions and gives them that certain je ne sais quoi that all sailors like to have in a nice, juicy boat cushion. Sailrite has a handy how-to video here.

Cora helps me put the covers on after adding some extra padding.

Last piece of advice. Stop waiting to re-cover your cushions. There was always something holding me back from doing my own boat. Time, money, fear (was worried I wouldn't do a good job.) There is NOTHING like having fabric you love in your boat. I'm so glad I finally have a gorgeous backdrop for photos (instead of that ghastly fabric from the 70's.)

And think outside of the box. Just because you live on a boat doesn't mean you need shells and palm trees on your fabric. Get crazy and have fun!

Reader Comments (15)

WOW!!! Amazing - love everything about your boat cushions - they look FANTASTIC!!! (now *I* want new cushions).

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrittany

Thanks Brittany. I seriously love them. So cheery!

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte

New cushions was probably the one thing we gladly paid out the nose for and felt it was worth every single penny. We still love and appreciate ours now 3 years later. And of course you know from our past conversations I am a big fan of what you picked out!

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercindy

Found your blog after reading your article in San Diego magazine. You've ombined all my favorite things: kids, sewing and adventure! Very jealous of your piping skills.

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichellephant

I'm green with envy at your sewing skills, and swooning with appreciation for your brave fabric choices. Those cushions rock. We currently have nubby 90's barcalounger blue on our cushions, and we *really* want to put new foam and fabric in. But I'm chicken to take it on. This post was a nice boot in the behinder. Thanks for the encouragement.

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBelinda Del Pesco

I'm getting ready to redo my cushions now. The hardest part for us was finding a fabric we both loved! I have two dogs and a messy boyfriend so I too needed a fabric that would hide any stains. Thanks for the inspiration!

These look fantastic and inspire me to want to make our own cushions! Thanks for sharing!

July 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMelody s/v Vacilando

I ♥ this! Almost makes me brave enough to go ahead and do mine! Almost. I think I will work up to it in baby steps - but I'm at least going to start looking for cool fabric.

Thanks for the post!

July 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

Hey everyone, thank you so much for the kind words. These cushions have seriously made me happier being on our boat. Should have done it ages ago!! Good luck to all those who are going to try it themselves. I'd love to see your projects too!

July 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte

Amazing work that can only be appreciated by those who have spread and cut fabric on docks and had a team helping to feed fabric into the machine with the setting sun in their eyes and the wind blowing (only I did not have little ones to watch out for or take care of - I grew my guys into crew members before we set off!) You are amazing! I am so glad to hear you reinforce my own conviction of the incredible importance of making your boat a joy to look at and live in. I wrote an article on just that point for Women and Cruising. It has yet to appear but it is called, "Cruising is Not Camping". We have kept our original salon fabric, not because it's pretty but because we have discovered the wisdom of the original designers who used London Underground train seat fabric. NOTHING shows!

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterClare Collins

Clare, thank you so much for this comment. You have definitely been there and to hear appreciation from someone who "knows." Thank you!!!!! Look forward to reading your article!

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte

Guess what we've been wanting to do forever? Ha. Yep. You guessed it. Great post. Thanks for sharing the low-down, as always!

August 3, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterk

We'll redo our covers sometime this coming year, and this post is going to be my first reference when I start thinking critically about it. we have the same kid-wearing-space-brightening-spot-wearing issues you've covered. thank you Charlotte!

September 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBehan - s/v Totem

Nice boat cushion..... and I agree with @cindy.
You look so great for your child too. I think your children proud to be your child.
Nice share.....

October 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBoat cushion

Nice post lovely blog people will get attract to see this its really very informative blog...

February 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSalons in Indore

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