I’ve Got a Gun to My Thread

Monday February 11, 2013

It’s finally happened.  I had to do the thing I’ve been dreading and putting off for months.  Canvas work for the bimini.  Ugh.  If there is one thing I hate more than anything else, it’s sewing.  The pattern making, the trying to make everything fit together, and then ripping it apart and starting over when it doesn’t.  Not to mention that 80% of the time my little Brother sewing machine craps out on me.  I don’t even know how many times I’ve seen the E6 error message pop up on screen because my thread has gotten tangled, and this usually ends with me pulling my hair out and about to drop my machine overboard (or out the window back at home).

But there was no getting around it any longer.  Now that the end is finally in sight we need to tackle all those little projects we’ve been putting off and I could’t escape mine any longer. Adding to that time crunch, I was given a blessing and a curse.  Yu owns a very saught after Sailrite sewing machine which she’s currently using to do her own canvas but said she could break away from it for one day to lend it to me.  It was fantastic news because these machines can literally sew through 20 layers of fabric (Yu has tried), and the bimini fabric is so thick and tough that it’s broken many a needle of mine before on my own machine.  But….I only had the one day to finish everything I needed to do.  The sewing machine was dropped off to me just after noon, and that didn’t give me a lot of time until the sun went down.

The issue with the bimini and why it needs fixing, is because back in July when we went to add the two solar panels that sit on top of it, we had to reconfigure the shape a little bit to get the panels to lay properly.  New bars were added to actually support the solar panels, but we also had to change the angle of the bars that were already there, bringing them closer together.  This ended up causing lots of loose fabric to hang low into the cockpit, and has been a vexation to us ever since.  Originally not wanting to reconfigure the fabric as well, and take the chance of ruining it forever, we left it alone.  We even toyed with the idea of ordering a new hard bimini, but it would have been white and I was afraid it wouldn’t match the rest of the boat.  But with only a week or two before we leave (I mean it this time!), something had to be done.

So with time running out and no other options, it was decided to go the route of taking apart the current bimini and putting it back together, taking out about six inches from the front.  A few days ago Matt and I had pulled the fabric tight to where we wanted the new seam to be and I marked that line with chalk.  Then I took the whole bimini below and with a soldering iron, cut off the front part that contained the zippers so I could just move it back the few inches we need instead of having to remove the zipper and put them back together, as well as lose the very nice and strong seam already at the front.  After Yu left and I had the machine all set up, I grabbed a cold Mt. Dew from the vending machine behind me and I was ready to get to work.  Having to go back and re-mark all my lines that were now becoming faded, I pulled out my double sided tape and began running it along the line.

I was being oh so careful and precise, and within 30 minutes I thought I had perfectly lined up the entire length of the canvas and was ready to sew.  Matt happened to be walking up to check on me and I proudly showed him my work.  I was so content that I had done something right on the first try, until he pointed out a fatal flaw to me.  I had stuck the fabric together on the wrong side.  What I had put on top was supposed to be on the bottom.  Noooo!!  The curse of sewing was striking again!  He left while I sat there now discontented, having no idea how I would remedy this, since my chalk lines were apparently on the wrong side as well.  In the end it only took me a few minutes to find out that I could fold the fabric to still make it work, and I was on my way again.

Finishing that part up for a second time I realized I’d never eaten lunch and didn’t want to take on the sewing machine on an empty stomach.  I quickly devoured a hefty sandwich and cracked open an energy drink, ready to go strong.  Yu had already gone through the steps of helping me wind the bobbin and thread the machine, so once it was time to go, all I had to do was bring the fabric to the needle and press down on the peddle.  And it was…easy.  I don’t know how else to describe it.  Effortless.  Fluent.  The machine just took the fabric and made perfect little stitches from one end to the other.  No snags, snarls, broken needles, or error messages.  I was in love.

Now feeling much better about the remaining work, I happily plugged along, cutting off the extra fabric that I had overlapped and smoothing that seam to sew as well.  When it got late in the afternoon, Matt and Georgie came to bring me a coffee and watch me while I worked.  I finished with still close to an hour of daylight, and when we went to zip the bimini back on, it fit perfectly! Hallelujah!  For once a sewing project finally had gone right and I was able to enjoy the rest of my evening without having a meltdown on how no sewing projects ever turn out the way I want.

So yesterday was great, I was on top of the world.  Today…not so much.  Because of all the caffeine I had chugged to get myself to work as hard as possible, I was also up until 4:30 am with insomnia.  It got to the point that I was going through the phonetic alphabet and trying to spell out our name as well as all our friend’s boat names. I had already gone through Serendipity, Rode Trip, Hideaway, and Hullabaloo, and was on Anthyllide when I finally started drifting off.   Waking up just a few hours later was not fun.  I was hoping my sewing would be done, but Yu was kind enough to lend me the machine for another day, so I was able to move on to the project I was really dreading.  Taking the connecting piece between the dodger and bimini and adding fabric so it would now make up for what I just cut off from the bimini.

I know it doesn’t sound terribly hard, but because of the curves, the only information I had to go with is that I needed to add 10 inches in the center and have it curve down to 7 at the end.  If I was smart I would have purchased some cheap fabric that I could have held up to both ends, and marked and cut to make a template.  What I did instead was lay out our old sailcover that we steal scraps of Sunbrella from, and pinned the existing connector to it.  From there I measured 10 inches from the center and marked straight lines until I knew the fabric started curving.  This is where the really hard part came in, those curves were really throwing me off!  Thinking that if I had a stroke of genius and that if the new piece I was adding needed to have the same curve as the current piece, I moved the pinned piece down to match my new lines I had begun drawing, and just followed the pattern of the current piece all the way to the end.  So smart!

Having it fully marked I began cutting the fabric and pinning it.  This was a case where the zippers had to be taken off and moved.  Using a seam ripper to remove them had actually taken up a good portion of my morning and early afternoon, so now the sun was beginning to set and I hadn’t even broken out the sewing machine yet.  Moving the picnic table to the area that had the best light and still had an outlet, I was now basically blocking the bathrooms inside the shed that half of the people living or working on their boat use.  I couldn’t worry about that, I needed to get my work done!

Having done a few stitches it was now way into the night and I was too hungry to carry on. Having Matt bring over the leftover General Tso’s Chicken I had spent an hour and a half making the night before, we heated it up in the shop’s industrial size microwaves and I took bites between pinning fabric together.  Pinning that took f-o-r-e-v-e-r.  When I was still out there at 9:00 at night, a guy working on his boat in the shed came over to lend a battery powered lamp to help shed a little more light on the machine and fabric.  More pinning and more sewing.  When I finally made the last stitch I was completely exhausted and ready to fall asleep on the picnic table.  It was now 11:00 pm and I had been working on this project for over 12 hours, and on only five hours of sleep.  When Matt asked if I wanted to put it on to see if it fit, I told him I wouldn’t be able to take the failure if it didn’t. My sewing worked out yesterday and I wanted to think the same thing today.  He was so intent on seeing it up there he goes, “Well I’ll throw it on, and I’ll only say anything if it does fit.”  “How is that going to work?” I asked.  “If you come down and don’t say anything, I’m going to know it has to be redone.”  “Oh”, he thought for a minute, “I guess you’re right.  Look at the brains on this one.”.

LOVE this machine!

Check out our cool bikes in the background!


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