How to Make Boat Camper Tops

How to Make Boat Camper Tops
There are several different types of boat tops, but the most common is a Bimini top, a small awning on a metal frame. Custom boat covers can run to thousands of dollars, but you can make one yourself for a fraction of the cost, especially if you have your old cover to use as a pattern and you already have the metal frame.

Instructions

Difficulty: Challenging

Things You’ll Need:
  • Old boat cover and frame Measuring tape Pen Paper Measurements of the old boat cover OR Measurements for the boat area that needs to be covered Enough yards of the Sunbrella solution-dyed acrylic or Coast Guard solution-dyed acrylic to cover the area in question, or duplicate the old cover, in the color of your choice Scissors Large worktable Tailor's chalk Long wooden or metal ruler (at least 18 inches) Industrial sewing machine A Number 16 industrial sewing machine needle Several skeins of waterproof thread such as Sunguard, in the color of your choice, enough to sew around the entire circumference of the boat cover twice Double-sided tape, 1-inch wide A dry iron (or one with the steam feature turned off) Metal framing to hold the top in place Sewing pins Cloth fastenings (optional, depending on type of cover)
  • Old boat cover and frame
  • Measuring tape
  • Pen
  • Paper
  • Measurements of the old boat cover
  • OR
  • Measurements for the boat area that needs to be covered
  • Enough yards of the Sunbrella solution-dyed acrylic or Coast Guard solution-dyed acrylic to cover the area in question, or duplicate the old cover, in the color of your choice
  • Scissors
  • Large worktable
  • Tailor's chalk
  • Long wooden or metal ruler (at least 18 inches)
  • Industrial sewing machine
  • A Number 16 industrial sewing machine needle
  • Several skeins of waterproof thread such as Sunguard, in the color of your choice, enough to sew around the entire circumference of the boat cover twice
  • Double-sided tape, 1-inch wide
  • A dry iron (or one with the steam feature turned off)
  • Metal framing to hold the top in place
  • Sewing pins
  • Cloth fastenings (optional, depending on type of cover)

Measuring the Boat Top

Step 1
Measure the area of the boat to be covered, or the old boat cover you are planning to replace.
Step 2
Using the old boat cover as a template, examine its construction and any special features, such as slightly rounded forward and rear (aft) edges to fit the aluminum frame that will hold it in place.
Step 3
Measure the required length of the boat cover. Note it down, then add eight inches to the length.
Step 4
Cut two pieces of the fabric to the length in Step 3. Mark out four inches from each edge with tailor's chalk and ruler, down the full length of the fabric. The four extra inches will be for your waterproof seams and pockets to hold the boat top in place on the metal frame.
Step 5
Measure the width of the boat cover. Add 16 inches to that measurement.
Step 6
Lay flat the two pieces of fabric you cut in Step 4. Measure out the width measurement across both pieces of fabric, centering it across the two pieces. Mark out the measurement and trim the fabric carefully on both pieces.
Step 7
Mark out four inches from each of the central edges of the two pieces of fabric in Step 6. Mark out four inches from the cut edges of the pieces. These will be the outer waterproof seams and/or channels for the metal frame to slip in to hold the top in place on the boat.

Constructing the Boat Top

Step 1
Tape the central edge of one piece of fabric with the double sided tape, lining it up carefully with the edge of the fabric. Carefully lay the edge of the second piece of fabric on top, lining it up so that it one inch of its edge is over the tape. Press down to have the tape hold it in place. Iron carefully with a dry iron. Sew the edges together on both sides of the cloth, creating two seams about an inch apart. This is the centerline seam.
Step 2
Tape at the four-inch mark you created on the fabric, and fold the fabric over to stick on top. This will cover the first seam and edge, so they will not fray in the outdoor elements. This will also form a pocket for your metal frame. Iron this seam and sew.
Step 3
Repeat Step 2 on the other side to cover the seam on the opposite side. The cover should now be the correct width plus four inches extra on each edge.
Step 4
Tape one inch of the first width edge, and fold over one inch of fabric to stick down on the tape. Iron the seam smooth, and sew. Tape inside the four-inch mark and fold the edge over to the four-inch mark. This will prevent the seams from fraying, and give you a pocket for the frame. Iron and sew.
Step 5
Tape one inch of the first length edge and fold over one inch to stick it down to the fabric, taking into account any irregular shape for the frame. Iron the seam smooth and sew. Fold over a second time to the four-inch mark. Starting two inches from the edge, begin to sew. Finishing sewing two inches from the second edge. This will leave the openings for the side pockets open for the frame. Repeat with the opposite length edge.
Step 6
For boat tops with rounded or irregular edges, trim the unsewn two inches from Step 5 as needed to shape the fabric and still leave openings for the frame. Check the boat camper top by placing on the frame. Sew any final edges on these boat top corners carefully, then folder over to cover the seam to prevent fraying.

Tips & Warnings

 
Edge finishing is very important in order to make sure the boat top does not fray. Any extra fabric can be used as ties to help hold the top in place to the frame or boat as needed. Be sure to double-sew all seams. Outdoor fabrics come in a great variety of colors, as do the waterproof threads. You can create some stylish effects with contrasting colors. Avoid white if you want your cover to keep looking fresh for five to 10 years, according to the fabric warranty. You can rent an industrial sewing machine in most states. In some cases they will offer free delivery and pick-up.
 
Edge finishing is very important in order to make sure the boat top does not fray.
 
Any extra fabric can be used as ties to help hold the top in place to the frame or boat as needed. Be sure to double-sew all seams.
 
Outdoor fabrics come in a great variety of colors, as do the waterproof threads. You can create some stylish effects with contrasting colors. Avoid white if you want your cover to keep looking fresh for five to 10 years, according to the fabric warranty.
 
You can rent an industrial sewing machine in most states. In some cases they will offer free delivery and pick-up.
 
Do not use a steam iron when ironing the seams to be sewn. Since the fabric is waterproof, it will make it slippery and hard to handle. These fabrics come in a maximum width of 60 inches (five feet). If your boat top is wider than six feet, or longer than 10 feet, you will need to create more than one centerline seam as indicated in the instructions.
 
Do not use a steam iron when ironing the seams to be sewn. Since the fabric is waterproof, it will make it slippery and hard to handle.
 
These fabrics come in a maximum width of 60 inches (five feet). If your boat top is wider than six feet, or longer than 10 feet, you will need to create more than one centerline seam as indicated in the instructions.

Article Written By Evelyn Trimborn

Since graduating from New York University with her Bachelor of Arts in 1996, Evelyn Trimborn has written both fiction and nonfiction for many websites and blogs on health, diet, nutrition, self-help, and business and finance. Her work has appeared on Amazon and at Healthful-Goddess.com, TreatAcneToday.com, InsiderSecretsCorp.com and Career-Command.com.

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