How to recover boat upholstery

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Recovering the interior upholstery of a boat may seem like a daunting challenge, but you can actually accomplish it with only a few simple tools and a basic knowledge of sewing. Whether your upholstery is damaged or you simply want to update the look of the boat's design, reupholstering can make a dramatic difference in the look and feel of your boat's interior. Doing it yourself can also cost a lot less than hiring a professional.

Removable cushions

Remove the cushion or upholstered furniture from the boat, noting which pieces belong where in the interior.

Remove the old fabric from the cushion or furniture piece or else the seams will leave lumps under the new upholstery. Cushions generally have a zipper extending around one side. Unzip this and remove the pillow. If the piece has a wood backing -- often seat backs are designed this way -- the fabric will be held on with staples. Using your staple remover, carefully pry the old staples out of the wood. The fabric should then be removable from the piece of furniture.

Mark the old upholstery fabric with the pen carefully as you remove it from the furniture piece or cushion. Writing on the inside of the fabric, label which direction is up -- or front for flat cushions -- and which fabric pieces belong to each individual furniture item.

Take the pieces of upholstery fabric apart using a seam ripper. These pieces will serve as your cutting patterns for the new fabric, so take them apart carefully. Mark with the pen any pieces of upholstery fabric that have not already been identified -- which way is up, which side is which, and what item of furniture it covers.

Lay the old fabric pieces right-side down on top of the new fabric, also right-side down, and trace the outline of the pieces with your marking pen. Cut out all pieces.

Pin the new pieces together and sew with the heavy-duty sewing machine, using the old upholstery as a model. A good practice is to put the pieces together in reverse order of how you took them apart.

Go to the next section if you are recovering wood-backed cushions. Otherwise, move on to the next step.

Sew the zipper into the cushion fabric side pieces to make cushion covers. The side pieces, once sewn together, form a tube shape.

Unzip the zipper so that you can turn the cover right side out when it's completed, and sew the cushion top and then the bottom to the completed side piece.

Turn the cushion cover right side out and insert cushion.

Reinstall the piece to its original position in the boat.

Wood-backed cushions

Place the boat's uncovered wood-backed cushion piece on top of the newly sewn upholstery using the same process as in the previous sections. Centre the cushion and make sure that there are no wrinkles in the sewn fabric.

Pull the fabric tautly to the back side of the furniture piece at the halfway point on one side. Staple the fabric to the wood backing, about 2.5 cm (1 inch) from the edge of the wood.

Pull the fabric taut on the opposing side, and staple it in the same way. Continue by doing the same -- stapling at the halfway point -- on the other two sides. This will ensure the newly sewn fabric is centred on the furniture piece. You should have stapled the cushion four times.

Staple around the perimeter of the piece, spacing the staples about 2.5 to 5 cm (1 to 2 inches) apart. Continue to pull the fabric taut as you do so.

Reinstall the piece to its original position in the boat.

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