Repair or Remake?

There are so many “creative opportunities” for canvas on the boat.  The question — can you repair an item to extend the life or is it time to remake and start over?  That question came up recently over aging hatch covers.  Hatch covers are a relatively easy sewing project (see my post on hatch covers).  I’ve seen many different styles, some with fancy top-stitching or cut outs for hinges for example.  But really you can make fairly simple hatch covers that will serve the purpose of protecting your hatch lenses.   We seem to lose one or two a season during a big storm.  I’ve started cutting out an extra one when I’m remaking one so I have a jump on the next one.

Right now I’m two hatch covers short.  Those jumped to the top of the long sewing list.  But another one is clearly falling apart.  I decided to get that one out of the way first by repairing it. The stitching has rotted away in the sun (sun loves to bake thread) and the shock cord that is supposed to hold the hatch cover on under the frame is hanging out.  My thinking was that the fabric is still in reasonable shape – a bit dirty but it will get rain washed.

Last spring I repaired the companionway cover.  It was getting ratty looking and was starting to show wear where the lock is.  I decided not to take it apart and pattern a new one.  Again I decided the main fabric was still quite serviceable and it was well made initially.  I added a top and bottom overlay and added Shelter-Rite on the underside as chafe protection against the lock.  Then added new binding to the sides.  Voila.  We should get several seasons out of it yet.

Two seasons ago I remade the teak ladder cover.  The patches needed would have made it look like a quilt.  I patterned a new one off the old and reinforced areas with Shelter-Rite.  The material had worn through in too many places. It turned out that it had different cut outs on each side and I turned over the fabric without realizing it so I had to remake the remake because my openings were on the wrong side.  The details will get you every time!

Here’s my criteria for when to repair vs. remake:

— Is the main piece of fabric still serviceable for the purpose?

— How much time?  Repairs can take a good amount of time too.

— Can the seams be reinforced to extend life?

— Will the repair last at least another six months or until you have time to replace or remake? What is the service life you need for the item?

— How much time do you have considering other priority projects are on your list?

— What are the costs of the materials?  Worth stretching what you have? How much do you have to spend on the project?

— Do you have parts or material or notions that will work with the existing item for a repair?

— How important is the item the canvas is protecting?

— How easy is the repair vs. how hard it will be to remake?

— Is the problem cosmetic or functional?

What would you add to the criteria list?  What have you repaired that you just wished you had replaced?

2 thoughts on “Repair or Remake?

  1. I wasn’t familiar with the Shelter-Rite that you mention above so I went to the link at Sail-Rite to find out about it. Unfortunately (for us all) it’s no longer available. Can you tell me more about it and if there is something comparable that might be used to replace it?
    Jackie on sv Lively Lady

    1. Good news (and a little bad news). Shelter-Rite is still available from Sailrite. The bit of bad news is just not in Navy for those of us using Navy aboard. The link was to Navy. Thanks for the heads up. I’ve updated the link. Shelter-Rite is a wonderful product as it really is a great chafe guard. I made line chafe guards out of it with Velcro fastenings. I also used it on our dinghy cover. It is pretty heavy vinyl like fabric. Kinda hard to describe. Not hard to sew on a heavier machine.

      There is also Stamoid which I have not worked with. It may be lighter at 12.7 oz vs 18 oz for Shelter-Rite. It’s also more expensive. And, there is Seamark. You might want to order samples first to compare and consider based on your project plans.

      This is an interesting comparison of outdoor fabrics to review:

      Thanks for the link info and the question.


Leave a Reply