STUDIO 103 @Sand Sea and Air Interiors

Upholstery for Yachts, Aircrafts, Home, Hotels and Office


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Foam failures and how to prevent them

Moldy Mattress Liner & Foam 2 copy

Exterior mattress that sat next to a Jacuzzi. An exterior mesh cover over Dri-Fast® foam could have prevented the deterioration of the vinyl cover over polyfoam. Stagnant water grew mold and the seams allowed the water and mold to seep into the polyfoam.

Terri Madden’s July/August 2017 article for Marine Fabricator Magazine.
Check out Sand Sea & Air’s amazing work with foam at SandSeaAir.com.

All marine fabricators who provide products for cushions, bedding and headliners face decisions on the best foam for the application. The right decision ensures quality projects and happy customers. The wrong decision contributes to foam failures.

Cheaper can cost more

Less expensive foams may seem like a good deal until you realize they can deteriorate far more quickly than pricier foams because they may include fillers and additives such as sawdust and soybean oil.

I saw this firsthand some years ago during the oil crisis when prices for petroleum-based products (like foam) shot through the roof. One supplier offered a less expensive marine foam that was not yet “captain” recommended—a definite red flag. Two years later we were contacted by a new customer to replace the deteriorated foam from that supplier.

Hi-LoFoamDeterioration

Here is one situation where a liner may have diminished the effects of sunlight. This image shows a commercial acrylic material on an exterior cushion where the polyfoam shrunk in the areas where the fabric was the lightest color. Interestingly, the foam was not affected where the dark stripes absorbed the sunlight. Photo Credit: Devin Genner

To prevent this sort of foam failure, only deal with reputable foam suppliers, ask a lot of questions and educate your customers who may not immediately understand why a more expensive foam product may be more cost effective in the long run.

Case study of cheap foam breakdown

A five-star resort hotel asked us to replace exterior cushions and daybed seating that were only two or three years old. One of the cushions looked like a former balloon that had been popped, another looked as if a wild dog had chosen it for a nesting spot and a third looked as if it had gastric bypass surgery!

Fortunately, we had not provided the original cushions and it was obvious the failure was due to a “budget” foam. A quality marine foam would have lasted twice as long. These cushions did not have liners—only exterior covers in an outdoor fabric.

Fabric liner considerations

Would a liner have prevented this issue? I don’t believe so. This

Lounge Seat Foam Shrinkage

This exterior daybed foam was one of several similar pieces at a resort property. It was a shocking example of foam shrinkage when inferior marine foam was supplied by a low-budget vendor.

was clearly a case of the cellular structure of the foam deteriorating in a commercial setting where the seating was used more frequently than on a private vessel. Fabric liners can prolong the life of exterior cushions in some marine settings, but there are important things to consider when using them:

  • Fabric type: Some liner fabrics are magnets for mold and mildew when used in an exterior application, and this will also affect the underlying foam. If a liner material is used, make sure it is mold and mildew resistant.
  • Application: If frequent cleaning will be required, foam placed inside a liner makes it easy to remove and reinsert into an outer cover.
  • Foam type: I generally always use Dri-Fast® marine foam here in the tropics where exterior cushions are frequently subjected to moisture. However, manufacturers offering water-resistant fabrics often question the necessity of using marine foam with their products. If your customer is on a tight budget and will be storing the cushions indoors when they are not being used, you might be able to use a less expensive foam.
Wet Seating under Cover

Asked to replace these old bow cushions, I was surprised to see how wet the cushions were underneath a protective cover that did not appear to be torn or broken. To prevent this, a water-repellent finish could have been applied to clean cushions at the first sign of water seepage. A breathable, water-resistant cover would allow for water runoff.

Good cushion foam choices

Open-cell reticulated foam has extremely open pores that allow water and air to flow through it easily and is available in soft, medium and firm densities. These foams are comfortable and stay cool when used for seating cushions and mattresses. Dri-Fast (sometimes called marine foam) is a high-quality open-cell reticulated foam formulated with an antimicrobial agent to prevent mold and mildew. When paired with an outdoor cushion fabric for the top and sides with a mesh base, it creates a virtually maintenance-free all-weather cushion that is easy to clean without removing the foam, making it an ideal choice for most boat cockpit cushions.

Closed-cell PVN foam (also known as flotation foam) is three times firmer than polyurethane foam and is a more expensive option. Its buoyancy makes it a great choice for flotation applications like floating cockpit cushions and life vests. It is also a good choice for commercial boat seating or other seating that will be used as a step for getting on and off the vessel. PVN foam resists water absorption, so you can safely cover it with any type of fabric. Thin sheets of closed-cell foam are often glued to the bottom of other foam, adding additional support to a cushion, like a box spring to a mattress. When using it with Dri-Fast foam, cut holes in the closed-cell foam for drainage.

Supposedly Marine Foam Breakdown

These two-year-old exterior cushions were provided by a well-known manufacturer. Perhaps budget constraints determined the use of polyfoam and the fabricator thought a water-repellent liner would keep water out. Verify the specifications of the materials you use to avoid this situation. We omitted the liner and used Sunbrella® fabric with Dri-Fast foam.

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Restyled sleeping cabins

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Terri Madden’s May/June 2016 article for Marine Fabricator Magazine.

Interior sleeping cabins on a vessel have always been my favorite projects. I enjoy researching options and ultimately providing customers with tidy solutions that offer easy accessibility.

Cabin spaces and mattresses come in all shapes and sizes. One of my clients claims to sleep 14 people on his 54-foot Bertram with only three interior cabins, but that’s a story for another time. On my first sleeping cabin project, the vessel had no foam or mattresses, and the sloping hull areas required patterning that I could barely fit into. A recent project on a Ferretti master cabin had a walk-around queen bed and headboard with massive oval windows at sea level.

Plan the job

  • Determine the time needed to do the job. This is essential in putting together your quote to know what your profit on the project will be.
  • Determine qualified personnel to pattern, assemble and remove items from the vessel.
  • Identify adequate machinery and equipment to complete the project.
  • Purchase the materials, keeping in mind availability and delivery issues.
  • Determine what fabrication skills are required to do the work. Decide what work can be done in-house and what duties will be outsourced. For example, who will do quilting?
  • Determine the process and dates for re-installation of items removed from the vessel.
  • Under promise, over deliver.

Start with good communication

When meeting a potential customer, good communication sets the stage for a successful project. Keep in mind that your customer may be unsure of your skills and how the design process works.

Develop your plan based on the facts you received over the phone or in person. Do as much discovery ahead of time and prepare a list of the key points that you and the customer must address in your first meeting. Research the vessel: know the model, year and size. Find out the customer’s primary goals, time frame and budget.

Listen to what your customer is asking for, confirm and recap the key items that were mentioned and requested during your meeting. Be honest if this is work you can provide. Then let your customer know when you will get back to him or her to offer your best recommendations.

For new cabin interiors, having a second meeting is generally necessary. You will want to discuss material selection and confirm layouts, styles and measurements, especially if design changes are being made rather than duplicating existing covers and window treatments. Take plenty of photos of all cabin areas; these will be invaluable references during your project.

Many materials are suitable for interior marine applications. I recommend offering your customer two groupings that will accommodate the agreed-upon budget and time frame of the project.

Once an agreement is reached, it is time to get started. For a recent master cabin project, the decision maker lived “off island.” She requested new textiles for the master cabin of a 60-foot 2003 Viking. The four coordinating textile patterns were selected online during a phone conference for the following:

  • A three-part headboard
  • A queen-size bed frame in one large section and two smaller sections
  • A fitted quilted bedspread for the existing mattress that sits within the bed frame
  • Two pillow shams with accent trim
  • An oversized neck roll pillow
  • Navy-colored fitted sheets in 100 percent cotton and 600 thread count.

Selection of materials

Fabric selection can be a daunting process unless your customer knows what he or she is looking for. Some customers know what design theme and colors they prefer, such as casual nautical styling or more sophisticated residential bedding. Because fabrics vary widely in cost, it is important that you and the customer agree on the budget, particularly because bedspread quilting and specialty fabrication quickly add to the budget.

Our showroom offers a large selection of indoor-outdoor fabrics from which our customers can choose. However, sometimes customers select online fabrics, as did our customer. Because she
selected four online fabrics, this required extra time. Her choices appeared to be a good match on the computer monitor, but they were very different “in hand.” Be certain to give yourself sufficient time to request and receive samples before purchasing.

What appeared to be plenty of time turned into a final rush to meet our deadline due to unforeseen decisions and delays. The delays occurred for reasons outside our control, including:

  • An additional two to three weeks was needed, as we waited for the requested samples of the original four fabrics. Two fabrics were woven patterns that were fine, yet the main fabric for the bedspread was a bright print that did not match the other materials. Time slipped by as we sourced the best replacement fabrics and waited for new memo samples.
  • A matching solid blue fabric was needed for the bed frame, because the original choice was back ordered past our delivery date.
  • Extra time was needed to verify that all fabrics were in stock and ready to ship.
  • Photos of replacement fabrics were sent to the customer, then we waited for her final approval.

Even though a local company had agreed to do the quilting, the wait time was more than a month after it received the fabric.

We needed additional time for the in-house quilting and procuring a large matching flat sheet for the lining and the Dacron® fill.

Some of you specialize in interiors and provide fitted quilted bedspreads. However, if you want to begin offering this item, be aware that a standard 54-inch fabric has to be pieced evenly on each side of the center of the 54-inch fabric to look and fit correctly on a master stateroom mattress.

This type of mattress can measure more than 65-inches wide.

Once you have an extra large size for the length and width, plan the quilt design that can be anything from an outline pattern to an hourglass pattern. For our project we decided on a diamond motif.

Over the past few years, several of our clients have purchased flat quilted bedding from online sources like Pottery Barn. We then adapt the quilt to the mattress shape. This is an affordable option you may like to recommend, especially for bunk beds.

For those who would like to offer quilted bedspreads, Tabors of San Angelo Inc. is a custom workroom in San Angelo, Texas, that provides high quality quilting for bedspreads, pillow shams and pillows. We have used this company in the past. You can send them a pattern with specifications, request a catalog or contact them at http://www.taborsofsanangelo.com.

Fitted sheets

The original mattress shape was designed to permit movement around it on three sides. The headboard was angled, and the rest of the mattress was one long curve. Including fitted sheets with an order is a nice addition for an irregular mattress. I always recommend starting with a king-size sheet set, which may seem large, yet it allows for adequate yardage for the fitting cuts, darts and a new elastic casing under the mattress.

Follow these steps to make a fitted bottom sheet:

  • Cut off the elastic band close to the edge of the sheet.
  • Place the sheet over the mattress so that it hangs down evenly at the sides from the top.
  • Use any of the original darts at the corners that may work.
  • Continue to dart the corners and transitions around the mattress as needed, usually four to six darts.
  • Mark the sheet at 17-inches down from the top edge; this will be your cut line and edge to turn, fold under and stitch closed with a half-inch elastic within the new casing band.
  • Stitch in the original care label at the head of the sheet for customer identification when making the bed.

Our order for the king fitted sheet set was placed online at Bed Bath & Beyond, because it was one of the only sources that had navy 100 percent cotton sheets in 600 thread count.

After two weeks and no delivery date or tracking info, I placed a replacement order. Unfortunately, there were no sheets in this style and color available. A nearby Macy’s had navy sheets but they were in a 500 thread count. Once again, more time was needed to contact the customer, get her approval, then order the sheets. Almost three weeks later the sheets had not arrived. Tick Tock. The original lengthy deadline was closing in.

Delivery time

The delivery date was less than one week away when everything finally came together. The anxious customer was thrilled to receive photos of the completed project. From there, the mattress and bed frame were installed on time. The customer loved the fitted sheets and coordinated look that fit together like a jig-saw puzzle.

Even with vision and careful planning on a project, sometimes we have to step back, evaluate and add more time to our estimates. Obstacles can cause delays and stress. That stress can eclipse a team’s feeling of pride over a successful project. At the end of projects, take time to think about what you’ve learned. Try to recognize early red flags that you perhaps overlooked. Finally, acknowledge all the things you did right to deliver a quality project.


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Meticulous prototyping leads to attractive cylinder cushions

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Terri Madden’s September/October 2016 article for Marine Fabricator Magazine.

You can browse the PDF, or read the text version below.

Approaching a project with cylinder cushions is kind of like trying to put a square peg into a round hole, you have to approach the solution by thinking “outside of the box”. The box being what we are familiar with when constructing cushions – foam in rectangular shapes, cushion covers with standard size side bands and upper and lower faces of equal dimensions. Ok, so you’re starting to get the picture, or you’ve visited a job site and been requested to fabricate cylinder cushions; all of the sudden you’re walking on uncharted territory. You can approach the challenge by welcoming it as a learning opportunity and break down the stages into manageable sections. If there are multiple pieces, you’re already a step ahead as fabricating more than one piece will add to your profit ratio.

Over the years we’ve been asked to fabricate several unusual items that may or may not be a product that we have no way of knowing if it will be a “one hit wonder” or an item that will “take the market by storm”. A while back we started charging a prototype fee, a few hundred dollars to develop and fabricate a concept for a customer, a prototype then goes to a set price based on the final quantity. We consider the customer and this price sheet found on the Internet:

Price List

I design everything – $100

I design – You watch – $200

I design – You advise – $300

I design – You help – $500

You design – I help – $800

You design – I advise – $1300

You design – I watch – $2100

You design everything – $3,400

This pricing may or may not apply to your project, yet do consider the learning curve if you’ve never fabricated a cylinder that will attach to tubing. I recommend setting aside several hours of uninterrupted time to develop the concept and fabricate prototypes in order to evolve the best solution when you do not have a pattern or a good existing cover that you can take apart for your project. When you build this factor into your project, the understanding that you are being compensated for your talent, will inspire your solutions and result in an award worthy project.

If the customer wants to use existing cylinder foam, evaluate how the foam shape has conformed to the original covers and if at all possible, move forward with new foam. This is very important as the old foam may need a topper in order to properly “fill out” a new cover! You can order dry-fast foam cylinders, cut to size, available in three densities of firmness, including the cut-out for the tube in the cylinder center. On the illustrated sketch you can see the diagram we submitted when we ordered new foam from Reliatex Inc. They have facilities in Jacksonville, Tampa and Miami, Florida. Be sure to allow sufficient lead-time for any supplier to cut and ship your product.

Getting Ready to go for the Gold

Ok, so now you’ve analyzed the task, the quantity and style of cylinder cushions, and determined a price that you and your customer find agreeable.

When we measured the original cylinders we realized that they were all slightly different lengths and that one standard size would work well within the tubing frame spaces. Additionally, a standard size would be less production time vs. custom sizes and the overall project would be more visually appealing. We include an extra 1/2″ more or less for our finished foam size (based on the foam density) when ordering new foam, so that the foam “fills out” the cushion cover.

As the actual time for fabrication approaches, having the foam cylinders on-hand is essential for proper pattern placement and achieving the best final fit.

For this project we approached the cylinder design and prototypes without an original pattern, since the original covers were not the quality that we would replicate. Now our basic guidelines were our roadmap to reach our goal to design and fabricate tasty cylinder covers to fit over the stainless tubing; cylinders with an 8” diameter and a length of 27”. It was now in our hands to make removable covers for 4 cylinders with inserts in medium density foam, which would provide sufficient for firmness for seat backs so guests could enjoy relaxing moments while at sea.

In the past we fabricated jacuzzi pool cushions on tubing that helped us in our approach for this project. The jacuzzi cushions were designed for a more permanent location, whereas the cylinders for this project needed to be removable by the crew on a 42’ catamaran.

Our Solutions

  • We started with the round ends first. The circles were cut to include a 1/2″ seam. We cut two – 8” circles of vinyl for each side. We generally cut our foam and material the same size in order for the foam to “fill-out” the cushion cover after the seam allowance reduces the cushion size.
  • We placed the vinyl circles face to face.
  • On the inside of the vinyl we marked the center hole for the tubing cut-out and a line for an opening along 1/2 of the diameter for an access opening, when the finished cylinder would need to be placed over the tube.
  • We stitched along outside of indicator line for the opening slit, around the circle for the tubing and down the other outside line for the opening slit.
  • We cut next to the stitching between the lines for the access opening and around the center hole – removing the excess at the center hole.
  • We turned the layers to the right side and top stitched the layer opening “in place”. Then we trimmed the inner facing layer as seen in the photos.
  • The cylinder ends would secure closed with a Velcro flap whereas the center of the cylinder would incorporate a #5 jacket zipper. The tails of the jacket zipper would hide inside of the sides of the cylinder and be accessed via the Velcro opening and closing next to the tubing.
  • A piece of 2” Male Velcro formed the flap as one edge of the Velcro was sewn to one side of the opening under the tube hole and a piece of 1” Female Marine Velcro was sewn to the other side of the 4″ opening. This insured that the area would hold tight in a closed position when the cylinder was placed on the tube. See photo.

I’ve included a few photos of the Jacuzzi cushion that was made with the zippers extending into the side ends showing the stitching sequence & pole placement cut-outs, which were underneath of cushion zipper.

  • The cylinder center was measured and cut with seam allowances included for the zipper.
  • The two ends of the cylinder were sewn to the center panel
  • The jacket zipper was sewn to a turned edge of the center panel, leaving a 3″ tail at each end, where the cylinder side ends met the center panel.
  • The foam was inserted into the cover (we spray a dry silicone when inserting foam into covers, as it reduces the resistance of the foam and material).

I included photos of a unique striped canvas cylinder project that we observed on a vessel, cushion covers definitely in need of replacement, yet the vessel was not in San Juan for the project to be realized.

The finished cylinder could be easily placed on the tubing, inserting the foam over the tubing, closing the zipper (tucking the zipper ends into the foam and securing the end circles via the Velcro. By carefully maneuvering the foam at the cylinder ends the male and female Velcro would secure/close the space below the tubing to where the zipper connected. The end result was sleek cylinders with hidden access areas for easy removal and installation. Additionally, at the time of installation we wrapped the tubing with nonskid to hold the cylinders “in-place”, as the original cylinders had unsightly zippers, which displaced to various locations on the tubing.

Not only were we proud to deliver a handsome project, the captain and owner were equally pleased. The design and fabrication process is in our library of cushion styles and will certainly be a valuable example when the time comes to reproduce cylinders that fit into and on special spaces that require Stylized Solutions!


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The art of project management on contour cushions

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The horseshoe-shaped seating for an aft cockpit required an elaborate checklist to ensure that all the customer’s requests were fulfilled.

Terri Madden’s July/August 2016 article for Marine Fabricator Magazine.

You can browse the PDF, or read the text version below.

Marine fabricators are a unique group of craftspeople and business owners. Many of us are familiar with the notion that creative pursuits are right brain activities, while math and logic are left brain activities. As marine fabricators, we utilize the right sides of our brains for design solutions that meet customers’ aesthetic and practical expectations. At the same time, we utilize the left sides of our brains for business activities like managing shop operations, doing complicated mathematical calculations, and making sure that all project specifications are completed.

The two sides our of work come together through good project management skills, so each person on the team knows what he or she is responsible for and the corresponding deadlines. My business has been fortunate to have an inspiring coach who repeatedly stresses, “Any project that we don’t plan will take us to hell!” Most fabricators would agree with this motto.

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Sketch and measurements for seven seats and four bolsters

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The pattern for the cockpit cushions

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The side view and front view of a single aft seat

Detailed spreadsheets

We use an Excel spreadsheet to list the job details from start to finish along with realistic timelines. The details we include are:

  • Travel to the job site.
  • Patterning at the vessel with all cushion perimeters marked and all identifications noted as well as photos.
  • Materials needed. If necessary, include your research time to identify customers’ preferred choices. Check for stock items, submit purchase orders. Follow up with local suppliers or on items being shipped.
  • Production card planned with name of team member(s) and their respective tasks and processes.
  • Team review with photos to discuss scope of job, time frame, and assigned tasks.
  • Examine the patterns for all necessary indicators such as notches, zippers, seam joins etc. For the project described in this article a non-skid backing was included.
  • Layout diagrams for materials and foam.
  • Cutting directions for material.
  • Sewing details, including any training, if required.
  • Inspections and daily review to insure accuracy and timing.
  • Foam cutting and Dacron toppers.
  • Foam inserted into covers.
  • Inspection of new cushions before delivery
  • Transportation and installation at vessel.
  • “After” photos to post on Facebook, other social media sites and newsletters.
  • Job review with team members

Reviewing this list of everyday responsibilities can be eye opening. Depending on the size of your business, you may have separate personnel handling these tasks, or some employees may have multiple tasks.

Verify that all of the details are noted on the final pattern, to insure that each component of your project will be delivered in a timely and profitable manner. As you know, any forgotten detail will cost you time and employee frustration.

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6-7. Early and final patterns for a single seat cushion. 8. Notched contour area for accurate joining of top and bottom faces. 9. Bottom face with non-skid fabric and zipper installed.

Planning sleeker contour cushions

A recent fabrication project involving contour cushions for a 43-foot catamaran drove home the importance of project management. For this seating project, the scope and sequence of the project was complex. By thoroughly detailing every aspect of the job, I could accurately project the time needed for the production schedule, including the purchase of materials.

Our creativity was unleashed on this project as we experimented with a sleeker contour for the new catamaran cushions. The captain of the vessel had forwarded sufficient details with an area layout along with material preferences and requirement dates. That was enough information for us to provide an estimate.

We commenced to pattern the horseshoe shaped seating of the aft cockpit, which we learned is the most used seating area of this vessel.  We prepared a checklist to review with the captain during our visit to confirm the details for the following:

  • Cushion design. See sketches and final pattern indicators for a sleek contour at tubing locations.
  • Total number of cushions.
  • Materials for top and bottom material.
  • Thread type and color, topstitching details.
  • Zipper color, size and slider location. We like to place slider tabs on the inside for cushions that won’t be opened frequently.
  • Foam type and density.
  • Dacron toppers.
  • Nonskid base.
  • Piping, ties, snap tabs, Velcro and other components.
  • Starboard base. For the captain seat we supplied a new ½-inch panel of starboard.
  • Bolsters and accent pillows, including quantity and sizes.

All of this information was used as the guideline for filling in our job spreadsheet. We entered all data and updated the spreadsheet for a final accurate job cost. Keep in mind that job sheets can act as templated guides on future projects; we can tweak similar spreadsheets for new projects with just a few changes.

We include the following:

  • All job materials.
  • Separate pricing for all components and percent mark up.
  • Quantities.
  • Shipping costs.
  • Task times for each phase (total labor hours) for a final accurate job cost.

After the seating project was started, the boat owner requested the patterns with the job. In the past we have been asked to retain patterns, and we keep a 2 percent inventory of material in case the owner needs an emergency replacement. Currently, many projects are digitalized and it is easy to maintain or provide a duplicate for any item. Company policies vary for storing and providing job patterns. Terri, what is your policy? Only one design co has asked us to retain patterns for  1 year.

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10. Inside view of notch indicators at contour and zipper detail. 11. Outside view of cushion at a corner contour for tubing and topstitch detail to hold seams in place. 12. The first step involves sewing the outside edge of the zipper tape to the inside of mesh. 13. For the second step, on the outside of the mesh, cut open the mesh along zipper teeth. For the third step, fold the mesh toward the tape edge and top stitch.

Encouraging your employees 

Project management includes encouraging and coaching your employees. Shop owners and managers need to ensure that employees have the skills to thrive under pressure, and that requires communication, training, and recognition. We need to cultivate new employees by exposing them to small projects where they can gain confidence. All employees, no matter what their length of service, need to be recognized for their skills that result in a well-executed project.

At the end of a project, ask your employees what their biggest learning experience was. Point out aspects of the work that you appreciated. Build on their strengths and coach them on their weaknesses. It is essential that team members feel satisfaction for contributing toward a successful project.

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14. Don’t be fooled by the clean look of new cockpit cushions; the elegant outcome is the result of detailed planning and execution.


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Elegant performance in stripes

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Terri Madden’s March/April 2016 article for Marine Fabricator Magazine.

You can browse the PDF, or read the text version below.

Stripes come in every color, shape and size…a two-color stripe can even be juxtaposed to form an eye-catching pattern. Striking stripe patterns can be matched or combined with solid colors to provide dramatic effects for your next project. Stripes are more popular than ever and Sunbrella likes them so much that they featured subtle as well as dramatic stripes on their 2016-2017 Upholstery Fabric Brochure. Stripes can be placed horizontally or vertically to give a low and wide effect versus a high or tall dimension to a space. As Marine Fabricators, we even get to play with stripes around curved edges and contour corners. The sky is the limit, yet we need to apply some earthly planning to ensure that incorporating stripes into a project is a winning solution.

Every year new patterns and colors are developed that invite fabricators to create different looks on board a yacht; classic, modern, chic or sophisticated. A sailor stripe sets off an eye-catching look, especially when combined alongside various shades of brilliant oranges or you can offer a subtle pallet of clay and charcoal that is a modern interpretation of European inspired designs with architectural precision.

If you’re not familiar with fabricating with stripes it can be a bit of a challenge, yet you can welcome the opportunity, as stripes are synonymous with boat décor and make a dramatic nautical impact on any yacht and your choices of colors and sizes are endless.  I was a bit daunted as to how to proceed for a few of the projects and spaces that will be explained and illustrated in this article. I want to give you that ‘step-ahead’ when your next customer inquires and selects a striped marine textile for their boat. Some essential design elements for you to consider are the following:

The Repeat of a Fabric

The repeat of a fabric refers to the number of inches it takes before the pattern starts all over again. It is the distance between the starting point of the pattern to the point where that pattern starts over again. This is referred to as “one repeat.”

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 2.49.09 PMWhen choosing a fabric for a project, it is important to know the repeat of the pattern you are considering.  The repeat can have a big impact on how much fabric you need, and what that product looks like on a sectional seating with multiple cushions compared to a single cushion.

Any type of patterned fabric will always have a repeat, and the supplier generally provides this information.

The average repeats size of a stripe is between 8” and 9″. A cushion layout needs to be planned ahead of time, for ordering the correct quantity of fabric as well as the best use of the material.

Recently we provided a few color ways to a customer in a handsome nautical stripe. We received two swatches from a supplier of the nautical pattern below; one was a navy/white/tan color way and the other was a teal/white/navy color way. The customer selected the navy/white/tan color way and when we went to order the material we were told that the pattern repeat was 16″. Ironically the teal/white/navy color way was a continuation of the navy/white/tan color way, yet with several more white stripes, which our customer did not want. Additionally, the 16″ repeat would have been extremely difficult to pattern as well as a significant amount of fabric waste for matching cushions that would sit “side by side.”  Below are two swatches sewn together to show the full repeat!

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16″ Fabric Repeat

Also, it is always wise to have your customer select not only their first choice of material for a project, but also a second choice as time between fabric selection, confirmation and you ordering materials may result in your customers #1 choice not being readily available.

Location

Determine the cushion(s) placement, will it be side-by-side, will there be a corner cushion that joins next to other cushions to form an L-Seating area?

Design of the Cushions

What will be the cushion style? Common types are: rollover designs with side bands, rollover designs with corner seams, rollover designs with baseball corners, Side bands in a contrasting stripe placement, Side bands in a solid matching fabric.

If the cushion is a banded cushion, you have three options:

Vertical Stripes

The contrast of a horizontal band to a vertical stripe on the band of the cushion actually can work nicely depending on the stripe.

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Vertical vs. Horizontal Bands

When the face of the back cushion runs vertically, your seat cushion stripes must be patterned so that the stripes match perfectly. A piping accent may be used to enhance the construction transition to a side band in the horizontal or Vertical direction and consistency should be your guide for all cushions.

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Solid Color Band

This can be your best option whether you are just getting started working with stripes, or an experienced fabricator. A solid border and band work nicely when you have a contour corner area to fabricate.

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Above is a combination of a stripe fabric insert with a solid border in a marine vinyl.

It is wise to photograph the area and then sketch or draft examples over the area for consideration to determine the best option for your material direction, project space and a budget when you are estimating time and cost; as project planning, layout and construction time can easily add up when multiple pieces are part of a large layout, as seen below.

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One of my all-time favorites is this Ralph Lauren stripe, juxtaposed for a classic and dramatic impact! Note the stripe placement on the top bands of the corner cushions.

I’m including a few photos of our projects as well as some interesting others that illustrate the variations I’ve explained above. Look around and notice the placement of stripes on cushions and pillows whenever you see them in a residential, commercial or marine project. Trust your instinct, as to what works best or do a mock-up to guarantee a winning combination.Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 2.50.53 PMThis master cabin bedcover works well with the horizontal stripe on the side banding. The border stripe on the accent pillows unites the patterns for a cohesive look.Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 2.51.03 PMThese contour cushions are sewn with the stripe as an insert and solid banding and edging on the seat cushions – found on the web – however, notice that the top left back cushion stripes do not match the seat stripe!

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An inviting aft cushion seat, seen at a recent boat show.

In the seating images below I am certain that someone spent a significant amount of time planning and fabricating these striped seat cushions. The side band makes a nice transition on the double seat with a baseball corner. The solid piping provides a clean transition to the stripe in the horizontal direction on the double seat.

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Double Seat – Horizontal Side Band, Baseball Corner, Solid Piping and Rollover Face

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However, I imagine we could all enjoy contemplating the various solutions as to our “best shot” for the corner cushion when a rollover design with this stripe was planned for the multiple seating on this yacht. Send along your thoughts, ideas and any photos you have for a similar project that you may have encountered, I’m interested and welcome your input!

May you enjoy ‘Smooth Sailing’ into Spring!


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Cushion security issues

Terri Madden’s September/October 2015 article for Marine Fabricator Magazine.

You can browse the PDF, or read a text version below.

I love going to boat shows, especially to investigate how all of the new boats keep their cushions attached. Traditionally cushions were snapped or screwed through boat rails and/or secured via T-nuts or spider bolts to wood bases. Now there are options like ridged plastic Velcro found in industrial supply stores; while top of the line vessels push industrial designers to design attachment options that are invisible to the viewer. Researching the names, keeping current with new components and their suitable applications may seem daunting, yet it can bring significant rewards. When your customers present a cushion installation challenge, all of the hardware options in your database can deliver a flawless and secure award-winning project.

In this article I’ll explore some of the materials you may be familiar with, while offering some upgraded information as to the brand names and many of the MFA supplier resources that can assist you in the future to fabricate cushions that stay in place during wind, rain and the high seas. For trailering a boat it is best to advise your customers to check & stow cushions if there is any chance that they will fly away. You can also offer protective covers as an upsell item that will protect and extend the life of your customer’s investment.

There are several boat manufacturers who have Forum sites on the Internet for customers to express concerns, questions and solutions that may guide you for a particular model and cushion style solution.

For my very first cushion project, my customer wanted to know exactly how many holes I was going to drill into his beautiful Birdseye woodwork to attach the 13 stud screws to hold the snap tabs on his cushions. I’m sure if I were installing the project today I would find a hidden system that would affix the cushions on board. Interior boat cushions slide and shift around as much as exterior cushions, yet the approach to adhere them may vary significantly.

Attachment Materials to Consider

  • Snaps – Traditional, yet have to be placed with 100% accuracy. Installation requires forethought as snaps on expandable vinyl without reinforcement pullout after a few removals. Drilling or installing screws into fiberglass or gel-coat requires caution and screws should include a bit of a marine sealant when setting them.
    • Always include site installation time when replacing cushions with snaps. Only a 1/16” variation from the original snap location will prohibit a cushion from fitting properly.

See photo: Snap Failure

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  • Velcro – There are different types – While each type of fiber offers its own benefits, the type of task it will be performing is the best way to make a selection. Nylon and Polyester are almost identical in appearance. The major difference between these two types is their lifespan. Nylon fasteners can open and close 10,000 times while polyester fasteners have a lifespan of 3,500 openings and closings.
  • Nylon Velcro – hook and loop fasteners provide a sturdy and reliable hold and are far and away the most common hook and loop system at a better price point.
  • Polyester Velcro – does not absorb water, is resistant to mildew and is the most resistant to ultraviolet light. Velcro hook and loop fasteners made of polyester provide a strong hold and closure. Polyester Velcro can be double or triple the cost of Nylon Velcro, yet it is my preferred choice for boats in the tropics.

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 12.33.35 PMAbove: Velstick, Velcoins & Dual Lock

  • Velstick – A semi-rigid, high impact vinyl extrusion with Velcro Hook or Loop Tapes permanently attached. Velstick fasteners were designed and developed for those applications to rigid surfaces where speed and simplicity can be accomplished with the use of rivets, screws, etc. Designed for easy use, Velstick fasteners can be cut with scissors, drilled or punched. It is ideal for all kinds of marine use. Traditionally it is offered in 1” x 48” strips in both White and Black – Hook and Loop. It is also available in 1.75” x 48” in Black Hook thru Trivantage.

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 12.34.16 PMCushions held in place with 2” Velcro sewn into cushion back & Velstick secured to surface.

  • Velcoins – fasteners that are available in several different diameters for lo-profile attachment points with acrylic Hook & Loop Velcro.
  • 3M™ Dual Lock™ Reclosable Fasteners – a fastener that can both durably attach and be easily separated; you get the permanency and strength of a screw with the ease and aesthetics of a hidden fastener. It is a recloseable fastener that locks into place and provides holding power 5 times stronger than conventional hook and loop.
  • Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 12.34.32 PMYKK® PowerRail® Hook & Rail SystemThis product is an engineered lightweight hook and rail system for wall and panel hanging and other applications. PowerRail hook fasteners provide superior holding strength and flexibility. I chose to include this type, even though I have yet to use it; I think it is an interesting application to securely hold large cushions to vertical surfaces. Any feedback would be appreciated.

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  • Hooks & D-Rings – traditional interior upper sofa seat cushions are held “in-place” via a snap hook on shock cord, sewn into the upper cushion and connected to a D-Ring on the lower cushion. A small hand helps when attaching these cushions.
  • Webbing with Hardware – For this windy deck we used 2” webbing with a turnbutton eyelet sewn into the cushion underside. The turnbutton post was installed underneath the wood frame. Tip: Always include sufficient installation time on your estimates/invoices as travel and installation time add up, especially when more than 1 person is required.

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  • Grommets – all sizes and even colors – an aid to secure pillows on a windy deck.

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  • Zippers – yes, they can help hold cushions that join one to another! This zipper placement was designed to prevent the neck roll from falling off the cushion or rolling forward.

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  • Keder Welt – check that you use the correct style & diameter for the track application you are installing – the flat style welt below avoids screw heads in the track. Diameters of welt and track vary so order with caution…

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  • Costa Track – is heavy-duty PVC, center-mount track. It is designed to replace flange-style track. Used for a variety of enclosures and cushion applications. It can be heat-formed to most radii and is predrilled every 4 inches. With built-in countersink for the seating of screw heads, the large channel opening allows keder welt to slide through unobstructed. Lengths are available over 8ft.

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 12.36.59 PMAbove: Costa Track, Flange Track, Flex-A-Rail

  • Flex-A-Rail A flexible, non-corrosive, PVC extruded awning track for kedar ropes. It is a lower profile than the Costa track and it is great for twisting around corners for easy installation. You can heat it if necessary to bend. It is easy to cut with a hacksaw. Use flat or oval head screws and 3M VHB tape to help install.  It is available in White or Black.  Consider setting with a square head # 6 with a #4 screw for the best fit thru the small center opening. Track, screws and screwdriver are available through Bainbridge.

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 12.37.35 PMCosta Track and Flex-A-Rail Installations

I’ve included most of the typical solutions and images for cushions security systems we’ve encountered here at Sand Sea and Air in Puerto Rico…and yes we’ve gained new customers when we have been called upon to replace cushions that have flown overboard when another contractor did not consider foresight. Below is a cushion challenge that incorporated track with keder welt in the bow, snap tabs at the hatch opening cushion and webbing with turnbuttons on the Port and Starboard sides. May your sea legs steadfastly carry you through your next cushion installation!

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Salon sofa upgrades

Terri Madden’s June/July 2015 article for Marine Fabricator Magazine.

Browse the PDF here, or read a text version below.

The waters of San Juan, Puerto Rico have been home to many Bertram yacht enthusiasts ever since Richard Bertram opened a 25-acre plant in 1962. I have had the good fortune to hone my skills and deliver full interior projects for several of the various models.

From the moment one steps aboard one of these classic vessels there is an appreciation as to why the Bertram 50 convertible which debuted in 1986 was dubbed ‘the slickest Bertram yet’ by Boating magazine.

The Caribbean is well known for tournament fishing and in 1995 Bertram introduced the Moppie 46, which was capable of speeds faster than 37 knots. It was well suited for fishing tournaments and cruising down-island. Simultaneously the 54’ convertible interior was redesigned whereas the classic hull was left intact “because you don’t change perfection.”*

It is no wonder that after a history of 50 years these vessels have a predominate presence on tropical waters and now a second generation of owners retrofits these vessels and our expertise is called upon to refurbish and improve upon the original seating for the safety and stability of the owners, regardless of the location or conditions out on the ocean. In this article I will detail the decisions, design changes and conclusions for fresh new looks on a sofa of a 2001 Bertram 51’ and a 1996 Bertram 50′.

My first impression from the moment I step aboard a 50’ boat doesn’t have to be my lasting impression. I delight in planning and fabricating a functional and contemporary style that maintains the integrity of the classic lines of a vessel. Collaborating with customers is sometimes like a Tango, yet it is an essential component whereby the final outcome reflects the taste of the owner. There has been an explosion of suitable marine materials in fabric, vinyl or leather that fabricators can provide for a basic as well as dramatic effect in the marine environment

Especially for the creative minds of marine fabricators…the sofa is generally the most frequently used piece of furniture on a boat and the materials particular to the class of vessel like a Bertram command an elegant statement yet they must withstand company and crew who may even ‘live aboard’ the boat. Captains generally have to provision the boat and store items under sofa cushions for get-a-ways and fishing excursions. These areas must be easily accessible yet the exterior material takes the brunt of everything from fishing poles, grocery boxes to refreshments. Yet in less than a few hours it must make a Cinderella transformation for owners and guests.

You may be contacted for a retrofit on a vessel as soon as the owner takes charge of his new boat; sometimes they don’t like the manufacturers design or the boat had been a display model. In this case the “Style” may still look current and just a change of material will suffice.

I have generally been contacted to re-do the interiors when a boat changes owners and the boat is 5-15 years old. Materials may be worn and the style look “dated”. Generally the sofa on a 50’ boat is an L-shaped design to provide maximum seating in a tight space. Currently some vessels have a rectangle sofa on each the port and starboard side. In this case your work may be less as smaller sofas can be easily transported to your shop and side-by-side alignment isn’t necessary.

This is your opportunity to improve upon the design, especially if the frame is good.

Tips:

  • Check the alignment of side-by-side pieces. It is crucial, as we almost missed making a 1” height adjustment on the factory model of the Bertram 51’.
  • Start with pictures of the sofa at every angle.
  • Measure twice for ordering materials.
  • Keep in mind the additional time required if you are removing the original material outside and inside storage areas.
  • Seat foam generally should be replaced, yet back foam may be ok to reuse with a Dacron topper.
  • Trends – visit boat shows to see the 2015-2016 designs.

Considerations:

  • Will you make design adjustments?
  • Style adjustments: Contemporary or Traditional?
  • Will you modify the existing frame, design/location/type of modifications?
  • Is the overall ‘look’ sleek, pleated or oversized?
  • Are corners pleated to save time or seams fabricated with accent topstitching?
  • What will be the cushion style: rollover fronts, banded sides, matching or contrast piping?
  • Are sofa corners with or without arms?
  • Are the seat & back cushions designed with a flat surface, or a Hi-Lo combination of foam and contours?
  • Will Memory foam toppers add comfort to the arms?
  • Surface Materials: Fabric, Vinyl or Leather?
  • Thread:  Contrast Accent of matching color – Thread size?
  • Material combinations and types of materials: pattern alignment: stripe, plaid, geometric, combinations of quilted and solid sections increase the level of difficulty.

Bertram 51’ 2001

This boat was frequently used for fishing and entertaining and the customer contacted Sand Sea and Air to replace the leather in an Ultra Leather (vinyl), as part of a complete refurbishing project.

Upon inspection it seemed odd that the sofa side arms were unusually high as well as narrow for the proportion of the sofa. The owner liked our idea to: widening the arms, lower the arms by approximately 6” and insert a memory foam topper for comfort across the top of the arms. New high-density seat foam replaced the worn out seat foam; deterioration was due to the frequent use and travel by the owner to nearby islands.  All of the seat cushions were reversible and the foam was Dacron wrapped for a plush look with a refined style.

The new contour on the arm was noted at the boat and the section was cut off from the top of the original arm frame after the original material was removed. Sampling and patterning was needed to position the material on the sofa back where it had to be “filled-in” and extended to meet the top of the new ‘lower’ arm.

Bertram 51’ Sofa: Before / In-Process PhotosScreen Shot 2016-06-29 at 12.07.28 PM.pngAttention to the final height of adjoining sections is extremely important and placing the side-by-side frames next to one another during assembly is highly recommended. As it would be very time consuming to correct adjustments on the boat once the back of the sofa is stapled and closed.

Our client was extremely pleased with the design and the comfort on the refurbished sofa sections.

See: After PhotosScreen Shot 2016-06-29 at 12.08.20 PM.png

Bertram 50’ 1996

This client grew up on a Bertram 50’ and he had fond memories of his time spent aboard. His recent purchase of a 16 year old yacht had a navy sofa that looked “old-fashioned” and he and his sophisticated wife were delighted to know that ‘the bones” of the L-shaped sofa were good and that our reputation proceeded us to transform his boat. The pillow backs that attached to the back and the arms of the frame were removed and we scheduled mock-up visits for the new design and material selections.

A rollover design was selected for the individual seat and back cushions to soften the overall appearance; whereas cushions with side bands would have looked ‘too boxy’ with the rectangle lines of the frame.

We put an extra layer of foam on the back frame and fabricated individual higher ‘pillow-back style’ cushions for more comfortable sofa seating.

Bertram 50’ Sofa: Before                                                      Sofa: Mock UpScreen Shot 2016-06-29 at 12.09.15 PMThe sloped frame on the arms was reshaped to a squared edge to match the sofa frame.

The navy leather on the original frame was replaced with beautiful and durable Sunbrella “Salt” Sailcloth that coordinated perfectly with the ”Taupe”, “Cinnamon” and “Ivory” materials on the ottomans, coffee table and dinette.

Bertram 50’ Sofa: In-processScreen Shot 2016-06-29 at 12.10.47 PMThe final dramatic sofa lines were in balance and harmony with the classic foundation of a Bertram.

You can achieve this goal on every sofa project also; no matter what the size, make or model; experience helps, do your research and trust your instinct!

Bertram 50’ Sofa: After Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 12.11.56 PM.png

*www.Bertram.com/timeline/