STUDIO 103 @Sand Sea and Air Interiors

Upholstery for Yachts, Aircrafts, Home, Hotels and Office


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Affordable cushion alternatives

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There are several cushion design options to offer a customer with a limited budget. The cushions shown here have butterfly corners, which resemble a boxed corner, but involve fewer fabrication steps, translating to a lower price point. This affordable and efficient solution allowed us to deliver a client’s project within an aggressive time frame.

Terri Madden’s May/June 2018 article for Marine Fabricator Magazine.
Check out Sand Sea & Air’s amazing work with cushions at SandSeaAir.com.

It is often challenging to offer successful cushion design solutions when a customer wants a champagne look on a beer budget. Getting the answers to the following four questions during the initial client meeting can make all the difference in finding an affordable solution that leads to a satisfied customer:

  • Who is the final decision maker? This may not be obvious, yet knowing this is critical to the success of the project.
  • What is the scope and time frame of the job? Perhaps the customer wants a full boat refit—and wants the salon cushions delivered in time for next month’s vacation. Can your production team meet that time frame?
  • What is the budget? This can be an uncomfortable conversation, but it is necessary. Knowing the budget up front will reduce customer frustration and prevent you from offering solutions that may be far out of reach.
  • What is the value of this project to your customer? Is it to resell the vessel at the best price possible with the least investment? Is it an upgrade after an insurance claim settlement? There are many possibilities, and understanding the value will help you offer the best solutions to your customer.

A recent challenge

Sand Sea and Air was contacted by a new customer who lives outside of Puerto Rico. He purchased a sailboat with large salon areas consisting of spacious seating on both the port and starboard areas of the salon. Hurricane María had damaged the vessel and he had thrown away 24 cushions and wanted new ones by the following month when the family was leaving for a live-aboard summer adventure down island. He had purchased the vessel at a bargain price and wanted new cushions at the “best price” possible.

Old photos of the vessel showed lumbar seating that was not reversible and held “in place” while out at sea in wavy weather. This usually involves several fabrication steps, which translates to a higher price point for cushions. The primary challenge was to tackle this job in the most efficient manner possible to provide an affordable solution and deliver the project within the desired time frame.

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Everything a project requires adds to the cost. For this customer, we included marine upholstery fabric, UV thread, medium-density polyfoam for the seats, and for the cushion backs we chose to utilize smaller pieces of stock foam triple-wrapped with Dacron®. Depending on cushion size, you might consider purchasing affordable bed pillows.

Assess the variables

We had our client review a checklist of options to confirm his priorities, such as tie-down solutions so that the cushions don’t go flying on bumpy seas. The checklist was our guide to effectively planning an affordable and winning solution that was within budget, comfortable, easy to maintain and secure.

Based on our customer’s request to fill spaces that originally housed 24 cushions, we devised a way to fabricate a single cushion in an hour. Doing the math with a shop rate of $100, his cost was already $2,400 without the cost of foam or fabric. This is why knowing your customer’s budget is crucial to planning, fabricating and delivering a profitable solution. We budget our proposals to bring the cost of goods within a margin of 35 percent. Assessing all these factors allowed us to design a cushion that provided durability, comfort and style at a reasonable price that was also profitable for us.

Plan your cushion lengths to the size of foam sheets available in your area for the least joins or waste. Theoretically, from a sheet of 55-inch by 75-inch foam you can get six seat sections at 25 inches by 25 inches or four seats that are 25 inches by 37 inches. Fabricating four longer rectangle cushions takes less fabric and time than cutting and sewing six square cushions. Additionally, fabricating only rectangle cushions for the seat cushions is a more affordable option than intersecting corner cushions with diagonal edges at each corner, which involve considerably more construction time. Reducing the overall quantity of seat cushions to a total of five long rectangles rather than the original 13 helped us keep the budget affordable. To secure the cushions on the vessel, we included a 2-inch band of Velcro® across the bottom of the cover prior to assembly.

Use the tips in this article to provide seat and back cushions with corner details that reduce fabrication hours and translate into affordable and attractive solutions for your customers.

Screen-Shot-2018-04-27-at-10.51.41-AMHigh style on a budget

Boaters want to sink into a safe and cozy spot to enjoy their time at sea. So why not create back pillows that offer the comfort of a bed, yet look classy for family and guests? Boxed cushions are the most widely used cushions for residential furniture and boats. They are tailored and frequently include a welt or piping with the boxing sewn to the top and bottom pieces of square or rectangular cushions.

However, a mock box cushion provides a lot of style for very little effort. It looks like a box cushion, yet it does not have the separate boxing strip. The fabric top and bottom pieces are measured and cut to include the area for the boxing, and corners can have a short seam or corner stitch to create a tailored, squared-off look. Other corner options include butterfly corners and Turkish corners (sometimes called a gathered corner). Similar to a box cushion, the mock-box cushion can include a zipper welt with a bit of practice.

MockBoxCushionMock Box Corner Prep

Image 1: To prep the basic cushion pieces, measure and mark with pins identical top and bottom pieces that are the exact size of the foam form (obtained from your pattern). On each of the four edges, add half the finished boxing depth. For example, the cushion foam form is 25 inches by 25 inches with a 4-inch boxing; this requires a 29-inch by 29-inch top and bottom piece for a cushion without a zipper, or add ¼ inch on edges where a zipper will go. Cut the two pieces, install the zipper, and then close the remaining seams, pivoting at the corners.

Squared-off corner

Photo 2: Separate each corner and ease open seams and align one seam on top of the other. Measure down from the corner half of the finished boxing depth, drawing a line across the corner, perpendicular to the matched seams; the length of the line should be equal to the finished boxing depth. Stitch securely across the line for all four corners. Option: Finish seams with a serge edge and/or topstitching.

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Photo 3: This corner is similar to the soft-box corner, yet it is less tailored and resembles a butterfly wing.

The corners are trimmed diagonally and then folded into inverted pleats. Measure in from each corner along the raw edge half the finished boxing depth. Mark these points and connect with a diagonal line. With the pieces together, cut along the diagonal line at all four corners. Fold to find midpoints along the diagonal, and mark these points with pins placed perpendicular to the diagonal edges. Separate the pieces with the right side of one piece up. At each diagonal cut, make two folds that meet at the center pin. Sew a tacking stitch to hold the folds in place and repeat at all four corners. Turn the cover to the right side and insert foam or Dacron® fill.

TurkishCornerCushionTurkish corner

Photo 4: Sometimes called a gathered corner, this corner has an exotic flair that is easy to make. Stitch the top and bottom pieces as described in the butterfly corner, and secure the corners from the wrong side. Start at one corner and measure from corner stitching along each seam line half the finished boxing depth. Mark these points on the fabric edges. Repeat on the remaining corners. Use a compass or small bowl to mark a curved line connecting marks on both the top and bottom pieces (eight curved lines in all). Put one hand into the pillow and reach into one corner “cone.” With your other hand, run a small gathering stitch (using strong double strands of thread) around the circle formed by the curved lines of the two pieces, opening the seams as you come to them. After encircling the corner, pull the gathered thread tight, wrap it around the gathers several times, and take a few tacking stitches to secure. Repeat at the remaining corners. Do not trim or cut the corner. Turn to the right side and insert foam or Dacron fill, working the filling into every corner.

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Selecting the best fabric

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Photos 1 and 2: Designer and private label textiles, such as this Ralph Lauren anchor pattern, can cost $100 or more per yard. Using a matching tone in a solid Sunbrella® fabric on the zipper bands and bottom lining can help keep a project within budget.

Terri Madden’s March/April 2018 article for Marine Fabricator Magazine.
Check out Sand Sea & Air’s amazing work for marine environments at SandSeaAir.com.

Thank goodness for Dr. Google! When sourcing textile options for projects, fabricators can simply type in “marine fabric” and up pops a plethora of vendors and nautical-themed images. You’ll find individual maritime insignias that correspond to each of the 26 letters of the alphabet as well as graphic illustrations for almost every kind of nautical hardware—from anchors to navigation wheels. Also in abundance are fish patterns, playful sea horses and giant photorealistic renderings of marlin, swordfish and many other images that can be used on accent pillows, custom cabin quilts and pillow shams on larger vessels.

Budget for success

The initial discovery meeting with your client lays the groundwork for a successful project. Obviously, you will discuss the scope of the project, color palette, etc. But most importantly, you need to understand the client’s budget. Clients often avoid giving you a firm number, but moving forward without a sense of the budget can be a tremendous waste of time for both you and the client.

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Photos 3, 4 and 5: Images such as flags and the nautical alphabet add dramatic flair to interior decor.

As you narrow your offerings down to a few key textiles that fall within your client’s budget, keep in mind that you can introduce a dramatic fabric as a focal point with as little as one yard of material. Using dramatic textiles makes a strong impression and helps ensure your position as a preferred fabricator. Check with your supplier about minimum quantity requirements, yardage availability and lead times.

It’s important to have a realistic sense of how much yardage is required for the items to be fabricated and to charge accordingly. For instance, an L-shaped sofa can easily require up to 14 yards of material. If your cost for material is $25 per yard plus a 50 percent markup, this translates to $525 for the fabric alone. Cost has to be taken into consideration if the project requires foam upgrades. Additionally, calculate the time and cost of removing the original material, fabrication of the new covers and the installation. And keep in mind that projects incorporating fabrics with patterns will require additional yardage.

At Sand Sea and Air, we use spreadsheets to calculate the material costs for each project, the fabrication steps necessary and the time each step requires. After we complete a project, we go back to analyze and record any changes that affect the final “true” costs and profit for each project. This system ensures we’re not losing money on a project and helps us tweak our budgets moving forward.

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Photos 6 and 7: This pattern required us to balance horizontal and vertical repeats as well as a hinge fold in the bow cushions to accommodate the incline of the vessel. The final seams on the pilot and copilot seats reflect a harmonious transition, yet it was extremely challenging to fabricate the high/low back cushion in harmony with the seat cushions.

Tricky cabin tricks

Creating bedding for fitted mattress covers and cabin quilts presents specific challenges. Mattresses often have oval curves rather than a traditional rectangular shape, and you many need to work around framing that holds mattresses in place. Also, a master cabin bed is generally 60 inches wide, yet material is often available in 54-inch widths. To ensure you have sufficient material, it’s important to calculate and construct the additional sections on both sides of the center yardage with consideration to the pattern repeat on the top panels. I prefer to use the full 54-inch-width as the center and then use narrow bands of 4 to 6 inches of fabric on either side.
Additionally, side mattress bands can be as high as 10 inches, which means a good portion of the side bands will be visible. You will need to maneuver the fabric pattern repeat to get the most attractive part of the 54-inch width in the band front, with seams joining as needed toward the sides.

We recently fabricated fitted mattress covers for a queen-size bed in a Ralph Lauren anchor pattern. The material had anchors twisting left and right, some in opposite directions, while others were in the same direction along adjoining rows. Since this fabric was expensive, we used a matching tone in a solid Sunbrella® fabric on the zipper bands and bottom lining, as they would not be visible once the mattress was onboard. This helped keep us within budget and ensured a successful project.

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Photos 8 and 9: It’s important to calculate the waste factor on side-by-side cushions when the visual pattern must remain harmonious. It can be as much as 14 inches, as was the case in the Kravet® Turquoise Flamestitch pattern with a 17-inch height repeat. Fortunately, that was exactly the height needed for the upper back cushions. We darted the excess fabric in the center of the curved corner cushion so the sides maintained the continuous visual repeat of the pattern. We also manipulated the fabric along the sides and back of the bow headrests to continue the dramatic pattern seen on the front of the cushion.

As you fabricate the details of your projects, imagine each one as a winning entry in the Marine Fabrication Excellence Awards. Careful planning and execution will create a complex masterpiece that embodies more than form, fit and function for your customer; it will provide the personal satisfaction of a job well done.


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Keeping up on trends in marine upholstery

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Photo 1: The exterior upholstery on this custom-built vessel by Nor-Tech offers tones of sand and ivory in different, yet complementary textures of vinyl.
Photo 2: The decorative topstitching in contrasting colors on the seat of this custom-built vessel by Deep Impact is striking. Formerly flat cushion surfaces are transformed with visually appealing diamond-quilted patterns on ergonomic high-low surfaces. The boat show featured an extensive use of a double diamond quilted pattern (using the beefy stitch known as a cable stitch).

Terri Madden’s September/October 2017 article for Marine Fabricator Magazine.
Check out Sand Sea & Air’s amazing work at SandSeaAir.com.

Boat shows are a rich resource.

When was the last time you attended a local or international boat show? If it’s been awhile, I recommend you put it on your agenda. To stay a notch ahead of the competition, professional marine fabricators must be aware of new concepts, designs and materials. Viewing new boats at boat shows is an excellent way to keep abreast of the vast assortment of new options so that when a customer is considering a refit, you can maintain the integrity of the vessel yet offer tasty, new selections that deliver a fresh impact that enhances the style of the vessel.

Recently, I attended a local boat show where standard vessels like Boston Whalers and Grady-Whites were on exhibit as well as some striking custom vessels with state-of-the-art upholstery techniques that commanded top dollar. Not only were these vessels showpieces, one salesperson of a custom boat manufacturer said the company had a 32-vessel waiting list with an 18-month delivery time frame.

Here are some of the new materials, trends and ideas that struck me as I wandered around the show.

Vendors are a research treasure trove The marine vendors at boat shows, as well as those who support the Marine Fabricators Association (MFA) regional and national conferences, are a valuable resource—so take advantage of them. They provide sample cards and books of their current offerings, as well as larger swatches for your special projects; customers love to view and touch the materials onboard their vessels.

Make sure to review the manufacturers’ data on the backside of the sample cards. It’s filled with information that can help you compare specifications regarding lightfastness and the all-important Wyzenbeek test results for abrasion.

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Photo 3: Serge Ferrari’s Stamskin One and Batyline Eden upholstery materials offer extreme durability and resistance in outdoor environments.
Photo 4: Here is a classic rope pattern by Ralph Lauren® for an indoor/outdoor acrylic fabric being used as an accent pillow with a ¾-inch rope trim our customer decided to showcase on her salon sofa.

The Wyzenbeek test determines the number of times a material can be sat upon before it shows sign of deterioration. The number of “double rubs” are a measurement of a fabric’s abrasion resistance. To conduct the test, a piece of cotton duck is stretched over a mechanical arm and passed back and forth over the test fabric in each direction. Each back-and-forth motion is one double rub. These results are listed with most fabrics and are helpful in determining which fabric is right for a particular application.

Just last week I was looking for a commercial-grade vinyl and upon contacting a local salesperson, I learned about a vinyl that could withstand 1.5 million double rubs. We are currently working with a designer who will not even consider a material less than 50,000 double rubs. Gathering this type of information is essential to operating within a customer’s budget and to understanding the value of one product over another.

Impressive upholstery materials

A few top-of-the-line materials stood out at the show. Serge Ferrari manufactures an extensive range of technically advanced materials whose value surpasses the cost per yard and is an excellent offering for marine upholstery projects. Stamskin One, the “skin” touch material, offers extreme resistance in outdoor environments. It includes an outstanding seven-year warranty and is available in more than 24 colors, in either a matte or soft grain texture.

This material is impervious to oils and creams, such as sunscreen. It offers easy care and maintenance and is safe to use with alcohol-based cleaners. There are no “pinking” issues with this marine vinyl, as there have been with other vinyl-based materials, since no plasticizers are used in the manufacturing process of Stamskin One. Consider this thermal material that offers comfort, fire resistance and breathability for your next project.

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Photo 5: Throughout the 25-year life of this 83-foot Cheoy Lee vessel, the original owner selected exterior fabrics by Kravet® and JF Fabrics for the bow and bridge seating. The vessel hull was white with turquoise accents. It seemed only natural to provide sample selections that showcased this color palette.
Photo 6: Even though the material specifications noted that the horizontal pattern was a 17 ½-inch repeat with a 14 ¼-inch vertical repeat, it was extremely challenging to estimate the quantity of material. Even more challenging was maintaining the repeat layout during construction so that adjoining seams and cushions aligned to showcase the visual repeat of the material, especially on the curved corner cushions.
Photo 7: The classic herringbone pattern with a wave effect on this outdoor acrylic from Kravet was the client’s top choice. Since this pattern was very dramatic, Sand Sea and Air recommended a solid matching turquoise for the seat cushions. The contrast provided a perfect harmony for the spacious seating areas.

Serge Ferrari’s Batyline Eden is an extremely durable mesh material consisting of PVC and acrylic that combines strength and softness to produce a textile with the “hand” appearance and texture of an open-weave material. It is resistant to rot, mildew, UV radiation and fading, with a backside coating that provides a 100 percent waterproof mesh. It is a unique and comfortable material for your customers.

The comfort factor and ease of care make it a prime consideration for your next project. Whether for seating at sea or on exterior furniture, it is an impressive and functional material.

Contact either your local vendor or Serge Ferrari for color cards and pricing. Serge Ferrari is also an active participant at the national MFA and IFAI conferences, with an extensive assortment of other high-quality marine materials.

Sunbrella® fabrics are a far cry from the solid “canvas” that most fabricators were once familiar with. Sunbrella acrylic yarns are available to designers to create the patterns and textures that are now a virtual “Garden of Eden” in the marketplace. Designers at companies such as Ralph Lauren® and Kravet® have used Sunbrella in luscious patterns and textures at price points that are competitive to familiar brands, while others can exceed $200 per yard. The price may seem steep, yet just one yard can have a dramatic effect on your next project and be a showcase piece for the vessel owner.


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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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Fresh updates for older vessels

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Terri Madden’s January/February 2017 article for Marine Fabricator Magazine.

Most interior fabrication projects occur on fixer-uppers. The vessel might be vintage or it might be less than ten years old. While I always welcome the challenge of doing a better design than the original, there is a fine line between aesthetics and practicality. After all, the boat needs to be both comfortable and secure while cruising on the water.

Your personal and professional marine expertise is what draws in a client, but your finished project is what leaves a lasting impression with everyone who steps on board. Do your best early in your client discussions to understand the scope of the job, budget and deadline. Be creative in offering phases for a project if a customer request surpasses the budget. Be inspired by the vast selection available for indoor and outdoor textiles and the marine hardware and components that offer performance whether attached by tracks, snaps, magnets or one of the numerous Velcro® systems.

Help your clients understand that a lot goes into any marine fabrication project. Your customers will appreciate your guidance and knowledge on how to choose textiles that “look good and stay in place.” And do research on emerging trends on fabrics and components so your next project reflects a fresh design while representing tried-and-true fabrication techniques.

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Photos 2-5. Fresh colors and patterns to consider in interior design updates include aqua, black and white, citron, neutrals and mauves and neutrals and yellows.

Fabric trends

Observe your client’s sense of style and how he or she likes to dress. Does he or she favor a tailored look or a more casual shabby chic style? He or she may request boat decor in a similar style. Fabrics set the tone on any interior and are available in every option from basic nautical stripes and patterns, starting at around $18 per yard, to impressive designer jacquards, costing more than $150 per yard.

Do your research to understand the trends for the particular model and year of the vessel, keeping in mind that your upgrades will add value to the boat. My first client wanted his Bertram 50 foot to look exactly like the boat’s catalog, so that was exactly what we provided. Years later his grown son purchased a 1996 Bertram 50 foot which we restored in a manner reminiscent of the family’s original boat.

Be knowledgeable on other trends related to boat interiors. For example, classic interiors that include wall panels and headboards are currently incorporating extra padding and height, and tufted buttons are being utilized on headboards and sofas. Textile patterns are being juxtaposed to provide drama and flair.

Acrylic yarns have been incorporated into every imaginable color palette with textures and designs that reflect current trends. Marine designs with patterns, colors and textures are a bit more challenging than a residential or commercial project, because most cabin areas are visible on vessels up to 50 feet. It is a good idea to keep in mind the boat exterior colors. The waterline and hull colors are no longer a traditional white, so this is a good lead to follow in knowing a customer’s color preference.

Interior harmony is essential, especially after being outdoors at sea all day. Navy, yellow, orange or gray are common colors to choose. For larger vessels, it is a fabricator’s dream to utilize various palettes in individual cabins.

Most marine vendors launch their indoor and outdoor fabrics in the fall for the following year. You can get great ideas by contacting IFAI vendors now for 2017 color cards and fabric books. Observe trends in design magazines and visit local boat shows (see dates and listing on page 12) and the Marine Fabricators Convention from January 19–21 in Jacksonville, Fla., for more ideas. If you’ve never visited the IFAI Expo put it on your calendar now for September 26–29 in New Orleans. If it’s been awhile, attend this year to learn more about systems you will find useful on your future projects.

Fabric performance factors

It is important to be knowledgeable about manufacturers’ data or warranty information that is listed on their material specification sheets. Explain the important performance specifications to your customers. They will appreciate your expert advice on abrasion resistance, UV resistance, flammability, care and cleaning.

Durability. I first heard about the Wyzenbeek Test when I was obtaining a degree in textile design. This test should be kept in mind for making the best fabric selections for a project. The Wyzenbeek Test is regarded as the standard of measuring abrasion resistance or strength for fabrics in North America. Double rubs (each back-and-forth motion is one double rub) are a measurement of a fabric’s abrasion resistance. The double rubs you should look for in a fabric depend on your intended application.

In general, around 15,000 or more double rubs is considered heavy-duty for residential applications. We actually have commercial designers and customers who request 35,000 to 85,000 double rubs for their fabrics. Such fabrics are recommended for constant use, as in hospital waiting areas, airport terminals, restaurants, theaters and commercial vessels. There are vinyls that exceed 200,000 double rubs.

UV resistance. I am sure every fabricator has received at least one request to replace a cracked or brittle seat due to sun damage. Most suppliers of marine textiles include specifications with their product samples, so customers know how well the fabric will stand up to ultraviolet rays. Generally, fabric is rated for how well it will hold up under sun exposure ranging from 650 to 2,200 hours. The AATCC TM186-2015 Weather Resistance test measures a textile’s capacity to withstand UV light and moisture exposure.

Flammability. Flammability is the capacity of a substance to burn or ignite, causing fire or combustion. The flammability information generally listed on the supplier data sheets is the CAL 117E Test, but other tests may be included. The “passes” rating covers upholstery fabrics and filling materials and tests the interaction of the materials used in a piece of upholstered furniture. It is an important rating to be aware of.

Care and cleaning. We’ve all been asked to replace soiled cushions and other items that are more or less ruined. Often these items were provided by another shop. This begs the question, how many of us follow up with customers to see how well our projects are holding up? Providing follow-up after a year or so shows your genuine concern about quality and can often lead to more work.

Many fabricators are affiliated with a cleaning service that they recommend to customers. After a boat spends a year in the tropics without cleaning and maintenance, it is not easy to remove soil and stains from exterior applications. Yet some exterior fabrics now boast a five-year warranty with proper maintenance. I recently removed stubborn stains on a fabric that noted bleach could be used. To my surprise, Clorox Gel removed these deep stains. Be sure to test an area before proceeding with any strong stain remover. Again, most textile manufacturers include care and cleaning guidelines on their specification cards.

Hardware

Snaps, zippers and Velcro are traditional means of securing cushions in place, and several varieties of each exist. A Snad® is a plastic adhesive snap component that is available from YKK. It is available in various configurations for domed configurations or areas where a flexible base is required. It allows a snap to be adhered to a base where drilling a hole is not an option.

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AquaGuard®/Vislon® and Proseal zippers are great options to integrate into your new fabrications.

Zippers. Have you seen the glow-in-the-dark and reflective coil zippers? How about the AquaGuard®/Vislon® zippers from YKK? These can be incorporated into exterior pillows and gear. The Gooper Hermetic magnetic zipper by Paskal works well on outdoor applications. The Gooper technology integrates rare-earth magnets with a flexible thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) strip to provide a waterproof, dust-proof hermetic seal. I am currently using the Gooper on an exterior cover on a stainless Jacuzzi® where snaps are not an option for securing the cover. It works well because the magnets will hold the sides in place.

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The Gooper Hermetic magnetic zipper provides a waterproof seal.

Velcro. Industrial-strength Velcro Extreme fasteners feature an all-weather, UV-resistant adhesive for all surfaces. This is a handy option for indoor and outdoor applications without using drills, nails, screws or epoxy. It is a durable alternative for attaching seating, and it is frequently used for ceiling and wall panels and headboards on every size of boat.

 

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Snad® adhesive snap components are available in various configurations and require no drilling.

What projects do you have coming up this year that push traditional boundaries for solutions? I would enjoy receiving any questions and feedback on how you have incorporated my recommendations and techniques into your projects. You can contact me through my website at http://www.sandseaair.com. I wish all my readers a blessed, healthy and prosperous 2017!


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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!