Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New DIY Cockpit Cushions

Oh the joy of having created new cockpit cushions. For years now we have gotten by with only Type IV throwable flotation devices as our only comfy things to sit on in the cockpit, and not enough of those. I always fantasized about cockpit cushions but it was never a higher priority than other urgencies on the boat, so we stuck with what we had. Amy and the boys are always tucked under the dodger there and snuggled up tight. With only one pad, there was plenty of cold hard fiberglass under most of them.

Doing what I love best, which is creating DIY cheap solutions to otherwise expensive projects, I had long been conjuring solutions to the cushion problem. The problem is that professional cushions are not only expensive, but take all the fun out of making them. The problem with making them yourself is that foam is very expensive.

My solution has been to use those very same cheap Type IV Stearns flotation cushions as the foam, and to wrap the whole thing burrito style in the sunbrella that matches my canvas: Captains' Navy. There are no doubt better solutions, but I'm thrilled with the cost and ease of this one.

On Aeolus it takes three cushions per side to span the length of the seat. I ordered the cushions from Defender because they are cheaper than anywhere else I could find (per usual) and soon enough had my six cushions and yards of Sunbrella fabric.

First I sewed the cushions together with a strip of scrap fabric so when sitting on the big cushion we would not feel the gaps between individual cushions. My goal with the whole project was to make a nice, tight cushion.

This being done, I just sewed up the burrito and massaged the connected cushions into it. Getting the burrito right was simple but precarious. Too small and it won't fit, but just a bit too loose and the cushions would slide around inside too much. My technique worked great, and I must say I couldn't have done a better job. The cushions just barely were able to slide into the burrito and it was a nice snug fit.

By the way, I do all my machine sewing on an old hand me down Pfaff 1222E from around 1972. All metal, West German, and able to handle canvas with ease. Don't make em like that anymore. Amy's grandmother bought it new and it has been in the family and working ever since. Take that planned obsolescence.

To finish the end I did it pretty much like a gift wrap. I had to hand sew the final end. I think it looks rather nautical myself.

Now we have wonderful cockpit cushions that will last many, many years. The sunbrella matches the other boat canvas and really looks sharp. My wife is thrilled, as she will use them even more than me.

My estimate of the cost per cushion is about $45. This is $10 per Type IV flotation device and about $15 of fabric. If you were clever and patient, you could probably scrounge used cushions and scrap fabric from a local canvas shop if you weren't too picky about the color to make it even cheaper. I thought $45 was a screaming deal for perfect, great looking cushions.

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