Thursday, January 14, 2010

Starting to Sew

I am now starting to sew the canvas cover for the yurt. I am using a 13oz Sunforger canvas for the roof. It is all cotton that has been treated for water and mildew resistance. The color is natural. The roof should be light in color to let in the sun and also the lighter the color, the longer it will last against UV (since it reflects more light away instead of absorbing it if it was a darker color). I needed 34 yards for the roof, and the roll is 36 inches wide. I ordered the natural canvas from Kronke Co. in Hayward, CA. It was very convenient that they weren't too far away, because I went to their store to pick up my order instead of shipping it. Plus, the guy there was really nice over the phone.

34 Yards of Natural Canvas 13oz
34 yards of Sunforger canvas, 36 inches wide.

I also bought thread from Kronke Co., as it was convenient to just get everything together. To sew heavy duty material like a 13oz canvas, you have to use heavy thread as well. I bought a V92 weight polyester thread which is bonded. Make sure you buy the bonded stuff, because that really increases the strength. It feels thicker than normal thread, and it almost feels like there is a layer of wax or something over it, making it smooth. I bought 4 spools which were 4oz each.

V92 Bonded Thread
Two spools of V92 polyester bonded thread.

The sewing machine also must accept at least a No. 20 size needle. John, who let me use his industrial sewing machine (THANK YOU JOHN!), also gave me a set of No. 24 size needles, which I have been using with the V92 thread. It has worked fine so far. In addition to the industrial sewing machine, I bought an old White brand home sewing machine on craiglist for $25. I really love it! It is teal, chrome, and black. I think it must be from the early 70s. The home sewing machine was able to accept the No. 24 needle as well as the V92 thread. Before I started sewing, I made sure to oil the machines.

Today I began sewing the roof together. It involves sewing long strips of the canvas together, and then making a cone shape. I only got to sewing three strips together, because it took a long time. Each strip was about 16 to 18 feet long, and each seam involved three length-wise stitches. I made french seams, which are strong and water resistant. I am using the pattern provided in Paul King's book, The Complete Yurt Handbook, although I double checked all his measurements (they check out).

Starting a French Seam
Starting a French Seam on my home sewing machine.

When I used scrap fabric as a test, I learned that the home sewing machine can only punch through two layers of the canvas. When I added a third layer, the belt which drives the machine started slipping. But that was okay, because I didn't want to over work the machine, since I did have the industrial sewing machine too. The problem with the industrial one is that it is VERY hard to control. When you press down the foot pedal, the machine goes crazy - it sews very fast and hard. It has a motor which weighs 50lbs or more, and can seriously drive an air compressor. The machine can probably sew through metal! Not really, but it is a crazy machine. So first, what I did was sew the two canvas pieces together in two layers with the home sewing machine to start the french seam, since I was able to better control it. Then I took the fabric to the industrial machine to finish the seam, which involved sewing through four layers of canvas. Since the two pieces were already together, it didn't matter how crazy the machine got on me, at least I didn't have to line anything up. All I had to do was hope to sew in a straight line.

Completing the Seam
Completing the french seam with the industrial sewing machine.

So that's it so far. My sister is coming to visit in February and we will have a yurt canvas sewing party. The goal is to finish all of the sewing and have the cover completely done by the time she leaves. I think we can do it!

French Seam
A close up the a completed french seam.


paula said...

Thanks for the detailed post! Congratulations on your progress! The seam looks lovely.