Virginia 1819 build log – Part 23

I made sails!

I was a bit disappointed with the loose stitching and wobbly edges of the kit-provided sails, and wondered if I could do better. In the picture below, the originals are above and my replacements are below.

Original and new sails
Original and new sails


I chose a sheer cotton / linen blend fabric. It was difficult to work with, particularly as the cut edges would fray easily. Using an idea from this article on the Lauck Street Shipyard site, I stretched the fabric over an old picture frame, then brushed on a coating of diluted white glue and allowed it to dry. The stiffened fabric was much easier to work with.

After a lot of struggles with creating clean edges, I finally found success after acquiring a narrow rolled hem presser foot for the sewing machine. I created each sail by drawing its outline onto the fabric, then drawing a second line 1/4 inch out from each edge. (The narrow hem presser foot creates a hem of doubled fabric 1/8 inch in width.) I cut the fabric out along the 1/4 inch line, then folded and pressed it at the original line. By feeding the fabric with the fold always at the right edge of the entrance to the presser foot, as in the picture, I was able to get a perfect hem (usually) all the way around.

Sewing the hem
Sewing the hem

The next challenge was sewing parallel seams across each sail. I wanted to avoiding leaving any marks on the fabric, and my wife suggested that I use tape as a guide. I tried using some Tamiya masking tape I had on hand, and by a happy coincidence, I discovered that the width of the tape (6mm) exactly matched the distance from the left edge of the standard sewing machine presser foot to the needle.

Sewing the parallel seams
Sewing the parallel seams

The final results weren’t perfect, but not too bad. In hindsight, I should have done the sewing with a darker thread, so that the seams would show up better.

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