Spray Hood and Dodgers

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The damage

My Dodgers suffered major "flogging" damage last year. Close inspection indicated they were beyond repair; the canvas was failing along the seams so new dodgers seemed like the only way forward.

After some research it seemed like it was possible to use our old "Jones CB" sewing machine to make some new ones. In fact, on further reading, older sewing machines like the Jones and Singer seemed preferable to more modern kit that use plastic gears and lacked the "oomph" of the older machines.

If, like me, you don't use the sewing machine often this is a good time to make sure that all the moving parts are oiled properly.

What you're going to need

  • Sewing Machine
  • Thread
  • Needles & Pins
  • Seam Ripper
  • Scissors
  • Hole Punch
  • Eyelets
  • Eyelet Tool
  • Chalk
  • Canvas
  • Stiffening Material

The Material

Vinyl reinforcing

Acrylic canvas is the best material. I bought PU coated acrylic canvas (coated with Polyurethane) which was a mistake; uncoated would have been better and slightly cheaper. But having got it I decided to proceed.

My original dodgers also had pieces of pvc located where the dodger would rub against the steel uprights of the pushpit.

There was also pvc re-inforcing wherever an eyelet went through the material; this seemed a good idea and worth replicating.

I also had bags either side for storage of bits of roads, perhaps the tail of the rope from the furler etc. These have a shock cord draw string at the mouth and piece of mesh at the bottom of the pocket to allow water to drain out. I wanted to replicate these too.

Needles and Thread

Jones with the feeder

There are two weights of polyester thread that you can use V69 and V92. These are the best to use as they have good resistance to Ultra Violet (UV) and are very strong. These are generally used with a size 16 and 18 needle respectively. I decided on the heavier weight (V92) for strength. I just bought 1oz of the thread initially to see how I got on. If you're worried about the straightness of your stitching (like me) it's worth getting thread the same colour as the material.

I also bought two packs of size 18 needles. It's reckoned that a needle has a working life of about 8hours much less on the heavy material we will be sewing. At the first sign of trouble try changing the needle.

One of the characteristics of both these threads is that it needs to be pulled of the top of the reel unlike a conventional cotton thread that feeds at right angles. To facilitate this I made a feeder out of piece and wood and a coat hanger to allow the thread to be pulled off the top of the reel.

Brass Eyelets

Die and eyelet

There are two types of eyelet available, with and without "spurs". The spurs engage with the material and provide a more secure fixing.
The spurless type are marginally cheaper but really not worth bothering with.

I bought a steel die here SDProducts and 100 3/8" spur eyelets.

The die is basically two pieces of steel that you put the two parts of the eyelet between and clout with a hammer.

Tension Headaches: Setting up the Sewing Machine

If you don't use the sewing machine very often it really is worth making sure that you've got everything set up correctly. It's so easy to misthread the machine or bobbin or even put the needle in the wrong way round in which case nothing will work.

Take an off cut of material and try to sew few stitches. Does it look ok front and back? In all likelihood it won't. If you need to make an adjustment on the tension, just do a quarter turn at a time, sew a few stitches and review the outcome. It really is a process of trial and error but eventually you will find the setting that works. Take your time on this and don't lose heart.

Once you think you have it, double over the material and sew again. Still good? Double again and sew some more. If you can sew through 4 thicknesses of canvass, you're there. Lastly, if you're using any other "stiffening" material as well take an offcut of that and sew to the canvas. Still all good? I think we're done....


Double rubbed hem

I'm assuming here that we just want to make rectangular dodgers. If your shapes are more complex refer to Don Casey's book; the chapter on canvas work is quite comprehensive.

We're going to be doing a "double rubbed hem" all round our rectangle of canvas. So if we allow 2cm for the "inside" turnover and another 5cm for the "outside" we can add 14cm (2X7) to our desired length and 14cm (2X7)to our desired width. So, for example, if our final dimensions need to be 2200 X 600 we would start out with a piece of fabric 2214 X 614. Another way of looking at it is to just measure up the space you are trying to fill from top life line down to the toe rail. Then losing the width of the hem all the way around will give you enough space for the lacing.

Don't be tempted to try to make your inside hems much narrower than 2cm; acrylic canvas is very stiff and narrow hems are very fiddly to try and tuck under to sew.

At this point it's probably worth taking a piece of scrap and trying to make a hem along one edge.

Making a start

Having cut you piece of canvas to the correct size, select a side to start hemming. Probably one of the shorter sides to begin with in case it all goes pear shaped. Turn over your hem to give you a 70mm hem. Use an Iron to make a nice sharp crease.

Cut some backing pads from your stiffening material, 45mm X 100mm should be fine.

Work out where you want your eyelets and insert the backing pads into the hem at the appropriate points and fix them in place using pins. Don't put the pins too close to the edge as that's where our first line of stitches will go. You won't need stiffening material at the 4 corners as that will be quite stiff enough.

Now run a line of stitching along the outer edge keeping the foot of the sewing machine parallel with the edge of dodger. Remove the pins, fold the other edge underneath the hem and run another line of stitches parallel to the other edge. You can carry on this process on the other two sides. However, if you are installing pockets, you will need to leave this side unstitched until the pockets are made and ready to be sown into place.

Making Pockets


You need to work out how big you want to make your pockets and allow another 20mm where there's a hem (dotted line in rather rudimentary diagram).

Pieces 1 & 2 make up the back of the pocket. Piece 2 is the mesh material that gets sown to Piece 1 with a hem.

Piece 3 is the front of the pocket and is about 30% wider than the back. The extra 30% is used to make a "tuck" (which is what the two vertical lines denote). The two red circles show the approximate position of two eyelets. The grommets are for a piece of shock cord which will give the mouth of the pocket some definition.

So the order of work is:

  • Sew Piece 1 to Piece 2.
  • Install the grommets.
  • Turn over the top of Piece 2 by the grommets and sew to make a channel that the shock cord can be thread through.
  • Place the two remaining pieces together so that their bottoms line up, and the face side of the material is on the inside.
  • Sew the 3 remaining hems.
  • Feed a piece of shock cord through the eyelets and knot either end.

Once the pocket is finished it can be sewn into place behind the hem of the appropriate edge of the dodger.

Installing Eyelets

The hole making tool normally has a revolving head with different hole sizes and is typically used for making holes in leather. Select the largest size, it probably won't make a big enough hole for the 3/8" eyelet so you'll probably have to nibble around the edges to get the size you want. I decided I wanted the "tooled" side of the eyelet inboard with the pristine side facing out.

To achieve this place the piece of material face down and position the non spurred side of the eyelet on the base of the die and feed through the hole. Lay the spurred side of the eyelet on top, position the male part of the die through all both parts and strike several times with a hammer. You might want to experiment on a piece of scrap material first.


These are the only viable approaches to doing the lettering as far as I can see:

Buy letters in a contrasting colour to your dodgers and sew them on. You could also cut them out of a piece of canvas to save a bit of money. This is the cheapest option.

Alternatively, buy letters in sticky backed "Dacron" and simply stick them to the canvas. This is the easiest option, more expensive, and the one I went for.

Update Oct 2013. After two seasons the letters started lifting at the edges and had to be sewn on anyway.

What it Cost (2012 prices)

3m Acrylic Canvas £47.00
1m Stiffening Material (vinyl in my case) £3.99
1m Mesh Material £4.99
10 Size 18 needles £5.48
1oz reel V92 thread £5.99
Eyelets £14.00
Letters £50.00
Total £131.45


I have seen 8ft dodgers for £108. Having the lettering done is extra and costs about £6 per letter. This would add an additional £72 in my case. Off the shelf dodgers don't usually have pockets this might add another £30-40 to the total price.

So while my savings have not been dramatic I have saved a few bob. More importantly I have got exactly what I want and had the satisfaction of doing it myself.




Don Casey "This Old boat"


Acorn Canvas

Solent Sewing Solutions

Kayospurce Ltd

Hawke House

Martex Marine

Funky Monkey Boat Names