Big Improvements in a Tiny Space

In a tiny space, comfort is very important. We can use lighting, paint, temperature, texture, furniture and fabric to help achieve a level of comfort that suits us best. I may live a much more simple life than I did before but I am still a homebody and I still value the warm fuzzy feeling I get when I am home, no matter how big it is. Despite the downsizing I did two years ago to before moving onto the boat, I retained a good amount of my favorite things that help to make my home feel more comfortable.

Since living aboard this tiny floating home I have definitely had a stronger desire to do more DIY type projects. The fabric on the cushions in my main living space was very tired and desperately in need of replacement. A project like that could cost thousands of dollars if I hired someone to do it for me. I thought to myself, “If I do the work, I could save so much money!” Now, keep in mind, I hadn’t sewn anything since 8th Grade Home-Ec, but here I was convinced that I could figure out how to make new cushion covers for my salon? Ya, right… I had no clue where to even begin. There were so many different ideas I had about how I could make my space a little softer and a little more welcoming but I think this was the biggest eye-sore of the room at the time.

I knew I wanted to choose a solid, light colored fabric to brighten up the space. A darker tone or busy pattern would make the room feel much smaller. But… I have two dogs. Am I crazy?! Ehhh, maybe a little, but I really, really wanted cream colored cushions. As a trade off, I knew the best bet for keeping them clean would be to choose an outdoor fabric like Sunbrella. It’s water resistant, nearly stain-proof, and very durable. Marine environments are hard on everything, but fabric is especially susceptible to damage.

So, I had my fabric picked out and I knew what I wanted to make, I just didn’t know how.

Through the grapevine of sailors, I learned about Sailrite. It’s a one-stop-shop that makes heavy-duty industrial sewing machines tough enough to make sails and sew through some very thick canvas and leather. Their online store carries everything you could ever imagine you would need for marine sewing projects. They’ve got sewing machines, spare parts for the machines, fabric, needles, thread, etc. They’ve even got pre-assembled kits for some of the standard items many boaters want to make. Its hard for me to believe I can buy a kit to make my own sails!! The best part about their website is that they have a ton of free how-to articles plus countless and invaluable FREE video tutorials! There are quite a few videos on cushions alone, so I watched about four of them and immediately grew the confidence to tackle a not-so-simple project with nearly zero sewing experience.

Thought it was a sizeable investment, I was convinced I would save money in the long run if I bought a sewing machine that I could use to repair sails with. The Ultrafeed LSZ-1 does both straight-stitch and zig-zag and it came with all the bells and whistles. It’s the one that most other sailors buy and they all promised me I would not regret it.  Knowing how often things break on a boat, I decided this advice was wise. I still had to justify getting a new sewing machine with the idea that I could make so many other things with the new machine that it wouldn’t take long to pay itself off.

My new LSZ-1 arrived in the mail with my lovely fabric I had picked out and so the next challenge was figuring out how I was going to cut the fabric inside such a tiny and awkward shaped space. Like anything else, I did what I could. It was almost 90 degrees out with barely any wind, which meant trying to work inside was like having my own little sweat-shop!

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It took about four days to complete the covers for 9 pieces of foam. Slowly but surely, I got the hang of it and each cushion I did was easier than the last. I really couldn’t have done it without those videos though. They taught me the basic sewing skills needed like making a zipper plaque and attaching the top and bottom plates to the boxing. The rest was easy to figure out.

Here’s what the cushions looked like before:

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And here’s what they looked like after:

It’s amazing how a little bit of fabric can change the feel of an entire room!!

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To be more accurate, my first project was making a bunch of new throw pillows to get familiarized with the machine. Just a little splash of a warm color gave the room a burst of energy. I came up with a really inexpensive way to make them for just the cost of the fabric you want to cover them with. The fully detailed process of my throw pillows can be found >>HERE<<.

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After the pillows were complete is when I started on the salon cushions. That detailed process can be found >>HERE<<.

Once I got the basics down, I started thinking about what else I could make 😉

One of the most odd shaped things in my home is my mattress. It’s 100″ long at the longest edge and normal sheets just don’t fit. Mattress pads are even harder to make fit. It was a project I had been thinking about for some time but never had the courage or the inspiration to actually tackle the project. With some advanced sewing under my belt, this felt like a piece of cake. I needed to cut a regular mattress pad to fit most of the area but I had to cut some custom pieces to cover the long ends. With my new machine and newly learned sewing skills, I spent an hour or two and ended up with a custom and perfectly fit mattress pad!

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Right next to the mattress is this little odd shaped shelf-like space. We had always put down some blankets and made that into the spot Betsy sleeps in. After making my new throw pillows, I had just enough fabric to make a custom and irregular shaped pillow case with a zipper on the back. I stuffed some old sleeping bag material and an old pillow inside and turned it into the perfect little dog bed for her!

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It still amazes me how much more comfortable my home feels with just a little bit of home improvements. I love that I can now do any of these projects on my own now and I don’t have to pay someone else to come do it for me. If I get stuck, the customer service at Sailrite is fabulous and they would gladly help me out.

Next on the list of projects to make for my tiny floating home:

Hatch Covers
Winch Covers
New Mast Boots,
Main Sail repair
Shade covers

Am I excited? Absolutely!!

By Jody Pountain for the [Tiny House Blog]

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LC - October 30, 2015 Reply

Very nice job! I’m getting ready to do the same thing to our 80’s travel trailer. We are in the process of updating it as it is our temp tiny house until we get our THOW built!

Amy Putkonen - October 30, 2015 Reply

What a cool post! I love your zeal to just get it done and cranking it out! How cool. I am working on my kitchen right now and it was kinda tough in the beginning to get things rolling because I had no idea what I was doing. It did get easier once I got started. I just hope that I can remember this the next time I tackle something big. Great job!!!

Sonje - October 30, 2015 Reply

Beautiful! Your tiny home looks so comfy and pretty now! What a good idea for the dog bed, too.

That is one monster of a sewing machine. Was it very costly? I love to sew and it gets frustrating not to be able to sew heavy duty fabrics sometimes.

alice h - October 30, 2015 Reply

When I replaced the foam and made new covers for my Boler cushions I also sewed an extra cover out of the same material, sort of a top and slightly longer sides slipcover with a drawstring to tighten it up underneath. It’s easy to toss in the wash as needed and the cushions stay nice longer. I like to buy old curtains or duvet covers from the thrift shop to make extra top covers just for a change now and then.

Sue - October 31, 2015 Reply

Wow, you do LOVELY work!!! I’d hire ya! lol!

swabbie Robbie - November 2, 2015 Reply

Great work! Isn’t the Sailright Ultrafeed LSZ-1 wonderful? I have had mine since 2006 and made a number of sails for my boats and other folks. Plus sail repairs, tiller and boom covers, deck launch bags.

The next upgrade you should make to the sewing machine is Sail-Rite’s Monster wheel. It gives it extra push through heavy materials and layers and the crank handle makes it great to work when there is no electricity plus good hand control doing small jobs.
– Fair winds – Rob

Greg - November 5, 2015 Reply

I am in love with Betsy. She is so pretty.

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