Saturday, 28 September 2013

How to make fitted sheets for boat mattresses

OK, so this is definitely the most random post ever on this blog. If you don't own a boat or if you already know how to do this, just skip this post. But maybe there are some of you boat owners out there who is wondering how to make fitted sheets for the irregular shapes that boat mattresses/squabs are. And it's actually really easy and it also makes it much easier getting into the storage underneath the bunks if the sheet fits nicely as opposed to a loose sheet just wrapped around a mattress. I'll do my best to explain how to do it even if you don't have much sewing experience, but a bit of knowledge definitely helps.
Sophia's quarter berth which is a cosy long double. The squabs are split in two, making it easier to get into the storage below. The front squab features a complicated corner, more about that at the bottom of this post
It's easiest to do if you have the squabs with you where you're sewing and a nice flat area on which to lay it down, which pretty much excludes being on a boat unless you have a LOT of floor space. Originally I did ours back in Christchurch when we were house sitting and were storing the squabs there anyway as I was painting everything inside Sophia. I did two for the two saloon bunks (with lee cloths where we normally sleep while underway) and two for the quarter bunk where we also slept on the first long trip up to Tonga, but since then it's mostly just storage, as it's the least airy (and therefore stuffy) bunk on the boat. A shame, cause it's really cosy. I did three for our v-berth as that's where we sleep when at anchor, and therefore the far majority of the time. But they had gotten quite yucky from our dirty sweat (no showers and hot climate!) and while in Denmark visiting my family I made three new ones, obviously without the squabs, but just with measurements.

If your sheet fabric is new, always wash it first (and tumble try if you think it will be tumble dried later on) to pre-shrink the fabric. I have used a mix of new sheets, second-hand sheets and cheap fabric to make mine. I have made a drawing below that shows how to cut the fabric (red) around the squab (white). Put down the fabric, and put the squab on top with the top side facing the sheet. If your sheet fabric has a right and wrong side, place the right side facing down (the side you'll sleep on). Basically you just extend the lines from the sides and cut out the corners, the picture below does a much better job of explaining that than I do!
How much to cut away? It depends on the thickness of your squab and how much fabric you have, but you want at least the thickness of you squabs and ideally some more. Roughly 30 cm, try and make it even all around the squab, especially the corners.

Most squabs most aren't symmetrical, for example if one end is wider than the other. One symmetric example is our v-berth. If the squab you're doing is not symmetrical, then you need to pin the corners so you know which side is. If you don't know what I'm talking about, just pin it anyway, better safe than sorry. Basically try to imagine which side of the sheet is right and wrong (or inside and outside) and then you pin the wrong side (where the seams are). Again, the photo below explain much better than I do. For your information, our squab covers are red with a (cheaper) grey backing. You only need to pin one corner to show you which side of the sheet to do the sewing on.
pinning the corners together so you know which side is right and wrong. It's enough to do this on just one corner of your sheet
Now you're ready to start sewing. If this sounds complicated look at the picture below which pretty much explains all the steps in one photo.
  1. zig zag: most fabrics unravel, so first you need to zig zag all your edges. Zoom zoom is the sound of your machine sewing all these straight edges.
  2. sew corners: next you sew the corners together, those cut-outs you did when it was laying flat, also see photo above.
  3. fold: then you make a fold where the elastic is going to be (and therefore the width of the safety pin you'll use to insert said elastic)m, approx 2.5 cm. If you're the super pedantic type who cares about how the back side of your sheets look, then make two folds, but it's harder and you need a bit more fabric. Obviously I don't care. Remember to leave a small hole where you're going to insert the elastic. A good trick is to start by a corner and fold all the corner seams the same way, which will then be the way you insert the elastic, the safety pin will run much smoother that way.
  4. insert elastic: I insert the elastic after the sewing using a safety pin (see pic), but others may want to insert the elastic while sewing, I just find I can't sew as fast then and then the time difference evens out anyway. Tighten the elastic until it seems right and either tie a know or just sew the ends together. For the sheet in the picture below I made a relative small hole and didn't even bother to sew up that seem after I had inserted the elastic. It makes it easier if I later need to tighten the elastic or change it for a new elastic (lesson learned: don't used old elastic from old sheets, they dont' last as long).
First you zig zag edges (the bottom right hand edge was the existing finish from the new sheet I was using, so I just kept that edge). Then you sew up corners seams and finally make the elastic pocket/fold. The safety pin is about to be inserted the same way/direction as the corner seams are folded down.
If you have complicated squabs like the one in the first photo, it does, well, complicate things. For that one I ended up inserting extra fabric, but I can't really explain it in words, it's easier in real life to just fiddle around and find a solution that works for you. Maybe you can tell from the photo below how I did, although you need a bit of imagination. Basically I inserted some extra fabric. The second photo shows what a squab with fitted sheets looks like underneath and also the complicated corner with extra fabric.
Phil holding up the sheet with the complicated corner, before elastic was inserted. Also note the Q I had sewn onto it, indicating it was for the quarter berth. I did S and P for the two saloon bunks' sheets, even in green and red thread :-)
What a fitted sheet looks like from behind. This also shows the complicated corner with extra fabric
Making new v-berth sheets on my parents's floor with just measurements. I cut all three layer fabrics in one go, as I knew exactly what I was doing and was certain it was correct, but I wouldn't recommend it the first time you try making a fitted sheet. Our v-berth is a king size at the widest point, so I just bought IKEA king sized flat sheets. The left hand corner at the bottom wasn't quite wide enough, but I still managed OK.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Guest post by Sarah and Anton: river cruising and tropical island time

Sarah and Anton came to visit the previous week, and we had a short, but fantastic time together, and without much further ado, here's a post Anton wrote, maybe with a bit of input from Sarah. Thanks for writing it, and thanks a lot for coming to visit.
Anton and Sarah chilling in the cockpit while underway to Tiga. Shade is essential, hence all the sarongs...

Well I have to say from wo to go I was amazed with our Hostess, the fantastic Astrid. Having someone to navigate the local restaurants and choose something that was not going to get us sick and also something that we ended up loving was the key to actually trying a little local cuisine! Have taken photo of the menu board so that I can remember the name of the meal.  Like an egg and vego omelet sandwiched between two crepes, yummy!

Despite professing some anxiety to going solo taking charge of the boat, Astrid was totally at ease as Captain.  Even to the point of navigating up the Klias River. At our anchorage about half way up the river we saw dozens of crocodiles (ok read floating logs… but at least 2 were heading upstream and we all agreed they had eyes). We also saw monkeys!!! Astrid was lucky enough to spy a proboscis one which if you use your imagination is captured in the photo below (notice the red patch?). The second leg of the trip saw us head North. We ambitiously put the sails up with a light aft wind before taking the main down again 20 minutes later. They don’t call Borneo “the land below the wind” for nothing! No danger of us capsizing. The next couple of days were spent snorkelling and hiking round Pulau Tiga. Astrid, spoiled by the underwater beauty of Palau and the Philippines, was unimpressed with the reef, but Sarah and I enjoyed some cool coral and fish.

Ok, so the Yacht Sophia and our experiences, through my eyes!

S:  Sea, it was so amazing to be swimming and snorkelling in really beautiful warm water. Warm like to spa.
O:  Organised! From the little facecloths that you put on your hand like puppets, to the dishrack that has clips for cups I was amazed how organised and easy to find everything is. Everything has a place and every place has a thing!
P:  Pancakes! I made pancakes one morning after one of my Anton sleep ins, well received by the girls for sure while at the helm to get to Pulau Tiga Island. However on the last day Astrid made the Danish Pancakes, I have to say those nicely browned far thinner pancakes really took first prize for me.
H:  Hot! Amazing how much a person can sweat in the Tropics, being the winter season too, it really was humid. I love Sophia’s fans! As we would sit under those fans in the evening and watch the temperature gauge slowly go down. Heaven forbid we had to do any cooking or make a cup of tea, as it mean’t that it would creep back up and over the really important 30 Degrees!
I:  Icecold drinks. We really loved Sophia’s fridge, it just made such an amazing difference to our body temp to be able to drink some wonderful ice cold drinks! Though not sure on the Coconut milk and Nesquik drink we tried to copy from our time in Bali.
A:  Awesome time! We really and truly loved every minute/hour/day on board Sophia with Astrid, just missed Phil!

PS:  The photos are a mix of mine and Anton's, but the captions are mine (Astrid's)
Croc or log?
Macaque monkey
Early morning on Klias river
Proboscis monkey, spot the red in the green
This was one of the best snorkeling pics from Tiga, unfortnatley it's pretty dead coral and there are only few and very tiny fish
Outboard wouldn't start, so we rowes ashore, but the rest of the time, we just swam in, much easier
Walking across the island we got bitten a fair bit, so at this mud vulcano Sarah and Anton decided to try and use mud as insect repellant
We played Settler of Catan every night, SOOO much fun. We each got a win, but Sarah got two, so she was the overall winner
Bye bye guys, thanks for coming! Sarah and Anton got a local boat to take them to the mainland and from there a bus back to KK, while I sailed back to Brunei by myself over the next two days, over 90 miles (pat on the back!)

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Why it's so quiet here

It's been ages since I posted anything, but time in Denmark flew by. I have now been back in Brueni on Sophia for a week, but unfortunately I'm alone. Phil was going back here two weeks before me, but while he was underway, his dad died, so he detoured straight to NZ where he will be for another two-three weeks yet. This is when international relationships are a bummer and the long distances suck. Feeling are just really hard to convey on skype and email!

Being alone on the boat is another interesting challenge for me, especially since it was so unexpected. The really nice thing is that I'm feeling very much at home here in Brueni having been here for such a long time before we left and everyone are very friendly and helps me out if I need it.

One often discussed cruising subject is pink and blue jobs. On Sophia we're very traditional, mainly because Phil is the traditional male not being very domestic in the cooking, cleaning and laundry department. And since I do almost all those things exclusively, it's only fair that Phil does the typical blue jobs such as engine maintenance, hauling heavy stuff and so forth. He's also the most technical/computer minded, so he also does navigation.

This coming week we're having visitors (yeah, we love visitors), Sarah and Anton found time to come see us while they were here in Asia anyway. Obviously this was planned a while ago. I'm going to take them cruising around here and that's main challenge. The 'funny' thing is if it was Phil who was alone here, it would be much more 'normal' and not cause anyone to thing twice. My main worry is the engine, if something happens with that, I'll have no idea what to do.

The only problem that has arisen this week was the outboard engine, another blue job. It lost a part of the fuel on/off valve and was therefore leaking fuel. Luckily I got help the first night, so I could get out to Sophia. Then I did a really silly blond thing, I went to the yamaha store in town. The problem is our outboard is a mercury! How stupid can one be... Anyway, they didn't have the part, or actually they did, but they couldn't find it. Phil will get one in NZ and bring back here. I made an alternative solution (inspired how the guy fixed it the first night) with some hose and a ball squeeze thingy directly into a jerry can. It does the trick, it's just not very weather proof.

I'm skipping July and August's cruising budgets as the far majority of that time was spent in Denmark, but will be back in a month's time with September.

Below are more picture of our Denmark holiday, including a little mini holiday to Goteborg, Sweden.
My twin and I, her boys and our parents. The green thing is a Kaj cake, very yummy :-)
My twin top right, little sis top left. Centre pic includes my friend Theresa's two girls, the one whom we stayed with in Singapore. 
Mini trip to Goteborg, Sweden. We got a 24 hour city pass so did lots of things, including a boat tour and Liseberg (amusement park). Bottom is me in heaven in a Swedish lollies shop :-)
Martiman Museum was really cool, a collection of various ships, including a submarine and a destroyer!
Universum is Scandinavia's larges science museum, also super cool, in the hot and humid jungle section we felt very much at home...