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The Chevy Bench Seat - Part 16 - Oct 7, 2007

I didn't get much accomplished this week - certainly not everything I had hoped to. There are about 18 students in class, including me, doing everything from fixing a split seam in an otherwise pristine '66 Mustang interior, to reupholstering an entire van conversion interior. So Bob & Renee stayed busy answering questions. These two really have the patience of saints. They were all over the place, answering here and directing there.

I kind of knew what needed to be done, and I had no problems, it's just easier when you have someone to bounce ideas off of, and offer shortcuts whenever possible.

I did get the new vinyl cut out, and began the process of laying out the pleats for my inserts. This is really going to be a test of my sewing skills.

The first thing I did was commandeer a couple of tables and roll out my vinyl. I then laid my pattern pieces out, trying to use the roll of vinyl most efficiently. If you recall, I had cut the seam on the seat boxing panel. I dashed over to the machine and sewed the pieces back together, then got back to my table before I got bumped to the side.

I overbought both fabric and vinyl, knowing that I was going to have to have a lot of vinyl to make the boxing for the seat bottom in one piece, and that I had a couple of other projects to do around the house. My roll of vinyl is 3 yards (9 feet) long, and I ended up having just 8 inches to spare by the time I got the boxing laid out on the new vinyl.

We use regular blackboard chalk in class to mark our patterns, but there are a lot of options out there for doing this - most of which work a lot better. One thing I'm noticing is just how difficult it is to keep a sharp point on the chalk, to draw thin lines. This will become more apparent later. Work slowly and methodically, trying to be as accurate as possible as you trace around each piece.

When it came to actually cutting out the vinyl, I cheated just a bit. I bought a rotary cutter a few years back, and decided that this was the perfect time to use it. For those of you who don't know what a rotary cutter is, it's a round 45mm diameter razor blade with a handle. The blade retracts into a guard when not in use. Replacement blades are fairly cheap (they're disposable) and very easy to swap out. The blades do wear fairly well, but I put in a brand new blade before I cut my vinyl out just to be sure I had a sharp blade with no nicks in it.

If you're going to cut a piece that has long, straight borders, you can't beat this cutter. I'm a lot more accurate with this than a pair of scissors - although I know some of you pros are wizards with scissors and shears. Just lay a straight edge on your pattern, put the cutter blade right up against the straight edge, and slowly push the cutter away from you, or draw it toward you. Press down on it slightly to be sure you're cutting through the vinyl, and not just scoring it. Don't move the cutter back and forth like you're slicing bread - make just one pass with the cutter. If it doesn't cut all the way through in a spot here or there, you can go back and finish cutting it through with the cutter or a pair of scissors. Work slowly, and go for accuracy. Try to stay as close to the inside of your line as you can. Cutting to the outside of the line will make the pieces a little large, making the new cover slightly larger than the original - usually not a good thing.

This particular rotary cutter is rather inexpensive (about $10,) and is made for light duty. If you're just doing a project or two, it'll work fine. If you plan on doing a lot of work with vinyl or thick fabrics, you should check into a professional electric model. They start at about $90 and go up from there. I'll be getting one pretty soon.

Picture 1: Laying out the pattern pieces on the new vinyl. Steel weights are used to hold the patterns on the vinyl while I trace around them with chalk. Keep your chalk as sharp as you can to keep the lines thin. This will be important when you go to cut the pieces out.

Picture 2: After tracing around the pattern pieces, I transferred my index marks from the patterns to the new vinyl with my chalk, using a straight edge to ensure accuracy.

Picture 3: The rotary cutter with a spare blade. They're fairly cheap, and really work well for cutting the vinyl - especially if you're cutting large pieces with long, straight lines.
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