Sewing the Skin

For me, this was the scary step. It was easy to see and understand the frame, even if it was a lot of work. But getting the skin on and getting it tight was a mystery. It turned out to be not such a big deal, but something I would not want to tackle on my own.

Temporary bow stitch.

Getting the skin tight takes only two steps. First, you tension it in length. Start by temporarily stitching a pattern to match the bow, then go to the stern and give the skin a very strong pull–maybe 200 lbs–and firmly clamp the skin to the stern plate. For my kayak, this was particularly necessary, since the material started out about 5 inches too short for the frame. In the end, we cut over an inch of length off. What a surprise. Once the skin is taught, do a similar temporary stitch at the stern to hold the skin in place and remove the clamp.



The skin is taught. Note the stern stitching.

Flip the kayak over and gather the material at the cockpit. take time now to tie in two loops of cord that will be used to bead the top seams. Once the cockpit area is controlled, gather the skin tightly at the aft end of the forward deck rib and sew three or so gathering stitces. Next, pull the fabric up to the stringers and cut the excess off, just on the far side of the stringer, so that each side overlaps the stringer by 1/8″ or so. Cut the material with a hot knife or it will fray. Now the beading cord is finer rolled under the edge until the bead is just on the edge of the stringer, leaving about 7/8″ between the two sides of skin. Using a large straight needle, run a stitch under the beads and pull them together. Repeat down to the end of the stringer.


Gathering the skin at the cockpit.


Stitching the skin along the deck stringer.

Similarly, stitch the aft deck seam, starting at the cockpit and proceeding to the stern, stopping at the point where the temporary stitches are in place. The stern and bow skin was previously trimmed with about 1/4″ selvage showing. Roll this material and apply a basting stitch all the way around to the keel, then reverse and baste the seam all the way back to the beaded seam, leaving an exposed “X” pattern along the stern and bow.

Getting ready to sew the aft deck seam.


The beaded seam stops near the end of the stern plate.