Appendices -- Useful Supplemental Information


Traditional sails are usually made of a softer Dacron or polyester. Such cloth is woven to have a little more bias stretch (corner to corner), and treated with less filler resin and hard finishing. Beside making better low aspect and quadrilateral sails, softer cloth will allow the passage of a sailmaker’s needle without too many yarns bursting -- and therefore invites hand sewing if the client wants that extra touch of authenticity for a traditional design.

Depending on hand sewing for important parts of a sail -- like corner rings or boltroping -- is a poor idea in modern firm sailcloth. Pushing even the smallest practical hand needle through it breaks lots of fibers. The best handsewn ring cannot compete with hydraulically-pressed stainless steel rings for strength. But in soft cloth and for traditional sails with relatively low stress in the corners they are an attractive option.

When I first worked in a sail loft, all the Dacron was relatively soft, and all the corner rings were hand sewn. There was no hydraulic press. Us guys on the bench got pretty good at it.

“Long and short” stitches as in this example spread out the strain, minimizing the cookie cutter effect, and look good as well. The leather in the jib clew protects the stitching from chafe.

Hardware for hand-sewn rings is getting scarcer every year. Most U.S. suppliers don’t even stock the brass liners anymore. Those that do have a limited inventory of sizes. The special dies for setting the liners are even scarcer, so traditional sailmakers hoard them.

Return to Listings