Sunbrella Umbrella

I have a giant offset umbrella on my patio and the cover is meh. The fabric isn't very sturdy and after only a year it's clearly wearing at certain points. Plus, I need reasons to be in my garage all night making use of my bug screen!

Once again, I started at Sailrite...they have a video for everything. However, their design didn't exactly work for my umbrella once I took it apart and studied how it was originally made. 

It's always good for a project like this to use something to pattern from, in this case, the original umbrella. I had extra Dura Skrim lying around, so I used some of that to make a pattern template for the gores (panels) of the umbrella. This isn't really necessary, but I don't like things to go to waste, so I used it. 

I took measurements of the gores (for both the main umbrella canopy as well as the fly):

  • Height at center
  • Width at bottom (wide end)
  • Width at top (short end)

I marked up the gores (one each, main umbrella and fly) and placed it over the original to make sure it was correct. I'm glad I did this because I realized that the main panels are slightly flared along the bottom at the seams, which gives it a nice straight edge when it's fully open (instead of bowing slightly in). So, I took measurements of where the flare starts (about 15" from the center of the bottom edge to 5/8" beyond the pattern piece) and made a note to create those flares before cutting my panels.

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In addition, since this an offset (or cantilever) umbrella, it has to have a hole in one of the seams for it to allow the frame to go through it.

 Original fabric, hole for the frame to enter

Original fabric, hole for the frame to enter

To do this, I decided to treat it like an inset zipper pocket, so I took measurements and made a little patch. There are a lot of markings on this because I had to make some tweaks, but in the end, I marked 1/2" on each side to create a single hem. I basted those down and set it aside for later.

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I needed to make little pockets for the ribs to fit into, so I cut 16 pieces of fabric at 4.5" x 3". I put a 1/2" hem along the long edge and because I needed to do 16 of them, I just daisy chained them together as I sewed...one continuous stitch, just feeding each one through and then cut them apart when I was done. This made it go a lot faster. 

I then folded them in half and held them with clips, because they will be inserted into the seams when I sew the main panels together.

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The original umbrella had a tie, but I decided to improve upon that simple design and use up some of the velcro I had left over from the garage door bug screen fail. I cut a piece 40" x 4". I created a 1/2" hem on the long sides as well as the short ends, folded it in half and sewed it down. Then, i attached hook velcro to one end and loop on the other side on the reverse.

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Lastly, I had noticed that the frame has neat little hooks at each gore seam and the original panels had little elastic loops that were used to "hang" the umbrella to the frame. I had some 1/4" elastic scraps so I set those aside for use later.

I started marking the gores (8 each for canopy and the fly, 16 pieces total). I ran out of fabric. However, let the record show that since this was an impromptu project with leftovers, I'm not calling this a fail. I cut out what I had with my hot knife to seal the edges and prevent fraying.

The fabric I used didn't have a right/wrong side, so it didn't really matter, but I put two of the main canopy gores right sides together with a rib pocket on top at the bottom edge and sewed the first two together.

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Since this thing was going to be huge, I decided that the first two panels would constitute the "back" piece where that hole needed to go for the frame. I also decided I was going to do semi flat felled seams for each gore, so I went ahead and topstitched this one.

I measured on the original umbrella to find the right placement for the hole and placed that patch I had made on the right side of the panel, wrong side up, at that mark on the seam. I sewed around the box in the center to attach it to the panel (this is right sides together). I then took my Xacto knife and carefully cut down the center line and into the corners on the diagonal marks, making sure not to cut through the stitches.

 Use painter's tape instead of pins to reduce holes

Use painter's tape instead of pins to reduce holes

Next, I pushed the patch through the hole to the wrong side and created the box opening, flattening it out around the stitches that create the box.

 Pushing through the hole from the right side of the canopy

Pushing through the hole from the right side of the canopy

 View from the wrong side of the canopy

View from the wrong side of the canopy

From the wrong side, I sewed down the patch, following the original basting stitches I had made, reversing to lock in the stitches.

 Not pretty but then again, neither was the original...

Not pretty but then again, neither was the original...

The rest was less complicated. Put two panels right sides together, stick a rib pocket on top, sew them together, topstitch the flat felled seam, lather, rinse, repeat. By the way does anyone really do that with shampoo? I guess if your hair is really full of product...anyway...Squirrel!

At long last, I got 6 gores together on the main canopy and since I had to order more fabric, I switched over to the fly and put that together in the same way. The only difference with this one was that I set the rib pockets 1/2" up from the bottom corner of each seam because I was going to do a 1/2" hem instead of binding on the fly.

And that's my stopping point for today! Once the rest of the fabric arrives, I'll wrap this up and get it back on the frame...stay tuned!

 This is one fly fly.

This is one fly fly.