Cushion Patterning

Patterning Instructions

These instructions will enable you to pattern your boat for interior and cockpit cushions. In many instances, boat owners prefer to do as much work as possible on their boats. While you may not have the machinery or skill required to actually make your own cushions, you can help! With this guide, you can make the patterns for new cushions or covers for your boat.

The importance of paper patterns or templates is four-fold:

▸ The pattern tells the shape.
▸ The pattern is used to cut the top.
▸ The pattern is used to cut the bottom.
▸ The pattern is used to cut the foam.

Before you start, you will need a few basic items:

▸ Pencil, soft lead
▸ Kraft paper - 50 to 60” wide for interiors or 24” wide for cockpit cushions
▸ 1” masking tape
▸ Scissors
▸ Combination square or 90-degree triangle
▸ Tape measure or ruler

The first step is to determine what you want.  Fabrics come in many colors and patterns; foam comes in different densities (weight/quality), compressions (firmness), and thickness (three, four, five or six inches).  If you have cushions, note their respective thickness.  Bunk cushions may be different from backrest cushions; backrests may be flat or wedged (bolsters).  Some cushions may be stapled to boards.

Patterning the Yacht InteriorStart by determining the thickness of the foam you wish to use.  There is a guide at the end of these instructions if you need a reference.  Once you have determined the foam thickness, mark the square with that dimension as shown in Fig. 1.

Figure 1. Mark the vertical edge of the triangle with a horizontal line to indicate the height of your new cushions.


Figure 2. Start in the forward cabin or v-berth.  Lay the paper angled across the platform of the berth, leaving a minimum of 3 to 4 inches along one edge to allow for hull contour.  Carefully climb onto the paper and smooth it into all areas of contact with trim, bulkheads and hull sides, then crease by running your hand around the perimeter.  Some trimming may be necessary at this point. Save what you trim off, as you may need the scrap added to where the paper isn’t wide enough to cover your cushions completely.


Figure 3. Now draw around the perimeter.  When drawing along the hull side, it may be better to draw with the pencil laying against the hull.  This will make sure that you don’t draw under any trim or paneling against the hull. At this point, you have a pattern of the cushion bottom, but the top of the cushion may be wider than the bottom.  To determine the top of the cushion, mark a line on the square, parallel to the bottom, at the thickness of the foam you intend to use.  Take the square and the tape measure and start at the aft corner.  Place the square 3 to 4 inches forward of the bulkhead, visually perpendicular to the perimeter line.  Measure from the edge of the square to the hull of the foam thickness elevation marked on the square.  Keep your tape measure or ruler parallel to the bunk surface. Mark the dimension on the pattern, from where it was taken.  This is not in degrees - we aren’t looking for the angle.  Do this every 24 inches down the edge of the pattern, with the last measurement taken 3 to 4 inches from the forward bulkhead.  Repeat for the opposite side.  Now identify the pattern with the location in the boat (v-berth, etc.) forward, port, starboard, aft and note the desired separation distance, if any, for these cushions.  Don’t forget to pattern the v-berth filler board, or send it along if the cover gets stapled to it.  Do not trim any further, please, or we will have to tape paper* back on to your patterns if they are trimmed, adding production costs.


Figures 4 & 5. Next is the main salon, which is typically simpler than forward and aft cabins because of smaller cushions and general absence of hull contours.  Any cushions that are “L” or “C” shaped should be patterned in one piece, even if they will be eventually cut into three or four separate cushions.  If the dinette converts to a bunk, measure the table or extension also.  If backrests are to be considered, note the height from the bunk platform or the top of the existing foam.  Again, identify the pattern location, forward and aft end, and hull or outboard side.  Make any notations for hull contours or bulkhead angles  by using the square and tape measure. For the backrests in the main salon, if the furniture is square and perpendicular to the centerline of the boat, a drawing with measurements will suffice.  Please note the finished height from the platform, plus the location of any holes or doors horizontally and vertically.  Do not assume that the height of the backrest is the same at both ends.  It is not uncommon to see a 3/4 inch difference from one end to another. If the furniture is not square or perpendicular, it may be necessary to pattern or at least measure from a square point to establish the angle of the backrest.  This does not have to be a true mechanical drawing, it just needs to have enough information on it to make it  accurate.  

Aft cabins and/or quarter berths are done in much the same manner as the forward cabin, but watch out for radical hull contours.  If the contour varies considerably, you should take the measurements with the square every 12 inches instead of every 24.  Patterns should be rolled instead of folded.

If these instructions seem intimidating, please call for assistance: (727) 577-3220 or 800-652-4914.  It is actually simpler than it looks, it just takes time.

*The reason that we ask you not to trim the patterns is that we need to add seam allowance and hull contours.  If the extra paper is cut away, then we have to tape it back on to do the final trim.  If you need to be reassured that your pattern fits, fold the excess paper on the line you drew and lightly tape it to the pattern.  This will give you an idea of how well it fits.

General Guideline and Suggestions: Foam is graded in density and compression and firmness.  Density ranges from 1.2 pounds to 3.5 pounds.  Compression ranges from 15 pounds to 95 pounds.  Density and compression are not related.  High density foam does not mean firm foam; it means that it has a density higher than 1.8 pounds.  Most backrests should be in the 24-27 lb. compression range, unless they double as fillers or berths.

Several synthetic fabrics “fill the bill” for the bulk of marine upholstery:

▸ Marine Vinyl: Generally the least expensive and the easiest to maintain.
▸ Nylon: Superior wear over most fabrics.  Generally scotchguarded at the mill.
▸ Herculon, Olefin: Excellent stain resistance built in.
▸ Acrylic - Sunbrella® Awning & Furniture Fabric: This is a synthetic canvas duck.  This material is great for wet conditions, such as race boats.

Styling is all taste and budget. Several styles may be produced for about the same price.  Humps, bumps and buttons will add to the cost.