Friday, May 14, 2010

Just Call Me "Omar The Tentmaker" - Manly Sewing Project #3

Okay, I didn't actually make a tent, though I might tackle some sort of lightweight tarp-type shelter someday like a zillion other outdoor enthusiasts who seem to think they've found some magical new configuration of ripstop nylon and a few poles which they proceed to hawk on eBay or in the monthly Boy Scout magazine that shows up at my door.

No, Manly Sewing Project #3 was not a tent, but it was a cover for my outdoor grill!  I sure felt like Omar the Tentmaker as I had to repeatedly cram nearly five yards of heavy fabric under the head of the sewing machine.

I can hear you saying "But Eric, you could have just bought a grill cover from any number of stores and for pretty cheap as well and without all that work!"  And you'd be mostly right, except that not all grill covers are made equal!  I tried to go buy one before I decided to make one and it went something like this:

  1. Go to Academy Sports and search for grill covers
  2. Find cheap grill cover for $7 that appears to be make of recycled plastic shopping bags thinly pressed and heat fused together at the seams.  I'm pretty sure this won't even make it onto the grill once without tearing somewhere
  3. Find slightly more expensive grill cover for $13 that has the same construction as the $7 one except that it has a backing sort of like quilt batting but much thinner and more cobweb-ish.  This one might survive the first use but I wouldn't trust it past about three uses.
  4. Give up at Academy and go to Wal-Mart
  5. Find NOTHING at Wal-Mart
  6. Refuse to go to Sears because that place really bugs me
  7. Refuse to go to some specialty grill store because I'm pretty sure it's far away and I'm absolutely positive that if they have anything better than Academy it will be obnoxiously overpriced
  8. Go home in frustration and look online
  9. Find better quality grill covers on eBay and online stores, but they're not an exact fit for my grill and they're about $80 or more.  Since I only paid $170 for the grill there was no way I was going to spend more than half of that just for a cover.
  10. Give up and decide to make my own.
Any why not?  I have an industrial walking foot upholstery sewing machine.  I'm married to a master seamstress who can free-hand wedding dress patterns in her mind's eye.  I'm pretty sure I can buy much better fabrics than even the expensive covers are made of.  I'm even pretty sure I can make it for cheaper (I firmly believe you don't have to count the cost of your time if it's a hobby you enjoy).  Best of all I can make it just how I want it!

I trolled eBay for fabric and finally settled on 5 yds 600D Polyduck canvas.  It's basically a 600D polyester canvas with a thin sheet of PVC bonded to the back.  Polyester has great UV resistance for outdoor use and in theory the PVC backing will make the fabric waterproof.  Unless you seal the seams the finished article won't be truly waterproof, but I'm not really concerned.  I just didn't want the grill "catch trays" filling up with water, and mostly I wanted to keep the dirt, dust, pollen, etc. off the grill.

I also got some killer deals on big rolls of 2" nylon webbing, 1" grosgrain ribbon for binding, and 2" velcro.  Actually, I bought a LOT of webbing and ribbon.  Like 200 yards of each!  I couldn't help myself, it was CRAZY cheap and I knew it would get used for other projects I had in mind.  Sarah looked at the giant rolls of webbing and ribbon with one raised eyebrow, and commented that it was a lot of material.  But to her credit she didn't actually ask me if I'd lost my mind, God bless her.

Sarah helped me figure out a pattern of sorts.  We draped the entire sheet of 60" wide fabric over the grill and determined that the front-top-back could be one big piece and we'd need two smaller pieces for the sides.  I cut out the the big piece and we draped it over the grill again, measuring the dimensions/shape we would need for the side pieces.  We could have gone with a design that was much more form-fitting but that would've been way more complicated and I doubt it would have improved the utility in any way.  With all three pieces cut out it was as simple as pinning everything together, sewing the seams with the grosgrain ribbon on one side, then laying the seam flat and stitching over the grosgrain ribbon for a nice flat finished seam.  The size 92 Kevlar thread I bought earlier worked great.  I also installed two handles in the top seams to make it easier  to lift off, and put a velcro webbing strap at each corner so you can gather up and secure the bottom of the cover.  Hopefully it will keep stormy weather from pulling the cover off.

Best of all, the total cost to make this was about $25-30, and I'm sure it's better quality than any of the ones I found online for 3-4 times the price.

With Sarah's patient help I also learned a lot of really useful things.  I suppose I might have been able to get the job done without her help, but it probably would've taken way longer and almost certainly wouldn't have looked as good.  Thanks Sarah!

I am MAN, watch me SEW!

No, wait! I meant:

I am MAN, watch me GRILL!

My bargain Craigslist find.  New cost about $600, I paid $170 used.  100% stainless steel frame, trays, burners, EVERYTHING!  Truly a metallurgists grill.

The finished grill cover.  I decided I wanted it loose enough that it wouldn't be a fight to get it on/off and so I could get at the tank/storage area underneath just by lifting up the bottom edge of the cover rather than removing it completely.

Handles on top for easier removal.  A length of small diameter vinyl hose was sewn into the handle to give it some bulk, shape and stiffness.

Bottom gathered up with velcro straps

Velcro straps on the back side as well


  1. I am looking at a No.9 for $750...I have only seen pictures of appears to be on a stand with the motor underneath the stand. But looks like the Classic in your pictures...Can you tell me about the Luberto No.9