Creative articles about sewing

Sewing a boat doorstop – Embroidery project for sailors

Sail Away – Sewing a boat cushion

My passion is the Sea, boats and sailing and this is often reflected in my textile work. My father taught me to sail at a young age, I met my husband at a yacht club and in the 1980’s was one of very few women racing on large racing yachts at international level. With my husband we spent a year sailing halfway around the world before we had children. We am now lucky enough to live in a small fishing village on the sea and still have a boat which as I am disabled with multiple sclerosis my wheelchair can go aboard as well!!

Our two sons who are now 30 and 27 years old both decided at a very young age that they loved sailing as well and started racing with us in offshore races across the English Channel. Their bedrooms were full of boats so of course they had to have boat duvet covers and cushions which I could not buy so made with my trusty Bernina sewing machine. This was before embroidery machines and software!

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Andrew, our youngest son drew boats all the time, so I used his drawings as inspiration to create applique designs for duvet covers, and boat shaped cushions. This is an updated design using Bernina Embroidery Software that can be used as a cushion, a doorstop, or as an applique for a duvet cover.

However, if you do not have an embroidery machine just use the PDF pattern pieces and create the design on a sewing machine. You could use rick rack, some cord, or a decorative stitch along the top of the hull, felt circles for the portholes, small sew on anchors are often found in haberdashery. Let your imagination run wild!

If you have embroidery software you could personalise the cushion with a name instead of the numbers on the mainsail.

Embroidery files and instructions for a boat cushion

These are zip files for medium and large cushions in EXP and ART format:

Medium cushion embroidery files

Embroidery files for large cushion

PDF pattern pieces for medium boat cushion or doorstop

PDF pattern large cushion   

PDF instructions Sail Away

Finished size

I created 2 sizes, a medium size which fits into 145 x 240 hoop as every embroidery machine has this hoop, and a large size for the mega, jumbo, and maxi hoop

Medium. The finished size of this design is approximately 35cms high x 23cms wide.

Large.  The finished size is approximately 42 high x 28 wide. It is actually 120 percent of the size of the medium cushion.

The instructions show the medium sized design.

Requirements for medium cushion

For sewing a boat cushion, you will need these materials:

  • Hull fabric 15 x 60 cms
  • Mainsail 35 x 49 cms
  • Jib 35 x 30 cms
  • Small pieces of fabric for flag and portholes
  • Mast 60 cms of 1.5cm wide ribbon, bias binding, or seam binding.
  • Embroidery threads
  • Temporary adhesive spray or fabric glue stick if you have them
  • Scotch tape or selotape
  • Polyester stuffing

Sewing a boat cushion – Instructions

  1. Print Pattern pieces at actual size. Measure the 4cm square to check size is correct and join pattern pieces for sails together using marks to help. 1 cm seam allowances are included.
  2. Fold each piece of fabric in half and cut out 2 hulls, 2 mainsails, and 2 jibs. Tip: If using cotton fabric spray well with spray starch before cutting the fabric. This makes cutting accurately easier and gives more support to the fabric when embroidering it.
  3. The circles on the pattern pieces are alignment marks to help with positioning each piece of fabric in the hoop so mark them carefully. Tip: these marks are important.
  4. Download embroidery files to embroidery machine. Start with Hull embroidery.


  1. Hoop tear away stabiliser. The first line to stitch is the placement line.
  2. The cut piece of fabric for the hull is slightly wider at the top and bottom than can be stitched in the hoop so place alignment marks carefully on stitched alignment marks to help align sides and line up the top edge of the cut piece of fabric to the stitched line. Use temporary adhesive spray or fabric glue stick to hold in place if you wish.
  3. The next stitched line tacks down the fabric and are large stitches so easy to remove later
  4. The portholes are embroidered first using an applique technique, (see my previous blogs if this is a new technique for you), then the anchor and finally the hull line. The rope motif line I designed myself.

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  1. Remember to use the reversed hull embroidery design for the second hull piece.

Mainsails and Jibs

  1. To save stabiliser I embroidered both jibs and both mainsails in one hoop.
  2. Stitch the first alignment lines and then using the alignment marks on your fabric align the cut sail piece which is then held in place with a tack down line.

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  1. When embroidery is finished fold the bottom piece of the sail back and hold in place with a piece of scotch tape or pin before embroidering the alignment marks for the second sail.

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  1. Embroider the Jib using the same process as the mainsail.
  2. Unpick all the tack down stitches on all embroidered pieces and tear away any excess stabiliser.
  3. Create a small flag by drawing a triangle on a double piece of fabric and sewing along lines. Turn right sides out.


To complete the boat cushion

  1. Sew Jib and mainsail together and press seams open.
  2. Position flag where you wish, then sew down the ribbon or bias binding for the mast over the seam between the sails.               
  3. Sew sails to Hull matching seam of sails to marks on hull.
  4. Press this seam towards the bottom of the boat and topstitch.
  5. Sew front and back of boat together, leaving an opening at the bottom. Clip corners and curves, as necessary. Use a piece of scotch tape to fold in the flag over the mast to ensure it does not get sewn into the seam!
  6. Turn right side out and stuff. Hand sew opening shut.

Sewing a boat doorstop

If you wish to make a doorstop sew a small cotton bag, fill with sand, and place inside the boat towards the bottom.


Free sewing tutorial: Boat cushion

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