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Project Rhocaravan


richyb66
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For no particular reason, we decided to start with the end panel with the window. The donor window was too wide and too high and while reducing the height was just a matter of cutting off the bottom, reducing the width was a bit more complicated.

The middle of the roll up panel has toggle hole in it to hold it up, so we had to reduce the width evenly each side. The meant unpicking the side zips from the window and flyscreen and re-using them. This is one side of the roll up window where the zip has been removed. You can see that the plastic is folded back on itself and stitched through to give a stronger seam.

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Once the zips were removed, we could cut down the individual panels and then sew it all back together. Here’s the finished window, it’s upside down and you can see the flyscreen and roll up panel and then the main window underneath the spirit level.

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Across the top of the window we added a strip of Velcro that will be used to attach the curtains and some recycled loops of material and toggles that hold the rolled-up window.

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Once the window was the correct size, we could add the panels either side. These are just strips of the new blue awning fabric that has 1.5cm folded over either side. The would prevent the material fraying and give a strong seam where it was stitched to the double thickness window. The biggest problem was folding a seam on the window, we did try ironing the plastic with a cool iron, but it was impossible to get the temperature constant enough to form a crease without overheating the plastic which caused it to tear easily. In the end we used double sided adhesive dress making tape which worked well also used the tape in places to hold the panels together prior to stitching as it was quicker, easier and neater than a lot of pinning.

The seams were all double stitched meaning we sewed the join once and then had to do a second run of stitching trying to keep the two parallel.

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We then made the top panel which overhangs so the roll-up window so it can be tucked away behind. The top panel had a strip of white bias binding sewed to it to prevent fraying and to add a decorative feature. 10cm above this is the seam where the panel is attached to the top of the window. The top edge of the panel has a piece of binding on it that was a failed sewing attempt. Rather than unpick it, we just turned the panel round and this area will be eventually cut off.

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Also visible in the photo above is a radius template we made for marking out the fabric. We needed to have several different radii on the panels and then fold a 1.5cm seam around them. By making templates from some spare signboard, we could do the marking out quickly and easily.

When we’d got to this stage, we realised we’d not used any of the donor white fabric. However, the white binding and markings on the windows provide a nice contrast to the blue so we carried on just using the new fabric.

Across the bottom of the panel, we added another strip of blue material which had the grey PVC material sewn to it. The blue part will extend to within 5cm of the ground and then the PVC folds inside the awning to go under the groundsheet. In the join between the blue and grey, we stitched in the plastic toggles the are used for pegging out. The plastic is around 1mm thick but doesn’t seem to be an issue for the machine to sew through. The grey PVC also seems to go well with the blue and white and gives a good idea what the finished awning will look like. With the main panel sewn together, we marked out the position of the zip and this was also sewn on. The zip still needs to be shortened one end.

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Next up was the plain end panel which was made in such a way that it has the same horizontal joins as the other end panel. Here I’m sewing in the bottom blue panel that has already has the PVC and the pegging toggles fixed to it.

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 The biggest thing to be aware of is planning ahead how the panels will be sewn together as one side of the seam has to be fed through the throat of the sewing machine So far it’s not been an issue but as more parts are joined and everything gets bigger, the material is harder to manoeuvre on the machine and we need one person sewing and the other guiding the material.

This is the plain panel ready for attaching the zip. The horizontal joins are in the same place as the other panel, but we still need a strip of white binding across the top.

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Here it is with the binding and zip added and laid out alongside the window panel.

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Again, the zip is too long and needs to be shortened. The excess was easily cut off with scissors, the zip teeth are a sort of wound nylon wire like a spring. The last 1.5cm of teeth are replaced with some crimped-on metal end stops and there’s some thickening tape stuck on to stiffen the fabric where you grab it. The metal pieces ensure that the moving zipper parts can’t come off the end of the zip and help starting to zip the parts together. To remove them we had to cut off as much of the fabric as possible and then carefully dig out the rest. The tiny crimped areas could then be removed (broken off) and we re-attached the ends using epoxy glue. For the stiffened area on the fabric part, we attached some small squares of material with iron on tape.

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For the main side panel, we started at the bottom, attaching the PVC skirt to the lower panel with the pegging toggles between the 2 parts.

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Two identical window panels were then marked out and had the adhesive tape put around the edges so we could fold the double thickness edges.

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The window panels were then laid out on the materials so we could mark out the side panels. We keep checking, measuring and overlaying the panels to make sure they’re the right size before cutting to save material wastage. The biggest confusion as adding a allowance for the folded over edges. For a 1.5cm folded edge we mark 2 lines 3cm apart, cut along one and fold the cut edge to the second line. This means our finished size is actually a line in between the 2 marked lines.

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The cut out side panels and a centre strip were sewn to the 2 windows. The lower and upper panels still need to be added, together with the zip and these will be in the next installment.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Only a small update today as we only did a couple of evening’s work on the awning this week. We needed to add the top part of the side panel. Before this was sewn on though, we put a strip of Velcro across the top of the windows so we would have something to attach the curtains to. On the donor awning there’s sort of plastic channel section sewn on that the curtains clip and although we had kept this for possible reuse, we found that the strip didn’t bend very easily which would make it more difficult to fold the awning up. Using Velcro means the awning can be folded down smaller without risk of damaging the plastic strip.

The Velco was initially attached with a row of stitching down it’s centre through the double folded edge of the plastic window.

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Next, we added the top strip which overhangs the top of the window by 10cm (the same as on the end panel) and has white bias binding sewn across the bottom edge. The top strip was sewn on with 2 parallel rows of stitching, again through the double thickness window edge.

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With the top piece added, we could mark out the rounded corners for the zip. Two lines were drawn on, 3cm apart. The outside line is was the cut line and then we would fold over the edge to the inner line and iron it to create a 1.5cm folded edge to sew the zip on to. The corner radii were marked out with our templates of 38.5 and 41.5cm (3cm difference)

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The panel across the bottom was made the same as the end panels – a strip of material for the top part, grey vinyl for the bottom and the plastic pegging toggles sewn in between. The zip could then be sewn on, starting with around 8cm overhanging from the pegging line. This is the end we started sewing so all the main part was to the left of the needle when sewing, outside of the machine where one person could support it while the other one did the sewing.

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At the opposite end, we have more zip overhanging which will need to be cut off.

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Here’s the whole panel, just the zip to shorten. The next part we will be working on is the main part of the awning that fits in to the side rail and has the roof and all the attachment pieces for the side and end panels.

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  • 3 months later...

Wow, 3 months since I last posted any updates. In fact, the awning was completed to a usable state for Stoneleigh in May but with one thing and another, I’ve not found time to get it added to the thread.

With all the windows we would have in the awning, we’d be needing some curtains. Jackie chose the fabric which was oval flower pattern by Orla Kiely in grey. She made the curtains with linings to give them some weight and to block out as much light as possible and with Velcro across to the top to attach them. We did consider sewing the plastic rail for attaching the original curtains on to the main awning, but we felt it might make it more difficult to fold the awning up.

Here’s the curtain for the end laid on the outside of the end panel.

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And from the inside

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When fitted, the curtain is like this. The top area is obscured because it’s behind a mesh fly screen on the window.

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The next job was to fit the main roof panel that will also extend down the ends to provide attachment for the parts that the removable panels zip to. The roof was slid around the awning rail into position. As can be seen from these pictures, we seem to have plenty of excess material to remove.

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All this grey material was the roof of the donor awning which gives you an idea just how big it was. The material is fabric with a rubberised coating on the outside that will hopefully keep the water out. The roof area only has a shallow fall on it as it runs away from the side of the caravan so there’s a chance heavy rain might pool on the roof. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to get a greater fall on it because the original awning had a peak in the centre which we have had to remove due to the shape of the caravan.

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The awning frame has small extension pieces that extend out of the front of it that support a small canopy designed to stop water from dripping on to the side panel. As this canopy needs to have poles slid through it to support it and stop the wind lifting it up, we decided to make it out of the blue fabric and then attach it to main roof. Having it as separate panel would make it easier to sew the pockets on before it was attached to the main roof. We could also make the canopy the size we wanted before we were committed to cutting the roof to size.

Here’s the canopy looking from underneath. The long pockets will have the support poles passed through them and then the edge with the white trim on will hang down vertically.

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The grey diamond is a material reinforcement around the hole where the canopy fits on to the frame. The flap at the back will hang down vertically and this is where we will sew on the panel that the removable side panel zips on to. The D shaped hole allows the canopy support frame to pass through because the main frame will be the other side of this flap.

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Here’s the canopy roughly in position.

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Next, we needed to make the fabric surround panels that would be fixed to the main awning and have zips on them for the removable panels. These panels needed to have round corners on them, and this meant a lot of marking out on the fabric so we would know where to cut it, where to fold it over and where the zip needed to be attached.

This is the sort of marking out we had to do, achieved using the curved radius templates that I’m made previously from spare signboard.

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Here’s the top of the panel marked out with the two top corners. 

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On the front end panel, we made the surround panel in 3 pieces to save wasting a lot of material, the top as in the previous images and two narrow side pieces. The top piece is wider on the top right hand side. This is so we had spare material to join on to the canopy and this would be cut off at an angle to the main frame as it extended down.

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At this stage, we zipped both halves of the zip together before we sewed it to the surround panel so any stretch in the zip around the corners would be accounted for. The meant we were sewing on to a large panel and we had to think carefully about how we would feed the part through the machine. In this case we started sewing at the bottom left hand corner, so most of the material was outside the throat of the machine.

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A similar method was used on the surround panel for the side. In this case we already had the part that went across the top – it was the small vertical flap at the back of the canopy, so we just had to make the side pieces. The panel was clamped roughly in position so we could take some measurements for the sides and also trim away some of the excess roof material. In the picture below, you can see that in the vertical portion at the front of the caravan, we have left a strip if the material close to the awning rail so we have something to sew the surround on to.

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Edited by richyb66
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Once we knew where the canopy needed to be attached to the main roof, we could mark off the roof for trimming. The ensure we had a strong, waterproof join, the roof material was folded back on itself and we added some diamond shaped material reinforcements where the pins on the frame go through. The holes had eyelets rivetted into them as well so there wouldn’t be any chance of the awning tearing.

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The canopy could then be sewn to roof. The roof went on top with the canopy underneath to reduce the chance of water running off the roof and in to the joint.

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The awning was refitted to the caravan and we marked out on the corners where the side surround and the end surround panels needed to be cut, folded over and sewn together.

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We started by pulling the side panel tight around the frame and marking where the corner poles came to before repeating with the end panels. We wanted the join to run down the pole and we were also aiming to get it as neat as possible. We can adjust the position of the cornet poles and the size of the frame to pull things tight but although we had made the end panels flat, when there are fitted, they actually curve around up on to the roof, so the marking out proved to much more difficult than we had expected.

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This is the front corner and you can see where the material in the bottom half has been trimmed back ready to sew together. At the top, we still need to mark out the angled cut where the end panel will join up to the canopy. At ground level the grey PVC skirt is visible that tucks inside the awning and goes under the groundsheet. We wanted the top of the skirt to be the same level all around and we had to shorten the side panel to raise the skirt. This was additional work but at least we were removing material rather than having to add it on.

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Here the front top corner has been joined to the canopy and we have cut away the excess material from the back of the awing ready to fit the rear side panel.

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Here’s the final panel fitted. There are no guy ropes pulling the material tight and the bottom isn’t pegged down but that’s pretty much it. Just visible inside is the groundsheet. We made this out of offcuts of the waterproof roof material and as well as covering the floor, it extends vertically up to close off the area underneath the side of the caravan. It has the same edging on it as the main awning and slides into a plastic awning rail that is rivetted to the bottom of the caravan side panel.

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Edited by richyb66
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Here’s s few photos of the finished awning on the caravan this weekend at Kitfest. We had some torrential rain over the weekend but seem to have remained leak free which we’re really pleased with.

We’ve only used the caravan three times and the awning twice and as issues become apparent, we will do what we can to resolve them. Whether we use the kit to tow it remains to be seen, currently I drive the kit and Jackie tows the caravan with the tintop which means we can take all the stuff we need without having to overload the caravan.

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