pop-up replacement fabric material - Fiberglass RV


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Old 05-03-2016, 04:28 PM   #1
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Name: K C
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pop-up replacement fabric material

Today I did an in person investigation to find an excellent replacement fabric for the pop up roof on Trails West Campster, Compact II or Junior and other such trailers.

Fortunately I live very close to Seattle Fabrics which allowed me to see all kinds of options of materials. It looks like the best material that is durable, UV resistant, water resistant, strong enough to handle some wind but not overly heavy for being folded down is "Sur Last" or sometimes spelled on websites as Surlast. It does come in yellow which will be a good match for the original Campster popup fabric. This material is rated for the same performance as Sunbrella but it is lighter in weight which make it easier to fold when closing the pop up top. They have quite a few people coming into Seattle Fabrics for pop up replacement fabrics and this is the product the store is recommending for that application.

The SurLast producers do have an Ebay store and it was 12.95 per yard when I checked the price today, May of 2016. They sell it by the yard. It is 60 inches wide. So if you were to get together with a buddy you could get it long enough to go the full distance around and then split it lengthwise and have enough for both of you.
Yellow Surlast All Weather Fabric by The Yard | eBay
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Old 06-08-2016, 09:27 AM   #2
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Thank you so much for posting this. I just bought a Compact Jr that has no fabric left at all, so I will be needing fabric very soon, and this looks perfect.
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Old 06-08-2016, 11:34 AM   #3
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The other evening I took some very basic measurements of the popup section so I would know how much fabric to buy and how many feet of zipper. Yesterday I went to Seattle Fabrics and got the fabric, screening and zippers for the popup. The cost came to around $80.00. Fortunately I don't have to pay shipping but Seattle does have high sales tax.

Sewing my new popup enclosure is going to be saved for rainy weather days. In the meantime I have a lot of other work to do on the exterior and interior to get done that is best done on sunny days.
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Old 06-08-2016, 12:22 PM   #4
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If that fabric is as good as Sunbrella, it's very good.
I have Sunbrella on my 17 y-o Coleman popup, the fabric still looks like new. And we've camped pretty intensively with it. Breathable yet waterproof, it lets the moisture out and we never got a drop of water in the popup. Recommended water repellent for Sunbrella is 303's High Tech Fabric Guard, very good stuff, a fluorocarbon based repellent like 3M's Scotchguard.
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Old 06-08-2016, 01:20 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Carl V View Post
If that fabric is as good as Sunbrella, it's very good.
I have Sunbrella on my 17 y-o Coleman popup, the fabric still looks like new. And we've camped pretty intensively with it. Breathable yet waterproof, it lets the moisture out and we never got a drop of water in the popup. Recommended water repellent for Sunbrella is 303's High Tech Fabric Guard, very good stuff, a fluorocarbon based repellent like 3M's Scotchguard.
The Sur Last fabric is lighter in weight than Sunbrella but it is suitably strong and is also breathable but waterproof and the color is UV resistant to fading. Being lighter in weight is a good thing since it will be easier to fold up. So basically the same stuff but not as thick.

I am adding four safety straps to my installation that are installed on the interior. They are made from polyester webbing in a matching color. At each end I have an eyelet grommet that goes under one of the screws that secure to the shell the lift mechanism is mounted to. In the middle of the straps I have a two part buckle so I can adjust the tension and release the straps if needed. It is my belt and suspenders solution as I have seen a few threads about people loosing the fiberglass top of the popup on the highway. Plus I can use them to take some of the strain off of the fabric by allowing it to be slightly taunt when fully opened but not overly stressed. So even if the fabric did become weaker with age the straps will act as a safety for holding on the cover.

I am going to hold off on the sewing the popup fabric as my workshop partner friend says he is going to purchase some of the new lifetime lasting sewing thread from Sailrite. On outdoor canvas projects it is often the thread that deteriorates first due to UV damage. He lives on a sailboat and has done so for nearly 3 decades and needs to replace the sail covers and the wheel cover too because the thread has failed. It is really expensive thread but my finders fee for having learned about this very new material, Tenara Lifetime Thread, is getting to sew my project with it. It certainly would not have been in my budget to buy a spool of it for such as small project. Hopefully he will gets some within a month's time otherwise I will just forge ahead and use the UV resistant polyester we already have.
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Old 06-08-2016, 02:34 PM   #6
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I bought pack cloth from Seattle Fabrics It is lighter weight than Sunbrella but is still water resistant. It is not ad UV resistant but since most of the time the the pop top is down the boot so the boot is not exposed to the sun. I will be starting to sew min this weekend. Plan on making a pattern out of Swedish Tracing Paper so I can test fit it before I cut out the real fabric.

Jeremy
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Old 06-08-2016, 03:08 PM   #7
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Tips for sewing canvas popups

Sewing this project is a little different than methods of sewing clothes. However if you can have basic sewing skills you can do this project but you do need to learn some extra stuff for the best results. So time for an education in the subject. Why fight it when you can learn in advance how to make it easy on yourself?

For sewing up your canvas top you need to realize that you must use a UV resistant thread. That thread is thicker than normal sewing threads, it is more like the weight of a button hole thread. You will need to have a bobbin case that is specifically for using with heavy threads, the standard sewing thread weight bobbin case is not going to give you proper thread tension in your stitches. So be aware that you do need to purchase one if you don't already own a heavy thread bobbin case. You will also need a heavy duty needle but that information is covered in one of the links I am posting below.

You also need to use a longer stitch length than you would use for sewing a garment. That is also covered in the links.

When sewing a coated fabric such as Sunbrella or Surlast you don't put your presser foot onto the coated backside of the fabric as it won't glide easily over that coating. Trying to sew on that side will create a mess. So if you must sew on that side then put a piece of tissue paper over the fabric between it and the presser foot. Also there are some ultra glide Teflon coated presser feet and using one might solve the problem of needing to use tissue paper if you have to sew on the coated side. A walking pressure foot sewing machine would also be of help with this literally sticky situation. But the best thing is to plan out your project design so that you don't have to run your presser foot on the coated side. For instance that means choosing a zipper installation method where you fold under the fabric then stitch on it from the top side. You will need a zipper foot but one will likely have come with your machine.

The Sailrite company has some good videos where they are using Sunbrella to create projects. They use a basting tape to hold the seams in place and I think that is an excellent idea as you won't put all those extra pin holes through the fabric. But also a no residue left behind, clean release, masking tape could also be used to hold things in place. Do place masking tape outside of the stitch line instead of sewing through it.

Here are some links from Sailrite that give tips on working with Sunbrella types of fabrics and also things like putting in the zippers.

First of all a document to download with tips on using a home sewing machine on heavy fabrics for canvas work such as Sunbrella.
Sailrite - Fabric, Canvas, and Sewing Machines Since 1969

You will need to tension your sewing machine for the heavy thread. Here is how to avoid getting it doing that the wrong way.
Sailrite - Fabric, Canvas, and Sewing Machines Since 1969

Working with a coated fabric such as Sunbrella or SurLast is easier if you know the techniques that work best with it. These are videos on that subject.
Sailrite - Fabric, Canvas, and Sewing Machines Since 1969

Sailrite - Fabric, Canvas, and Sewing Machines Since 1969

You will be buying your zippers by the foot as there is no ready made zipper that meet in the middle of the exact length you will need. You will be also be purchasing two zipper slide for each of the openings plus you need to purchase zipper stops for each end of the zippers. Do purchase the plastic marine rated slides for your project instead of metal slides. This video teaches you how to install the zipper pull slides onto the zipper.
Sailrite - Fabric, Canvas, and Sewing Machines Since 1969

A page full of videos on how to install zipper videos. The method needed depends on your project plan but remember to choose the methods where you will be stitching on the side of the fabric that has no coating on it.
Sailrite - Fabric, Canvas, and Sewing Machines Since 1969

Tip for if you plan on installing a vinyl window insert for rainy days when you want extra light. Go ahead and create your popup canvas with all fabric. Then make the vinyl as a removable section installed with velcro or zipper. That way you can store the vinyl windows rolled up around a tube instead of having them get creased from being folded up when the top is lowered. Or you can make the canvas area area to also be removable and swap it out with the vinyl when you want that extra light and rain protection. But do remember that zippered in section adds extra strength to the canvas because there is a lot of pull on that fabric when the top is opened.
That strong pull on the fabric is one reason I have decided to add in four safety straps made from polyester 1" wide webbing which get installed on the interior side of the popup canvas. At each end of the straps I have installed an eyelet that goes under a screw that extends through the shell on into the surround supports on the exterior. Then I have an adjustable buckle latch in the center of each strap so I can adjust the tension. These straps by helping to share the load bearing resistance to the popup spring lifts will help considerably to take strain on the canvas work fabric if you are using a replaceable section of fabric or vinyl in the screen opening area. They are very simple straps to make and install. Belt and suspender approach too, the straps are an extra safety measure if for some reason you forget to lower the popup before driving away from camp. It might save the loss of the fiberglass top as well as torn popup canvas. It would also help in sudden high wind situations.
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Old 06-08-2016, 04:42 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rainjer View Post
I bought pack cloth from Seattle Fabrics It is lighter weight than Sunbrella but is still water resistant. It is not ad UV resistant but since most of the time the the pop top is down the boot so the boot is not exposed to the sun. I will be starting to sew min this weekend. Plan on making a pattern out of Swedish Tracing Paper so I can test fit it before I cut out the real fabric.

Jeremy
That is a handy bonded fiber material for making patterns. I have some on hand but I was not familiar with it being called Swedish Tracing paper. I had to do a search on it before I realized I knew what it was. I will likely have my top up fairly often.

I plan on making an insulated, reflective liner for it to extend the season of use. We get some cool evenings and mornings in the summer on the Pacific Nortwhest and both of those times one is likely to be doing meal preparation. Plus it is also true of Arizona in the winter time.
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Old 06-09-2016, 12:07 AM   #9
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I look briefly at the linked Sunbrella videos. I know there are various Sunbrella products out there, and I didn't understand why you we saying the the fabric you choose was not as thick and is easier to fold than Sunbrella. Now I understand: the Sunbrella shown in that video is like stiff cardboard compared to the Sunbrella on my popup. Not the same thing at all. The Sunbrella used by Coleman on their popups (called "Sunbrella 302") is as thin as the cotton T-shirt I'm wearing right now and flexible and easy to fold as can be.

My patio furniture has Sunbrella cushions, the fabric is quite stiff and thick. My brother has an Airstream trailer with a Zip Dee Awning made of Sunbrella, and again, thick stuff, very different from my popup's Sunbrella.
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Old 06-09-2016, 01:13 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Carl V View Post
I look briefly at the linked Sunbrella videos. I know there are various Sunbrella products out there, and I didn't understand why you we saying the the fabric you choose was not as thick and is easier to fold than Sunbrella. Now I understand: the Sunbrella shown in that video is like stiff cardboard compared to the Sunbrella on my popup. Not the same thing at all. The Sunbrella used by Coleman on their popups (called "Sunbrella 302") is as thin as the cotton T-shirt I'm wearing right now and flexible and easy to fold as can be.

My patio furniture has Sunbrella cushions, the fabric is quite stiff and thick. My brother has an Airstream trailer with a Zip Dee Awning made of Sunbrella, and again, thick stuff, very different from my popup's Sunbrella.
The Campster has a waterproof coated material on the original installation which means you can leave the top up in the rain. 45 years later that fabric is still waterproof although the seams have failed due to the threads aging.

I replaced it with a more modern version of a waterproof coated material. It can't see the point of using a water resistant fabric that has to be sprayed to make it water resistant much less purchasing one that is a thin as a T shirt material when that fabric is going to be under a lo of tension. I want something that does the job I want it to which is stand up to wind, rain, sun and being pulled on whenever the top is open and do so for at least 20 years or more without my having to treat the fabric surface all the time. Hopefully I won't have to recoat the urethane but that could be done by brushing on another coat someday if it ever needs it.
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Old 06-09-2016, 07:36 AM   #11
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I know your choice is already made, but you would have to take a close look at a Fleetwood/Coleman popup and check the fabric.
It is not coated by anything. Really, think "cotton t-shirt", or light denim. Although it's lightweight, it's very resistant to tears and can take a lot of abuse.
As mentioned, it is made water repellent with 303's HTFG, right from the factory. Water doesn't soak the fabric, water beads on the fabric just like a newly waxed car.

To give you an idea on how good the water repellent works, Fleetwood recommended a respray of the repellent every 5 years, or every time the fabric is washed with a detergent (which removes the repellent). Since water doesn't get into the fabric and runs off easily, the fabric tends to stay quite clean, just a simple brushing is usually sufficient. However, after owning the popup for 11 years, I was starting to get some dark streaks where the water ran off. I decided it was time to thoroughly clean the tenting, and this meant a respray of the water repellent. At that point, I'd never had any water go through the fabric, even during the strongest storm. I took every tenting panels off the camper, and used a strong multi-purpose detergent and a brush to clean them off, both sides. What surprised me, is after a strong scrubbing with the brush, with soap and detergent everywhere, then a good rinse using my water hose, when I flipped the canvas over to clean the other side, the other side was still DRY. Water was still not going through. Only after I cleaned both sides did the water started to soak the fabric through. And I was 6 years "overdue" for a repellent treatment... so that repellent really works, and you could be years without worrying about it. Also it will resist and can be cleaned with just about anything: degreaser, bleach, acetone, paint thinner, turpentine, you name it, no problem.

It's really a great fabric. I know your choice is already made so there's no point pushing the subject, and the fabric you picked may very well do the job perfectly, but I just mean that my experience with Sunbrella is such that I would hardly consider anything else.

Keep up the good work, It's very interesting.
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Old 05-27-2017, 08:22 PM   #12
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I thought I should add a quick update with photos of the finished canvas work I did. I took a few photos of it while I had it sitting upside down on a table where I was installing the canvas onto the pop up roof section and the wood frame that goes around the lower edge. Then one photo of it in place on top of the trailer. It has turned out great and gone through a number of very windy, major rain storms while in the extended position of canvas exposed without any leaks!
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Old 05-28-2017, 07:44 AM   #13
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Very nice!
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