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Making A New Seat Cover For A Lawn Tractor

recovering a lawn tractor seat seat cover upholstery

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#1 29 Chev OFFLINE  

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Posted January 04, 2016 - 12:44 PM

I have made several seat covers for lawn tractors over the last couple of years (pictures attached) and thought I would start a post and share some of the things I have learned from doing them in hopes it will help someone else who needs a new seat cover but does not feel they have the knowledge to tackle an upholstery project and does not have the finances to get an upholstery shop to make a new cover.  While the seats I have done covers for are mainly from Bolens products from the 60’s to the 80’s a lot of the principles can be applied to other manufacturers (in fact some of the Bolens seats used in the 70’s such as the seat on a Bolens 1053 are shared with Ford, Jacobson and Wheel Horse).  If you are looking for an inexpensive seat for a lawn tractor you may want to purchase an off the shelf seat as they can do the job for several years but if you want a seat cover that will closely resemble the original in a restoration project then please continue reading this thread and, as time permits, I will update it and try and give you an in depth “how to” using a seat off of a Bolens 850 lawn tractor as the example.  I would suggest that you read through the complete post a couple of times to determine whether you have the necessary skills to do this before attempting it.  This post should also give you a better understanding and appreciation of the work and talent that is involved in making a cover and why upholstery shops who make their living doing this type of work charge what they charge. 

 

  Please note:     THIS INFORMATION IS PROVIDED AS IS – USE AT YOUR OWN RISK

Attached Thumbnails

  • 1 1053 Seat Before.jpg
  • 2 1053 Seat After.jpg
  • 3 Cub Cadet Seat On HT-23 Before.jpg
  • 4 Cub Cadet Now Bolens After.jpg
  • 5 Bolens 1000 Seat Before.jpg
  • 6 Bolens 1000 Seat After.jpg
  • 7 Estate Keeper Seat Before.jpg
  • 8 Estate Keeper After.jpg
  • 9 Bolens 1050 Seat After.jpg
  • 10 Simplicity Before.jpg
  • 11 Simplicity After.jpg

Edited by 29 Chev, January 08, 2016 - 07:04 PM.

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#2 29 Chev OFFLINE  

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Posted January 04, 2016 - 12:48 PM

 Here are some pictures of what the Bolens 850 seat I will be using for this post looks like now – it has a cover that is basically intact but the material has some rips / cracking from years of use and while it still functions it would look out of place on a freshly cleaned up and painted tractor in my opinion.  Note this cover uses a pull cord (sometimes referred to as a drawstring) around the lower edge of the cover to secure it to the seat pan. 

Attached Thumbnails

  • 1 Bolens 850 Seat.jpg
  • 2 Bolens 850 Seat Front.jpg
  • 3 Bolens 850 Seat Top.jpg
  • 5 Bolens 850 Seat Back.jpg
  • 9 Bolens 850 Seat Pan.jpg
  • 10 Bolens 850 Seat Pan Back.jpg
  • 7 Orignal Cover Bottom View.jpg

Edited by 29 Chev, January 08, 2016 - 11:04 AM.

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#3 dthomp17 ONLINE  

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Posted January 04, 2016 - 12:50 PM

You have a great talent.  Looking forward to this post.  Thanks


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#4 29 Chev OFFLINE  

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Posted January 04, 2016 - 12:51 PM

A Little Back Ground

I am not an upholstery person by trade but I do like working with my hands - my start to making covers was prompted by wanting to surprise my brother with a new cover for his Simplicity Landlord tractor as well as wanting one for my Bolens 1050.  I did Google searches and found pictures to use as examples of what original covers looked like but had no luck in finding replacement covers that would look like the originals.  I did find a replacement  cover on ebay for the 1050 that was the correct colour but had no pleats and did not appear to fit as well as I wanted mine to look.  I had nothing left of the original covers for either tractor so I began working with a few pictures of what the original covers looked like and I was able to produce a cover for each seat that resembled the originals to my liking.  If you like to work with your hands, enjoy challenges, can read a tape measure and know how to use a square,  a bit of time and not much money then this post may be for you.   

 


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#5 29 Chev OFFLINE  

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Posted January 04, 2016 - 01:00 PM

Tools You Will Need

 

While an industrial walking foot sewing machine is nice for sewing vinyl it is not a “must have”  – until this summer all I had for a sewing machine was an old Raymond treadle sewing machine that I converted to a hand crank version.  If you coat the vinyl material with baby powder it will let it slide under the sewing machine foot easier as you sew the material and not tend to stick.  A sewing awl, such as The Speedy Stitcher, can also be used to sew vinyl.  Yes it will take longer but a sewing awl can be used to sew seams, pleats and virtually everything else that a sewing machine can sew and can be purchased for about $20.00 U.S.  There are several excellent videos on the “You Tube” and “Sailrite” web sites showing this tool in use for anyone who wants to learn more about it. I compare sewing pieces of vinyl together to building something in metal or wood – the thread is like bolts or screws holding pieces of vinyl together to form a cover – the vinyl and thread is just more flexible than metal or wood.   A few other tools you may require are a yard stick, square, tape measure, cloth tape measure, pair of scissors, a thread stitch ripper, a few small paper clamps or clothes pins, a stapler, small flat screwdriver, utility knife and a few razor blades. 

 

SAFETY FIRST - PLEASE PRACTICE SAFE WORK HABITS – ONE SECOND OF THOUGHTLESSNESS CAN RESULT IN A LIFETIME OF SUFFERING!

 

Wear safety glasses and remember – scissors, razor blades, thread rippers and needles are all sharp and can cut skin easily – blood does not look good on a new piece of vinyl.  Lawn tractors that have sat neglected for a while tend to become homes to mice and other creatures of nature and seats can be their new living quarters / outhouse – wear a mask and work in a well ventilated area when taking a seat apart – no point in letting your new project make you sick.

Attached Thumbnails

  • 2 Walking Foot Sewing Machine.jpg
  • 3 Speedy Stitcher Sewing Awl.jpg
  • 4 Thread Ripper And Small Screwdriver.jpg
  • 5 Razor Blades.jpg
  • 6 Stapler And Scissors.jpg
  • 7 Raymond Sewing Machine.jpg

Edited by 29 Chev, January 05, 2016 - 08:42 PM.

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#6 29 Chev OFFLINE  

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Posted January 04, 2016 - 01:07 PM

Materials – Vinyl, Thread, Etc.

 

 There are many suppliers of vinyl, threads, foam padding, piping, etc. – I suggest you check with local upholstery shops first (best to support local business where you can) and if they cannot help you check out some of the online stores.  Here in Canada I have dealt with https://www.jtsoutdoorfabrics.com/ which I find offer quality products and excellent service.  One thing to remember is that if you live in a colder climate and use your tractor for snow removal like I do you will want a vinyl material that is rated for cold cracking and outdoor use – I have had good success with a vinyl product called “Winterfun” which they show in their snowmobile products section (Winterfun is the vinyl material I am using for this cover).  Also you may wish to consider whether the material is fire retardant - Up In Smoke should remain the name of a Cheech and Chong movie and not your new seat project.


Edited by 29 Chev, January 05, 2016 - 02:42 PM.

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#7 29 Chev OFFLINE  

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Posted January 04, 2016 - 01:13 PM

Other Options for Sewing The Material

 

There are many videos on the internet that show sewing techniques and how to use a sewing machine - check out http://www.sailrite....w-To:Upholstery which offers some excellent videos on how to recover a motorcycle and truck seat as well as many others.  If you don't think you can sew the material yourself then here are some other options I will suggest. Contact a local high school that offers sewing classes either during school hours or as a night course or someone who does clothing alterations and see if they would consider sewing up your cover at a reasonable price if you supplied the materials.  Scouts and Guides may also be interested in helping you out for the cost of a donation.  A word of caution if you are considering using the family sewing machine and tools for a sewing project  – if you are happily married and wish to remain so please check with your loving partner to see if is ok to use them as they may not share your views of what's mine is ours or have the same level of enthusiasm for a seat cover project.  


Edited by 29 Chev, January 06, 2016 - 04:47 PM.

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#8 29 Chev OFFLINE  

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Posted January 04, 2016 - 01:26 PM

Errors And Omissions

 

 I will try and provide information as I do this project but I may bounce over a step or forget to include something – please feel free to point this out and ask questions and I will do my best to answer them. You will also find that I make mistakes (shows I am still human??) and I will post these as well so that you can learn from them and not make the same ones.  Speaking of mistakes - if you do make a mistake please do not beat yourself up over it or get frustrated to the point of giving up on your cover - if there were no mistakes a lot of things would never have been invented. Sewing up a new seat cover is probably not going to be a quick two hour project but since it is January and cold (12 degrees Fahrenheit here today) this may be the perfect time to tackle a new project that you can work away at indoors when you get time.    

 


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#9 29 Chev OFFLINE  

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Posted January 04, 2016 - 01:37 PM

Find A Work Area That Is large Enough

 

A fold up table (3 feet x 6 feet) or a homemade work bench (saw horses and a sheet of plywood) should give you enough room to lay out things and work on your project – smaller areas may be used but I find they can be cramped and little things tend to hide and others fall on the floor.  Here is a picture of the temporary work bench I set up over my lawn tractor to work on things such as seats this winter - it is made out of some 2 x 4's screw nailed together and a sheet of 7/16" chip board on top with a few wood screws.   Most vinyl is sold by the yard and is usually about 54" wide and it is nice to have a work area that you can lay the material flat on to mark out pieces.  You may also wish to get a small plastic tool box to keep your new tools in - it can sit on your work table and that way you can find the tools easily. 

 

Attached Thumbnails

  • 1 Work Table.jpg

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Posted January 04, 2016 - 01:44 PM

Seats Scratch Surfaces

 

As you work on a lawn tractor seat you will be moving it around in various positions – the surface you are working on will probably get scratched up as you move the seat around and may mark or damage the upholstery - to help prevent this put a piece of cardboard under the seat so it can sit and slide on it.   On the Bolens 850 seat it has two mounting studs that stick out the bottom and will catch and scratch badly – a short two by four scrap of wood with two holes drilled in it to cover the studs works well to prevent this – you may come up with a similar or better idea.

Attached Thumbnails

  • 3 Studs In Seat Bottom.jpg
  • 4 Two By Four With Holes For Studs.jpg
  • 5 Two By four Over Studs.jpg
  • 6 Cardboard Under Seat.jpg

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#11 29 Chev OFFLINE  

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Posted January 04, 2016 - 01:53 PM

Take Some Measurements And Lots Of Pictures

 

Get a good feel or understanding for how the cover was made and put together – pictures and measurements will help you do this and provide a reference for later on after you have removed the original cover.  Make notes of anything that you think may be important - pleat spacing, piping size, padding thickness, etc. - while you are only planning on recovering this seat now you may want to recover it again in the future or you may purchase an identical tractor model (I think it is a disease) that needs the same cover.  If you are lucky and get a seat that is still in decent shape (like this example) the cover will provide an excellent pattern to make the new cover with.

Attached Thumbnails

  • 1 Bolens 850 Pleat Spacing.jpg
  • 2 Bolens 850 Width Of Pleated Section.jpg
  • 3 Bolens 850 Width Of Pleated Section.jpg
  • 4 Bolens 850 Width At Top.jpg
  • 5 Bolens 850 Width At Front.jpg

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#12 29 Chev OFFLINE  

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Posted January 04, 2016 - 02:52 PM

Starting To Make Patterns

 

I would suggest you make patterns of the original cover - check to make sure it fits the seat nicely and has not shrunk with age.  I find that clear plastic garbage bags are inexpensive and work well to draw on to get the shapes of the various pieces where they are joined if you have an original cover to work with such as in this case.  If you do not have an original cover they still work well to lie on the seat and see how the vinyl will fit – if the plastic lays without wrinkles or puckers the vinyl should as well.  Since they are clear you can see where the joins are in the old cover or, if you do not have an original cover, where you would like the joins to be using the seat as a reference point.  You could also rip the old cover apart at the seams with a thread ripper and then use the pieces to mark out new pieces but I find this is time consuming and can be tricky if you are dealing with some old, very brittle vinyl.  Using the plastic also leaves the original cover intact to use as a reference. Split the garbage bag so that it can be cut apart and provide a single sheet of plastic big enough to trace each section onto using a marker or ball point pen.  Lay the plastic on the section with as few wrinkles and puckers as you can.  A few pieces of masking tape will hold the plastic in place – if you are working on an edge piece a few paper clamps or clothes pins can be used to hold the plastic in place as you mark the seams.  In this example I am marking out the front lower piece of the pleated section using a marker - a ball point pen would work as well.  I have marked where the centre of the pleat is and where the material folds at the edge as well as the actual edge that is folded underneath.  As you will notice in the close-ups of the right and left side the distance between the pleated piece and the seam join is different – the left side is longer by about ¼”.  Something I have learned is that upholstery is not an exact science and as a result when you sew two identical pieces together you can get slightly different results as to where things join.  I am pointing this out now so that you will be aware of this when we make the actual paper pattern for this piece.  Once you have the plastic sheet marked out you can remove it from the seat – be careful that you do not stretch the plastic and distort things where it was taped – leave the masking tape on the plastic if it will not come off easily.

Attached Thumbnails

  • 1 Plastic In Place.jpg
  • 2 Plastic Marked.jpg
  • 3 Plastic Marked Under Fold.jpg
  • 4 Right Side Distance.jpg
  • 5 Left Side Distance.jpg

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#13 29 Chev OFFLINE  

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Posted January 04, 2016 - 02:55 PM

Transfer The Plastic Pattern To Paper

 

Lay the plastic piece over top of some paper – I use masking paper but ordinary printer paper, graph paper or even light cardboard (such as a cereal box )will work ( you can tape or staple pieces together if they are not large enough to make the pattern).   You can then slip a pencil underneath the plastic and draw out the pattern onto the paper making sure the plastic doesn’t move as you draw it out.  Once you have transferred all the markings you can remove the plastic.

Attached Thumbnails

  • 6 Plastic Pattern Over Paper.jpg
  • 7 Pencil Underneath Plastic Starting To Mark Outline.jpg

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Posted January 04, 2016 - 03:04 PM

Make Your Pattern Equal

 

In this example I want the top and bottom edge to be straight and parallel and the left and right sides to be mirror images of each other.  The first thing I did was to make the top line straight and then using a square mark a centre line at a right angle to the top line using the centre mark from the pattern as a guide and verifying that it is in the centre between the left and right side edges.  Once this was done I now had two lines of reference to lay out the rest of the lines for the bottom fold and edge, the top and bottom points of the side edges and the point where the taper started just down from the top edge.  Where the ¼” discrepancy between the left and right side was I adjusted the pattern so both would be the same – the left side shorter and the right side longer.  Next I added a 3/8” seam allowance along the top edge and down both sides – remember the drawing was where the seam was and the 3/8” seam allowance lets you sew at the join and give enough extra material so that the seam will not rip or tear.  I cut the paper pattern at the outside of the seam allowance and now I had a paper pattern to mark out the new vinyl with and wrote what it fits on it – once you have the pattern you can save it and use it over again to make another cover should the need arise (the cover you make gets damaged or you purchase the same model tractor and it needs a new cover as well).   As a final test to make sure the pattern is the same on both sides you can fold it in half on the centre line and see if the edges line up – if they do not and something is out of whack it is easier and cheaper to make another pattern out of paper than to find out after you have cut out a piece of vinyl that isn't the right shape.

 

Attached Thumbnails

  • 8 Ouline Marked In Pencil.jpg
  • 9 Squaring Up So Both Sides Are Equal.jpg
  • 10 Squared Up.jpg
  • 11 Seam Allowance Added.jpg
  • 12 Pattern Cut Out.jpg
  • 13 Fold Test.jpg
  • 14 Fold Test.jpg

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#15 29 Chev OFFLINE  

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Posted January 04, 2016 - 04:04 PM

You can now continue marking out the paper patterns and cutting them out - make sure you transfer any reference points you marked on the plastic (where the pleats start, where a bend is, where the material is folded over and sewn such as along the bottom edge, etc.  Also make sure you add a 3/8" seam allowance around the edge where the piece will be joined to another piece.  Where you need a left and right piece that are mirror images of each other you can use one pattern and flip it over to make the other side.  Double check the patterns where the pieces join to each other and make sure they are the same size by holding them against each other - if the paper patterns are not the same size then correct them so they match - again it is easier and less expensive to make a new pattern than to waste vinyl by marking and cutting out a piece wrong.  If, for example, where the left lower piece joins the back filler piece and the filler piece is 2-1/4" wide with the seam allowance and the lower side piece is 1-7/8" wide then they will not match up - see Picture 6 (it shows the two pieces of vinyl sewn together but originally the paper pattern was off by the amount I mentioned so I had to modify the lower piece pattern so they would match up).  You can simply use masking tape and tape on another piece of paper where the pattern is wrong, remark the pattern and then trim the new paper to the correct size.  Please note that this cover originally had pleats that were heat pressed into the vinyl.  I cannot duplicate the heat pleats so I sew the pleats in using 1/2" sew foam as a back to form the pleats.  As a result you cannot lay the plastic over the pleated section, draw it and then transfer it to paper.  The size will be correct but when you sew the pleats the material gets shorter each time you sew a pleat - in this case we have 10 pleats which are spaced 1-1/2" apart and the length of the finished section will be off by about 3/4".  I will show you how to mark out the pleated section next.  I will also mention that originally the front lower piece and the pleated area were all one piece of vinyl and the rear of the pleated section was sewn to the rear upper piece - I am making the pleated piece separately and it will be sewn to the rear upper piece and the front lower piece which makes laying out the pleated piece easier - the cover will still look the same but there will be one extra seam at the front where the pleated piece ends.

Attached Thumbnails

  • 1 Lower Side Piece.jpg
  • 2 Lower Side Piece.jpg
  • 3 Other Patterns.jpg
  • 4 Other Patterns.jpg
  • 5 Pattern Reworked.jpg
  • 6 Join Where Lower Side And Rear Filler Are Sewn Together.jpg

Edited by 29 Chev, January 05, 2016 - 12:26 PM.

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