Do I have to use cotton for the sails?

No, not at all. But cotton is a good place to start for if no other reason, it has been tried and accepted by many.

To say it is cheap is an understatement, VERY cheap for the amount you will need.

But also it is a material you are more likely to get a seamstress to make you a set of sails with.

Or, if like Gary, you will do them by hand.

Cotton poplin is that which is light and stretches only in one direction. Gary talks about this in his YouTube instruction video so no point going over it again.


But if you fancy something different you might try rip stop nylon. Rip stop is commonly used for  kites and that type  is very light compared to other  applications. it is also brightly coloured and not at all  expensive. It does have to be machine sewn and the same procedure used for cotton works equally well for this.

My sloop Maxine has had a couple of sial sets made from this and it works as well as cotton, . The main difference is, and it may not matter, it doesn’t  stretch slightly like cotton poplin.

Another material found on a lot of modern rc kit sailboats is  Mylar. This is a plastic sheet used in things like  plans etc, but  also available in three different thicknesses. it not sewn but stuck together using double-sided filament tape.

This is a whole subject of it’s own and will follow when I get to it.


In the meantime.


Got any suggestions on sail-making?  Use contact form to tell me about it.


One comment on “Do I have to use cotton for the sails?

  1. LAYING OUT SAILS – Using dimensions shown on the sail plan to make paper patterns for the sails. – Let it be easy,

    The JIB is a simple triangle.
    Never mind angles, simply lay out the 3 sides to the given dimensions and the angles will take care of themselves.
    The angles cannot be wrong if the linear dimensions match those shown on the sail plan.

    The GAFF sails, also easy, but don’t overlook the DIAGONAL!
    Here’s the Scoop – Think of the gaff sail as TWO triangles – divided by the DIAGONAL (measurement given on the sail plan) from the throat (corner by the gaff jaws) to the clew (corner at end of boom).
    Begin by laying out the lower portion (a triangle), then add the upper portion (another triangle). BINGO! All the angles have again taken care of themselves. Again, the angles cannot be wrong if the linear dimensions match those shown on the sail plan.

    Making the pattern, don’t forget to add the “hem” (extra 1/2 inch) all the way around the sail. I sometimes tape paper together to make a big enough piece for the pattern(s).
    When making the sails, be sure to incorporate Bolt Rope as per the sail making video. It takes the strain so as not to distort the fabric when under load.

    Happy Sewing, Gary

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