How to Recover an Umbrella - Threads


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How to Recover an Umbrella

These umbrellas were pieced to create new designs. Piece the fabric before cutting out the canopy segments.
Make an umbrella canopy that’s as bright and detailed as you like.
These umbrellas were pieced to create new designs. Piece the fabric before cutting out the canopy segments.

These umbrellas were pieced to create new designs. Piece the fabric before cutting out the canopy segments.

Photo: Jack Deutsch

by Sandra Ericson
excerpted from "Umbrella Recovery"

Threads issue 145

There is something captivating about umbrellas; the way they open with arms outstretched and then close back down into perfectly compact forms can seem downright magical. They keep us dry on rainy days and shield us from the bright sun on hot ones.

If the cover of your favorite umbrella is ripped or torn, don’t just toss it in the trash. Simply remove the old cover, assemble a new canopy, and attach it.

The process is simple to master and enables you to re-cover any umbrella frame you find, including tattered antique or vintage finds from your local thrift store. You could even make umbrellas to match your outfits.
Before you know it, you’ll have so many gorgeous umbrellas that you’ll be looking forward to rainy days.


Get to Know Your Umbrella

Although there are many different styles, configurations, and uses of umbrellas, when you’re considering re-covering an old umbrella or covering a new frame, the most important features are the length of the ribs, the number of sections, and whether the tips are built into the ribs or they slip over the rib ends. The more sections your frame has, the better, since each seam needs to stretch less, assuring a better fit for the canopy.


Umbrella Anatomy
Each rib has a corresponding seam in the canopy. At the end of each rib is a tip. Study your umbrella to see how your canopy is attached at the tips. They may be hand sewn to the ribs. Or, the tips may be hand sewn directly to the canopy and pop off easily.

Click to enlarge image.



Select the Right Fabric

Something to keep in mind as you consider new umbrella fabric is the behavior of today’s fabrics as opposed to that of vintage fabrics and the relationship of the fabric to the shape of the pattern. For most umbrellas, 2.2-ounce nylon taffetas and 2.5-ounce Supplex with UV protection are usually good choices. Both are available at TheRainShed.com. Many vintage umbrellas are covered in natural or more loosely woven fabrics. If this is the case with your umbrella, choose a fabric with equal amount of bias stretch needed to arch over the ribs; however, if you choose a fabric that is a very tightly woven synthetic with a fine yarn, it will not stretch as well over the ribs, and you will need to curve the long edge of the pattern slightly. Keeping the area around the point at the top flat to prevent ripples as the panels converge there, draw the curve into the top third of the pattern from just beyond the point, curving it out smoothly from 1⁄8 to 1⁄4 inch at the most, depending on the number of ribs—more ribs, less curve.


Use the Old Canopy to Make a Pattern

A successful canopy depends on the ability of the seams to stretch enough to accommodate the curve of the open umbrella. Make certain that you cut absolutely on-grain. 

1. Take apart the old canopy. Using a seam ripper, take apart the original canopy seams. Choose the least distorted, most intact segment from which to make your pattern. Press it with the grain. Keep your umbrella’s fabric in mind when pressing; you may need a press cloth to avoid damaging the material.

2. Straighten the segment’s edges. Fold it in half down the center, and press. Straighten the sides if they are stretched out of shape.

3. Trace the pattern. Fold a large piece of paper in half. Align the segment fold along the paper fold, and trace the half section. Include the size of the seam allowances; it’s usually 3⁄8 inch. To get an accurate pattern, mark the beginning and end of the cutting or stitching line, and then connect the marks with a straight edge. Cut out the pattern on folded paper so both sides match.

4. Choose your fabric, and cut out the canopy pieces. Select a fabric that is similar to the original canopy because that fabric was initially chosen to suit the frame construction and provide adequate bias stretch; use the same fabric type throughout your umbrella. There is only one pattern piece for an umbrella, and it’s cut on the cross-grain with the hem parallel to or on the fabric selvage, depending on whether you use the selvage edge as a decorative edge or you sew the hem. Place the unfolded section on a single layer of fabric, chalk-trace, and use a rotary cutter and mat to cut each one accurately.


Chalk-mark the edges.

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Posted: 3:08 am on July 22nd

user-2271357 user-2271357 writes: I have seen a lot of tutorials online for how to use a pre-existing cover as a pattern. However, I have an antique umbrella skeleton that has long since lost its cover. How do I go about forming a pattern for this?
Posted: 1:01 pm on June 3rd

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Posted: 10:28 pm on September 23rd

DSwindle69 DSwindle69 writes: what a nice idea, I have always wanted to cover an umbrella.
this is a new project, i will add to my others asap
Posted: 10:03 pm on June 7th

savonniere savonniere writes: Every time I collapse the umbrella the rib tips fall off - this was the case with the old (original cover) and with the new one. Anyone have a suggestion how to make the tips stay secured to the tips of the ribs? I'm thinking superglue?
Thanks.
Posted: 10:02 am on January 30th

Sewgull Sewgull writes: I make a new cover for our patio umbrella several years ago.
It was not perfect, but I was pleased. My husband was more please than I was.

Always give something a try, you will succeed or make a mess. Either was you gave it a shot.
Posted: 4:54 pm on November 28th

exclusivelydi exclusivelydi writes: Thanks, I use one every time I go out in the sun, you know, super light skin etc. I have wanted a 'pretty' one for the sun instead of just another rain umbrella. This is pretty much as I expected, but it's still nice to see it and read it first!
Posted: 11:57 pm on November 24th

Sheavz Sheavz writes: I am delighted to have these instructions. I have my grandfather's large black umbrella, with his name engraved on the silver handle. The canopy is in surprisingly good condition, but definitely needs replacing. I am going to give it a go and can really use a new umbrella here in rainy Seattle!! Thanks for this very timely article.
Posted: 5:57 pm on November 23rd

Shadegardener Shadegardener writes: It's funny that this came at this time, because I am almost finished making a new cover for my daughter's patio umbrella, using Sunbrella canvas and outdoor uv resistant thread. Never would have thought to do this until she asked. She sent her old shredded one, which I took apart to use as a pattern. It was very easy to do and looks nice, but now I am anxious to see if it fits! Must send it across the country.
Posted: 4:59 pm on November 23rd

perendales perendales writes: I have 2 old and faded outdoor umbrellas that I would like to recover in Sunbrella this time. Great idea. I need to grab those umbrellas out of storage and try this out.
Posted: 11:33 am on November 23rd

BarbaraJChilds BarbaraJChilds writes: Great article. I have a golf umbrella which needs recovering and will definitely try this method.
Posted: 9:47 am on November 23rd

beckysews beckysews writes: What a great idea! I think I'll use some cotton and spray with Scotch Guard to weatherproof it!

Thanks!
Posted: 11:18 am on November 20th

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