Campervan upholstery (Part2)

I’m already anticipating many, many parts to this sewing saga. It’ll be like an Enid Blyton series: ‘Even more campervan upholstery’, ‘Having fun with campervan upholstery’ and a climactic ‘Choosing a professional campervan upholsterer’.

This weekend Paul came with me to Spotlight. It was a far more efficient trip and within five minutes he was standing at the cutting counter with five rolls under his arms. We got metre-long samples of a few completely different types that we could try out in the van, including the stripy deckchair fabric I’d seen last week in blue and red. Unfortunately, what had looked cool and beachy on the roll looked more NHS hospital gowny in the van. Particularly the blue one:

The red was a bit better:

Overall it’s going to need something quite bold and bright. My seats are going to make a statement!

The stripy one below will definitely make a statement. It is Paul’s current favourite:


I wasn’t sure in the shop. I’m still not sure, but it did look quite good when we laid it out in the van:


The only trouble is Paul is very keen to use gloss red cupboard doors underneath the seating, which might be too much red. It is hard to tell though when our laminate samples are two-inch squares, and I’m not keen on returning to the kitchen showroom with my extra large handbag. So yesterday I put my Art GCSE to good use and made a cardboard model of the seating arrangements. Paul likes using Google’s Sketchup but I need something a bit more tangible to visualise the finished concept. Any excuse to get out my double-sided sticky tape and… a craft knife!

It was quite a basic model. I could sense Paul was getting a bit agitated because I hadn’t curved the window properly (i.e. at all), I’d put a worktop where the gas stove is supposed to go and ‘why are there bars on the window?’ (they were venetian blinds). Grrr. So yes, it wasn’t to scale and did keep collapsing but it was helpful to see some of the colour combinations. Here are some of the front-runners, any comments and preferences very welcome!

This is Paul’s choice. It wouldn’t look quite so overbearing in the van (I know, I know – I should have done the model to scale), but it still quite red.

I was being a bit of a cheapskate with this blue fabric, it was from the luxury selection so I thought I could get away with a free ‘finger sample’. Unfortunately the lady in the shop had very small fingers so you don’t get quite the same effect.

I quite like this one and even included Paul’s stripy fabric in the curtains for good measure, but he’s not keen on the eggshell blue.

This is quite nice, and would go well with the wooden floors. I could jazz up the curtains – maybe even do the tie-backs in the stripy fabric! Although I might be overestimating my sewing ability, I’ll get the cushions done first.

So that’s where we are with the seating. For anyone more interested in the actual construction of the campervan, I promise I’ll revert to dust and drilling in the next post, because while I’ve been dithering with fabric swatches, Paul’s been steadily making impressive progress on the interior.

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The wonderful world of campervan upholstery (part1)

Other than being on hand to provide moral (and calorific) support over the last few weeks, I haven’t been physically involved with the van’s evolution so far. But now, I have a job. I’m going to be responsible for upholstering the seats.

This is quite a big responsibility as, space-wise, the seats take up a fair chunk of room in the van. They’re also very… visible. There’s no hiding them behind a screen or a gas bottle if I mess up the seams (that’s not to imply Paul is hiding anything behind the gas bottles, he’s a complete perfectionist). Anyway, I figured if he can work out how to convert a taxi into a campervan, I should be able to cobble together some cushions.

And I’m not a complete beginner when it comes to sewing; I did cross-stitch a placemat when I was at primary school in 1990 (I remember the date because that’s what I appliqued onto the mat – I’m hoping I’ve retained some of that creative imagination). Since then though, there’s been something of a sewing hiatus.

So last weekend I went to a fabric store to get the lay of the land. And a scary land it was. Aisles and aisles of different styles and colours and weights of upholstery material. One of the nice sewing ladies took pity on me as I was feverishly trying to capture each one on my phone. She seemed to be partly speaking in a different language, but the main thing I gleaned was, as long as the fabric doesn’t have a plastic backing, it’s just a matter of taste. Well that should be easy then.

This was my absolute favourite:

A sort of Cath Kidston inspired surfer-chic. Unfortunately I knew it would be vetoed as soon as I got home. It was. As was this lovely floral:

And this one:

So much for taste. I looked at some more neutral, sensible colours:

But they weren’t very inspiring. A bit too caravanny.

These were a bit brighter and quite hard-wearing, a possibility:

And I quite liked these:

A bit like deckchair fabric and nice and soft, although maybe not quite tough enough. Paul thought these could be contenders – two out of 200 is not bad I suppose.

Next weekend I’ll be brave and ask for some samples.

Campervan paraphernalia

Now, at the risk of sounding like we’re taking this hobby one stage too far and becoming (eek) ‘collectors’, we have amassed some very cool campervan paraphernalia since we started the project. It’s inspired some lovely presents and quite unlikely birthday / Christmas / Valentine’s cards. Here are some of the things we’ve had recently:

Paul got this model kombi van from Jean & John, very useful to practise on before he started the real thing. Although actually, he just had to stick on the lights and add the wheels so we can safely say he’s progressed!

I love this book Alice bought us for Christmas. It’s full of gorgeous campfire feasts, blustery cliff-top walks and tips on how to forage for your own funghi. It remains to be seen whether I could ever summon up enough… well, camping spirit to produce a lemon and herb risotto with cubed gorgonzola in our little kitchen – can you imagine stirring a pan for 20 minutes kneeling down?? – and I must confess, I’ve already ensured we’ll always have enough storage space for a ready supply of nice clean, supermarket-foraged mushrooms. But it’s a fantastic book.

I really like this Christmas card. Obviously I’m the one on the right, not sure who the other lady is.

Paul bought this one. He clearly has very unrealistic expectations high hopes for our future campervan exploits.

Campervan kitchen – in go the cabinets

We’ve had to bring in reinforcements; Paul’s parents, Jean & John, were staying last week and earned their keep by knocking a few cabinets together. J & J are also keen campervanners and have just embarked on their second tour of NZ in a v posh 4-berth campervan.

So the task last weekend was to build and fit the kitchen cabinets that will house the sink, gas stove and fridge. The ‘build’ part was made easier by buying ready-built cabinets from Bunnings! Well, they were flat-packed but still easier than just buying a load of wood. Amazingly they fit perfectly width-ways, so Paul just had to take some of the height off the bottom, and cut round all the wheel arches etc at the back.

So from left to right is the bathroom basin, then there’ll be a wall, then the kitchen sink, then the fridge.

The cabinet on the other side is for the gas stove and grill.

The fridge is a Waeco CoolMatic (80 litres), which is bigger than we thought we could fit in, and has a little ice box at the top for our frozen peas. It’ll be wired in with 6mm cables to the 12volt battery and should last about 3 days before the battery needs to be recharged. That should be plenty long enough, as I can’t imagine we’ll ever go that long without plugging into power somewhere – not intentionally anyway, and if the worst comes to the worst, we’ll just have to have a couple of meals of warm beer and defrosted peas.

The next job is to source and fit the two water tanks underneath the bathroom and kitchen sinks. Paul thinks he might be able to get them from a 4WD shop this week. He also wants to figure out the seating / bed combo; this has already prompted many colourful conversations between him and his Dad, as they both have very different ideas about how to build it. I think Paul is going to take advantage of J & J being in NZ for the next few weeks to make a start on it.