The Cruising Sailor’s Sail Repair Toolkit
If you’re going to sail you’ll be doing some stitching. No two ways about it. Don’t jump into the $100 do-everything kit. Start with a modest kit, adding tools and materials only as your skills grow and projects require them.
Work Surface - A wooden cutting board is perfect for small projects, much better than plastic.
Sailmaker’s palm - Get one that fits. Left-handed palms are available. A Dremel can smooth out the sharp edges, so your palm is as soft as a true sailmaker’s palm.
Needles - Get an assortment, size 12-18. Smaller numbers are larger needles. A number 16 is a good match for #4 whipping twine, your workhorse thread.
Waxed whipping twine – You can wax as you go, but pre-waxed is handier. Robline #4 is our favorite. Get a few spools; white is good for sails, dark colors are handy for marking lines.
Safety Pins and Straight Pins – You’ll want these for holding fabric. Double-stick seam tape helps, but if you’re working in the wind or in tight spaces, pins seem to work better.
Awl or icepick – Essential forcing holes through material too stiff for palm or even stitching awl alone.
Stitching awl – These tools are handy when you can’t reach both sides and a needle and palm won’t work.
Pliers – Sometimes the needle requires a little encouragement. The one in your toolbox is fine.
Lighter or soldering iron for sealing edges – If you can’t turn a seam under soldering the edges prevents fraying.
Cutting tools – Although a knife, razor, and seam ripper all have their place, start with scissors.
Materials — Some scraps of sailcloth and canvas are useful, but webbing, soft leather or elk hide, Sunbrella, and sail repair tape are just as essential.
Fids – Before you accumulate a collection of implements for splicing double braid, start with a standard fid for splicing and loosening knots (“A Fistful of Fids,” PS July 2006).
Wool yarn – Tell tales are perhaps the most common item, and although other materials fly more easily, wool seems to dry fastest and not get stuck to the sail (see “Adding Yarn Telltales to Your Sail,” PS May 2018 online).
Household needles and thread – Include an assortment of smaller needles and thread (white and several colors in heavier weights) for repairs to upholstery and clothing.
Fasteners – Once you head offshore its good to have a few grommets and a grommet kit, as well as some spare fasteners.