Mini-Brig Project: Rigging & Sails: Step 4 - Creating & Sewing The Sails

Step 1:  Choosing the sail cloth material:

There are many different types of sail material that can be used. Here is a quick run-down on each:

A very common & popular inexpensive sail. Basically taking a plastic tarp and cutting it up. You can do the "sewing" by using duct  or double-sided tape. The advantage of polytarp is the "no sew" method. It is also very resilient to mildew, and doesn't stain. The downside is that polytarp will degrade over time due to UV exposure, so you won't want to leave it on the boat in sunlight for long periods of time. This is a good material for a low budget, and for a "temporary" or experimental sail sail.  One other advantage is that polytarp is available in a variety of colours, but most of the colours are very non-traditional and seem somewhat out of character for our boats, for example: orange, silver, blue, green and camoflauge. You can find polytarps in any hardware or surplus store, and even big box store's like Walmart. To find elusive "white" polytarp ,you may have to order online or look at your local surplus store. We found a good source here locally at Princess Auto ( at a fairly good price, you can get a 20x30ft tarp for $29.99 (CDN).  Or they have a two piece kit (8x10 & 10x12), which contains two white tarps for only $8.99.


White Polytarp From Princess Auto

For those not located in Canada, you can also try:

A1- Tarps sells a 6 ounce - 12mil white polytarp in a 12 x 20 size for $31. Note that it is a heavy duty tarp, and UV treated.

Poly-Sail International sells generic white polytarp sail kits.  For $104.95 It includes:

  • 12 x20 White Polytarp Material
  • 42’ x 1 1/2” Double-faced Tape (2 rolls)
  • 30″ or more vinyl trim tape
  • 50’ x 1/8” Diamond Braided Polyester Reinforcing Rope-420 lb tensile strength
  • Sailmaking Instructions

There is a second second option adds a Brass Grommet Setting Kit with (24) 3/8” ID Grommets.


Canvas is a very traditional sail, and comes in many weights. For this type of boat you do not need a very heavy weight of cloth. Canvas is very resilient to UV radiation, but is susceptible to wear and tear, and can stretch. It will also wrinkle, and if not stowed properly will mildew if put away wet. Canvas can be dyed or bleached many different colours. You will have to sew canvas, but it is easy to work with. You can get an old sewing machine usually from a Thrift Store such as Value Village or the Salvation Army cheaply. A good source of inexpensive canvas is a painter's dropcloth, this can be had in most hardware stores such as Home Depot very inexpensively. You can get very thick canvas from a surplus store. You can also buy canvas by the yard from your local fabric store. This can be very expensive so be careful. Even in olden times, linen was often used insead of a heavy canvas due to costs, merchant sailing ships and royal navy ships would sometimes have different specifications in regards to weight and type of canvass because of the costs involved. A good heavyweight drop cloth without plastic backing is a great source for "heavy" material. make sure you thoroughly wash, and dry the cloth before cutting or making sails, as it can "shrink". 

Canvass is the material that we made the sails for our mini-brigs from. The canvass can be dyed as well, and it is best to do it before sewing sails. The original materials for the "Liberte" was a heavy weight cotton/poly blend, but now she sports dyed canvass. There are many methods for dying, and we will leave it to you to  compare processes for natural dyes, versus synthetic dye. One thing to be careful about, is that natural dye "bleed", unless properly fixed. We tried a traditional brine solution, and still had some problems with bleed. It is also a good idea to "dress" or treat the sail to avoid mildew problems.. There are commercial canvass treatments but we prefer traditonal methods. This is commonly referred to as "dressing" the sails. A good article on dressing sails is listed here:

Here is more information on dressing and tanning sails from Report of the Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries, United States, 1884:

"As to other methods of protecting sails from mildew I learn that to the use of a dilute aqueous solution of chloride of is sometimes practiced in this vicinity. I was assured by the captain of a sea going schooner that once when a suit of his vessel's sails ruined with mildew he had them dipped with the result that came out white and clean and wore well for three years.

One practice is to spread out the sails of small vessels on a beach and wash them with a mixture of whitewash and brine. Some people appear to plain whitewash. An objection is urged however to the use of lime it tends to rot the canvas and there is probably some risk that in seeking to destroy the mildew fungus with alkalies the growth of forms favorable for putrefaction may be promoted. To quote from Duclaux, ‘Acid liquids are in general more favorable to molds to yeasts and to mycoderms it is only very exceptionally and only en passant that mobile forms are found in them ie vibrios bacteria or monads.

These kinds appear on the contrary by preference in neutral or alkaline liquids where the molds for their part have much trouble to live. The mold Aspergillus for example grows freely on bread moistened with vinegar on the juice of lemon or slices of lemon and on sour fruits and liquors.’

I find a common impression that the sizing in new canvas attracts mildew i.e. that the mildew fungus finds a fit field for its support in the sizing which has been introduced into the interstices of the canvas at the factory.

To avoid this difficulty some owners of vessels prefer to bend their new sails in the autumn in order that the sizing may be worked out of the canvas by the autumn and winter rains at a time that is to say when the weather is too cold for mildew to prosper.

Old sails are said to be comparatively exempt from mildew. The time honored and universal custom of shaking out or hoisting sails in order that they may dry after rain is one familiar method of preservation.

It is precisely because drying is frequently impracticable in some climates that the tanning process is practised. It would be well to study practically whether the method of permanently dyeing sails either with the aid of an alkali or by means of an oil mordant is really an effective means of shielding the canvas from the mildew fungus and it would be of interest to determine whether the altered and oxidized oil that constitutes the mordant in Turkey red dyeing might not of itself help to preserve sails even if no tanning or other coloring substance were combined with it.

This last question could perhaps be answered at once even now by persons who have had experience with the use of Turkey red cloths in damp situations It is not unfair to suppose that the oil mordant might be useful of itself since it would probably tend to keep the sails drier than they would be in its absence and in this way it might be obnoxious to the fungi which need moisture in order that they may thrive.

So too with cordage it might be questioned whether ropes made from hemp that has been impregnated with the oil mordant and tannin instead of with tar would not be specially serviceable in some cases.

Note: Since the foregoing article was written several friends have described to me a method of coloring sails practised in the vicinity of Venice which differs essentially both as to motive and procedure from the processes of tanning and tarring above described. It appears that far from dyeing or tanning their canvas the fishermen at Chioggia merely mix earthy pigments such as burnt sienna and yellow ochre with salt water rub the mixture upon their sails with a sponge let the coating dry in the sun. That is to say they paint the sails water colors and as soon as the paint wears thin they smear on a coating of it. Apparently the purpose of this application nowadays is purely decorative. At all events the practise calls to mind certain historical instances such as the purple sail of Cleopatra's galley already to the fact that Alexander had sails of various colors to the several divisions of his fleet and that the English King Henry 1416 had a sail of purple silk on his particular ship.

But as the Italians it seems not improbable that there may have been use formerly in making the sails dark colored in order the more to escape the observation of the pirates which infested the Mediterranean until a comparatively recent date It is hardly probable earthy pigments applied in the manner above stated can be of much if any use for preserving the sails.  On the contrary the question naturally arises may not the earths sometimes actually injure the in the same way that iron rust is known to corrode sails as well other vegetable matters by continually giving up oxygen to them it takes up new oxygen from the air. I remember to have myself met many years ago with American fishermen who were very averse to having any kind of dirt get on their sails because it rotted them. It has been suggested to me that the Italian fishermen may use the pigments in order to close the pores of the canvas so that sails may hold the wind better. But if this be so why do they a process of application that requires to be frequently repeated do they not put on the pigments in such manner that they may stay" -FH Stoerer, Bussey Institute (Harvard University, 1883).


I first heard about Tyvek as a sail-making material from Ron Long a sea-scout master with the 1st Okanagan Seafarer's. Tyvek has its fans.  Tyvek is registered trademark of Dupont.  It is a spun-bonded polyethylene used for envelopes you can't tear, protective overalls in construction, and "house wrap", a material put under siding to provide a measure of insulating value (it prevents air movement).  Also, the sail can be manufactured using a "no-sew" method, with duct or double-sided tape. What the house builder uses is typically ten feet wide. So there will be fewer seams, and in a small sail, no seams at all. In the second place, it doesn't need to be stitched. Wherever one piece of cloth goes over another, like at a seam or a corner reinforcement, it can be stuck together with tape.

As you travel around near where you live, keep your eyes open for a house being built. The odds are that, after the walls have been sheathed with plywood, but before it has been covered with the finishing surface of shingles or clapboard or brick or whatever, it will be covered with looks like white paper. On the paper, in big blue and red letters, are printed “TYVEK” and the DuPont logo. If you can find the foreman, or "the boss" tell him you want to build a sail, and offer to buy some. Chances are you can get it fairly cheaply.

There is a school of thought that as long as your going to use an alternative sail material, you may as well be as overt about it as possible, so go ahead and flaunt the lettering.  The main advantage of Tyvek is that it is incredibly cheap if you can find a home builder willing to part with a bit of it.  Tyvek sail makers report paying a wide range of prices: nothing, a six-pack, $20, a date with their sister, etc.  The main disadvantage of Tyvek is that it loses its shape fairly quickly, stretching out. It also will get brittle over time, and may have problems with extreme temperature changes. Sometimes the strecthing out of the sail  is viewed as an advantage, as it provides some shape to the sail not obtainable easily otherwise. Apparently, it also  doesn't hold grommets well. 

Other downsides, is that you will hate the sound of the sail luffing- it sorts of makes a rattling sound, it doesn't sound like a sail at all. But you will grow accustomed to it, especially as you check your bank balance. If it gets old enough eventually it softens up, to a more sail like material. 

Don't attempt to strengthen this sail by running the seams and edges through a sewing machine. The stickum on the tape will gum up the needle immediately. If you really want to sew the seams, make them a lot wider than the tape and sew through the Tyvek, but not through the tape. Any batten pockets you may want should probably be stitched.

The material is rather stretchy. It isn't as bad as the light nylon they use to make sails for boats like a Sunfish, but it is nowhere nearly as inelastic as Dacron. When it is blowing hard the sail will get slightly more full.


Dacron sails have been around so long and have proven so successful that this fabric has become the gold standard of sailmaking. Dacron is DuPont's trade name for the fiber polyethylene terephthalate or PET. In the world of sails, though, it has come to mean the generic fabric produced when PET fibers are spun into yarns and woven into sailcloth. By now there are literally hundreds of variations on this theme - different weights and twists of yarn in the warp and in the fill, different weave tightness, and different finishing processes from resin baths to calendaring. PET's advantages include low stretch, high strength, good abrasion and flex tolerance, and low cost. The only real drawback is its long term sensitivity to UV exposure, which weakens the fibers over time. In most cases, UV exposure is the ultimate cause of death for PET sails. 

Woven PET sails proved so successful that it was inevitable someone would attempt to use the film version of this molecule in sails. (DuPont's name for PET film is Mylar!). Although the film-only sails were interesting, they had plenty of problems, not the least of which was that any tear, no matter how small, led to catastrophic failure. While woven fabrics were soon laminated to film to stop tears, it eventually became clear that the oriented fibers should do the load carrying, leaving the film as a laminating medium and pressure barrier, rather than the load carrying element in sails.

Dacron is extremely durable, and can be put away weight etc.. with no degradation in quality. The only real drawback to Dacron is the cost of materials. However, there are several ways you can reduce costs. You can go to a flea market or look through classifieds to find old sails, that no longer have a boat to sail on. These sails can be found sometimes very cheaply. You can then "re-cut" them to other specifications. You may also contact your local sail-makers - they may have some seconds, that is sails which don't fit to specification or might have minor flaws. The main thing is that the "used" sail is in good condition.

You can buy Dacron online from commercial suppliers, usually running about $7/yard. You can also get "coloured" and "period" looking Dacron. A great source for small boaters is:

Duckworks Boat Builders Supply:
Duckworks Boat Builders Supply
608 Gammenthaler
Harper, TX - USA - 78631

Step 2: Cutting and Sewing:

In making a traditional styled sail, if you are sewing the sail, you will want to make sure you use an extra strong thread, because our sails are smaller, an extremely large diameter thread is not necessary, but a specialty thread is recommended. For example, GÜTERMANN Extra Strong Thread M782,  COATS & CLARK Extra Strong 137M-150YD Hemp, or COATS & CLARK Outdoor Thread. 

It is also handy to have a set of sail-making tools, regardless of the material, the tools do come in handy. Here's a basic set:

  • Sail needle: a strong needle with a sharp triangular point. You can usually get these sometimes at a dollar store. A good QUALITY darning needle set works wonders, especially with straight and curved needles.
  • Sailmaker’s palm: a strip of leather with a metal pad with an indentation that is used to force the needle through the sailcloth. The strip is strapped around the palm of the hand.

  • Small Pliers: very useful for pulling through a needle inserted into heavy sailcloth or multiple layers of sailcloth.
  • A seam "rubber": a wooden handle with a strong 'scraper', traditionally made from strong lignum vitae (tropical type of wood) for creasing down seams in the edges of the sailcloth. You can use a straight edge, or in a pinch a "wallpaper" roller will also work.

    Traditional style seam rubber.

    In a pinch, although less "traditional" a wallpaper roller will work.


  • Awl, to create a hole in heavy sailcloth or multiple layers of sailcloth before inserting the needle.
  • Marlinspike (also known as a marlingspike): a wooden handle with a piece of metal that tapers to a point in the form of an awl is intended for splicing stranded rope. The marlinspike is inserted between the strands of rope. If the Marlinspike has an eye,  a strand is inserted through the hollow section of the marlinspike and is thus fed through the gap in the rope.



  • Hollow punch: a metal pin with a round hole at one end with a sharp edge and a flat face on the opposite end so that it can be hit with a hammer. Hollow punches are available in various sizes and diameters to make small and larger holes. The hollow punches that come in grommet sets can be very handy.


Sewing the Sails

Our first suit of sails that we did for the mini-brigs was done with one solid peice of cloth, that was hemmed, reinforced and grommeted. They work well, and are still usable today, after 12 years of hard service (we did lose a foresail due to mildew problems).

However, in the past few years we have switched over to a more traditional style of sail, which involves putting together the sail in strips, and then sewing in cringles, and ears in each corner, a bolt and footrope. We used beeswax, and all natural materials. Most of the information we used from the Art of Sail Making (1843) which we have attached the .pdf, and also The Elements and Practice of Seamanship (1794): Sail Making Vol. I. In essence, we followed the directions in the Art Of Sail Making, but scaled them to mini-brig format, making accomodations where necessary.

Creating A Basic Sail

Laying out a sail is not much different than laying out a pattern & sewing  clothes. It is best to have a large flat working area such a level hard floor surface or a table. Traditionally, sailcloth is supplied in long strips or on a roll. If you want to make a panelled sail, the best way is to draw the outside of the sail on the floor or on the table and then place the roll or strips on top in order to mark them off in roughly equal spacing. For example our topsail is approximately, 9 strips (with the edges half a strip each). The strips are then sewn together until a rough sail shape is obtained. This is then followed by a series of finishing that depends on the location and the function of the sail, and how much time and effort you want to put into it. The original sails we made for the brig, did not have a leech rope. The square sails are finished a little differently than the foresail or gaff sail. In traditional sails, the outside edge of the sail is folded into a hem that is reinforced by sewing a rope upon it. This edge is known as the 'leech'. Loops are added to this rope to attached to the corners of the saiils and that are used for handling and attaching the sail known as "earrings". Reinforced holes (cringles) are made in the sail for securing it to the yard or mast and for reefing the sail (tying down the sail at a higher point in order to reduce the sail area when the wind is blowing hard).

Rather than draw on the our sail cloth directly. We first made a pattern using some brown paper wrap. This is helpful because we have to make two course sails, and two topsails, which are identical.  We drew out our plans on the wrap on a large table and using a cardboard box underneath as padding, we took a sharp exacto knife and cut out our sail pattern from the measurements. This step is not much different if you are planning on doing a traditional stripped sail, or using all-in-one piece. You can cut your brown paper into strips and then fit them across the sail that you have drawn out as a whole. If you are panelling yor sail, make sure that each strip has an overlap of approximately 3/4"-1" and depending on the finishing about 2" on the top and bottom (if you plan to add a leeech or bolt rope) If you are drawing it out as a whole, you can either incorporate a 1/2"-1" margin into the pattern or somple cut away from the edge of the pattern by 1/2"-1" for a basic sail, and a little more on the top and bottom if planning on a bolt or leech rope. 

This version of Adventure's mini-brig topsail is scaled down from 
the Art of Sail Making (1843). It uses stripped panels instead of one piece design. 

For both a panelled, and one piece version of the sails, we took the pattern and pinned it on the cloth. We used a sharp pair of sewing scissors to cut out the sail cloth. In the case of the Mini-Brig Adventure, we elected to use canvas as our sail cloth. .

In the case of the panelled sail, we sewed all the panels together in similar fashion to the instructions in both the Art of Sail Making, and The Elements of Seamanship (1794) using a sailors "rolled" hem. This is done by rolling the fabric together, in a single seam, and then pressing it flat with the rubber, we used a few pins to hold it in place and then ran a straight edge along the sim to draw with a pencil a "sew" line for a top stich on the edge of the seam one one side.. The first step is to put a basting stitch to hold the seam together, to do this, we used a sewing machine and set it to the largest straight stitch (spacing between stitches) - we ran it through on one side, then flipped the sail over and did the same on the over edge. Then we ran each edge through the maching with an overlapping zig zag.

A typical stich used to sew the panels together by hand.
(A similar function can be done with a sewing maching
by using a wide space top stich followed by a zig zag setting)


If you prefer to hand sew the sail, mark your sewing line, lay out the sail on a large table with lots of working space. Use a straight stitch to sew the seams: you stitch from A to B and constantly repeat this. If you are right-handed then you work from right to left; if you are left-handed then you go from left to right. Take a large quantity of thread, tie a knot in the end of the thread and insert the other end through the needle. Keep the seam flat in front of you. Work from thin to thick, in other words: push the needle down into the single layer of sailcloth and push it towards the double part of the seam. Push it up again diagonally on the seam approximately 1/8"  further along the seam, through two layers of sailcloth. The second stitch is made about 1/2" further along. The trick is to keep an even spacing, so that the stitches are just as long and wide evenly along the seam.

In both sails, you will then want to then reinforce all the outer edges of the seams. Create a hem  all the way around once the basic shape of the sail is completed. Do this by laying the sail flat on the table or on the floor. Now fold the edge of the sail to make a hem about 1/2"- 1" depending on the type of finishing you plan to do and make a crease. Force down this crease using a seam-rubber (even a paint scraper can work in a pinch). This is done by rubbing the seam-rubber over the crease a number of times while applying force, in the same way as a paint scraper, so that the crease remains flat on the sailcloth. In the case of the single piece sail, we folded over the edges about 1/2" on all sides, and rubbed and then pinned them in place. You might have to trim the excess in the the corners to form a neat pointed triangle. From there, we ran each edge of the sail in the middle of the seam, through the sewing machine using a straight stitch to tack everything in place.

On the panelled sail, we followed the directions in the Art of Sail Making, and The Elements of Seamanship (1794) and had a larger hem on both the bottom and top of the sail for the bolt and leech rope. 

Once all the seams were stitched in place, we then put it back through the machine and used a zig-zag stitch over the top of the original straight stitch. Then ran it back through the machine one more time around the edges of the seam edge using a straight stitch, and then once over again with a zig-zag over the seam edge, to lock the straight stitch in place and keep the inner edges of the seam from fraying.

All-in-all, our seams each had four continuous stitches, two straight stitch and two zig-zag. We then measured up abut a 6" triangular piece to reinforce each of the corners. The four corners of the sails are reinforced by sewing on extra sailcloth to create more layers; up to as many as 2 or 4 layer thickness of sailcloth. These layers are again sewn onto the sail on both sides by using strong specialty thread.

We tacked reinforcements the initial piece in place with a straight stitch around the edges. We then sewed a zig-zag stitch from the corner to the edges in a radiating pattern. For example, we started by running a stitch about a 1/2" from the corner along the far right edge to about 1/2 from the top. Then we sewed another stitch from the corner to about a 1 1/2 inch from the edge, and then from the corner to about 2 1/2 inches, and so on until we reached the far left edge and had about 4-5 stitches running from the corner to the top edge of the triangular patch. Then we ran a zig-zag stitch horizontally about 2 inches apart, up to the top edge.


Stitching Diagram

Corner Reinforcement Stitching Diagram


Depending on the type of sail, and finishing requirements further strips of sailcloth are sewn across the width of the sail in order to secure the reefing lines. Eyelets of the required size are punched into these strips at the required positions using a hole punch and hammer. Grommets for the eyelets are either pressed (metal grommets) or they can be made by rope and sewn onto the eyelets. Short lengths of rope are inserted through these eyelets so that the sail can be reefed (made smaller when the wind is blowing hard). A knot is tied in the end of the rope on each side of the eyelet in order to make sure that the rope remains in place.

In the top hem of the sail you make a series of small holes, which are called eyelets, through which ropes are passed for fastening the sail to the yard. These eyelets are made as follows. Round holes of the required size are punched through the sailcloth at the required positions using a hollow punch and hammer. You can use scissors or a small knife to further snip the holes crossways.



metal grommet

Once you have the sail sewed and reinforcement strips in place, the next step is to insert the grommets into the eyeles.  The easiest way is to buy a simple hand tool grommet kit for this project. You simply use a board and hammer to apply the grommets. Ounce you have used the punch tool to create a hole, then insert the grommet and washer. Using the grommet kit and with just a few taps of the hammer, you can affix the grommet to the sail. Grommet kits are available from most hardware & surplus stores.You can get a grommet kit online here:


A simple grommet kit can be had for under  $30.00

A more traditional method is to make the grommets out of rope and then sew them to the sail. This is done by unwinding the three strands of a piece of small diameter rope of three strands of approximately a foot long. Make sure that the ends do not unravel. For synthetic rope you do the best way is  using an electric rope cutter, which melts the ends of the strands and bonds them together. The ends can also be bonded together using a smaller burner or a lighter. If using a different type of rope that does not melt you bind each end of the stranding using a piece of masking tape. Now take one strand and make a loop of approximately 1"=1 1/2" cross-section in the centre of this. Make sure that both ends are the same length. Now take one of the ends, which you start to twist around the loop in the direction of the end. Insert the end through the loop and make sure that the strand sits neatly in the recesses in the loop. Continue until you have made a complete circle. Now take the other end and twist this around the loop also in the direction of that end. Insert the end through the loop and make sure that the strand sits neatly in the recesses in the loop. Continue until you have made a complete circle. The loop now looks like a circle that has been made from the same thickness of rope from which you have used the three strands. The ends of the two strands can be melted using an electric rope cutter if you are using synthetic rope. For a different type of rope half the thickness of the rope by cutting through half of the strand. Insert the remaining piece into the loop, as a result of which this will become slightly thicker.

The rope grommet is tacked in place using four tack stitches in such a way that the eyelet hole is precisely in the centre of the grommet. The grommet is then sewn up around the eyelet using sail thread. This is done by repeatedly sewing loops over the grommet and through the sailcloth until you have completed an entire circle.

Sewing on a rope grommet


Sewing the bolt/leech rope

All edges of the sail are now reinforced by sewing up with strong rope; these are called the 'leech ropes'. The rope is sewn onto one side of the sail, onto the hem of the sail, approximately 1/2" from the edge. This is done by sewing loops onto one strand of the rope. The thread runs in the same direction as the strand. The next strand is then sewn up further along, and so on. You keep going making sure that the sail is taught.

A few pointers:

1. Keep the rope taut and the canvas slack.

2. Do not bunch the canvas, but hold your needle at such an angle that it goes through the canvas a fraction of an inch ahead of where it comes out from under the strand.

3. Sew each strand to the canvas, making sure theneedle  goes  under, not through, the strands.

4. Do not let your stitches start to creep up aroundthe rope, but keep them coming out of the rope in astraight line along the underside. If you let them creep,the canvas begins to curl around the rope.


Sewing the bolt/leech rope

An image of bolt rope sewn onto the sail

sewing on a bolt rope




In sewing he bolt/leech rope, you may also  want to make eyes for the tack and clew and for the sheets to attach. This is done by looping the rope to form an eye, often referred to as an earring. On all our eyes, we whipped them with a layer of sail thread and then coated them with beeswax to prevent against chafing

Eyelets in the bolt rope
An example of an earring loop and attachment
to the corner of the sail.


A general diagram of how the leech/bolt rope is sewn around the sail



Depending on the sail type, you make also need to add cringles for attaching the sail to the mast or yard arm, and for reefing - for travel or in extreme weather. The Gaff sail is attached to the yard with cringles. There are different methods to make cringles, but the most common is to splice them into the leech rope.





Attaching The Sails To The Yards:

Method #1: Rope Robbands

Attaching the sail to the yard is known as "bending" the sail. There are several methods to used to attch the sail to the yards. The square sails were attached to the yards before 1800 by lacing robbands which were threaded through eyelets in the top edge of the sail and wound around the yard, the sail thus hanging underneath the centre line of the yard. Early in the 1800's jackstays were introduced, made by screwing eyebolts along the top of the yard and threading a rope through them from each end and lashing them together tightly in the middle. The sail robbands were laced to this rope with the sail then hanging over the front of the yard. The rope jackstay eventually became a solid iron rod as on modern sailing ship. Our current sails are attchached using rope robands which are tied onto the yard, using a simple reef knot.


There is a range of methods of "bending" the sail to the yard.
The simplest is to use metal hoops or irons used after the middle of the 19th century

Mini-Brig with sails bent to yard with rope robbands

Mini-Brig with rope robands
Square yards With robbands

Adventure with Robbands

Liberte sports her robbands

METHOD #2 - Metal Hoops

The easy and simple method of attaching the sail is to use iron "rings" which replaced the robbands by the mid 19th century. We used this method when we first built the brigs, but then in later variations have switched to rope robbands.


By the mid 19th century, sails were bent to the yards with iron hoops.

When we first built the mini-brigs, we opted to use a simple brass hoop method of bending the sails to the yards. This was accomplished by using a brass locking pin. 


The Sails are attached to the yards via the use of brass locking pins. Each sail has two locking pins that pass through the grommets. The clew of each sail is attached to the yard via quick links. You can attach the sheets and braces using shackles, quick links, or caribeeners. In our case we found a good sale on quick links. This take more time to set-up but on sale they were inexpensive, and they are very secure.






Picture 1: Brass Locking Pin

Picture 2: Brass Locking Pin On Yard

Picture 3: A simple one piece course sail with metal irons attching it to the yard



Bunting Lines:

The course sail has bunting lines which allow you to reduce windage when motoring into the wind or to take in sail in a real blower. The bunting lines are simple 3/8" chord that runs through a small swivel block attached to the yard via a brass hook. Hang the swivel block on the hook, and close the hook with a pair of pliers.  The ends of the bunting lines are attached to a shackle via the use of a bowline knot.

The bunting lines are then cleated off on small cleats located on each side of the mast.

Adventure & Cabana Boy
Motoring with the Top Sails Down and Course Sails Taken-In


Attaching the Foresail

Traditionally, the foresail was bent on to the forestay by lacing with a running rope. In the later have of the 18th century, it was attached by using "hanks" which are sort pieces of iron that are bent into a hoops and then closed off with twin. In the mini-brigs we use simple metal shackes as hanks to attach the sail to the forestay.

Traditional methods of attaching the hank


foresail attached with Shackles
Jib foresail on Adventure


Attaching the Gaff:

The gaff sail is attached to the mast by using spiral lacing. The gaff could also be attached using mast hoops, but with such a small boat, the lacing is quick and easy. There are different types of spiral lacing that can be used, but in this case we use the most simple and traditional style.

Simple method of correctly lacing the gaff sail to the mast

Lacing a gaff sail to a mast

There are many different techniques




The_art_of_sail_making.pdf8.61 MB