Yurting: sewing the canvas with the Sailrite and yurt dwelling tips

Well it’s been almost a year since the last blog post and much has been discovered about living in a yurt in a Canadian climate. Since the completion of the Yurt tono crown, two pieces of ash steam bent into a circle (see last yurt blog in March 2013), the canvas was sewn out of Sunforger 10oz cotton canvas using the Sailrite Machine from DIYODE.

yurt frame 2





yurt frame






yurt summer






Finally, the yurt was set-up for living in April.

An admirable feature of this yurt is that 90% of the materials are non-toxic and biodegradable. As you can see in the photo, it was set-up in the woods. With all the wet, humid, damp weather we had this year, stagnant air and mold settled in quickly and I learned the value of sunshine and wind, i.e. natural ventilation in this hand-built home. Within a few months, it was clear this home is unsuitable for forest dwelling wherein wood is decaying around you continually. Oops.

Battling mold has several straight forward solutions: move the yurt into full elemental exposure, wash and retreat wood frame and canvas. However I encountered another weakness in the design; water was wicking in through the canvas along the roof poles and dripping inside the yurt during heavy down pours (which we had LOTS of this past summer). The 10oz Cotton Canvas is factory treated for water resistance, mold resistance, and fire resistance and clearly I stretched it beyond its protective coverage. After calling Little Foot Yurts out in Nova Scotia who use the same fabric for their yurt canvas, I learned that they too had experienced damp, leaky conditions with ONE layer of Sunforger Canvas and so they sell their yurts with TWO roof covers to insure 100% waterproofness. Yikes, a second roof cover?? The only other solutions are poly(plastic)cover or a sub-layer of house-wrap (like TYVEK) on the roof. Well, since the Sun would eventually wear away the original roof cover, I figured I might as well sew a second one.

This is when the amazing, incredible, speedy, SailRite Portable Sewing machine comes into the picture to save the day (for a second time). Did you know that DIYODE purchased a portable industrial sewing machine for their members to construct with?

Did I mention that it is  AMAZING!?

yurt sewing 1







yurt sewing 3







Fast forward to October 2013, the yurt is moved to a new, exposed location and the second cover is sewn onsite! The canvas comes in 5ft wide rolls from Western Tarpaulin in Toronto. Unlike a common industrial sewing machine which requires a tractor or fork lift to move, the Sailrite can be carried by hand or garden cart/wagon, etc and also handles large, heavy amounts of material (canvas, leather, wool). Using Paul King’s The Complete Yurt Handbook (eco-logic books, 2001) for the basic canvas pattern in addition to the yurt frame to tailor the size, the roof canvas was finished in about a week.

The yurt is now set-up for 2014 living and another year, another site, another set of lessons await.

If you have any questions about yurt building or the project, or using the Sailrite, you can email me at erin.richan(at)gmail.com. A HUGE thanks to DIYODE for their support and space provided for the project, without them it wouldn’t be finished and lived-in! If you have dreams of yurt dwelling or ship building to sail the world, you can do it all in Guelph with the help of DIYODE resources. Best of luck!

yurt winter

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