Popeye Craft Project

Brrr!  Cold stainless steel!

Had enough of holding that cold, slippery stainless steel wheel while you're cruising through the tropics?  You, too, can put a leather (suede, actually) grip on the rim of your yacht's  five-metre diameter wheel.  Here's how to do it.

Step One: Don't get the precut, ready-to-attach wheel covers that are readily available.  Get the owner of the boat to give you a sheet of tanned suede in an odd shape.

Step Two: Do google and youtube searches for leather wheel cover, then spend hours reading and watching your results.

Step Three: Create a plan on paper for cutting, punching and stitching the suede hide, based on your research.  Be thankful that the piece of leather you have been given is just big enough that you can cut a one metre length, five times for each of the spoke-spans of the wheel.

Step Four: Agonize for a few weeks about your plan.  How much does leather stretch when it is wet?  Are the punched holes too far, or too close to the edge?  Are the holes too far apart?  Did you take all the measurements properly (even though you have checked them seven or eight times already)?  Will the stitch you chose look OK?

Step Five: While you are in Singapore, decide to find a leather worker to help you with accurately cutting and punching.  Don't worry that a google search of "Singapore leatherworker" produces no shops at all.  Just start asking at chandleries.  You should be able to find something.

Step Six: Get extremely lucky, follow a "ask this fellow, he might know" path down the rabbithole of shophouses and finally find this guy.  Have him incredulously ask you, "How did you find me?"

"How did you find me?"

Step Seven: Have the leatherworker cut and punch the leather (because really, do you trust yourself to NOT muck up the ONLY piece of leather you've got?) but set it to one side for a month because you have some sailing to do!  You'll need to attack this project when you are at anchor or a berth and can remove the wheel to maneuver it to easily stitch the leather.

This won't work for steering right now

Step Eight: Start the project when your crafty cousin is around to recommend different stitches and try a few out on a scrap piece of leather.

Tools ready!

Step Nine: Stitch the strips together using a blanket stitch to make a five metre loop that will go around the wheel.  Be sure to use some type of differentiation on the look and feel of the loop at the centerpoint (when the rudder is running straight).

Blanket stitch looks much worse
on the unfinished, 'wheel' side

Dead center
Step Ten: Starting at one of the spokes, line up the strip join to the wheel spoke, then start your Mexican water bag stitch.  For a five metre wheel, this should take you less than four hours per spoke, once you get the hang of it.

... working ...

... still working, but getting closer
to being finished

All done!  Doesn't it look fabulous and don't you feel like a crusty, water-soaked mariner because you did something that seems so completely nautical?

Yup, yup and yup!


  1. Nice project. Must feel great to have it done. I have 4 or 5 projects likes this on the go around the house at all times. I think I spend more time agonizing than doing them. They always feel great when done though.


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