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jaunvie 07-13-2010 01:15 PM

Sewing tops
Hi all, I'm a newbe jeeper. Went from the 'mom-van' to the jeep now that my daughter is 16. I love it.

It's a 2001 saraha automatic. (sorry, I can't drive, talk on the phone, eat take out, and shift at the same time.....ok, I can just don't want to. So the shifting had to go. :p )

I've got a hard top and the owner before me just bought a new soft top. Bestop supertop. I installed it in the jeep.

Now it's a great top, no leaks fits nice, but I had a few issues with it. First thing you got to know is that I'm a professional seamstress. I sew OEM marine canvas as well as millitary contracts. I do both the designing and the sewing. (That's one of the things that attracted me to the wrangler. oh...the things I could do.....) But I digress. The problems I had with the supertop were ....

1. double zipper pulls please. It's easy to grab the zipper from the inside and pull down (back window) than trying to get the pull from under the tight flap.

2. there are webbing strips to pull the bottom of the back window from under the rail, but nothing at the sides. Mine kinda got stuck near the door and everytime I would pull to release it (yes zippers were undone) I noticed it pulling on the stitch real bad.

3. side windows are difficult to get on with the zippers starting on opposite sides.

4. the velcro on side windows next to the door needs to be sewn on both sides because it pulls too hard on the stitching when you pull on it.

Now, I've never sewn auto canvas (I've done seats but not tops) so I understand there may be reasons I don't know about or didn't think about. I've already done a few little things to help what I have listed above. I put double zipper pulls on it and sewed webbing tabs to side windows, sewed the velcro, no problem. I didn't do anything about the zipper because I wasn't sure if there was a specific reason for the zippers to be placed that way. I know the back zip starts at the bottom so you don't have a gap, but I wonder if the zip at the top would be a problem if it ran in the other direction?

I don't like how the top is placed in the windshield channel (takes too long) But I can't think of any better way of doing it and still be water tight.

I was thinking about making a mesh top using the rollbars. with grommets and rope (like a T-top on a boat) and maybe some of the other "material" products to go on my jeep, just cuz I can. LOL I think a nylon top for rain when riding without a top would be next, but I need to be able to drive freeway when it's on. and put it on QUICK. questions are....

1. what do you not like about your tops?
2. What do you like best about your tops?
3. If you could change something, what would it be? (eg. "It would be cool it it could do this...")
4. Do you know of any links or websites that would be helpful for me?
5. What pitfalls do I need to lookout for when making a top? (eg. make sure the wind doesn't blow it off)

Thanks so much for everyones input. This site is great for info. I'm so excited to play with my new toy.

BTW: I have all industrial machines. I can go through ANY amount of fabric and I have access to all comercial materials. *insert Tim Taylor type grunt here* :punk:

jaunvie 07-16-2010 05:27 PM

Well....I'll just have to start on the top without advice I guess :P

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Akunin 07-18-2010 12:18 AM

Well, I don't know about others but my experience has had a few "bumps" of its own. I've had factory and aftermarket tops but the zippers always... always give me trouble at some point. I try to keep them "conditioned" but something always goes wrong with them. So if it were possible, no snaps or zippers... ? lol
I've sewn my top a few times, by no means a professional by any means but it turned out ok and held for over three years! Love that heavy weight fishing line! ;)
But sorry, not much help. Love to see what you come up with!!

sparky 07-19-2010 12:03 PM

Not answering your questions directly, but maybe some assistance. You say you are new, so pardon me if I say something you already know.

The side windows you get used to with the reverse zippers. Are you using the the velcro to hold the window up in place while you start the zipper. (Not the final location, just to hold it up like a third hand.)

The zipper pulls are too small, some use small carabineers as extensions. I like to use the hook end of a bungee cord. (Find the ones with big plastic hooks). These make it a lot easier to pull the zippers under the flaps.

Hope this helps.

danthebugman 07-19-2010 12:26 PM

Hello...welcome to the forum and thanks for attempting to initiate some brain storming. I tried the same thing recently when I was looking for suggestions on ways to keep my dog safer when riding in the front seat next to me with the half doors on (he kept coming close to falling out).
I received a lot of helpful replies but none were what I was really looking for so I went out and just 'invented' my own.
I have only had my 2002 Wrangler for two months and the new, after market top has been down the whole time. I used to have a 1994 YJ and the top on it was always a royal pain but it seems to me that the new tops are much improved.
If you have an entrepreneurial spirit you might find that your talents, tools and access to materials might provide you with a nice cottage industry making tops that were either personalized or offer an improvement in design.
For instance, here's a thought for you.....I have a safari top on. Everyone likes convertibility and ease of use. It would be nice if you could sort of 'roll up' the safari (or bikini) top all the way to the windshield and have some type of velcro attachment that would secure the roll at that point. The you would have the full 'open air' experience in a quick and convenient manner.
From my experience, it usually takes about 100 bad ideas to come up with 1 or 2 good ones.
Good luck and keep us posted with your advancements!!!

jjseel 07-19-2010 12:27 PM

My OEM top always wear around the door, where it bends when you take it off, have had to resew several times. The bikini straps don't last very long and a new design would be nice, if it covered the sound bar, too.

BestopTeam@Bestop 07-19-2010 12:46 PM


Originally Posted by jaunvie (Post 686738)
5. What pitfalls do I need to lookout for when making a top? (eg. make sure the wind doesn't blow it off)

Your post reminds me of why I don't go to buffets ever: it's just all a little too much.

But, you make some astute points about the Supertop.

And to answer just the one question:

The big problems for all people/companies who make tops are the windshield header, the door surrounds, and the seams. Those are tough to deal with.

Then, you've got the bows and bow supports. Some tops avoid that by just using the rollbar for support.

The windshield header on your TJ is aftermarket, which means (in simple terms) that the header stays with the Jeep. The factory way of doing that is to have the header stay with the fabric. I think that's a more elegant solution. You can't buy that style in the aftermarket world.

jaunvie 07-22-2010 01:26 PM

Thanks everyone for the replies. I've started on a mesh (phyfertex) kind of safari top. I have it done but before I could put it on the jeep the trans blew so I've got to deal with that problem first. Then I'll put it on and get pics.

Sparky, I don't have velcro on my windows except next to the doors, but it's an interesting idea maybe I can try to use more velcro than zippers on some things I'll have to sit and think about where that would benifit the most. Thanks.

Dan, I have a little yorkie-min pin mix so I understand the feeling. I have full doors so it's not too much of a problem for me, the doors are almost taller than her. I'll have to look up your post, did your solution work out well? On your safari top, you could probably sew velcro straps on there. I don't know how it's configured but it sounds reasonable.

Geoff, yeah,windshields are the toughest part on marine canvas too. We usually use snaps which make it even harder to keep water out. Luckly, we carry waterproof zippers for our millitary stuff. Way too expensive for resale, but really cool for me to play with. LOL.

Thanks everyone I'll try and post pics soon.

BestopTeam@Bestop 07-22-2010 01:36 PM


Originally Posted by jaunvie (Post 697541)
Geoff, yeah,windshields are the toughest part on marine canvas too. We usually use snaps which make it even harder to keep water out. Luckly, we carry waterproof zippers for our millitary stuff. Way too expensive for resale, but really cool for me to play with. LOL.

Thanks everyone I'll try and post pics soon.

I missed the line in your first post about you working professionally on marine tops, etc.

You are actually the person I refer people to for repair work. Well, not the only person, but in general, I tell people to find someone like you.

So my apologies for being a little condescending in my first reply. You know more about this stuff than I do!


530ktm 07-22-2010 08:39 PM

I am just glad to see that I am not the only one with issues on the soft tops. I am replacing the zipper in the rear window because it keeps separating and one of the zippers broke off so now there is only the one. Can not roll it up anymore, just remove all the way.

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