Seat Covering

How to sew on a seat cover - ADC's way.

This page is intended as a pictorial guide to covering the Barnett Williams style slung seat.    The frame is detailed on this website in the original Mach 1 drawings (Sheet 8), it's construction is a separate page here Seat frame construction, and looks like this –


Front view and side view.   This one is painted black – hiding it’s true nature as bent EMT tubing (thin wall conduit).   That’s my toe in the picture too.    

The idea is to add a stitched, full size slung seat tailored to this frame.   There are several other methods – more than one person has laced a pre-finished panel in the frame.   Another man (Carl) does a neat ‘lawn chair’ tuck in the fabric edges and screws the tuck in with a self tapping metal screw and washer.  

'ADC's way' is a completely hand stitched, tailored cover for the seat frame.   I think it looks very cool, and gives a stylish, very custom finish look to the seat and the bike.   This is the way I do it, FWIW.   



-        The finished frame, of course.   The one above is painted.   Since we cover the seat rails, it is real difficult to paint the frame later. 

-        Phifertex is an open weave vinyl coated mesh fabric.   Very strong, doesn’t ravel when cut.   Very breathable as a fabric for hot weather riding.   Ideal.   For the amateur seamster, the open, visible mesh is also very easy to line up for seams, and to ‘measure’ your stitches for evenness.


  sells 4 colors.   

  sells 12 colors.   

           You need to buy 1 yard – the fabric is 54” wide.   If you cut that in half, you have 2 pieces 36” by 27”  - enough for two seats.

I stitch with 20 lb. monofilament fishing line.   Easy to find clear to match any color.  I am using a light green here, so we have a chance of seeing it in the photos.  Bought it in the sports department at Wallyworld.

Tools – sharp scissors, straight pins, and an upholstery needle.  I use a 2” needle, with an eye just big enough to accept that monofilament ‘thread’.   That's it.   Pretty simple.


This is the first wrap of fabric on the frame.  

You have plenty.  Fold 1 side over and make sure, top and bottom, that there is ample fabric to extend past the ends of the rail.   Look at the mesh of the fabric as you fold it over – make sure it aligns square – like a grid, not a moray pattern.    Set two straight pins on this first side.    See the circled pins?


Fold the fabric at center over the other side rail.   Pull it tight against the two pins already set – try to keep the mesh of the fabric perpendicular to the rail.   Set 1 pin on this side.    Check the fabric top and bottom at the end of this rail – is there enough fabric to extend beyond the ends?   Is it the same extension of fabric at both rails, on both ends?    Good to go?

Now pin the center along both rails.   Pull tight against the pins on the opposite side as you go – keep things square.   Work both sides, work you way through the ‘bucket’ of the seat.   The fabric will fold and crimp a little around this bucket – just pull it as tight as you can.    Without cutting anything, pin as close as you can to the two stretchers on the frame – see Picture 005 for a detail.

These next three pictures show the cuts you make around the cross bars for the seat frame.   You will cut a careful slot for each of four places where the frame is joined.

Start at the top – there is a touch less tension here.   Make a cut like the picture, tight to the middle side of the cross bar.  As you cut, tension is relieved and the fabric should straighten out around the cross bar.   Pull it tight, make sure as you cut the slot tight to the bar – this may change a little as you pull.   See how the cut stops on the rail, right at the joint?   Pull on the inside flap you just cut.  Can you it pull tight and lay flat with the part already pinned?    Good.  

Now finish the slot – cut across the bar, about ¾”, and then cut back up to the edge of the fabric. 

The third picture above shows pins around this slot in the fabric.   Just put 1 or two pins above the cross bar – then go on to the next cross bar position and make the same cuts, set the same pins.  With all four cross bar’s tailored in and pinned, then finish pinning the sides of the fabric to the ends of the rails.   Keep it as taut as you can, always.     
This is a front view of the seat, with both sides fully pinned.   Leave the top and bottom flaps loose for now.  I stitch both sides before I finish the ends.
This is the beginning, or anchor stitch, at one end of the first rail.

The whole trick to stitching is to pinch the fold tight to the inside edge of the seat rail.   This anchor stitch is the first step.   Put the needle in from the rear at one end of a rail, across both sides of the folded, pinned pocket.   Play with this, twist the needle along the rail – find the right spot so that, when the stitch is drawn tight, the ‘pinch’ in to the rail will work to leave no gap between the fabric pieces.    Turn the needle from the front and push through front to back across about two threads in the mesh.   Pull most of your thread through, and tie an anchor knot (a square knot) in the thread, cinching it down tight. 


Here is that knot tied tight, on the rear of the seat.    Skip two threads in the mesh, and push the needle through back to front again.   Pull that taut, and from here forward you will stitch from the front.

first several stitches.   I use the mesh itself to measure my stitches – skip two cross threads, push the needle in, skip two more, pull the needle through back to front.    In, front to back, skip two, in, back to front, and then pull a 2-stitch taut from the front.   Each stitch should do the same thing the anchor stitch did, closing the fabric tight over the rail.    Your eye and judgement will teach you how to do this.    It is easier than I make it sound. – after all, *I* can do it…..   “Cinching down on the rails this way adds just that much extra tension in the seat sling, stretching it tighter, which is a good thing.  

This picture shows the stitching on the front across that slot where the stretcher attaches.   Make sure you stitch down the end of the flap, then just carry the thread across behind the cross bar and begin with the other flap.   The center red circle shows that I take a quick stitch in the fabric above the cross bar, just to keep things neat.  

This shows that whole first side, stitched in.    When you finish the side, tie off your monofilament thread by stitching backwards about three stitches from the end.   Then, from the rear, push the needle through for one last stitch.   Before you pull this last stitch taut,  wrap the tight end of the looped thread three times over the needle – pulling this tight creates a knot to finish this seam.    Trim the loose thread ends.    

shows how I trim the excess fabric – I cut it about ½” behind the seam.    Shown in red it the last remaining cut to make on this side of the seat.

Do this on the other side, and here is the whole seat with both rails stitched and trimmed.   Starting to look like something, eh? 

Now for the ends.   This is easy.    First, trim if you need to.  

Leave about  1 ½” of fabric on each end.   You can do with less if your want, but play with the fold first.   When in doubt, leave it long.

Above is the tuck/fold for finishing the ends.   Work from the rear, take this diagonal tuck in the already doubled fabric right over that end of the rail.   Then fold this first flap over the rail end and down onto the rear of the seat panel.   Concentrate on this one corner, work it tight into the corner, and set it with a straight pin.   Now do the same in the other corner of this end of the seat.  

Here is an end fully pinned in place.   Do each corner, then fold the center evenly over.
   You may need to adjust the corners after that center is set just so.   5 pins will do it on an end.

In this front picture I have begun the end stitch.   Same stitch, same anchor knot as before.   This ‘anchor’ is a little hard to push through all the fabric in that tucked corner.   Start the anchor knot not on the extreme corner of that tuck, but about ¾” back from the end, and right on the side rail.   After tying the knot, stitch (on the front side) from that anchor point up the rail to the end first, cinching the flap down at the rail.   Then stitch back about ¾” from the end, and begin to stitch out across this end of the seat.  Again, let the mesh measure your stitches – cross two, stitch, cross two, stitch.   Or as tight as you want to do it.     At the other end of the flap, cinch in a double row of stitches at the rail again.

This is a finished end.    Trim the excess below the stitched line and you have done it!  

And it only takes about one football game to stitch a seat! 

Write with questions.