Making Custom Fitted Conveyor Catch Tarps


Making Conveyor Catch Tarps

Perhaps Alter Your Current Tarps

One thought. Have you thought about having the existing tarps altered? Of course that would only work if they were oversized and able to be cut down in a shape that fits. That might not work as well on any curved tarps, depending upon whether or not the shapes could be altered in way that they would still fit the curve.

Now about making new tarps.


First off, let me talk about the challenges:

My first thought would be to suggest that you find someone closer to you to do this work. I would think that any upholstery shop, or a boat top shop (which makes custom fitted boat tops) would be able to make your tarps. I would think that being so close to the Columbia River that there would be some boat upholstery shops in the area.

Secondly, we are pretty booked out. It would be at least 3 months or more before I could start your job. (see Job Completion Times:

My Experience:

I have done upholstery since since 1966. I’ve worked with other different types of projects as well as furniture uphostery. Much of my work is about getting fabric to fit specific shapes, whether it is upholstery or other types of projects.. I also make slipcovers and have helped to make patterns for and cut and sewn fancy window treatments. Making slipcover and the fancy window treatments require shaping fabric so that it hangs properly. I may have some of the skill sets that could be useful in making your tarps.Now Let’s talk about Your Job

Custom Work

Custom is much different than mass production. In mass production the patterns have already been made and the processes have already been determined, and the machinery, tables, & work space has been set up to maximize production. Therefore very little additional thought or time goes into this part.

In Custom Work, the preliminary evaluation, planning and setup (talking with client about project, taking measurements, planning and determining which process to use and how it will flow) often takes much more time than that of the production. In addition to that the workers either have to spend time reorganizing the shop for a more efficient work flow, or they have to work in an inefficient shop arrangement. Since it’s not practical to keep rearranging the shop for each project, the projects have to be done in a sometimes inefficient work flow.


My concerns

Some of these concerns might be alleviated by doing an inspection of your plant.
I would need some way to get up to the intended location of the tarps and to easily move around to hang and mark the patterns.
Dragging ladders around
If scaffolding were used, would it be in the way of your daily operations?

Doing Your Project

To do your job, these are some things that are immediately apparent to me.
There are several methods to fit a custom sewing project.

  1. Make the project from client supplied drawings and measurements. This only works in a limited type of projects.
  2. Take measurements and then cut the material from those measurements.
    1. Then cut the material to the exact measurement of the project and then sew it up. This mainly works on straight flat projects.
    2. OR cut the material a little larger than what is needed for the project. Then take the material to the project, hold the material in place, and shape & mark the material to fit.

The method used would depend upon the knowledge and skill of the craftsperson AND the type and complexity of the project

Fitting The Tarps

Because the tarps need to be fitted around curved areas and possibly other obstructions, I would think about making patterns or prototypes for the curved or odd shaped tarps (and possibly, if needed, for the straight pieces as well).

The job is more complicated because the tarps hang so high above the ground. That makes the process of pattern making much more challenging. To make a pattern would require suspending the patterns in air in the approximate position that the finished tarp would hang.There might be other ways of doing this, but this is what comes to mind. One possibility would be to put a number of straps in place to support the tarps. While the pattern is suspended in place they could be fitted around any of the posts or other obstructions.

As we fit the pattern while it is hanging, there would need to be some way for us to get up there and walk around and do the fitting. While using ladders might be managed, that seems quite cumbersome and awkward. Perhaps using scaffolding would make it easier. But that could be a problem if the scaffolding were to get in the way of your processing or other work in progress. As I think about it, scaffolding could be cumbersome to move around from tarp to tarp. perhaps some other type of lifting device could be used. We can talk about whatever might be best.

Making a Pattern:
Making a pattern that fits is a very precise and exacting process. The material must be put in place where the finished tarp will hang. Another thing to consider, in order for... when a hanging tarp has to fit a curve A hanging tarp will droop in the middle. This is not a problem on a rectangle shaped tarp. But on a hanging tarp, whether straight,  curvedc or shaped tarp the outside edges around the curves tend to buckle and be uneven, which is normal.
It is a lot easier to make a pattern for a tarp that covers an item (where the item supports the pattern) that making a pattern to hang under something (where nothing supports the pattern.)
Perhaps another way to make the tarps is simply to make them from measurements from a pattern. But it seems that you have already done that before.

Making a pattern (as well as cutting and sewing the tarps) may take some trial and error. When making a new project that is a little outside of one’s normal work pattern, sometimes not everything goes as one might think. At times one has to revise and try something a few different ways.

Would need to make a pattern for any of the unusual shaped pieces. A pattern can be hung up and tested, sewn up, added to, until the right shape is achieved. See our article on “Making upholstery Prototypes:
The patterns might be used again in the future to make replacement tarps

  • Get fabric to make a pattern
  • Long straps to hold the pattern fabric in place during fitting process
  • would we need scaffolding or other lifting device to get up to make the pattern. Moving ladders around could be kind of cumbersome
  • need long tape measures

Where to do the work?:
The job would involve cutting and sewing some pretty long pieces of vinyl. Laying out materials in that size would take a lot of open space. I’d have to see if I could clear out a big enough space in my shop OR possibly setting up a work space in your factory so we’d be right there handy to make the patterns and sew the vinyl, to fit it as needed. Would have to think about what would be best. Would also have to figure out something to do for the table space to layout and cut the materials.

In some ways your project is simple. It is just making a pattern, cutting, and sewing mostly flat straight seems. What makes it complicated is that everything is so big (for a small shop like mine) and everything is high up off the ground. I can’t just simply walk around on the floor marking the vinyl. The best way to make a pattern is to put the pattern in the place of actual use and then fit it to size, marking around any obstacles. Holding a pattern of that size to hand in place is another challenge. Something needs to hold it up in place while it is being fit to size.

I’m not as young as I used to be. At this point in my life I won’t crawl around on the floor for hours marking and cutting the length pieces of vinyl. So I’d need to get and set up some temporary long table to be used for the laying out, marking, and cutting of the vinyls These tables would also be used for the sewing the long pieces of the vinyl.

Shop Setup

In addition to the Project setup, there would be additional time spent in rearranging the shop (and putting it back together) to have space to set up the tables.

Times Plant Available to Make the Pattern.

How many hours a day does the plant operate? Does it operate on weekends?
Would the operation of the plant hinder making the tarps  and visa versa, i.e. would the process of making the tarps interfere with the operation of the conveyor belts?

The Process
This is how I envision the process to go. (Of course this plan might change is it’s not very workable OR I may have missed some of the steps below.)

  1. If you want to proceed, You would supply me with another drawing with the location of the tarps marked on it. (Just marking with yellow coloring where the tarps are to be located would be fine.
  2. I would get some vinyl samples and have them sent to you for your approval. If none of them are workable, we’d look for other vinyls to send you.
  3. After you have chosen a vinyl, we’d set up a time for me to come up for a consultation. During the consultation you’d show me the vinyl that you have chosen. We’d also discuss any other supplies that might be needed for the job, such as the grommets and anything else that might be needed. You’d pay the consultation fee at that time before I left your location. During and following the consultation there would be no obligation for either of us to proceed with the job.
  4. If we both decide to proceed,then I would figure out approximately how much of the pattern fabric and the vinyl might be needed.
  5. make out a very rough starting estimate. You’d need to realize that the final price (based upon the costs described below) might be quite different the estimate.
  6. You would look it over and consult with whoever you need to, and decide if you want to proceed.
  7. If you wished to proceed, I would make out a Work Order, with a specified deposit amount, and email it to you. If everything was OK, then you’d sign the work Order and send it back to us with the deposit.
  8. We’d put your job on the work schedule (see Job Completion Times:
  9. We would order the materials.
  10. I would come up to make the patterns. Arrangements for the scaffolding or lifting device would need to be made so that they would be there and ready use when I arrived.

Time and Costs
The costs would probably cost more that you expect. In this world of mass production we have been accustomed to seeing the low prices of things that have been mass produced. all the costs of management, supplies, tools, machinery, production run setup and production are all spread across hundreds or thousands of the product. all we see is the price of the finished product. So we are often not expecting the much higher costs of custom made products.

You should realize that to have custom made tarps could easily cost at least several times as much, or much more, than using ready-made or manufactured tarps. At this point I would not be able to give you an estimate except that. As part of the costs you would be charged perhaps 4 hours of travel time per trip, plus any time needed for getting supplies, or other, and any time at your location.
The charges to you would be based upon the concept of charging for time and materials. This is what I perceive the costs (not including the initial consultation) to include

  • The costs of the pattern material
  • The costs of the vinyl
  • Time spent in figuring yardage needed
  • Time spent in doing cutting layouts.
  • Time spent in making patterns
  • The time spent in preparing paperwork
  • Time spent in planning and preparation for doing the job
  • The time and costs for of any tool acquiring or rental, such as scaffolding or lifting device, etc.
  • The time and cost of travel time
  • Time spent setting up shop to do the job, (as well as the time to put the shop back in its original condition.
  • The charges for the purchase of any other supplies or lumber, etc. needed to set up to do the job.
  • labor for cutting and sewing the job
  • time spent in delivering job
  • Time spent installing tarps (if needed)
  • Any other time or costs not covered in the above.