How to Make a Pleated Seat Cover for a Motorcycle

This video is brought to you by Sailrite. In this video we are going to show you how to make your own pleated motorcycle seat cover. We will be transforming this seat cover into a beautiful pleated or channeled seat using supplies from Sailrite. This video will show how to pattern, how to sew pleats, create your own boxing, topstitching and of course stapling. Let’s get started… We are going to create a pleated top for this motorcycle seat. To do this we need to make a pattern for the top of the seat. We will use paper and trace around it with the seat turned upside down on top.

Fold the paper in half lengthwise and match up the lines as best as possible. Then cut the pattern out while it is still folded, this should create a uniform pattern. Our seat is rather small, so we will not worry much about shrinkage as the pleats are being sewn. However, if you are creating a larger panel which includes pleats we recommend you do some calculations for the amount of shrinkage that will naturally occur with each pleat. Each pleat will usually shrink the project by about an 1/8 inch, depending on the thickness of the scrim foam. Use these calculations to determine the cut length of the fabric and foam, so you do not end up with a panel that is too small for the job when done sewing the pleats.

To create our pleats we will be using the Polyurethane foam with fabric backing this is a ¾” form from Sailrite. Polyurethane foam with fabric backing ¾” is a wonderful scrim foam that is often used for creating pleats in fabric or sometimes called channeling. Polyurethane foam is backed with a Spun Bonded Polyester fabric and this fabric keeps the stitch from pulling thru the foam when channeling or pleating is done. In this video we are using it to create a pleated motorcycle seat, but it’s also great for boat and automotive upholstery applications and even for making handbags and purses. Polyurethane foam with fabric backing is available at We will now cut the foam, often called scrim foam, to the approximate size of the seat top, cut it bigger. This should also be done to the vinyl fabric. Once cut out we will now glue the fabric to the foam side, not the scrim side.

To accomplish this task we like to use 3M Super 77 spray adhesive. We will spray only the underside of the vinyl fabric, but you could also spray the foam as well. Now simply apply the vinyl fabric to the foam side and press down being sure all wrinkles are removed. Gluing the fabric to the foam will ensure that it does not easily move around while the pleats are being sewn in. It is a very important step, so do not skip it! Our desired pleat width is 1 1/8 inch, yours may be different. So, we will mark the underside of our foam with the spun bond fabric scrim to 1 ¼ inch. Why the 1/8 inch more? Because when each pleat’s top stitch is completed it will shrink the fabric and pleat by about an 1/8 inch. So the resulting pleat will be about 1 1/8 inch when done. Let’s rewind and take a look at the first pleat marked on the foam. You will notice that this first pleat marked is about an extra ½ inch away from the edge of the fabric. That space will be for the seam allowance of a ½ inch.

So do not just start right at the edge of the fabric marking your first pleat 1 ¼ inch away, but add a ½ inch for seam allowance for that first pleat. This ½ seam allowance should be factored in for the last pleat on the opposite end as well. Always be sure your bobbin is full before sewing pleats, you do not want to run out of thread in the middle of a pleat. Angela will carefully position the needle over the line she marked on the panel and then will slowly sew down the length of pleat being diligent to guide the fabric so the stitch stays as straight as possible over the line. Since we will be cutting the edges off this panel we will not do any reverse stitching to lock the stitch in place. Sewing thru foam and vinyl fabric will possibly play tricks with your tension, so it is best to test on scrap first. Too much tension will cause excessive wrinkling of the fabric. Just because we marked the underside of the foam for our pleats does not mean you have to do that.

If you like to keep a close eye on your tension and how it looks from the topside. You can mark the fabric pleat lines on the vinyl side and sew with that side up. Just be sure the lines will easily come off the fabric so you may want to use a grease pencil or other fabric marking pencil. Next we will lay our pattern on top of the finished panel and trace around it. We will not be adding any seam allowance here since the pattern is a little on the large size and will be pulling it firmly over the seat bottom to make a tight fitting cover. This should position our boxing seam right along the outer edge of the seat when finished. To cut our boxing to size we need to take some measurements off the seat. We will measure from the top edge to the bottom side of the seat where it will be stapled. Do not short yourself, better to have extra width than not enough. Then we will measure around the seat sides to ensure we have enough length, again go extra by a few inches at least.

Now simply cut a boxing strip to the width desired and the length. Fold the assembly in half and mark the center location. Do the same with the seat top that is pleated. We will sew the boxing starting at the front side of the seat positioning the center lines directly on top of each other. We want to sew our straight stitch about a ½ inch away from the raw edges of the fabric. And we will do some reversing here to lock the stitch in place. As it is being sewn down we will carefully line up the raw edges as we sew. Notice that Angela is pulling ever so slightly on the pleated panel and the boxing.

This is typically not something that is done with regular sewing, but with a channeled fabric like this we want it to laying fairly flat when the boxing is secured. So, a slight pull often results in a better looking finished project. Watch carefully to see how much she is pulling the fabric, too much pulling and your project will be ruined, so be careful. When she gets to a corner she will carefully line up the edges and sew around slowly. Here we are coming to the backside of the seat. We have only sewn down one side, the other side is still not sewn. We want to stop short of the center line by about 2 inches. This unsewn area will make it possible to sew the two half’s of the boxing ends together at the rear of the seat in a later step. Here’s the unsewn part you can see it is approximately 2 inches from the center line. To sew the opposite side flip the assembly and again start sewing at the front of the seat’s center line. Sew around just as you did with the opposite side stopping a few inches away from the back of the seat’s center line yet again.

You notice now the boxing is on top and the pleated fabric is underneath, that is because we flip the assembly to sew this side. Also take note to see how much Angela pulls the boxing and the pleated fabric as she sews. Just as she did earlier. Ok we are coming up the seat’s back center position and we stop a few inches from the center line. To join the boxing ends together try to determine where they should come together by walking them along the unsewn section of seat top. Then hold them together at that location and take them to the sewing machine and sew down the boxing length at that exact location, being careful to keep the stitch at a 90 degrees from the boxing’s bottom edge, another words straight. Here it is sewn and you can see it is perfect. Cut away any extra length of boxing, but leave at least a ½ inch or more going past the stitch we just sewed. We will cut a strip from the left over boxing that is about 1 inch wide. We will splay the backside of the boxing seam open and place this 1 inch strip of fabric over the splayed section of the fabric.

We are creating a French seam here. A French seam has a top stitch on both sides of the main center seam. Here is a quick illustration to show how we will accomplish this French seam. With the fabric spayed open and the extra strip of fabric on the bottom side Angela will now carefully sew a stitch about an 1/8 away from the first stitch using here presser foot as a guide to help keep it straight.

As with any top stitch as you sew be sure to pull the center seam apart to keep it flat and in the center. Once the top stitch is done on one side switch to the next side and repeat the process. It is always a good idea to sew on the same side of the presser foot, if you’re using that as a guide. That is why she flipped the panel around here. Now go back and finish off the area which was left unsewn. After this is done we will sew a single top stitch to the boxing where it is sewn to the top of the seat. We will do that in the next step. To sew our top stitch we will need to turn the cover right side out. And then we will sew about a 1/8 inch away from the first stitch being sure to catch the bottom flap of fabric as we sew. It is best to place this top stitch on the boxing and not the top channeled plate.

Here Angela is starting at the back side of the cushion where the French seam was just created. She did a little bit of reversing and then continues to go around using her presser foot as a guide. Note, as she sews she pulls on the two halves of fabric so it is nice and flat and laying open on the center seam. When we get to the back side do some more reversing and you are done. Next up we will staple this cover to the seat. We have fit the cover over the seat and will now staple it in place. We will start be stapling the front and rear of the seat first. We are using the EZE ½” crown stapler with Stainless Steel staples. This is a pneumatic stapler. These ½” crown staples are wider than normal crown staple of 3/8″ so they resist splitting the vinyl fabric. Here’s a demo showing stapling the same vinyl fabric the first is a standard 3/8″ crown staple and now with the EZE ½” crown stapler. Watch as we pull on the vinyl, you can see the ½” crown does not pull thru the vinyl as easily as the 3/8″ crown does.

Also because we it is a pneumatic stapler you can turn down the PSI amount on your air compressor to reduce the force that is applied to the staple which in turn helps to keep the staple from driving in too deep and thus cutting the vinyl fabric. Now that the front and back are stapled in place we will secure the sides pulling the fabric over the seat and checking for a good fit and look. The EZE TC-08 Staple Gun with ½ crown is a reasonably priced staple gun for upholstery applications and it is sold at If you do not want to spend the money on a new staple gun you can use a standard Arrow brand stapler to do this job also.

We recommend using stainless steel staples or monel staples. Once stapled in place just trim away the excess fabric with scissors. Our pleated or channeled motorcycle seat is now complete. Coming up next is the materials and tool list that we used to make this pleated or channeled motorcycle seat cover. For more free videos like this be sure to check out the Sailrite website or subscribe to the Sailrite YouTube channel.

It’s your loyal patronage to Sailrite that makes these free videos available, thanks for your loyal support! I’m Eric Grant and from all of us here at Sailrite, thanks for watching! .