Old sails aren't worth much money and also are usually not worth paying a
sail maker to repair. Since many of my boats were well used when I bought them, I inherited lots of old sails. Try this some winter, make your very own custom "storm main".
It's often easier to change a mainsail rather than putting a reef in, especially on smaller boats. Also this saves your good light air sails and allows you to use an older, less valuable sail in heavy weather where it's more likely to be damaged.
First, look at your old main to determine if you want to tackle a job like this. DO NOT attempt to use a decent sail for this since my first try at this resulted in my sail becoming a large picnic table cover! Actually, picnic table covers are another good use for old sails... There will be more to this task than just sewing, there will be SS wire to cut and splice, new sail corners to build or move, large SS gromets to move or replace. This is not a quick, two hour job, but will require many hours of tedious work.
Cut the old sail across the bottom (foot), just above the top reef point. Just cut it straight across **, this will help keep the old sail flatter since it will be now only be used in heavy air. Sew a new seam across the bottom. The bottom of this sail needs to be extra strong since this sail will only be used in heavy air. Remove the boom slugs from the discarded part and reattach them to the new foot. Use the discarded bottom of the sail for additional cloth to add extra reinforcing to the new foot. Strip the two bottom corner reinforcements from the old discarded bottom and add them to the new corners. Re-sew any doubtful seams. Test sail in light air, check for "hard spots". If things aren't perfect don't worry since this will never be a light air sail again... it may still become a picnic tablecloth.
Anyhow, this worked for me on my Catalina 27. It was nice to have a short, flat, heavy weather main. Being a weekend sailor for years, required to be back to work on Monday mornings, resulted in several trips back from the Islands during heavier than usual air. This home-project short main was nice to fly with my working jib, not needing to worry about the blowing and flapping of the reefed portion of a good sail. I've seen lots of good mainsails that were damaged due to a slipped reefline knot, or a hasty, improperly secured reef.
If your sewing machine can't handle the many layers of sail cloth in the corners you can take the sail into a tarp shop and let them sew the thick places. A large zig-zag stitch should be used if possible. In order to save the tarp shop some time, the seams and reinforcements can be glued onto the sail so that the tarp shop doesn't need to do any fitting. There's probably a better glue to use, but I just used my hot glue gun. Be careful, if your glue is too hot, it can damage the sailcloth.
** Editor's note: There are many tricks that will build you an even better storm mainsail. The biggest one is with the original cut across the foot of the sail. This cut can be bowed upward slightly, in order to pull more "belly" out of the old main. There are hundreds of books out and lots of reading on the internet about sailmaking. It doesn't hurt to read a bit before trying this shortened mailsail. Most anyone can do the picnic table cover, however, without much reading. dd