Planning for the Unexpected: A DIY Journey

A self-proclaimed jack-of-all-trades, master of none, Joe McFarland has a well-rounded DIY skill set. From sewing canvas and upholstery, welding, woodworking and electrical skills to motorcycle repair, machining and mechanical engineering — the list goes on and on. Joe is a true thrill seeker and big kid at heart; he loves boating, motocross, RC cars, drones and planes. An engineer by trade, he spends his free time volunteering, sailing, writing, canning, beekeeping and has recently gotten into vinyl lettering.

One of his most enduring and favorite activities is sewing. Having learned from his mother, he uses his sewing skills to outfit his four boats and recently completed a Meyers Manx dune buggy overhaul. He completely refurbished the buggy and sewed the backseat upholstery using his well-invested Ultrafeed® LSZ-1. Keep reading to learn more about this energetic go-getter and his long list of DIY triumphs.

Joe (#82) and his friends mountain bike racing.

Learning to Sew

Joe and his brother learned to sew, both by hand and machine, when they were kids. They were raised by their mother, who is just as self-dependent as her sons, and she instilled them with important life skills at an early age. “I remember clearly being in summer camp and one of our group projects was to hand-sew torn clothing. The counselor asked me if he had the final lock stitch correct, and I showed him how I was taught — and that I still use to this day when hand sewing.” This upbringing made Joe the self-reliant and motivated person he is today. 

And just like his mom, Joe shares his skills and knowledge and enjoys helping others to grow and learn how to do things for themselves. “Knowledge can save a person’s life, especially on a sailboat, in a storm, on a lee shore, or with a failed motor due to water contamination in the fuel system (as I’ve experienced firsthand on my boat). Being able to fix things is important.” All of Joe’s boats have been fixer-uppers, and he takes as much joy from refurbishing and getting them seaworthy as he does from sailing and cruising.

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Joe with his Ultrafeed LSZ-1, ready to tackle his next project!

What does Joe love about sewing? “I really enjoy sewing. It’s relaxing and slows me down. Not so much as a hobby, but as a means to get things done and to save significant dollars.” He also enjoys the independence that sewing brings. Being able to make or fix something yourself and have it turn out exactly the way you’re envisioning is a sentiment all sewers can relate to and appreciate.

Boats, Sewing & DIY

Joe bought his first sailboat, a semi-derelict 1972 30-foot C&C named Wild Irish, in 2003. It needed a lot of work. Joe purchased the boat in the spring, and he spent several months sanding, polishing and sprucing up the boat while it was in dry dock storage. A few years after the initial refit, it was time to upgrade all of the canvaswork. “To save time and money, DIY was the only way the work that was needed was going to get done. Providing my own canvaswork was one, if not the biggest, cost savings.”

He needed a sewing machine that could handle the many canvas projects he had planned. “I knew I needed an industrial machine. After researching the options I chose the Ultrafeed LSZ-1, which best fit my needs. It’s portable and robust, can be hand cranked, and the support offered by Sailrite is important. I will have my machine on my boat for long distance sailing for sure.”

“I was getting ready to undertake my first major boat canvas project — bimini, dodger, side and rear enclosures, and shades. So while I was at the Annapolis Boat Show that year, I went to the Sailrite booth and started asking questions. [Vice President and Owner] Matt Grant assisted me one-on-one and from that point on I was hooked on Sailrite. Working for a customer-driven corporation, I know that customer support is key.”

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He has made numerous projects over the years, including canvas projects, covers, cushions, pillows and more. He relied on Sailrite’s how-to videos to help him through the hardest projects. “The only way I was able to tackle the canvas enclosure project was by living on YouTube and watching the Sailrite instructional videos over and over. I would test-sew small demo pieces of Strataglass™ to ensure I was doing it right before cutting into the large and costly rolls.”

For his dodger DIY, Joe took extensive photos of every step of the process. He did his patterning on the boat, and then took everything back to his sewing loft 127 miles away from the boatyard. Such diligent and careful planning paid off in the end. Joe’s dodger turned out beautifully and his hard work can be seen in the finished project. “The first fit was perfect and I was terribly thrilled. I plan on adding snaps in the summer when the canvas is hot, and then cut in the grab rails and running rigging holes.” Joe created a three-piece dodger, and all three panels can be removed or installed for weather conditions and comfort.

Joe now has four boats: the 30-foot Wild Irish, a 22-foot Catalina named Irish Rover, an 8-foot Zodiac Inflatable named Ulysses and a 20-foot Sea Ray called Irish Wake. He has sewn projects for all of his boats. “I have sailed my boats in all but one of the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Coast and the Bimini Bahamas.” This small fleet of sailing vessels is sure to keep Joe busy in his sewing loft for the foreseeable future.

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Irish Rover and Wild Irish at the marina

A Year on the Sea (Almost)

Joe, like a lot of people, had big plans for 2020. But as the John Lennon lyric goes: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Flashing back to 2015, Joe announced to friends, family and coworkers that he planned on taking a yearlong sabbatical in 2020 to sail the Atlantic and Caribbean on his 30-foot sailboat, Wild Irish. “It was my 50th birthday gift to myself and was supposed to start in February 2020. I worked diligently over the past five years refitting the boat for ocean sailing, including the last bits of canvaswork and interior upholstery. In April 2020, one year’s worth of provisions were ready to be loaded and the boat was scheduled for launch.” 

Joe meticulously planned and prepared for his yearlong voyage. He arranged the time off with his employer. He organized, he packed, he cooked and canned a year’s worth of meat and other provisions. He even made his own soap from the rendered beef fat! He installed solar panels on his bimini and added a new barrier coat and bottom paint to the hull specifically for saltwater. He was excited and ready to finally begin his sea voyage. And then … the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“Wild Irish will not launch this year. It pains me to see her alone on the hard. I was almost there and was ready to load the last bit of stores, which are all now in storage.” Ever the optimist, Joe didn’t let a year off work go to waste. “No worries on the postponed boat trip; everything is a blessing in disguise. I finished my buggy!”

Plan B: Project Dune Buggy

With a year off from work and no hopes for his sea voyage, Joe, was unwilling to while away a whole year. So he turned to another project to occupy his time. “The buggy is an original 1970 Meyers Manx and the project has a long history – 31 years to be exact.” Joe grew up in Southern California, and Pismo Beach was considered the dune buggy mecca. “At the time, my stepfather had several buggies, one of which was a one-piece fiberglass body dune buggy.”

At age 19, Joe was living in Ohio, and he traded in his motorcycle for a buggy. It was kept behind an old barn buried in weeds and heavily damaged from the elements. “That summer, I had completely stripped it down to pieces and readied it for the rebuild. After re-fiberglassing the many holes and damage from years past, a friend’s father owned an auto body shop where my buddy worked. I was able to barter the 1989 I-Roc Z metallic blue paint job for a car audio system, which I installed in his classic car. While the body was being painted, I continued work on the chassis. Then life got in the way. Between working several jobs and putting myself through college, the buggy sat in storage.” The project was started and stopped several times over the years. Until, finally, the 2020 pandemic offered the perfect opportunity to complete the rebuild. A serendipitous consolation prize for his canceled sailboat trip.

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In February 2019, Joe flew to California to meet Bruce Meyers, the creator of the Manx, for a group breakfast organized by the Manx Group. The Meyers Manx dune buggy was produced from 1964 to 1971 in California and was initially designed for desert racing. The recreational vehicle has the shortened chassis of a Volkswagen® Beetle and became the first-known street-legal fiberglass dune buggy. Meeting Bruce Meyers gave Joe the motivation he needed to restart his dune buggy project, and the pandemic gave him the opportunity.

And so, in early 2020, Joe began working on his buggy restoration project. He washed 30 years of dust off his buggy and got to work. “The restoration went as expected with few surprises. Fortunately, I had rebuilt the motor and transmission in 2019. I had restored the chassis pan in 1989. There was considerable time for disassembly, washing, cleaning, sandblasting, priming, painting and reassembly of all the subcomponents. There were also components that needed to be manufactured, including the rear engine cage frame, front seat frames, rear seats and more.”

Sailrite’s vinyl was a perfect match!

Joe’s dune buggy project was coming along nicely, but there was one more thing he needed. The yellow vinyl for the backseat needed to perfectly match the prefabricated front seats. Luckily, with time on his hands and Sailrite headquarters a short road trip away, the solution was clear. “I went to the Sailrite website and found several shades of yellow. I knew there was no way I was going to match the color online since the yellow I needed was a very off shade.” He contacted Sailrite and asked if he could bring a sample of the vinyl to the Sailrite office so they could find a vinyl in stock to match. One of Sailrite’s customer service reps worked with Joe personally to find an exact match to his yellow front seats. He returned home with the vinyl he needed and had the backseat upholstered the next day. After a few finishing touches, the buggy was complete and Joe took it out for its first drive in over 30 years — a happy ending to what could have been a wasted year.

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What a masterpiece!

What’s next for this adventurous DIYer? Well, he’s still on sabbatical for the rest of the year. He’s currently working on refurbishing a 1958 chopper that he purchased in 1998. Joe plans on relaunching his Wild Irish trip in 2021. Until then, we’re confident this hardworking sewer will find plenty of projects to occupy his time. We wish you all the best, Joe, and hope that when you do finally launch your yearlong sailing voyage that it’s truly the trip of a lifetime. You’ve earned it!

Spooktacular Sewing With Mari Mortem

Fall is a season filled with colorful leaves, pumpkins and, of course, Halloween. And with the spookiest of seasons approaching, why not focus on a hauntingly talented sewist? Mari Mortem is the founder of the online shop Strange Coven. Her creative spirit and love of all things Halloween even carries over into her ingenious sewing projects — many of which are made using her Sailrite® Fabricator® Sewing Machine. Mari was more than happy to share the story of her sewing endeavors with us, and her skills are nothing short of supernatural!

The mystical maker herself, Mari.

Q. How and when did you first become interested in sewing? 

A. My love for sewing began when I was very young, and it was more of a necessity. Even if I didn’t have access to nice things, sewing was one thing always within reach in my household. I first started learning when I saw what my parents would mend or make. Later on, in my teenage years, I started taking sewing books out of the library to advance what I’d gleaned from my parents. There’s still so much I’ve yet to learn!

Q. What types of projects do you sew?

A. For the last few years I have been almost exclusively sewing purses. Before this shift, I was predominately sewing clothing with just a splash of crafting purses and other accessories.

 

Q. How did you become a Halloween fan and collector? What drew you to it?

A. Oh Halloween! What to say. Beneath all the scares, the thrills and the chills, there’s a wholesomeness surrounding Halloween that often gets overlooked. Whether you grew up blessed with opportunity, or less fortunate in your circumstance, Halloween is the one day/night that melts away all the pretense, all the divides, all those societal pressures very naturally. 

It’s unforced in its message of neighborliness — people come together for their community’s enjoyment, sometimes without really realizing they are doing so. They put together haunted houses and give away candy to all the neighborhood kids, some that have even travelled from other less fortunate neighborhoods, such as I did when I was young. Even when I couldn’t go out, I could be home carving pumpkins, watching them glow through the night, and roasting the seeds. Even if I expect nothing but the pleasure of a chilly evening with pumpkin treats and a spooky movie, I still feel like I’ve participated in the festivities and traditions.

My obsession with collecting true vintage Halloween odds and ends came about because nothing exemplifies this “hidden” wholesomeness quite like Halloween imagery and characters of the past. They’re very sweet and charming, much like I hope to revive in my own work! 

Mari’s colorful, quirky workshop featuring the Fabricator.

 

Q. How does the Sailrite Fabricator Sewing Machine fit into your work? What are your thoughts on the machine so far?

A. The year I started shifting my interest toward bag making, I was reading a lot of online blogs and publications in order to get better. I realized that both technique and equipment could further the quality of my projects. A lot of the sources that I was using to perfect my bag making, many of which became my favorite references, had made purchases from Sailrite. They lauded the company for their quality products and services that welcome even the less knowledgeable customer with tons of visual aids. These were visual aids that a first-time industrial machine owner such as myself might encounter. When I browsed the Sailrite catalog I came upon the Fabricator and its sleek black look instantly set it apart from other machines. Knowing how much the people I looked up to loved their machines purchased from Sailrite, plus the added aesthetics of the Fabricator, I knew that it was a machine I would eventually come to own.

The Fabricator Sewing Machine in festive attire.

At first, I felt intimidated by the machine; like I didn’t know enough to own such a machine. But any time I have a question about it, the answer is so easy to find, whether it’s found intuitively or by reading the Sailrite website and watching helpful videos. It’s a robust machine and it sews through all my heavier projects quickly and beautifully. I have not felt like I’ve sacrificed anything for the speed. It has a lot of control, which matters when I am zipping through straight lines or slowing to a literal crawl on precise details.

Q. Can you tell me about a project (or projects) you’re most proud of?

A. Any time I create anything that is objectively better than the last time I created a similar item makes me very proud. I’m able to see my growth in the craft I am most passionate about. I’m always looking to improve what I do and that in itself can be a challenge because it’s difficult to be impartial about anything you create yourself. You have to find a way to get better without any other kind of guidance but your own wits. It can be quite a hurdle to overcome with even the smallest of projects.

Q. What’s your favorite part of the DIY lifestyle? What’s difficult?

A. My favorite thing about the DIY lifestyle is not being at the whim of what is trending and available — being able to carve out things that match my tastes and wishes perfectly. If I want it to be Halloween every day, I can make it so! However, the most difficult part of this lifestyle is not having enough time to make all the things I want to make! I have to harmonize personal projects with projects and products I want to add to my shop. It’s a tough balance for a solo crafter!

Q. What are you looking forward to sewing in the future?

A. I hope to do much more detailed work in the future, expanding from pumpkins to other more intricate vintage-inspired Halloween goodies as wearable accessories.

Mari is so talented, it’s scary.

Q. What advice would you give to someone who is new to sewing but wants to create fun DIY projects like yours?

A. Never underestimate the value of small accomplishments! When I started bag making, or clothes making (anything really), I focused on perfecting one thing before moving onto the next. Sometimes that meant making a bunch of “easy things” that seem far removed from a nice jacket or a bag, like pillowcases or zippered pouches. However, I learned to perfect my piping and corners through making pillowcases and installing zippers with lined bags on those little pouches. Every little project builds on your skill, whether you immediately realize it or not. Eventually, you’ll be able to look at projects like mine and say, “Yeah, I know how to make that.” 

Mari’s colorful collection with one of her pumpkin purses displayed.

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Mari. We’re looking forward to seeing more of the otherworldly designs you’ll create with the Fabricator. And remember, whether you’re an avid sewist or you’re looking to break into the world of DIY sewing, Sailrite is here for you. With a little imagination, passion and persistence, you, too, can create your dream project. No tricks, just treats!

 

Captain’s Log: A Lifetime on the Water

Captain Helen Deitrick-Kovach is an accomplished boater and sewist. She grew up in a boating family and has been cruising the waters for 62 years. In 2004, she and her husband sold their house and moved aboard their 50-foot Marine Trader trawler powerboat. These liveaboards have logged thousands of miles and explored countless waters. In late 2018, they left the boat in heated winter storage for the first time in 16 years! Captain Deitrick took that time on land to complete an assortment of sewing projects for the trawler. She used her Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 to help her accomplish this huge sewing endeavor. Keep reading to learn more about this intrepid boater, her DIY philosophy, and what she loves about the boating lifestyle.

Captain Helen Deitrick-Kovach
Captain Helen Deitrick-Kovach

A Love of the Water

Boating and sailing have been a big part of Captain Deitrick’s life since early childhood. “I learned to sail at the age of 8 at a day camp on Rogers Lake in Old Lyme, Connecticut. We sailed Blue Jay dinghies. I acquired a 12-foot johnboat at the age of 10 and worked the inlets of the Connecticut River with my three lobster pots and pitchfork collecting longneck clams.” She spent high school summers sailing One Design boats at a local yacht club.

After college, she and her husband sailed their 28-foot S2 Performance Cruiser on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina, at Western Carolina Sailing Club. “We used the boat as our weekend lake house and raced competitively in the PHRF (Performance Handicap Racing Fleet). We did this for 18 years until we purchased our Marine Trader trawler.”

When the family moved to Charleston, South Carolina, her husband went to work for Tow Boat US, and he needed a Coast Guard license. Their son knew he wanted to attend a maritime school, so they both attended Sea School in Charleston, considered to be the premier maritime training school in the United States. Upon completion, they received their 100 ton license with sail and towing endorsements.

Adventures on the Horizon

In 2004, when their son went off to college, the couple decided to sell their house and move to the coast. They lived aboard the trawler while their son attended Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, Maine, a four-year academy that graduates officers and engineers for the United States Merchant Marine and marine-related industries.

The 50-foot trawler came with a bit of a learning curve. “We used that time to get acclimated to the systems on the trawler.” The couple graduated from a sailboat with a single 9 horsepower Yanmar engine to twin 150 horsepower diesel Lehman engines, 12 batteries, 760 gallons of fuel, 360 gallons of water, a 50-gallon holding tank and five air conditioners — all packed into a 50-foot boat.

allez boat interior
A look inside ALLEZ! That’s a lot of boat to sew for.

They knew they wanted to be full-time cruisers, and so Captain Deitrick decided it would be prudent for her to get a captain’s license as well. “I did not need to have it to drive the boat, but the education was valuable. I knew how to drive, but docking and undocking required some learning. We took a shakedown cruise (in which the performance of a vessel is tested) in the spring of 2010 with our son on board to help me get the hang of it.”

They named the trawler “ALLEZ!,” which is French for “Let’s Go!” — a very fitting name given the couple’s wanderlust spirit. They have logged thousands of miles since purchasing the trawler in 2004. “She is a 1992 model wide-body and we are the second owners. We have lived on board for 17 years full time. We do not own a house and, until February 2020, we didn’t own a car either.”

In 2010, the intrepid travelers began cruising full time. They cruised all up and down the East Coast to the Florida Keys. In 2013, they started the Great Loop. “We took almost four years to complete the 6,100 mile trip.” The Great Loop is a system of interconnected waterways on the eastern portion of the United States and part of Canada. The Great Lakes, the Mississippi River, the Atlantic and Gulf Intracoastal Waterways and the Rideau Canal are just some of the natural and manmade waterways that form the Great Loop. “We have been all the way up the Potomac to Washington, D.C., and have spent entire summers just cruising the Chesapeake Bay — 1,300 plus miles each summer exploring the rivers and small towns on the Bay. Because we live on the boat full time, we are pretty much always moving around.”

sewing bimini
Captain Deitrick works on a new bimini top using her Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine.

Sewing & DIY

Captain Deitrick taught herself to sew at the age of 10. She started out simple, making throw pillows, but soon moved on to garments including jumpers and skirts. “I graduated to more complex sewing projects like Vogue Patterns® and formal gowns. When I was at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, I became the lead student costumer for the theater department. After college, I made all my own clothes for my working career. When we purchased our S2 sailboat, I made sail covers, winch covers, and several boom tents and bow triangles for shade. I was called upon to make similar products for members of the sail club, for which I was paid. I like the independence that being able to do my own work affords me, as well as the ability to customize my projects.”

Over the last 18 years aboard ALLEZ!, Captain Deitrick has tackled numerous sewing projects for the boat. In her words: “If it is made of fabric — Sunbrella®, Phifertex®, Stamoid™, Naugahyde® or upholstery/curtain material — I have made it for ALLEZ!” Just a handful of the bounty of projects she’s made for the trawler include curtain panels, door panels, roll-up screens, handrail, grill and winch covers, and so many cushions. A 50-foot boat is a lot of space, and there’s a DIY project everywhere you look.

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“Being able to sew and having the machine on board at all times has been invaluable. I have also been able to take on projects for other boaters who need repairs or replacements and do not have the skill or inclination to undertake the project themselves.” Her most recent DIY was a new bimini for the upper deck. She chose Stamoid for the 12-foot x 15-foot bimini and used her Ultrafeed to tackle the project. “Every bit of material I have used on the boat has come from Sailrite®. Additionally, the supplies I have purchased for my projects for hire have all come from Sailrite as well.”

Captain Deitrick says the new upper deck bimini was her toughest project to date. “It was big and I had never used patterning material before. I had always just used the old bimini, but since it was a new design with adjusted rails it was different. Add to the fact that while we removed the fifth rail and adjusted the heights on the two intermediate bows, I did not have the luxury of walking all around the frame.” The mid-summer heat in South Carolina didn’t make it any easier either. Captain Deitrick had limited time to pattern the frame before the temperatures rose and the wind kicked up every afternoon. But the satisfaction and happiness of completing a big project just can’t be beat!

bimini
Captain Deitrick’s completed bimini. We think she did a great job!

A New Beginning

After almost two decades on the water, Captain Deitrick and her husband are bidding farewell to the liveaboard lifestyle. They’ve decided to sell the trawler and relocate closer to family. “We have two young grandchildren and want to be full-time grandparents, and that is hard to do when you are 1,200 miles away.” The couple have traveled and boated to all the places they wanted to visit, and they’re looking forward to this next chapter of their lives. They plan to continue traveling — this time by land. A bittersweet ending perhaps, but the memories they made aboard ALLEZ! are sure to bring smiles to their faces whenever they are missing life on the water.

allez marine trader trawler

Sailing With the Cloudy Bay Crew

For many, the idea of living aboard your boat and sailing the world is simply a pipe dream. It takes a lot of preparation and courage to cut ties with the land and jump into a life at sea. Glen and Oana Sansom decided years ago to devote their lives to sailing and traversing the open water. Along the way, they’ve had incredible adventures and even became acquainted with the Sailrite® Ultrafeed® Sewing Machine. 

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Glen is British and Oana is Romanian. They met in Bucharest while under the employment of the same international oilfield services company. Later, the two moved to Dubai and were married. In early 2016, Glen was offered an early retirement after 31 years in his field and Oana took forced retirement as requested by Glen. Like the old saying goes, when one door closes, another opens! This catalyst prompted the two to reexamine their professional life — the long office hours and material ties. Both adventurers at heart, they decided it was time for a change.

Glen had been a sailing enthusiast in his teen years and Oana had begun sailing while in Dubai where the couple raced a J/22. It only made sense that they jump headfirst into sailing and start cruising exclusively following a trip to the Dusseldorf Boat Show. After months of extensive research, they finally found their dream boat! Enter Cloudy Bay, a Hallberg-Rassy 54 launched in Sweden in 2008. The previous owner had named her after a famous New Zealand wine and it stuck. And so the adventures of Cloudy Bay began!

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Cloudy Bay in Gibraltar.

It wasn’t long before Glen and Oana realized that living aboard their boat required a certain level of self-reliance when it came to repairs. If you’re in the middle of the ocean and experience a tear in your sail, you better be ready to fix it! When it came to sewing, Oana was familiar with hand sewing and Glen had done some sewing in the past with his mother’s old Singer. They soon began researching for the ideal machine to have onboard and quickly settled on the Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1. “When we saw the Sailrite machine at the Annapolis Boat Show, the Ultrafeed was an easy purchase, along with all the materials and little bits needed to complete the projects we had in mind.” It was also critical to have instructional materials, so they quickly began utilizing Sailrite’s how-to videos.

“We started our various projects with the simplest and worked upwards in complexity. Our first project was making fender blankets ready for our transit through the Panama canal. The latest project, and the one we are most proud of, was a set of dinghy chaps. We templated the dinghy using shrink-wrap plastic then transferred the pattern to Sunbrella® material. We put strengthening pieces around all the protruding fittings and secured the chaps to the dinghy using velcro glued to the dinghy. It was the little things that made the difference. For instance, a tip made in Sailrite’s dinghy chaps video was to do the patterning with the dinghy slightly deflated. Then, when we finally fitted the cover and pumped to full pressure, the chaps fit like a glove! Other projects included side and rear sunshades for the bimini, putting six solar panels on top of the bimini and repair work to our aging dodger.”

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When you spend all your time sailing, the world is your oyster. After purchasing Cloudy Bay in 2016, the couple cruised the Western Mediterranean. That winter they did a big refit in Spain, making all the necessary changes for circumnavigation. The next summer, they cruised the Eastern Mediterranean, then set off across the Atlantic in early 2018. After that, they visited the Caribbean Windward Islands, spent the summer of 2018 cruising the East Coast of the United States up to Maine, and then went back south again for another winter in the Caribbean. And that’s just the start of their travels! Thankfully, all of their trips have been aptly documented via their blog site, Sail Cloudy Bay, and their YouTube channel of the same name.

When it comes to committing to a floating home, Glen was happy to share some tips for potential cruisers. “First and foremost, it may look like an idyllic lifestyle, but all good things become the norm after a year or more. I would not want to discourage people, but I would say to try it by doing a charter or two before you commit too much. Don’t spend years preparing and spending, only to find it’s not for you. Of course, if you love independence, remote off-grid living and sailing, it’s a perfect life if you both like it. But if one partner enjoys it more than the other, there has to be some empathy and compromise.”

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“Our compromise is to spend at least four months a year back at home, Oana’s home in Romania. Behind all the apparent fun and adventure, consider these points: the incessant movement of the boat, always getting wet when going ashore with the dinghy, needing to constantly be aware of the weather forecast, knowing that almost every day something will break, and that never-ending nomadic feeling of always being on the move. I would recommend always keeping a home somewhere other than the boat. Because you will want a break from it sometimes, and there is no place like home when that time comes. Another key piece of advice is above having a good seaworthy boat, it needs many of the home comforts too if you are to live on it 24/7/365. Otherwise, it’s like the difference between camping and glamping. And whatever the luxury of your boat, it’s never going to be up to living in a roomy, warm, dry, stationary house!”

Since their foray into the world of boating, Glen and Oana have been happy to share their experiences via their blog, social media and their YouTube channel. While they initially started documenting their experiences on video for family and friends, it quickly grew into a popular channel with over 16,000 subscribers. Their goal is to show real sailing and share cruising wisdom with their fans. They even filmed a video dedicated to their Sailrite projects! 

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While traversing the globe has its own set of challenges, Glen and Oana have also had to manage the global COVID-19 pandemic. For a cruiser, this poses its own unique set of hurdles. Glen was kind enough to share his experience with us. 

“For Oana it’s wonderful! She gets to have a longer break back at home with friends and family. Unfortunately, she suffers from seasickness, so six months at a time onboard is about her limit. Frankly, COVID has stopped us, and many like us, in our tracks. We should be halfway across the Pacific by now. Even restarting again this November looks unlikely. Most of the countries we need to enter either still have their borders closed or apply highly restricted movement. Add to that, we need to look at if/when we catch COVID ourselves, what is the probability that one of us would need hospitalization. Currently looks like about a 14% chance given our ages. That may be okay at home, where good hospital care is available, but those odds feel too high to venture to places where no hospital care, or limited care, is available. In summary, it looks like COVID will cause us to have a break, but things will get back to normal and it will prolong our adventure, which is a good thing (for me).”

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While current circumstances may seem daunting, this intrepid pair of adventurers isn’t letting anything keep them from enjoying life on the water. As soon as they’re able, they’re determined to continue their circumnavigation. When they do set off, they’ll be heading for Panama to start the Pacific crossing. Once across the Pacific and its many islands, they hope to spend some time exploring New Zealand. After that, there will be a trek to Southeast Asia, the islands of the Indian Ocean, the final leg up to Brazil and a trip to the Chesapeake Bay on the East Coast of the United States. 

The cruising lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but if you can make it work it’s full of exciting adventures and countless lessons to learn. Self-reliance is key, and Sailrite is here to help you every step of the way. From our instructional videos to top-of-the-line sewing machines, you’ll have everything you need to excel. Glen and Oana are perfect examples of the ingenuity, tenacity and lifelong curiosity that makes for a worthwhile life at sea. Thanks for sharing your story with us, and we look forward to hearing more about the voyages of Cloudy Bay!

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Sewing for the Boating Life

Though not raised in a boating family, Laura Weller-Brophy has a very unique and interesting job in the marine industry. She co-owns a boat club that maintains a fleet of boats that the members have unlimited use of during boating season. “This is the perfect way to get on the water,” Laura explained. “Our members enjoy the best part of boating without the hassle of maintaining the boat.” Laura contributes her sewing skills, among other expertise, to the business. She sews upholstery and canvaswork projects for the boats, and she needed a sewing machine that was up to the challenge. She discovered the Sailrite® Ultrafeed® Sewing Machine and has been putting it to great use.

While boating is a hobby for many people, to Laura it’s an enjoyable business opportunity. “I like the ability to be outdoors in an environment that I love, meeting the boat club members and enjoying the pleasure that they take in boating.” The business was founded by Laura’s business partner and has been in operation in the Rochester, New York, region for six years. Though she had no boating experience, her business expertise made for an excellent and profitable partnership. “We have tripled the size of our business since working together,” she shared.

In addition to her business acumen, Laura was able to contribute another one of her skills to the business: sewing. She learned to sew as a young girl on her grandmother’s treadle Singer sewing machine. “My grandmother and her two sisters were accomplished sewers and made clothing for themselves and their family members. My aunt is a very skilled seamstress — she designed and made my wedding gown. I learned a lot from her and my mother.”

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On a windy day at the marina, Laura uses the back of a boat as her sewing station as she repairs a customer’s patio umbrella.

Laura’s love of DIY stretches beyond just sewing. “I enjoy soap making, canning, painting the house … I did my first stained-glass project last summer.” Regardless of the craft, the joy that comes from making something with your own hands is a universal part of DIY. “DIY means having the freedom and ability to independently make things just like you want them to be — no need to search the web for poorly made items stitched from poor quality fabrics. I love sewing because it enables me to make beautiful things, sew my own curtains and clothing, and make special things for others.”

Laura found the Sailrite website when she was searching for canvas fabric to complete a boat project. It wasn’t too long till she discovered the Ultrafeed LSZ-1. Instantly, she knew it was the machine she needed. “I love the Ultrafeed! It is exceptionally well made, robust, and it has the features that I need. I especially value Sailrite because of the videos that you have. I watch them when I need to learn new skills and how to do specific projects.” The Ultrafeed’s portability allows Laura to work on projects outside at the marina.

She purchased her Ultrafeed in 2019 and has already tackled a number of marine projects. Her first project was making new boat cushions for a vintage Rubbermaid Hellion boat. She turned to Sailrite’s inventory of how-to videos to help her complete the refit. “After the boat cushions I made a number of canvas repairs for customers of Boat Club USA. These are smaller jobs that larger canvas shops may not want to do.” Laura recently made a bimini for a customer’s boat. She watched hours of Sailrite’s bimini top videos for guidance.

 

 

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A project that Laura was quite proud of and enjoyed was patching a torn cover for a customer’s personal watercraft. She was able to get creative with the repair job — not just patching but making artistic patches that enhanced the visual appeal of the cover. “I made ‘dog bone’ patches over the handlebars and a rectangle with zigzag stitching over the ‘nose’ of the PWC. The customers liked the repair because it was effective and because the design element added to the end product. I liked it because it was fun. I have customers who just want a square patch; I try to use dog bones and other shapes that add design interest and get the job done. I find that people may not take the time to incorporate compelling design into the repair of a canvas cover.”

Laura is a big fan of Sailrite’s project videos. She has turned to them again and again to help her through specific projects or to learn new sewing tricks. “Sewing for boats is not the same as making clothing, which is what I was most familiar with. I find that the boat projects incorporate engineering skills beyond what a person learns when they sew clothing. I would not have been successful with the boat canvas and cushions without the videos.”

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Notice the “dog bones” patches at the handlebars of this personal watercraft cover.

What projects is Laura looking forward to diving into next? “I have some beautiful canvas that I need to make into outdoor curtains before the summer is over. I also want to learn how to restore outdoor umbrellas — keeping the frames and learning how to make the fabric covers. I also want to learn to make my first full boat covers!” Looks like Laura is in luck — Sailrite has how-to videos for all of those projects!

What words of DIY wisdom does Laura have to share? “I’d like to encourage your readers to tackle new DIY projects using the Sailrite products and videos. Your company is great at helping us succeed at new projects that may look rather daunting at first.”

DIY is all about trying something you’ve never done before, practicing your newly learned skills, and having fun while doing it! We’re thrilled our products and video tutorials were able to help this enthusiastic sewer flex her sewing skills and learn some new techniques. With DIY, you’re only limited by your imagination! Thanks for sharing your story with us, Laura, and good luck on all your future projects.

Sewing for Entrepreneurs

Imagine getting to do what you love and getting to be your own boss. Does this sound like a dream come true? It’s not too far fetched of a concept when you have a creative vision and a can-do attitude. Theresa Harmon is a prime example of what talent and hard work can amount to. She was kind enough to share with us her sewing history and how she came to run her own small business using her Sailrite® Fabricator® Sewing Machine. 

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Together with her machine named Oz, Theresa is unstoppable!

For Theresa, sewing and crafting have been a passion since she could use crayons and paper. But sewing started in a 7th grade home economics class, and 48 years later, her creative drive has opened up more doors for her than she could have ever imagined. “In 2006, I bought my first embroidery machine. Upon returning to the store for new owner classes, I was solicited about a sewing job. There was a local woman restoring a historic carriage house in a bed and breakfast. She needed a seamstress and I needed to pay for my expensive machine! After successfully sewing window treatments, cushions, pillows and slipcovers for her, I decided to start my own shop called All the Trimmings. This was the first incarnation of my business, and so far I’ve sewn for interior designers, decorators and, of course, my own customers. The second incarnation of my shop started in 2018 and is still going strong today. ”

“My goal with sewing is to satisfy my creative, social and entrepreneurial needs while fabricating one-of-a-kind soft furnishings for a niche retail market. I’m a one-woman workroom! I make custom furnishings like pillows, seat cushions, curtains, drapes and more that aren’t available in the mass-retail market.”

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Custom pillows made for a happy customer.

Now you might be wondering where the Sailrite Fabricator comes into play in all this. Well, a small sewing business would be nothing without a trustworthy machine to build the business on. Theresa was more than willing to share how her journey intersected with the Sailrite mission to empower DIYers. “My reason for choosing Sailrite and the Fabricator was the customer service, hands down. At the time, I was shopping for machines and working as a sales associate for another sewing machine dealer who taught new owners how to use their machines. I quickly understood how important it was for customers to learn how to use their new sewing machines in order for them to feel satisfied with their purchase and be confident sewers.”

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Theresa crafted cushions for the adorable nook.

“The Fabricator had all the built-in features I wanted, like a built-in walking foot and the ability to go slow while still using full power. These features are critical for achieving meticulous upholstery detailing. Another plus is the access to all the free Sailrite videos and the promise of tech support via email and phone. Having my Fabricator (which I’ve named Oz) gives me a lot of confidence in my ability to turn out professional work!”

Theresa has made tons of incredible projects for clients with her industrial sewing machine, and both the results and the customers can attest to her talent. You might’ve even seen some of Theresa’s work featured on our Sailrite website or our Instagram page! So far she’s made things like vinyl banquette cushions, window seat cushions, pillows, breakfast nook seating and more! Theresa recalled one of her more daunting DIY projects, and one that she is most proud of —  a revamp of a mid-century papasan chair. A local interior designer reached out to her about the chair and she was able to tackle the project with a little ingenuity and elbow grease from the Fabricator.

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The real challenge —  a vintage papasan chair.

After speaking with Theresa, we had a few more questions about her DIY successes. Luckily, she had answers!

Q: What is it about the DIY sewing lifestyle that you enjoy the most?

A: I find the process of creating something that’s never existed before to be fascinating. To be able to get paid to do something I love and decide when I will work is an irresistible combination.

Q: Do you have any words of wisdom for someone thinking of starting to sew their own projects?

A: Don’t be afraid of failure. I believe all of us learn best through our mistakes. Perfectionism and comparison both squelch our creativity. Every person’s journey is unique; therefore, there are no absolutes to success other than trying your best while continuing to practice and try new things.

Q: What projects do you see yourself sewing in the future?

A: I’ve made a lot of purses in the past but never one from leather. Since I have some scraps and I know Oz (my Fabricator) will have no problem sewing through it, maybe a leather tote bag is in my future!

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Does the DIY lifestyle still sound like a pipe dream to you? Theresa’s story is proof that you can learn the tools of the trade and, with the right sewing machine and support, you, too, can sew projects for every area of your life. Who knows, you might even get good enough to be your own boss! Anything is possible when you embrace your inner creativity and put in the work. And Sailrite is here to help you every step of the way.

Angelina M.: Queen of Upcycled Fashion

Have you ever watched a YouTube tutorial and been inspired to sew along with the instructor?  DIYer Angelina was inspired by the clothing upcycling videos she watched online. But when the instructors didn’t show how they got from thrift store “before” to runway “after,” she decided to start her own YouTube channel. Eight years later, BlueprintDIY has grown into a much-loved sewing and fashion resource for creative DIYers. Recently, she decided to take her sewing skills to the next level with her first industrial sewing machine, and she chose the Sailrite® Fabricator®. With over 100,000 YouTube subscribers, we knew Angelina was a trendsetter and expert in her field, and we wanted to find out how she’s using her new Fabricator to turn overlooked hand-me-downs into fashionable, chic looks.

Her love of denim sent her searching for an industrial machine that could handle thick assemblies. She found the Fabricator and, after some research, knew it was the machine for her. Upcycling clothing is not just a trend. It’s a smart, thrifty and eco-friendly way to restyle your wardrobe. In her videos, Angelina shows viewers how easy it is to take thrift store finds, or clothes from your own closet, and give them a stylish second life. We sat down with Angelina to find out how she’s liking her new Fabricator and to chat about all things DIY, fashion and upcycling.

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Angelina proudly shows off her brand-new Fabricator Sewing Machine.

Q: How did you get the idea to start a YouTube channel and share your upcycled clothing tutorials with the world?

A: I decided to stay home to raise my kids, which meant that I couldn’t shop as much as I used to. This is when I discovered thrifting while watching YouTube. I watched girls go buy thrift store clothes and do small alterations to make it suit them. That was my answer! I started thrifting and altering, and a whole new world opened up to me. Now I could stay on budget, shop and make my clothes fit. So I started sewing again and realized that the girls I was watching on YouTube never showed how they were recreating their clothes. They only showed the before and after. I felt like other women really needed to know how to do this.

Q: What do you love about upcycling clothing and the DIY/sewing creative process?

A: I love the push and pull of taking a limited amount of fabric and creating something that looks like it has no limits. I don’t gain much inspiration from raw material, but I feel like old clothes speak to me. They want to be new again.

Q: What clothing materials do you work with most often? 

A: I work with a ton of denim, men’s dress shirts and T-shirts, which I’m just realizing are all cotton-based materials.

Q: What is your favorite item of clothing to upcycle? And do they come from your own closet or do you thrift clothing pieces to remake for your videos?

A: My favorite clothing to upcycle is definitely jeans. Denim lasts so long and is so strong. I mostly get jeans to upcycle from my local thrift outlet. Each day every item in the store is a single price ranging from $2 all the way down to $.25 on Wednesdays. They always have a lot of jeans, so it’s a great item for me to upcycle.

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This butterfly sleeve crop top was creatively upcycled from a thrifted pair of oversized overalls.

Q: Where do you get the ideas or inspiration for your upcycle designs?

A: I have a constant list of projects that I want to make videos for. My project ideas come from social media, current events, viewer suggestions, runway shows and my own strokes of genius.

Q: When you were looking to upgrade to an industrial sewing machine, what made you look at the Fabricator? What was it about the machine that appealed to you?

A: Before this year, I had never heard of Sailrite. But I had dreamed about upgrading to an industrial sewing machine for years. I was scrolling through Instagram one day and saw an ad for the Fabricator. It stopped me in my tracks. I’m a licensed architect by trade and gorgeous machinery is a passion. I decided to do some research to see if the specs matched its beauty. I was blown away when I saw the level of control it has as it’s sewing through many layers of thick materials.

Q: What have you sewn on the Fabricator and how has the machine performed for you?

A: I’ve upcycled a bunch of jeans and made a pair of two-tone jeans, a detachable sleeve denim jacket, two denim tops and a wrap skirt. It’s working amazing for me! I love that my top stitches look just like I purchased the garment from a store.

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The Fabricator made easy work of this unique take on a denim jacket.

Q: What is the thickest or toughest fabric you’ve sewn with your Fabricator? How did the machine handle the material?

A: I tested it and it actually sews through 16 layers of denim with ease.

Q: How do you see the Fabricator fitting into your upcycle clothing videos? Will you use it for specific materials and designs, or as an all-around project machine?

A: I have only used it for denim so far, but I have more needles and feet coming that will make it possible to use it with finer materials. And I’m so excited to do my next leather project!

Q: Have you had any clothing project that’s been more difficult or tricky to upcycle? Your design didn’t go as expected? What did you learn from the experience?

A: The very first project that I used the Fabricator for was my two-tone jeans project. I was still a little apprehensive about using the Fabricator because it was new to me. I cut the jeans more than I should have next to the zipper fly. The only way to salvage the project was to sew the zipper fly of one pair to the zipper fly of the other pair. There’s absolutely no way that my heavy-duty domestic machines could do it so I turned to the Fabricator. It performed amazingly and took away all my fears. The control on it makes it so easy to use. 

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These two-tone jeans was the first project Angelina tackled with her Fabricator. We think they look stunning!

Q: Are you hoping to teach your kids to sew and pass along the skill? 

A: I just started teaching my kids to sew this year, mostly on my domestic machines. They are 12, 10 and 6, and I’m happy to say that they really enjoy it. After a few lessons, my 6-year-old son wanted to try using the Fabricator. He was able to make a few stitches and control the foot with ease.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of sharing your tutorial videos and being a DIY influencer?

A: Early in my channel, one of my subscribers commented that my videos inspired her to remake her clothes, which was helping her stay positive through her third bout with cancer. I didn’t realize how healing sewing could be. It has been a great source of my own healing after losing my husband to a rare form of meningitis in 2017. During the coronavirus pandemic, I made it my goal to upload as much positive content as possible to be a steady and uplifting part of my viewers’ day. That’s the most rewarding thing to me.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself, your family or your DIY lifestyle?

A: I think that I make sewing fun and not so intimidating. My sewing style is wild, crazy and experimental. People are more willing to be bad at it and learn from mistakes so that they can get better. I think it really takes some of the pressure off. I’m also building a community outside of YouTube. My Facebook group is taking on a life of its own. People are swapping materials locally, helping each other fix their sewing machines, and applauding one another’s projects. I’m striving for a community or family atmosphere, and I’m very proud that it’s growing into that.

Have you ever thought about upcycling clothing and breathing new life into clothes you don’t wear anymore or thrift store finds? If you need a place to start, Angelina has hundreds of upcycling tutorials on her YouTube channel. You can find her at BlueprintDIY. Thanks for chatting with us, Angelina, and good luck with your future upcycled fashions!

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Sailing Wife, Sewing Life

At the age of 10, Bailey Heyman received her first sewing machine as a gift from her grandparents. What she didn’t know was that this small gift would spark a lifelong passion that would change her life. Bailey is truly a Jill-of-all-trades, sewing everything she can get her hands on, such as apparel, marine projects, pet projects — you name it. Along the way she discovered sailing and then the Sailrite® website, which only bolstered her love of all things DIY. Not to mention it brought her face to face with a world-class sewing machine, the Sailrite® Ultrafeed® LSZ-1.

“I remained interested in the idea of sewing through middle school, high school and college. It wasn’t until after college that I had a well-paying job and could finally spend the money to pick up sewing again. I first bought a computerized machine even though it had been 14 years since the last time I’d had a sewing machine. My return to sewing started with making dog bandanas that I would give out to a local dog rescue I volunteer for. Sewing dog bandanas then turned into sewing dog vests and then it all escalated quickly!”

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Bailey, photographed here among her newly sewn boat cabin cushions.

While always the avid sewist, Bailey wasn’t always entwined with the sailing lifestyle or Sailrite. That she learned from her husband, who is from a long line of sailors and began to teach her the way of the water. This fact, combined with her infatuation with aerodynamics, led her to explore the world of sailmaking. It was here that things really began to gain momentum! Eventually, Bailey discovered the Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine and her ability to DIY grew tenfold.

“When looking into industrial sewing machines for sewing sails, Sailrite is the first thing that comes up. It did not take me long to look at the company and know that it was a brand with a community that I wanted to be part of. I received my Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 and immediately began to dress it up with stickers. Out of all the things I’ve done with my Sailrite, turning it into an angler fish has gotten the most likes on social media. That’s fine with me because it makes me smile every time I finish a project, turn off the lights, and see it glowing.”

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You might’ve seen Bailey’s customized Ultrafeed LSZ-1 on our Sailrite Instagram page, complete with a smiling sticker that glows in the dark. This gives the machine the appearance of an angler fish, even with the lights off. And if you thought that was ingenious, you should see the great number of other projects Bailey has finished recently using her portable powerhouse of a machine.

The project that Bailey is most proud of? Her lightning bug sunflower dress of course. She was kind enough to share the entire process with us.

“I wanted to make a dress to wear to an engineering banquet that I had coming up. I knew I wanted a dress with sunflowers because those are my favorite flowers. I loved the blue and yellow color combination. After I made the dress, I started to think about what I wanted to add to it next. I love building circuits and wanted to work them into my sewing projects. One day I had the idea to add lightning bugs to the sunflower dress. But I had to figure out how to sew the conductive wire to get them to light up inside the dress. Most DIYers will sew wire into dresses like that by hand, but because of the shape of the dress, I knew that would take a long time. I tried to use my computerized sewing machine first but the thread was too thick for it. I thought perhaps my Sailrite Ultrafeed would not work with it because the dress material was chiffon, but I decided to try anyway. It took a few minutes to get the settings right for the material but once I did, I was able to sew the conductive wire perfectly into the dress!”

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Following the creation of her prized sunflower dress, Bailey has been busy making even more wearable works of art. Her many successes include flowy skirts and gowns with a variety of leaves and creatures on them, each one perfectly showcasing her boundless creativity. She explained, “My inspiration for making them all comes from self-inspiration. It only takes about an hour to an hour and a half to make the base of a dress or skirt and then it usually takes a few hours to days to add appliques such as flowers or iron-on designs.”

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Within her eclectic portfolio of DIY projects, you’ll also find a slew of marine cushions she’s created to revamp her and her husband’s boat. She’s also crafted numerous additions to her Jeep as well as pet projects for her beloved dogs. And not only do these creative endeavors showcase the versatility of the Ultrafeed Sewing Machine, but more importantly, they showcase Bailey’s versatility and expertise as an enterprising young sewist.

We asked Bailey if she had any advice for DIYers who have dreams of following in her footsteps, and she was kind enough to share her thoughts with us. “My biggest pointer is to be self aware. If you do not know yourself and how your mind operates then you risk becoming your own worst enemy when creating things. A personal example of this is that I know I often get carried away with cutting fabric. When this happens I end up over-cutting or finding out the pattern I was cutting was a little off and so now I have a pile of cut fabric that will not work. This means that I have to either throw away the cut fabric, spend time to fix the cuts (if they are fixable), or set them aside (which ends up haunting me until I eventually throw them away). Because I am self aware of this, I always make sure to remind myself to not get carried away when I cut. If I was not self aware of how I operate, then I would continually get carried away with cutting and then kick myself for all the money I throw away.”

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Bailey recently crafted a new netted top for her Jeep. It’s even pup approved!

Bailey also has the support team of her family to thank for her ability to create. She remembers her grandpa having a big smile one his face while watching her sew and when she showed him the Sailrite he was certainly impressed. She likes to remember him fondly as a champion of her creativity.

With a can-do attitude, a great sewing machine and some DIY guidance, you too can create incredible DIY projects. We’re eagerly waiting to see what you sew next, Bailey!

Sewing Upholstery With the Ultrafeed®

All DIYers, whether they’re a sewer, woodworker, crafter or other, have the same thing in common. They love the satisfaction they get from accomplishing a project on their own. Cory Springer is no different. She owns a small upholstery business in Virginia, and one of her favorite things about sewing is that she is always learning and improving. With the help of Sailrite® project videos and her Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine, she’s conquering the upholstery game and creating beautiful and unique furniture pieces.

Cory grew up watching her mother sew. “She was always sewing something — mostly curtains, but sometimes clothes too. As an adult, I started sewing when I wanted to make some clothes for my daughter’s American Girl dolls.” Her sister gave her an old, unused Janome sewing machine and she bought patterns and taught herself to sew.

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“I’ve gone from one end of the spectrum, making doll clothes, to the other, sewing upholstery!” Cory learns from what other people have made. She doesn’t consider herself to have creative vision. Therefore, she relies on pattern instructions and online videos to help her with her upholstery work, and that’s how she found Sailrite’s YouTube channel.

The first Sailrite video Cory watched and used for her upholstery work was the “How to Reupholster an Armchair” video. She used the techniques she learned in the video to upholster an armchair in an eye-catching white and navy polka dot fabric. “Ever since that time, I’ve looked to Sailrite first for tutorial videos and I direct anyone who asks to the Sailrite YouTube page!”

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Cory reupholstered this armchair with help from Sailrite’s free video tutorial. The results speak for themselves!

To get her small business off the ground, Cory needed a heavy-duty sewing machine that could handle her upholstery needs. Since Cory was already familiar with the Sailrite project videos, she saw how well the Ultrafeed Sewing Machine handled upholstery work and other materials. Choosing an Ultrafeed for her budding upholstery business was an easy decision. “Everything I could possibly want to ask about this sewing machine was answered on the Sailrite website. You guys have the best resources — clear, concise and easy to use. I felt absolutely comfortable and confident making this purchase.”

“If I want to learn to sew something, I always check Sailrite’s video library first. I fully trust your videos over anyone else’s because they are just so thorough!” Cory named her upholstery business Black Dog Furniture because of her love of Newfoundland dogs. She and her husband have two adorable Newfies: Cubby, an 8-year-old who is always close by “helping” while Cory sews, and Apple, a newly acquired puppy thanks to the recent quarantine.

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Cubby supervises as Cory works on a project using her Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine.

After four years of sewing with the Ultrafeed, Cory is still happy with the machine. “I love its durability and ease of use. I’m a newbie when it comes to sewing, and I’m probably really hard on the machine — but it can take it! I also love that Sailrite tells me exactly how I can perform routine maintenance on my machine.”

Cory doesn’t stop at upholstery work. She’s put her Ultrafeed to use over the years making everything from upholstery and cushions to pillow covers and window treatments. She recently used the Sailrite face mask tutorial to sew protective masks for herself and her family. What’s next on her list of new projects to tackle? “I’m sewing a new patio umbrella (my Newfoundland puppy chewed a hole in mine) and I’m making some outdoor sun shades for my daughter’s porch.”

In addition to sewing, Cory is also a skilled woodworker. She incorporates her woodworking talents into her upholstery work, but she also makes standalone wood pieces as well. Her first big woodworking project was a farmhouse trestle table she built for her daughter’s new house. “Also, I recently started learning to hand letter in a modern calligraphy style. That has been fun and also a very therapeutic activity.”

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Cory built this stunning farmhouse trestle table for her daughter.

Creativity runs in the family. “I have three older sisters. Two of them are also avid sewers and the other is a big redecorator. We all look forward to the arrival of the Sailrite catalog when it comes out each year. It’s like getting the old Sears Christmas catalog when we were kids. We’d scour every page of the toy section just like how we now scour every page of the Sailrite home catalog!”

We’re thrilled Cory is loving her Ultrafeed Sewing Machine. With patience, practice and the right resources, your sewing potential is limited only by your imagination! Good luck on your next project, Cory! Sailrite will be here to help with anything you need!

Fashion Forward: Brant Shih’s Story

Creative genius is a flame that cannot be extinguished. For Brant Shih, there has always been a passion inside him pushing him towards the arts and fashion. A true creative spirit, he made the brave decision to travel over 7,000 miles to pursue his dream of becoming a fashion designer. In his younger years, he studied at a vocational school in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan (his home country), and majored in fashion design. As his love for fashion grew, he knew that it would lead him to new heights. Eventually, he found his way to Sailrite®, and we’re honored to have helped him pursue his education in the world of fashion design.

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Brant, his trusty Ultrafeed and many of his custom pieces.

From day one, Brant was well aware of his creative purpose. It only made sense that he dedicated his life to studying and creating wearable works of art. But in Taiwan, there were only two nearby high schools that taught fashion design. Across the globe, New York City is known as one of the world’s largest fashion hubs. So when it came time to get serious about his studies, Brant made his way to the Big Apple in 2017. 

Brant is currently pursuing a college degree in Fashion Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, New York. Located in Manhattan, this is the place where aspiring designers go to learn the tools of the trade. This public university is well-known for its fashion programs, and even boasts several famous designer alumni including Calvin Klein, Michael Kors and Randy Fenoli of “Say Yes to the Dress” fame just to name a few. Those are some big (patent leather) shoes to fill!

And while some students at other schools would be taking written exams, one of his most formative projects was to create a custom bag all on his own. His assignment was to exemplify a specific leather manipulation technique to make a bag or purse. And in the middle of this difficult project, disaster struck. Brant found himself stuck at home during the COVID-19 lockdown in New York City. Before the lockdown, Brant had been going to a communal space that had sewing machines for fashion students to use. But without access, he needed to start researching other avenues to finish his piece. 

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A willing model showing off one of Brant’s custom pieces.

Scouring the internet, Brant searched for a machine that could handle multiple layers of leather. It also needed to be portable and small enough to fit inside his living space. After ample research, Brant stumbled upon the Sailrite® Ultrafeed® Sewing Machine. “At that moment, I knew this was what I was looking for.” The Ultrafeed was an investment in his craft and future career and a way to assure his productivity during an unprecedented time. 

“For my assignment, I needed to make a handbag in any style of my choosing and combine two types of leather in a manipulation technique. It had to be done in a way so that one could see that there is leather woven on the front of the handbag and french binding on the opening. I chose to create a circular-shaped bag instead of a square or rectangle.” 

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A masterful creation made with help from the Ultrafeed.

“My Sailrite Ultrafeed Sewing Machine is a good investment, especially for people like me. I don’t have a lot of space at home but I hoped to get an industrial machine that could sew heavy materials like leather. I like that Sailrite helps customers learn more about sewing and can help fix any issues with their customers’ machines.” 

Aside from making purses and shoes, one of Brant’s favorite things to sew and create is millinery. According to the modern fashion dictionary, “Millinery is the manufacture and craft of making hats and headwear. A milliner historically would also produce everything from shirts, cloaks and shifts, to caps and neckerchiefs for both men and women, as well as designing and trimming their headgear. The term dates to the Middle Ages, when a Milener referred to someone from Milan — the home of the fashion and textiles trade. Millinery has evolved throughout history, but remains popular with a range of different events and uniforms. More often than not, hats can indicate social status, from a cowboy’s Stetson to a gentleman’s top hat, or the cocktail fascinators worn by ladies at the races.”

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One of Brant’s one-of-a-kind, handcrafted hats.

So what does the future hold for this enterprising young fashion up-and-comer? In a word, upcycling. “I am currently working on an upcycle project on my own. I have two pairs of pants and one pair of shorts that I am cutting into pieces and reassembling into a tote bag. I’ll also be using a vinyl raincoat for the bottom of the bag so it’s easy to clean. I’m also planning to sew a quilting pattern on the bag and use a piece of bubble wrap as the foam base for the quilting pattern.” 

We’re eagerly waiting to see what you create next, Brant!