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!

DIY Dog Toys: Tough Stuff for Playing Ruff

Do you have a dog who’s tough on toys? Mike Deering does. His dogs would destroy a supposedly “indestructible” toy in a matter of hours, stuffing and fabric remnants littering his home. Not only annoyed at the cost of such flimsy toys, Mike worried that the loose stuffing could be a choking hazard. Then inspiration struck. He had the idea to use old fire hose to create tough-as-nails tug and fetch dog toys. To sew through the thick material, he would need a heavy-duty sewing machine. Luckily, the Sailrite® Ultrafeed® was more than up to the challenge.

Mike and his wife, Pam, have always been big animal lovers. “I was raised with cats for the most part,” Mike recalled. “Pam has had cats and dogs all her life. She also had a potbellied pig for 15 years.” The couple currently has four dogs: Sissy, a beagle/German Shepherd mix; Travis, is a German Shepherd/Belgian Malinois mix; Chico, a 9-year-old Chihuahua/rat terrier mix; and Luna, a mini schnauzer/poodle mix. The couple adopted all of their dogs from the Humane Society of Ventura County California. “One thing Pam and I agree on is, ‘rescued’ is our favorite breed.”

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Here’s Sissy, caught in the act of destroying yet another store-bought toy. Mike knew he could make something that would actually last.

The couple transitioned their love of dogs into a business. In 2012, Pam started a pet sitting and dog walking business. Mike joined the company the following year. Both of their dogs are tough on toys in different ways. Sissy “kills ‘indestructible’ toys,” as Mike put it. The stuffing would be strewn all over the house, creating a potential choking and eating hazard. Travis, on the other hand, is a very aggressive tug of war player. Mike needed a stuffing-free toy that was not only tough but long enough to protect his hands from Travis’s sharp canines.

Fed up with buying toys that his dogs would destroy in no time, he started doing some research. “I read that zookeepers were using fire hose to make toys for tigers in their care, which started me thinking.” And soon, Mike took his idea and turned it into a unique side business. In 2018 he started sewing prototypes and in early 2019 he officially launched Doghoztoyz.

Surprisingly, Mike didn’t even know how to sew. However, he didn’t let this fact prevent him from pursuing this unique venture.  His first toy prototypes were hand sewn, but he quickly realized he would need the strength and dependability of an industrial type sewing machine. “I’d never touched a sewing machine before and Sailrite came up in my searches for an industrial sewing machine. The instructions that came with the Ultrafeed LS-1 were very helpful, but even more helpful were [Matt Grant’s] videos. I came away, after watching the videos, a lot more confident that I could actually do something without either hurting myself or the machine.”

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Mike puts the finishing touches on a toy using his Ultrafeed LS-1 Sewing Machine.

Mike does several things to prep the retired fire hose before turning it into dog toys. He thoroughly pre-scrubs the hose, if necessary, then machine washes it to remove all traces of ash and soot from the hose’s previous life. Once the hose is dry, he can then begin transforming it into durable dog toys. To punch through such thick and dense material, he uses V-92 thread and a size 20 or 21 needle. The Ultrafeed makes easy work of the tough material.

Where does Mike get the retired fire hose? “Initially I bought the fire hose from a wholesaler or got used fire hose from fire departments in my area. Ultimately, I located online auctions that dealt with government surplus and bought a pallet of hose.” This creative idea is a great way to recycle and reuse a material that has served its original purpose but is still entirely usable for other means. “Physical damage or failure to pass a water pressure test is the main reason fire hose is retired from active duty,” Mike explained.

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Mike and Pam pose with their dogs for a Christmas picture at the Humane Society of Ventura County for a fundraiser. All of the dogs, except for Leonard, the gray Schnauzer, are alumni of the Humane Society.

The reaction to his dog toys has been very enthusiastic and successful. He tested his original prototypes on his own dogs, on the dogs of his dog walking and sitting clients, and even sent some toys to several rescue organizations. Needless to say, the toys received thorough testing and were found to be a big hit with the dogs. The toys are intended as “interactive toys,” Mike clarified, which means they are great for playing tug of war, fetch and catch. “While the toys will withstand ‘some’ gnawing for a limited period of time, that is not their intended purpose.”

Now that he’s got the basics of sewing down thanks to his dog toys, Mike looks forward to expanding his skills. “I did some masks as a response to the pandemic. It is quite a leap back, material-wise, going from thick fire hose to mask material. I had to really back off on the presser foot.” What other projects does Mike have on his to-sew list? Patio furniture cushions. Luckily, Sailrite has a project video for that!

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