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.