A Coat Above the Rest

What do a sheep farm in Pennsylvania, Sunbrella® binding and the Fabricator® Sewing Machine have in common? Heather Loomis. This creative DIYer uses her Fabricator machine to sew dog coats made from warm and protective wool felt. The wool comes from her very own sheep raised on her family farm. Learn more about Heather, her sheep, and how she got the idea to sew dog coats from their wool!

dog in coat
Heather’s dog, Fiat, is one happy and warm pup in her custom-made dog coat!

Down on the Farm

Heather and her husband, David, have owned, maintained and operated their farm, Bohlayer’s Orchards, for 16 years. They are the fifth generation to steward the land. Though there’s no such thing as a typical day in farm life, here’s what Heather shared with us regarding her daily routine: “Our days always begin and end with chores to feed and care for the animals.  The rest of our work is driven by the season and can include pruning the orchard, skirting wool fleeces, moving sheep to different pastures, making hay, harvesting fruit, packaging and shipping wool, and on and on!”

They harvest apples and pears and raise sheep on their 130-acre orchard and farm. “We have a flock of 70 Romeldale CVM sheep. The number can ebb and flow as we welcome new lambs each year and sell breeding stock or fiber sheep to other farms.” Romeldale CVM sheep are a breed of domestic sheep native to the United States. They are a very rare breed known for their unusual coloring.

heather with sheep
Here’s Heather with her Romeldale CVM sheep on her beautiful Pennsylvania farm.

The soft wool and unusual colors of the breed’s fleece are sought after by hand spinners to create high-quality wool yarn and roving. “They produce a soft (fine) wool in many different natural colors, including white, gray, brown and black.” Heather sells spun yarn and wool roving made from her sheep’s fleece. Turning the wool roving into water-resistant and insulated dog coats was a natural next step.

Dog Days of Winter

Where did Heather get the idea to sew dog coats from her sheep’s wool? “The idea for dog coats came out of a need to keep our own dogs warm and dry during cold and wet winter days. We knew the wool felt would be a perfect material for a dog coat. The wool would keep the dogs warm, and it naturally has some resistance to wet conditions.”

Heather learned to sew at a young age from her mother, a skilled seamstress and quilter. With her sewing background, she felt comfortable designing and creating the dog coats. “I spent time developing a pattern. As this project came together, [my husband and I] realized others were interested in having a coat made for their dog. I created prototypes in different sizes using our friends’ dogs as models to get the right fit and shape.” After months of designing, patterning and sewing, the dog coats were officially ready. Heather named her new side business A Woof In Sheep’s Clothing and began selling the dog coats seasonally at their farm store, at local festivals and on their farm’s website.

dog coats
No two dog coats are exactly the same, making these special coats truly one of a kind!

When Heather started prototyping and sewing early versions of the dog coats, she realized her home sewing machine wasn’t going to cut it. “Due to the thickness of the wool felt, a typical sewing machine struggled to handle the material. I began asking others for ideas and doing internet searches. Someone told me about Sailrite and I began to research the company’s website.”

Testing the Fabricator

Heather liked the look and features of the Fabricator, but she wasn’t certain it would sew through the thickness of the wool. Luckily, she used the Live Chat feature on the Sailrite website to message a customer service representative who had the perfect solution. “They suggested I send a sample of my material. I mailed a sample of the wool felt to Sailrite headquarters in Indiana. They quickly responded with videos of the Fabricator easily sewing through multiple layers of the felt. Their prompt customer service and quality products meant that I did not need to look any further!”

Heather has owned her Fabricator for a few years now and is just as happy with it as she was on day one. “The Fabricator has given me the opportunity to expand my product line on my own terms. Anything I can think of to sew is possible with the Fabricator, the accessories and the how-to videos. This machine has been worth every penny.”

fabricator
The Fabricator handles the thick wool felt and binding material beautifully.

The wool felt from her flock has inspired a lot of project ideas. In addition to dog coats, Heather also makes felt accessory bags, coasters, felt knitting project bags, hot water bottle covers, teapot cozies and cold drink koozies. The Fabricator has enabled Heather to increase her productivity and boost sales. “I can produce a complete coat in approximately an hour. If someone has a dog that doesn’t match one of our established sizes, I make a custom-sized coat for their dog.”

To give the dog coats a beautiful, professional look, Heather uses Sunbrella binding to finish the edges. And the coats attach with easy-to-position hook-and-loop tape (also known as Velcro®). Heather purchases all of the supplies needed to make the dog coats from Sailrite. “I searched Sailrite’s how-to videos to see how I could attach the binding. Any time I have a question about the Fabricator or its accessories (like the binder), I go directly to the video library and find what I am looking for. I always learn something and sometimes get new ideas! And any time I have a question about a product, I use the chat feature on the website and get a prompt and helpful response.”

The reaction from customers has been nothing but positive. “We have received rave reviews from customers and their pups! Customers are thrilled to finally have a coat that fits their dog well. Some told us that their otherwise anxious dog seems to enjoy the warm fit and often does not want the coat removed when they come back inside. Others express appreciation for their dogs staying dry in the snow and cold rains of winter as well as for the fact that the coats dry quickly.”

dog wearing coat

Producing wool products from her flock’s fleece serves more than just one purpose. “Part of what can help to save rare breeds is to find jobs for them to fulfill. Creating a demand for the wool of this beautiful, personable breed is important for their survival. We love to share with customers that their purchase of a rare breed wool product from our small family farm makes a difference.”

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Heather! We’re thrilled that Sailrite is part of your DIY journey and that your one-of-a-kind dog coats are bringing awareness to rare-breed sheep and helping with conservation efforts.

Leather Crafting With the Fabricator®

This is a story of changing circumstances, making the best of a bad situation, and venturing out in a new direction. It’s a story of finding your own path while paying tribute to where you came from and honoring those who taught you life’s greatest lessons. It’s also a story that’s becoming increasingly well-known and relatable to many.

Caleb Arthur was laid off from his job at a sheet metal factory in early 2020 due to circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. With time on his hands, he decided to revisit a dormant interest in leather crafting. Months after the layoff and with no call back to work, he decided to get serious about his leather crafting hobby and see if he could turn his leatherwork into a source of income.

As a beginner, he was hand stitching his leather goods. He quickly realized he needed something more efficient and productive if he was going to pursue leatherwork as a business. He needed a leather sewing machine. That’s when Caleb discovered Sailrite® and the Fabricator® Sewing Machine. With the quiet, energy-saving Workhorse® Servo Motor and the ability to sew one stitch at a time, the Fabricator delivered the precision and control Caleb was looking for. “I was attracted to the Fabricator’s wider throat for fitting larger projects through. I knew it was a heavy, solid machine and I had to have it.”

Caleb with Fabricator
Caleb with his Fabricator in his sewing studio. Photography by Marc Montes

With the addition of the Fabricator to his sewing studio, Caleb has been able to tackle bigger leather projects and dramatically speed up his productivity — a huge upgrade in more ways than one for a new business getting its feet off the ground. “What is so exciting to me now is the ability to take on projects that I never would have if I were solely hand stitching.” When he was hand stitching, small items like bifold wallets, skillet handle covers and passport holders could take hours to pattern and stitch. With the Fabricator, Caleb has added items like leather and waxed canvas tote bags to his product offerings. “I can now assemble the body of a tote in minutes as opposed to hours. The ability to dial in my stitch length and distance with the material guide keeps my stitches looking uniform.”

We sat down with Caleb to discuss his sewing roots, what DIY means to him, his leather crafting business and much more. Join us as we get to know this creative old soul and find out how the Fabricator has allowed him to greatly increase his productivity and stitch quality. When COVID-19 closed the door on his career, he found a window. And that window is even better than he could have imagined. Here’s Caleb’s story, in his own words.

Q. When and how did you learn to sew? Are you self-taught?

A. Since I was a baby, I have always been surrounded by sewing and the DIY lifestyle. I was co-raised by my grandparents, and my grandma always had her own separate sewing room where I spent a lot of my time. My grandma worked for a tiny little company called Eddie Bauer back when they still made their goods here in the United States. She was a seamstress for them and also repaired sailboat sails for a short period. The majority of my clothes were handmade by her as a kid. I never took an interest in sewing myself until recently. My grandpa had a workshop in the garage where I found more interest at the time. He built and fixed most things around the house, so I adapted that from him. I have always kind of lived by the motto of, “What would Grandpa do?”

Caleb with grandma sewing
Caleb keeps his grandmother company in her sewing room.

I would like to give a ton of credit and thanks to Ryan over at “Little King Goods.” I came across his videos and company via YouTube, and it is safe to say that I have learned so much about sewing and leather craft through his amazing videos. I don’t think I would have made the full plunge into leatherwork if it weren’t for his motivational and inspirational videos. He really made me feel like it was attainable for me. Super nice guy too. Thanks, Ryan! So, I’m self-taught but with great mentors.

Q. What type of leather goods do you make? 

A. Right now, I am focusing on making the best classic, functional leather goods I possibly can. Wallets are my most popular item, and I recently dove into the world of tote bags and guitar straps. I make field note covers and clutches for the ladies and gents. I’m really open to just challenging myself and trying a bit of everything. If I think it’s a good fit for my permanent catalog on my website, then I put it up. My theme or logo for my branding is that of the great outdoors, as I have a huge respect for nature. I feel so gifted and lucky to have spent most of my life in the state of Washington. While, yes, it is true about the constant rain, it just makes those clear sunny days even more special. We really know how to take advantage. Mount Rainier overlooks our amazing city of Tacoma and is a constant reminder of the power of Mother Nature. 

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Q. How did you get started in leatherwork?

A. My first dive into leatherwork was around five or six years ago when I was working as a merchant mariner. My wife (girlfriend at the time) had bought me a really nice leatherworking kit that included everything I needed to make a few very basic leather items — wallet, keychain, coin pouch. In my downtime on the ship, I would head down to the workshop and tinker away at making those items. I found much enjoyment from dying the leather and learning the basics of stamping and tooling. It was a nice way to pass the time as we would sail back and forth from California to Alaska, but it was a hobby I would not revisit until 2020.

Q. What do you love about leather crafting?

A. For me, leatherwork has become a form of stress relief. I find so much pleasure in creating and turning nothing into something. The entire process of working with leather — from the texture, the smell (OH THAT SMELL!), to the way you can form it into anything imaginable. I’m a bit of an old soul and I love the fact that leatherwork has been around for ages and has stood the test of time. I love the way that people are drawn to a classic, well-crafted leather good. To me it carries a bit of respect and class, and I believe that we should treat it as such. I always hold onto even the tiniest of scraps as I always find another purpose for them in a future project.

making a tote
Caleb patterns, cuts and assembles a tote bag using DuraWax™ Waxed Canvas from Sailrite. Photography by Marc Montes

Q. Do you consider yourself a creative person? 

A. I have always felt that I had a creative side to me but more so a strong desire to create. I’ve always wanted to make things with my hands, to be able to show something/anything to the world that I was proud of. With leather crafting, I fill that desire to create and share with the world. Creating my Etsy page and personal website was a huge moment for me, allowing the entire world to have access to my craft. I have received great feedback and the support has been amazing thus far. I would like to thank my customers for their support as I grow and improve.

Q. What do you love or relate to about the DIY/handcrafting lifestyle?

DIY is pretty much my motto for most things. I learned from my seven years in the U.S. Navy that if you want something done right, it’s best to do it yourself. At home, my wife and I rarely hire outside work if we think it’s something we can take on, or at least learn ourselves. For one, it saves a ton of money; two, we get to learn and educate ourselves in the process; and, thirdly, there’s nothing like the sense of pride you get from taking on a project that you did yourself.  

Photography by Marc Montes

Q. What would you say is your design aesthetic with your leather goods?

A. I spent a lot of my childhood with my grandparents and I think it’s safe to say that I was taking mental notes of what my Grandpa Clyde had around and what he depended on, from his beat-up old Redwing work boots to his tool-stamped leather wallet to his belts. I try to make the best durable, made-to-last goods that I can that have a classic, old-fashioned look to them. Simple design, classic colors and built to last. I’m a big fan of natural earth tones.

Q. Is there a special meaning or significance to your business name, CAMP Leather Goods?

A. Yes! So my company, CAMP, has a few things going on — one being my obvious passion for camping and nature and wanting to make goods geared toward outdoor use. But it started off with me wanting to incorporate my initials, CA (Caleb Arthur), into the name. While I was driving around town one day, I was thinking of my Grandpa Clyde who passed away a couple years ago. He was really my greatest mentor and I observed him build and create my whole life; he was truly an exceptional man. My Grandpa never once called me by my birth name but instead chose “Mutty” for my name. He gave all of us grandkids a sort of nickname, so I became “Mutt,” or “Mutty” or “Old Man Mutt.” As I feel that I am still striving to make him proud, I created an acronym for CAMP that has a more personal meaning for me, and that is the “Clyde And Mutty Project.” It’s my way of keeping his spirit alive with every product I put out.

caleb sewing waxed canvas
Photography by Marc Montes

Q. Is there anything you’d like our readers to know about you, your business or your DIY philosophy?

A. While at the end of the day I am a crafter/leatherworker, I hope to inspire anyone who may feel like they are struggling to find their drive or passion. I have spent a lot of time waiting for the answers to land in my lap, and I can tell you that has been wasted time. If you want something, or you want to be something, study the craft, make those mistakes — make big ones! That is the only way we are going to learn and improve. Ask questions; ask for help! Adapt the notion that failure or giving up simply is not an option. Don’t be held back with the idea of, “What if this doesn’t succeed?” Instead, take on the action of, “What do I need to do now to make this succeed?” Define what success is and what it looks like to you.

One last thing: I would like to thank my beautiful wife, Katie, and the recent mother of our newborn, Lincoln. Without her support, I would be working a job that I couldn’t stand, always wanting something else. She motivates me and supports me in doing what makes me happy and I absolutely adore her for that. When the busy holiday rush of orders hit, she was right next to me cutting leather staying caught up. I really hit the jackpot with her!

Caleb and Katie
Caleb and Katie at their home in Tacoma, Washington. Photography by Marc Montes

Congratulations on turning your dream into a reality, Caleb! We’re so thrilled that Sailrite and the Fabricator could be part of your DIY journey. Keep on creating!

If you’d like to follow Caleb on Instagram and see what he’s making with his Fabricator, you can follow him at @campleathergoods.