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.

DIY & EDC: A Match Made in Self-Reliance

What is EDC? It stands for “everyday carry” and it represents a lifestyle of utility and preparedness. EDC items consist of pouches, bags or backpacks containing everyday essentials. A person’s EDC kit is very personal, containing items they think are essential to their daily life. Typical EDC items include things like keys, wallet and phone, but also a small flashlight, pen and notebook, lighter, pocket knife or multitool — things that all serve a purpose and have a useful function. Having these essentials with you every day means that you’re ready for anything and prepared for the unexpected — should the need arise.

What do EDC and DIY have in common? More than you’d think. At its core, EDC embodies a belief in always being prepared but also being able to take control of a situation and handle it on your own. That kind of self-reliance and self-accountability is echoed in the heart of every DIYer. Having the right tools to handle any situation has a common thread in the DIY lifestyle.

Tim Galloway is a newcomer to both the DIY and EDC communities. He’s a professional photographer who has worked in news and done some commercial work for the past 10 years. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it put an indefinite hold on his photography business. With time on his hands and a desire to stay busy and productive, he turned his attention to something that has always piqued his interest: sewing EDC items.

ultrafeed sewing
Tim sews an EDC bag using his Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine.

The EDC community is popular and growing, and Tim is carving out his own space with his small business, goodwerks. Right now, it’s a one-man operation. Tim cuts the patterns for his bags and EDC accessories and sews everything himself. At first, he was using a home sewing machine. But he quickly realized it wasn’t powerful enough to sew through the heavy-duty layers of his bags and straps. He discovered the Sailrite® website and ordered the Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 Sewing Machine. With the Ultrafeed, he’s been able to sew with professional results and deliver the quality that the EDC industry demands.

Join us as we get to know this small-business owner, his DIY philosophy, and how Sailrite could be part of his sewing journey.

Sewing & Sailrite

Tim had never sewn before he decided to give his EDC hobby a real shot at success. But he didn’t let that small hiccup stop him. “I learned to sew in May of 2020 mainly through YouTube tutorials and trial and error. My mom helped me search for a domestic machine that would be able to handle heavier materials as I sew primarily Cordura and webbing. I grew out of that machine very quickly as I realized that it wouldn’t be able to handle the layers as smoothly as I had hoped and certainly not the volume. Especially if I’m sewing daily or close to it.”

In need of a heavy-duty machine that could handle materials like Cordura, ripstop and webbing, Tim started his search. “I did a bunch of research. I looked at a lot of other machines, peeking at Juki, Consew, etc. Frankly, the price point was a bit out of reach for me for a Juki setup, and I really wanted a new machine. I watched a ton of videos and read a bunch of articles. The thing that drew me to the LSZ-1 was the walking foot, ease that it dealt with heavier materials (like, you know, sails), the optional Workhorse® Servo Motor (which I use with the full table setup) and the fabled legendary customer service.”

He received his Ultrafeed LSZ-1 in July of 2020 and has been sewing with it regularly. Even though Tim is a new sewer, he still had a lot to say about the machine. “The machine works really well for flat work. I think with the correct thread and needle setup, it is pretty smooth sailing (see what I did there?). I really enjoy having the servo motor so I can sew at night when my wife is sleeping. With this being the only industrial-type machine I’ve used, there are a lot of things I don’t know about how they operate. So there was a bit of a learning curve. I refer to the manual somewhat often and have had to learn to have a few extra parts on hand in the event of a maligned needle strike, etc.”

tim sewing

The EDC Community

Tim’s bags and pouches are simple in design and are made with high-quality fabrics and hardware pieces. He uses 1000D Cordura fabric with a ripstop liner for a professional look and to help with water resistance. Cordura is well-known in the hiking, camping and rucking communities for its incredible durability and water resistance. Tim’s most popular design is the Boogie Bag, which is a fanny pack with zippered compartments to keep everything organized. “I based it off of other, similar bags but addressed a few things I did or didn’t like on others. I want my products to ooze quality and durability. My company slogan, if you’d call it that, is ‘Simple. Durable. Handmade.’ I’m not really looking to reinvent the wheel but just bring quality into small soft goods.”

Tim’s current demographic is people in the rucking community. Rucking is a form of endurance training that involves marching at a fast pace carrying a weighted pack. Anyone can ruck as a form of exercise, but those who participate in GORUCK events are serious endurance athletes who expect a lot from their gear. And they have started turning to goodwerks for their rucking needs. “I’ve been very fortunate to have made fantastic friends in that community who have supported my small business and buy from me every time I drop goods. I mainly sell out of my stuff but am slowly building stock. Ideally, I want to transition more to the EDC community. I want my products to be accessible for all folks that are interested in quality gear for their everyday organization and needs.”

“I hold high the value of handmade goods and small businesses. From personal experience, I know how challenging it is to run your own business. How you have to wear a lot of different hats to make things come together. The late nights, early mornings, weekends you sacrifice, and so on. I think that when people can find something that they care about enough to devote to that, it deserves praise. When I make my products I know that they’re not going to be perfect every time, but I do the best I can to make them look like they were produced on a mass scale. I take a lot of pride in my gear, and it’s incredibly rewarding getting positive feedback.”

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Doing Good Works

Part of Tim’s mission with goodwerks is to become a contributing member of his local community and to, in essence, put good into the world. Where did the name “goodwerks” come from? We’ll let Tim explain: “goodwerks came about with the help of a friend. I initially was going to call it ‘threadwerks’ or something similar. But my friend Dan told me to take a look at the back of my right hand, which is tattooed with the word “good” and an ax through the letters. It’s a reminder to ‘sharpen my axe’ daily and to make the best of all situations.”

Good isn’t just part of his business’s name. It’s also fundamental to Tim’s personal philosophy and a guiding principle for the way he lives his life each and every day. “A large part of my business is to give back and to create good in the world. Each month, people that follow my Instagram account nominate others to receive some free gear from me. It’s a simple gesture to show others appreciation. I also am working on having regular raffles that benefit nonprofit organizations, mainly organizations that are veteran-oriented. In November 2020, with the help of my favorite local coffee shop donating some coffee, and a slap/patch maker, we raised $1,250 for One More Wave, a foundation that helps wounded veterans get surf therapy.”

tim with EDC bag

Tim recently held his second nonprofit raffle and raised $1,700. Proceeds went to The Enduring Campaign, a Michigan-based nonprofit that offers job placement and other support to the homeless veteran community. Good works and gratitude keep Tim humble through the growing success of his sewing business. “There’s no way I’d still be running with this little business without the community that’s helped support me. The people that have spent their hard-earned money with me have helped me stay afloat during the shutdowns. It’s incredibly humbling every time I get an email with an order. goodwerks doesn’t exist without the community surrounding it.”

Tim’s positive outlook on life and his desire to pay it forward is something we can all appreciate and strive toward. It’s a nice reminder that anyone can give back and put some goodness into the world, whether that’s through DIY or by other means. The world could use a few more people like Tim. Putting good into the world, even in a small way, has a ripple effect that grows and expands beyond our sight. Let’s all go do some good.

tim sewing

If you’d like to follow Tim’s EDC sewing adventures you can follow him on Instagram @goodwerks.

Rowing the Chesapeake Bay

The world is full of dreamers and doers. Those who think big and shoot for the moon. Go-getters who make a plan, put in the time, sweat and dedication, and create something truly spectacular. Shawn Moyer has a dream. He wants to row the length of the Chesapeake Bay. But not just that. He wanted to row the Chesapeake in a boat he built himself.

With limited woodworking skills, some help and a lot of hard work, he built his own rowboat using the Angus RowCruiser kit and instructions. But one thing was missing. He needed a well-made, durable cover to protect his beautiful creation. That’s where Sailrite® came in. With Sailrite materials, how-to videos and the incomparable Ultrafeed® Sewing Machine, Shawn crafted a cover worthy of his wooden masterpiece. Get ready to reach for the DIY stars with this inspiring story!

Shawn chose Sunbrella® Marine Grade for his boat cover. He looks eager to get sewing!

Building a Rowboat

Several years ago, Shawn had the idea of rowing the length of the Chesapeake Bay. He lives in south-central Pennsylvania — less than an hour from the northern end of the Chesapeake. The bay is the largest estuary (a body of water where fresh and saltwater mix) in the United States. It is approximately 200 miles long, stretches from Maryland to Virginia, and empties into the Atlantic Ocean.

Shawn worked for months building the rowboat whenever he had time in his schedule. He had very little building experience, and limited woodworking skills, prior to constructing the rowboat, but he didn’t let that stop him! And not only that, he had absolutely zero rowing experience!

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He was looking for a specific model rowboat, and that’s when he learned about Angus Rowboats. He chose the RowCruiser design because it met his functional and aesthetic needs. The 19-foot boat features a one-person sleeping cabin, which Shawn will use for sleeping and to get out of the rain when he attempts to row the Chesapeake.

To build the rowboat, Shawn had to learn some new skills. “I learned how to lay fiberglass, how to apply epoxy, and how to do some woodworking. The RowCruiser kit is well put together, but there were several hurdles to overcome. I thought the process of building the boat would be fun. My buddy Tom is an experienced woodworker, and he kept me out of trouble. I wouldn’t have finished the boat without him.”

Taking the boat for a test-drive before the final paint and polish.

Sewing a Boat Cover

After building his rowboat, Shawn decided that he needed a cover to keep the boat protected when not in use. A sailing friend introduced him to Sailrite, and he knew Sailrite was the right place to find the materials for his boat cover. “I bought the Ultrafeed in order to sew the cover for the rowboat. The cost of buying the machine and materials was close to the cost of buying a custom-made cover.” And with the investment of such a versatile, heavy-duty machine, Shawn will be able to sew a variety of projects for years to come.

Before sewing the boat cover, Shawn practiced his sewing skills by making a grill cover. “I thought it would be a smaller but similar project to the boat cover. I was pleased with how the grill cover turned out using a similar Sunbrella fabric, and I used all of the techniques I learned to sew the boat cover.” To prepare for the cover, Shawn educated himself by watching several of Sailrite’s free tutorial and project videos. “I have watched hours and hours of Sailrite videos. They are fantastic! Frequently there is a trick to finishing a sewing project, and your videos give you the confidence to try it.”

Shawn works on his boat cover with his new Ultrafeed.

And how did it go navigating his new sewing machine? “The Ultrafeed is an easy machine to learn. I was up and sewing the first day. I learned new techniques and ripped a lot of seams until I got it down.”

More Stitching on the Horizon

Now that Shawn successfully completed the boat cover, what other projects has he tackled? “I have made tool rolls and I’ve repaired some jackets and done some leather horse tack repair. And I made a dog blanket — all with my Ultrafeed. I have had a lot of fun with it. I can always count on Sailrite to answer my questions.”

In addition to his new rowboat, Shawn also owns a Bayfield 29 sailboat. “Sailing is a new hobby. I’ve been sailing for two years and I keep the boat in the Chesapeake.” He has taken full advantage of his Ultrafeed and new sewing skills to stitch projects for his sailboat. “I have sewn winch covers, a tiller cover, and I’m working on a mainsail cover right now. I’m also working on reupholstering my salon cushions.”

The finished cover! Water-resistant Sunbrella Marine Grade keeps the interior protected from the elements.

To get ready for his big rowing excursion, Shawn has taken the boat out several times to practice rowing on local lakes. “My goal is to row the Chesapeake in the fall of 2021 to raise money for the Children’s Organ Transplant Association.” Shawn is a physician specializing in Family Medicine and the organization is very close to his heart. COTA is a premier nonprofit organization providing fundraising assistance to transplant families across the United States.

If you have a dream and you make a plan, you can truly achieve anything! Look how far Shawn has come in his dream to row the Chesapeake Bay. If Shawn’s success in building his rowboat and teaching himself how to sew is any indication, his rowboat expedition this fall will be nothing short of a triumph. Good luck, Shawn. We’re rooting for you!

Shawn looks ready to conquer the Chesapeake!

A Total Powerboat Transformation

Sometimes the perfect project comes along that lets you put all your DIY skills to use. That’s what happened to Ronnie Miller. This talented DIYer found a powerboat for sale online that needed A LOT of work — a complete overhaul. He bought the boat in February 2019, for only $1,000 and worked hard to get it water-ready by June. Keep reading to learn more about this powerboat transformation and how Sailrite® supplies and project videos helped Ronnie tackle this massive DIY endeavor.

Like a lot of DIYers, Ronnie learned the ropes as a young boy. “My grandmother taught me to hand sew when I was 5 years old. My uncle was a tailor and he gave me swatches to work with.” From those humble beginnings, his talent grew and grew.

boat collage
Keep scrolling to see the “before” photos!

In addition to sewing, Ronnie enjoys a variety of other hands-on hobbies. “Projects are my hobby. I have always been good with my hands, fixing and rebuilding things.” Ronnie recently moved into a condominium, and he has been enjoying remodeling it himself and turning it into a proper home. “I’ve been working on carpentry and woodworking projects. I laid the vinyl floor, painted and fixed sheetrock. I have installed a mosquito mister at the house, a new metal fence to see the lake, a new wood fence, and I installed an entire sprinkler system for the front yard and back.”

Let’s learn more about the big powerboat project! “I always wanted a boat. This was the first one I ever owned, towed, worked on and completed in just three months.” What an accomplishment! So, exactly how much work went into the powerboat transformation? We’ll let Ronnie explain in his own words.

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“I found the boat on a for-sale website and thought if I failed, I couldn’t lose too much considering I only paid $1,000 for it. I later put in an additional $6,000 including the engine, materials and tools, which I am always using now. I didn’t realize I had to replace the engine, floor or dashboard with all-new electronics until I started tearing it apart.”

After all the hard gutting and rebuilding work, Ronnie was ready to tackle the upholstery. That’s where Sailrite came in. “I needed vinyl to cover the seats and I found Sailrite online.” He chose a striking combination of white, silver and black Morbern® vinyl fabrics. He also ordered Medium Density Polyurethane Antimicrobial Foam from Sailrite — a great choice for powerboat upholstery.

boat in progress
In-progress photos.

The project went fairly smoothly, and Ronnie only hit a few minor snags along the way. “Once I got started, I wanted everything to look new. I had the trailer sandblasted and had to replace parts there. I needed a new gas tank float and a new dashboard with new Bluetooth® radio. I replaced the old carpet with gray-and-black striped flooring, and I installed lights on the front for boating at night.”

Before his recent move, he lived just five short minutes from Lake Houston, a reservoir on the San Jacinto River northeast of Houston, Texas. Ronnie took the boat out almost every week. After enjoying the water and the boat for a while, he decided to sell it and made a whopping $5,000 profit! He credits the eye-catching upholstery work for garnering such a big profit. True to his DIY nature and need to keep busy, Ronnie bought and restored a second boat and made $6,000 on that sale!

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So, what’s he working on now? “Since completing the boat I have now started a wall covering of large fabric-covered squares behind my bed. It’s still a work in progress, but I should be finished soon.” Ronnie is using the Sailrite how-to video “How to Make Upholstered Wall Panels” to help complete the project.

“I find that working on a project is great for the mind; it gives you time to think alone. I also get great satisfaction by looking at it and saying, ‘Hey, I did that!’” Way to go, Ronnie! We love your positive attitude and can-do spirit. Good luck on all of your future DIYs. We’re sure they’re going to be huge successes.

Boat Bengal: Andrew, Jazz & Captain

We all love our pets, and we often wish we could take them everywhere. But can you imagine taking them along to circumnavigate the open ocean? Andrew and Jazz might seem like your average sailing couple, but they have a unique sailing companion — their Bengal cat, Captain! The two have been happily sailing on their boat, Villa Veritas, for some time now. We wanted to know what it’s like to sail with a furry companion and see if this enterprising crew had any advice to offer new sailors or budding DIYers.

Humble Beginnings 

The couple that sails together, stays together! Jazz first experienced sailing as a child on her uncle’s monohull in the Canadian San Juan Islands. In high school, as an exchange student on the coast of Spain, she joined a local sailing team and learned to handle small boats. Once in college, she made friends at the yacht club and went out for races when she could. In her adult life, Jazz went on to travel through Asia, helping crew a handmade 32-foot boat from Bali through Borneo and Singapore. 

Andrew had gone sailing a few times as a kid, and then he took classes with the American Sailing Association in San Francisco when he married Jazz. Together the two crew a 1993 Prout Snowgoose Elite 37 named Villa Veritas after their last name. It’s the first boat that either of them has owned and the first catamaran that they’ve sailed, not counting vacation ride-alongs. The two moved onto their boat full time in October 2018, and have been blissfully sailing the open ocean ever since. They’ve traveled from the southern United States, through the Bahamas and the Caribbean, and even to locations like Saint Kitts and Saint Vincent. They’ve even documented the ins and outs of their journey on their sailing blog.

Villa Veritas, a floating home!

So how did Captain, the beautiful Bengal cat, join the crew? “We met Captain in Savannah, Georgia. He joined us full time in November when he reached three months old. We’d waited to get a cat until we had the boat because, supposedly, kittens will always adapt to a boat while older cats may never get over seasickness. Captain doesn’t always like it when the boat moves, especially when the engine is on. But aside from the death glares, he doesn’t seem to have any other problems, and he’s good about staying inside when we’re underway. At anchor he keeps a good watch, often from the top of the boom. One time a pelican (bigger than he is) landed on the front of the starboard bow, and after chasing it off, Captain now patrols that spot daily.”

Sewing & Sailing

If you’re familiar with the sailing world, you also know that it pays to be a sewist in order to make much-needed repairs and other marine DIY projects. Much like sailing, Jazz’s sewing experience began at a young age. She received needles and thread in daycare and crafted new outfits for the resident dolls. Her mother and grandmother also sewed, encouraging her craftsmanship. For Andrew, things were a bit different. When Jazz started a cockpit enclosure project but got sick halfway through, it was up to him to learn the ropes. So he began watching Sailrite® videos and kept charge of their sewing machine — the Sailrite® Ultrafeed® LSZ-1.

But how exactly did these intrepid travelers hear about Sailrite? Andrew was kind enough to share. “We learned about Sailrite from another devoted fan and sailor who insisted that a sewing machine was a necessary piece of offshore safety gear. After breaking a borrowed home sewing machine on a relatively minor project, we decided that a more expensive but dependable machine actually had a pretty short payback period. We went with the LSZ-1 because we wanted to work on sails. Actually, we justified the purchase when we priced out a new asymmetrical spinnaker versus a machine and a custom spinnaker kit from Sailrite.”

The Ultrafeed — loved by sailors and cats alike!

When it comes to sewing with the Ultrafeed LSZ-1, a circumnavigator’s work is almost never done. Not only that, but the majority of the repair work on a boat must be completed right away if one wants to continue sailing. Andrew and Jazz have completed their fair share of projects using the machine, with Captain’s help of course. One of their largest projects, and one that they are most proud of, is their spinnaker. Before the crew left the United States, they purchased a Sailrite spinnaker kit that they would later sew themselves. Captain had a part to play as entertainment and moral support. Since acquiring their Ultrafeed, they’ve crafted many projects including:

  • Cockpit Enclosure
  • Mainsail repair
  • Reflective/insulated covers for the boat windows
  • Winch covers
  • Outdoor bags
  • Grill cover

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But the Sailrite supplies don’t stop there! Andrew explained, “After borrowing two different friends’ hotknives for embarrassingly long times ‘because we’re almost done with projects,’ we finally got our own Edge Hotknife. It has a bit of a learning curve to cut cleanly…but we use it all the time, and even our friend’s 12-year-old was able to figure it out without any scorch marks. Everything else has been materials — Sunbrella® fabric, awning rope, zippers and a shockingly large number of snaps.” 

The projects on a liveaboard usually always continue as the time and nautical miles go by, so we were curious what Andrew and Jazz planned to sew in the future. 

Andrew: “There are so many more projects — replacing some covers that just weren’t made to sit in the sun, replacing the failing zipper on our stack pack (actually, replacing failing zippers has been a pretty regular project), adding some patches and chafe guards to the high-wear areas of our dinghy chaps, a more robust, water-resistant bag for our spinnaker so we can store it outside, and adding stainless steel seizing wire to the nose area of all the masks we’ve bought for the COVID era so they’ll fit properly without steaming up sunglasses and still be washable.”

Jazz: “It’s just a slow process of replacing everything on the boat with Sunbrella.”

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Sage Advice

There’s no doubt that Andrew, Jazz and Captain have a treasure trove of sailing experience. But what do they think is the most rewarding (and most difficult) part of the sailing and DIY lifestyle? “The most rewarding is when you make things yourself. When you know how it was done, why all the hard decisions were made, and just how trustworthy the work is. The biggest surprise about sailing has been how difficult it has been to pay for work to be done to our DIY standards. We do almost all of our own work because we can be sure of the results, even if it takes us a couple of tries. When we needed to run from hurricane Gonzalo, we hadn’t fixed our tack yet, so we had to sail with a reef in. But our neighbor boat was waiting for their sails to be finished by a shop, which had closed for the weekend, and so they had no choice but to tie down and stay put. In this sense, having this machine aboard is a huge boon for our safety — we never have to take the sails off our boat and depend on someone else’s timeline.”

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This crew of accomplished voyagers was kind enough to offer advice to anyone who wants to start sailing and sewing. “Just start. You can do this for literally any amount of money, only your comfort level changes. Your projects aren’t going to be perfect the first time, but the only way to get it right is to start trying and see what goes wrong. Just about every successful project on our boat is version two or version three.” 

Andrew and Jazz are proof that the liveaboard lifestyle is always within reach — it simply requires a little tenacity, imagination and ingenuity. We can’t wait to see what other adventures this colorful crew will embark on in the future. And we’re honored that Sailrite could be part of their DIY journey as well. If you’d like to keep up with the Veritas family, you can check out their blog at andrewandjazz.com. Happy sailing!

Regina Fuller: A DIY Success Story

To DIY or not to DIY — is that even a question!? Not for enthusiastic sewer Regina Fuller. Though she’s new to sewing, she’s full of that can-do spirit that lives and thrives in all sewers and makers. Regina and her husband, Jacob, purchased a fixer-upper NorSea 27 sailboat. The boat needed major restoration, from helm to hull and everything in between. Regina knew it was going to be a big project, and while her husband did the brunt of the work, she wanted to contribute to the boat’s revamp in a tangible way. She decided to sew new cushions for the interior cabin and exterior cockpit, even though she’d never done upholstery work before. With the help of Sailrite’s supplies and how-to videos, she was able to successfully complete her cushion projects with great results.

Regina learned to sew at a young age, but she never really caught the sewing bug. “My mom taught me the basics of sewing when I was a kid, but I never really took to it. As an adult, I could mend clothes and made a bed skirt once, but that was about the extent of my sewing experience.” Even with such minimal practice, and not having touched a sewing machine in years, Regina was ready to take on her first upholstery project. First up were the cushions for the boat’s cabin. She used a home sewing machine for the project and followed Sailrite’s “How to Make V-Berth Cushions” how-to video. Though she had a couple of small struggles, she completed the cushions and was thrilled with the end product.

Jake and Regina on boat
Jacob and Regina Fuller enjoying some much-deserved time on the water.

For the cockpit cushions, she knew her home sewing machine wouldn’t be able to handle the thickness of the vinyl and piping. So Regina turned to Sailrite again. After thorough research and consideration, she invested in the Ultrafeed® LSZ-1. Her delight and excitement at how the cockpit cushions turned out speak volumes. The right tools and supplies make all the difference. What’s Regina’s favorite part about sewing and DIY? “The end product! There is a lot of satisfaction in knowing that you made something that you and your family get to enjoy for years.” 

Join us as we learn more about this determined DIYer, her family’s sailing lifestyle, and what she’s learned from her sewing experiences so far.

Q. When and how did you learn to sail?

A. My husband is a skilled sailor and has been sailing since he was a kid. He took me sailing on our second date and I fell in love with him and sailing! We live in Humboldt County, California, so we sail primarily in Humboldt Bay. When we have vacation time, we like to trailer our sailboat to the San Juan Islands in Washington or Clearlake, California.  

Q. What do you love about sailing? 

A. Everything! The wind, the fresh air and the wildlife you see in the bay. Our boat is a mini floating home and we often stay the weekend on it. I love being confined to the boat where you aren’t distracted by house chores and other worries of the world. The soft lull of the sea is so relaxing. We have two teenage boys ages 13 and 16. At this age, they just want to be with their friends or on electronics. We love stealing them away from all of that and getting them on the boat. There is nothing better than being hunkered down inside playing Yahtzee and drinking hot chocolate or sailing in 15+ knot winds using all their skills to have a successful sail. I have so many amazing moments and memories over the past 20 years on one of our sailboats. 

The Nor’Sea 27 fixer-upper. Just wait till you see the “after” photos!

Q. Can you tell us what all was involved in your big Nor’Sea restoration project?  

A. My husband has always wanted a Nor’Sea 27. We’ve had two other monohulls over the years, and some Hobie Cats and daysailers, but never a Nor’Sea. It’s a seaworthy classic sailboat that can be put on a trailer and taken to any sailing grounds you want. Over the years he has seen them for sale, but not at a price point we could afford and usually located states away. Five years ago, one came up for sale only 45 minutes away from our home. He took me to see it and I thought he was crazy. Yes, it was only $5,000, but the amount of work it needed was more than I had a vision for. We have renovated two homes and built a third, so I knew he had the skills and determination to see it through. But this time I didn’t see how it would be possible that I’d ever want to stay a night on this boat. Five years later he proved me wrong and all I want to do every weekend is go to the boat. We named the boat “Zephyr” and launched her for the first time in June 2020. 

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Almost everything had to be done. He had a new gas tank made and he installed it. He put in a newer diesel engine and redid the plumbing and electrical. He renovated the hanging locker on the port side in order to install a propane heater. He gutted the galley and installed all new appliances and customized the galley to maximize the space and fit my dishes. He gutted the starboard side navigation station and turned it into shelving and settee — painted, sanded and restored woodwork. On the outside, he sanded and painted, built the bowsprit, and installed some new rigging and lifelines.  

Right now he is restoring the trailer and I’m planning to make a bimini. We plan to pull the boat back out in the winter for a few more improvements. Given all the blood, sweat and tears that he put into this renovation, I was determined to make a contribution by making the cushions. We thought about paying someone to do it, but I really wanted to be able to say that I put some time, energy and skill into our dream boat as well. The cushions were the sprinkles on the cake to make his beautiful restoration look complete.  

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Q. What made you decide on an Ultrafeed Sewing Machine? What specific qualities were you looking for in a sewing machine?

A. I used a “heavy duty” inexpensive Singer sewing machine for the inside cabin cushions. I was afraid to invest in a quality upholstery machine when I didn’t know if I would even be able to successfully make the cushions. I broke several needles pushing through that project. After successfully making those cushions and realizing that I had enough skill to really do this, I knew I had to invest in a quality machine if I planned to make the cockpit cushions with piping and vinyl. There was no way my other machine would do it. I needed it to be able to easily go through several layers of heavy-duty canvas or vinyl. 

I looked at several heavy duty upholstery machines. Sailrite had a quality product for a very reasonable price. I ultimately decided to purchase the Ultrafeed because my experience to date with Sailrite has been exceptional. I love all the how-to videos and online tools to help me decide on the best materials for my projects. The Ultrafeed sewed the vinyl and piping like it was cutting through butter. I couldn’t be happier with it. I have really appreciated the short tutorials to help me understand how to thread the machine, wind the bobbin, and provide general care for the machine. All the Ultrafeed videos have been really thorough and helpful.

cockpit cushions
Cockpit cushions before and after.

Q. Now that you’ve been practicing and have sewn a few projects, have you learned any sewing tips along the way that you’d like to share?

A. I do have an important tip to share from my experience. When using the seam ripper on the zipper plate, use the plastic tip side down to rip after you get it started. I accidentally ripped my fabric when I continued to use the sharp side down — it’s a real bummer to rip it for so many reasons.

Here are all my take-aways from my vinyl cockpit cushion project: 

1) Definitely use the basting tape to help keep the vinyl from puckering when attaching it to the piping. It will make it SO much easier to line everything up nicely when sewing the plaque on. Your how-to video recommends it, but I tried the first panel without it and wished I had listened to your recommendations. I used the basting tape on everything after that. 

2) If using the YKK® AquaGuard® Water Repellent Zipper, don’t forget to sew it into the zipper plaque the opposite way you would for a regular zipper. I totally forgot about this and sewed it in wrong and threaded the pull on like you would a normal zipper. Of course it wouldn’t zip closed and didn’t work. I thought the zipper was a joke. I went back to the Sailrite website and found a video tutorial about this zipper, and that’s when I realized I did it all wrong. Once I got it sewed correctly it worked like a dream! 

3) I used closed cell foam for the cockpit cushions for its flotation. Closed cell foam is very different to work with than the interior foam I used for the cabin cushions. When cutting out the fabric and foam, I used the same allowance for my seams and compressing the foam that I did for the interior cushions. When I finished the first one and put the foam inside, I was so disappointed. It was extremely loose. The correct fix would have been to cut the foam out larger; however, I had already cut the foam for two of the cushions and there was really no way to easily add another 1/2 inch of foam to all sides. So I ended up tearing apart the cushion cover, cutting it down, and re-sewing.  Although it ended up being 1 inch shorter than my original pattern, you wouldn’t be able to tell. It still looks nice in the cockpit. I had a few other cushions to make that I hadn’t cut the foam for yet, so those turned out nice and exactly to pattern.

boat restoration
The beautiful Zephyr fully restored and ready for launch.

Q. What advice would you give to a brand-new sewer or someone thinking about getting into sewing? 

A. You can do it. The Sailrite videos teach you everything you need to be successful. If you know you want to complete upholstery projects, then invest in a quality machine from the start. By having a quality machine, your very first project will be easier, which will help build your confidence.  

Q. Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about your sewing, sailing lifestyle or yourself in general?

A. My motivation in entering to be a featured customer was to hopefully inspire others. I had only basic/limited sewing skills and I’m so proud of what I have accomplished with my first few projects. I hope others see this story and take the plunge in trying something new. My success was truly due to the excellent tutorials, materials and equipment offered by Sailrite. 

Now that Regina has conquered the boat cushions, she’s ready to put her new skills and her new machine to work again. Next up, she plans on sewing a bimini for their newly restored boat. She also wants to learn how to do sail repair (perfect for the Ultrafeed LSZ-1) and wants to sew duffle bags from used sailcloth — a great way to reuse and upcycle used sails! With an ever-growing project list, we’re thrilled that we could be a part of Regina’s sewing and DIY journey. Good luck with all your future sewing projects, Regina! We know you’ll do great!

Regina and family
The whole family (from left: Ethan, Regina, Buster, Hunter, Jacob and Joshua) playing Yahtzee aboard Zephyr.

One Stitch at a Time

In recent years, the market for handcrafted projects has skyrocketed and so has the support for the crafter community. Because we’re a small business as well as a one-stop shop for all things sewing, we know this community well. Jo Yee Yap is a budding professional sewist brimming with creativity and a can-do spirit. Although she hasn’t been sewing for long, she’s already created a number of impressive projects and caught our attention. Together with her Sailrite® Fabricator® Sewing Machine, Jo is proof that anybody with an eye for ingenuity can become a maker. 

Jo and one of her custom creations.

Jo’s introduction into the world of custom leather crafting began with a simple project. She explained that she first had the urge to learn how to make a canvas tote bag and signed up for a local sewing class. After the class, she was inspired to see what else she could create. She then began attending regular sewing classes, watching sewing videos on YouTube, and reading books on beginner sewing techniques. “I am inspired by the countless designs of bag styles, and I believe that your own bag has the power to define and describe your personality. This led to a desire to create my own timeless designs out of durable goods and further develop my sewing skills.”

But how did this crafting curiosity lead her to Sailrite? Well, that, too, started with a simple sewing class. “At a sewing class I attended at the Klum House in Portland, Oregon, I had the opportunity to test out sewing leather on a Sailrite Fabricator versus a Juki industrial machine. The main reason why the Sailrite Fabricator stood out to me as the clear winner was because of the great slow speed control. After that class, I decided to research more about the Fabricator and made the investment. As I’m relatively new to sewing, I was nervous about setting up the machine. However, Sailrite had clear, easy and concise steps, and the variety of video tutorials on their YouTube page really served as an added bonus.”

The stitch-by-stitch power of the Fabricator makes it ideal for sewing bags.

“I have been able to create such unique projects with the Sailrite Fabricator! The stitch-by-stitch power is something that should not be underestimated. Sailrite also offers a unique leather foot to ensure that your leather is protected from any marks that could be caused during sewing. What I love most about Sailrite as a company is that they always prioritize customers first. The customer service is as great as it gets. I’ve always had my questions answered, and I’ve always received guidance on my troubleshooting issues on my machine almost immediately by members of the Sailrite team.”

“Currently I sew projects for myself, friends and family. Some of my most recent projects include a leather tote bag and a wallet. I hope to one day launch my own business and join the dynamic community of local makers in the greater Seattle area. I look forward to continuing my journey in leathercraft and defining my voice in the makerspace. I look forward to introducing new bag designs in the near future.”

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But with all these projects on the horizon, we wanted to know what Jo enjoyed most about the makers’ lifestyle and what factors she considered to be the most difficult. “My favorite part of this unique lifestyle is the endless possibilities and designs you can create. Innovation is a fundamental concept for us as creators, and it is what gets me excited to continue to build upon my skills in the realm of leather crafting.”

It’s no secret that the DIY process is rife with trial and error until you achieve the perfect project, and it’s always beneficial for crafters to share their experiences with one another. When asked about what advice she would give to the budding DIYer, Jo had some thoughts to share with us. “Take risks and have the drive to always learn. For one successful bag design comes many trial prototypes and errors. Passion and perseverance are two key skills for emerging crafters. I also recommend cultivating a network of local crafters so you can learn from one another.” 

All you need is a little imagination and a great sewing machine!

If we learned one thing from Jo, it’s that the DIY spirit doesn’t have a time limit. If you have the desire to create, there’s no time like the present to embark on that dream project. It doesn’t matter if you dream of sewing your first stitch or you’ve been sewing for years, Sailrite is here to help you every step of the way. With our support behind you and the support of crafters in the DIY community, the only limit to your success is your imagination! 

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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.

Joe with Ultrafeed
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.

Joe's boats
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.

buggy complete
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!