“Glamping” With Jean Buchanan

For Jean Buchanan, sewing is not just a hobby and career, but it also may very well be her destiny. She’s been sewing for over 50 years and comes from a long line of sewists. Her great-grandmother was a tailor of men’s suits, and her grandmothers, aunts and mother have all sewn and quilted through the years. Jean first learned to sew from her mother-in-law, and she’s never looked back. With a little help from Sailrite®, Jean’s taken her talent to the next level and made a name for herself in the process.

After five decades of sewing children’s clothes and stuffed animals, plus clothing for herself and her husband, Jean encountered a project that she had never attempted before and one she never thought she would stumble upon in her lifetime. But always being an adventurous sewist open to new ideas and experiences, she took a cue from her daughter to try out a different kind of DIY, which would lead her to her largest project yet. 

“One day my daughter brought me a southwestern printed tarp and asked me to make her a visor for her T@B 320 trailer. It took many more tarps and three attempts to get the patterns tweaked — it fit the T@B pretty well.” 

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One of Jean’s latest sunshade designs on a TAB camper.

If you’re not familiar, T@B (or TAB) is a brand of trailerable camper with a sleek teardrop design. These charming, pint-sized campers blend European design with Ohio Amish craftsmanship for cozy living on-the-go. After Jean finished her daughter’s project, she found that these campers were perfectly complemented by her custom sunshades with their petite, visor-like design. Not only was her first sunshade good-looking, but it also functioned as a way to protect the camper’s occupants from the sun and rain while maintaining convenient portability for those looking to get up and go.

Spurred by her first success, Jean decided she enjoyed the work and wanted to continue the process. The next step was to make efforts to reach a larger customer base and make sure she could streamline her sunshades for more efficient sewing. She first began by creating a shop on Etsy (an e-commerce site focused on handmade or vintage items), based out of North Olmsted, Ohio. She later launched her own website and enlisted the help of a professional engineer to create a dependable design for the T@B 400 trailer — and success! A small business was born.

But when your business revolves around sewing, you need a dependable sewing machine to carry you through your toughest assemblies. So with this new business resting in her capable hands, Jean decided that none of her work could be completed without a heavy-duty industrial sewing machine to sew through multiple layers of fabric. The hunt for such a machine was what led Jean to Sailrite in the first place.

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Fabricator in tow, Jean is ready to tackle any project.

She explained, “I chose the Fabricator® Sewing Machine after looking at many industrial machines because it was advertised as a small awning shop machine. I read reviews that were positive concerning the machine and watched videos. Based on what I read and what I watched, I decided it was the right one and I have not been disappointed.” 

With her husband, Clyde, by her side, Jean has expanded her creations and has now launched her own website to showcase and sell her unique camper sunshades worldwide. With a customer base reaching as far as Spain, Germany, Poland, Switzerland and Canada, it’s hard to deny the growing popularity of these adorable additions. Not only are these unique sunshades a way for campers to express their creativity, but they’re also a way for Jean to utilize her adept sewing skills for a practical cause.

She was happy to explain the painstaking steps that go into the creation of the TAB sunshades, as they’re tailored to the requests of each customer. First, each piece of fabric and webbing is cut with the Sailrite® Edge Hotknife, then a convenient carrying bag is sewn, followed by a reinforcement of webbing to the places where the visor pole begins and ends. Next comes the construction of the sleeve for the pole followed by the main fabric assembly. Each part of the process that requires sewing is done using the Fabricator Sewing Machine — and the results speak for themselves.

Here at Sailrite, it gives us great joy to be there every step of the way to help make things a little easier. “Not only do I use the Fabricator Sewing Machine and the Sailrite Edge Hotknife, but I just started using some of Sailrite’s 300 denier polyester outdoor fabric [Odyssey]. The quality and support are outstanding! One could not go wrong using any of their products. I especially love the magnetic sewing guide and zipper feet for sewing keder rope!”

With a thriving business to attend to, what lies ahead for crafty creator Jean? She explained, “I plan to go back to regular sewing when I can no longer physically sew these sunshades. But who knows, I’m always ready for a challenge. My daughter is full of ideas for me.” And although her daughter does not share her passion for sewing, she helps with the business as a public relations assistant and is always ready to bring Jean more ideas to practice her sewing on. 

At this point in time, Jean’s future is wide open, but regardless, she is confident that she and the Fabricator can tackle anything that may come. We can’t wait to see what she creates next!

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Jean’s ingenious designs make “glamping” possible.

Driven to Sew: A Lifelong Hobby

The DIY spirit can take any number of forms — there’s no end to what you can create with the right supplies, a good idea and a little extra time on your hands. That’s exactly the same mindset held by Sailrite® customer and long-time crafter Louis Cossey. Following his retirement in 2016, Louis realized he had more opportunities than ever to start exploring the things he was really passionate about: creating custom projects of all shapes and sizes.

Louis has always been a car guy. Since high school, he’s successfully rebuilt eight cars, taking charge of the metal fabrication, welding, fiberglass, bodywork and paint all by himself to create a one-of-a-kind labor of love. Upon retiring, he started work on his 1923 Ford T-Bucket, a hot rod based Model T. As a pillar of American history, the Model T was built by the Ford Motor Company between 1908 and 1927. The T-Bucket still retains many of its classic features but also has a more modern engine. Louis was determined to make this car just as immaculate as all his others, perhaps even more so given that he could now devote his full attention to it.

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Louis had his work cut out for him with the T-Bucket.

After getting past much of the bodywork, Louis began the process of sewing the interior upholstery but quickly ran into unforeseen problems. He had no real prior sewing experience before starting on this particular endeavor. Back in the ’70s, he’d taken a 15-hour auto upholstery class but explained that he’d never had the time or proper equipment to try any serious sewing projects on his own.

“The first mistake I made was to try and sew with an old sewing machine with no walking foot and use cheap interior material. It just didn’t work.” In search of a new sewing machine, he visited a local sewing supply store. There he was told to look into a company called Sailrite, as these would be the best kinds of sewing machines for the type of work he wanted to do.

“Of course I found Sailrite online and couldn’t stop watching the YouTube videos. I think I watched all of them several times and eventually bought the Sailrite® Ultrafeed® LS-1 machine. It instantly made me think I could sew!”

While the Ultrafeed had made the interior car upholstery sewing easier, there were still a few roadblocks in the way. Louis originally tried using an off-brand of faux leather, but after sewing three separate assemblies, he still couldn’t get things to lay down properly. He realized this was due to the poor quality of the material, not his sewing skills, and instead opted to try some Naugahyde® All American Black fabric. Voilà! The high-quality, abrasion-resistant vinyl made for the perfect car upholstery.

“I learned the hard way that I couldn’t practice with less expensive materials because it doesn’t act or react the same way that higher quality fabric does. After getting the Naugahyde, the project totally came together.”

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With help from the Ultrafeed, Louis began to gain confidence in his sewing abilities and could finally visualize just how the T-Bucket would turn out. It also helped to have support from his wife, as she aided in lining up seams and helping pull the material so it could be stapled down with his Sailrite® Long Nose Upholstery Staple Gun. After weeks of toiling, Louis’s first big retirement project was finally in its full splendor! Both the seats and the top of the T-Bucket looked amazing and it was time to start thinking of potential projects to sew with the Ultrafeed.

So what’s next on the agenda? Louis plans to stay true to his car obsession, as he’s got his eye on reupholstering the interior of his 1971 El Camino. Plus with more time for fishing, he also plans to sew a completely new bimini and cover for his old fishing boat. “Although working with old cars is my passion, I really enjoy making things with the Ultrafeed. It’s both extremely satisfying and a little aggravating! I’m getting all kinds of people wanting me to sew little projects for them. And between the quality of the Ultrafeed, the fabric and the staple gun, Sailrite is the only place I will purchase products from here on out.”

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The fully restored T-Bucket — ready to ride.

No matter where your DIY journey takes you, or at what point in your life, it’s never too late to start on that project you’ve been dreaming about. When you really love the type of work you’re doing, sewing becomes more of a hobby and less of a chore. Whether you’re young, or just young at heart, expressing your creativity can have impressive results.