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.

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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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!

 

Angelina M.: Queen of Upcycled Fashion

Have you ever watched a YouTube tutorial and been inspired to sew along with the instructor?  DIYer Angelina was inspired by the clothing upcycling videos she watched online. But when the instructors didn’t show how they got from thrift store “before” to runway “after,” she decided to start her own YouTube channel. Eight years later, BlueprintDIY has grown into a much-loved sewing and fashion resource for creative DIYers. Recently, she decided to take her sewing skills to the next level with her first industrial sewing machine, and she chose the Sailrite® Fabricator®. With over 100,000 YouTube subscribers, we knew Angelina was a trendsetter and expert in her field, and we wanted to find out how she’s using her new Fabricator to turn overlooked hand-me-downs into fashionable, chic looks.

Her love of denim sent her searching for an industrial machine that could handle thick assemblies. She found the Fabricator and, after some research, knew it was the machine for her. Upcycling clothing is not just a trend. It’s a smart, thrifty and eco-friendly way to restyle your wardrobe. In her videos, Angelina shows viewers how easy it is to take thrift store finds, or clothes from your own closet, and give them a stylish second life. We sat down with Angelina to find out how she’s liking her new Fabricator and to chat about all things DIY, fashion and upcycling.

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Angelina proudly shows off her brand-new Fabricator Sewing Machine.

Q: How did you get the idea to start a YouTube channel and share your upcycled clothing tutorials with the world?

A: I decided to stay home to raise my kids, which meant that I couldn’t shop as much as I used to. This is when I discovered thrifting while watching YouTube. I watched girls go buy thrift store clothes and do small alterations to make it suit them. That was my answer! I started thrifting and altering, and a whole new world opened up to me. Now I could stay on budget, shop and make my clothes fit. So I started sewing again and realized that the girls I was watching on YouTube never showed how they were recreating their clothes. They only showed the before and after. I felt like other women really needed to know how to do this.

Q: What do you love about upcycling clothing and the DIY/sewing creative process?

A: I love the push and pull of taking a limited amount of fabric and creating something that looks like it has no limits. I don’t gain much inspiration from raw material, but I feel like old clothes speak to me. They want to be new again.

Q: What clothing materials do you work with most often? 

A: I work with a ton of denim, men’s dress shirts and T-shirts, which I’m just realizing are all cotton-based materials.

Q: What is your favorite item of clothing to upcycle? And do they come from your own closet or do you thrift clothing pieces to remake for your videos?

A: My favorite clothing to upcycle is definitely jeans. Denim lasts so long and is so strong. I mostly get jeans to upcycle from my local thrift outlet. Each day every item in the store is a single price ranging from $2 all the way down to $.25 on Wednesdays. They always have a lot of jeans, so it’s a great item for me to upcycle.

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This butterfly sleeve crop top was creatively upcycled from a thrifted pair of oversized overalls.

Q: Where do you get the ideas or inspiration for your upcycle designs?

A: I have a constant list of projects that I want to make videos for. My project ideas come from social media, current events, viewer suggestions, runway shows and my own strokes of genius.

Q: When you were looking to upgrade to an industrial sewing machine, what made you look at the Fabricator? What was it about the machine that appealed to you?

A: Before this year, I had never heard of Sailrite. But I had dreamed about upgrading to an industrial sewing machine for years. I was scrolling through Instagram one day and saw an ad for the Fabricator. It stopped me in my tracks. I’m a licensed architect by trade and gorgeous machinery is a passion. I decided to do some research to see if the specs matched its beauty. I was blown away when I saw the level of control it has as it’s sewing through many layers of thick materials.

Q: What have you sewn on the Fabricator and how has the machine performed for you?

A: I’ve upcycled a bunch of jeans and made a pair of two-tone jeans, a detachable sleeve denim jacket, two denim tops and a wrap skirt. It’s working amazing for me! I love that my top stitches look just like I purchased the garment from a store.

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The Fabricator made easy work of this unique take on a denim jacket.

Q: What is the thickest or toughest fabric you’ve sewn with your Fabricator? How did the machine handle the material?

A: I tested it and it actually sews through 16 layers of denim with ease.

Q: How do you see the Fabricator fitting into your upcycle clothing videos? Will you use it for specific materials and designs, or as an all-around project machine?

A: I have only used it for denim so far, but I have more needles and feet coming that will make it possible to use it with finer materials. And I’m so excited to do my next leather project!

Q: Have you had any clothing project that’s been more difficult or tricky to upcycle? Your design didn’t go as expected? What did you learn from the experience?

A: The very first project that I used the Fabricator for was my two-tone jeans project. I was still a little apprehensive about using the Fabricator because it was new to me. I cut the jeans more than I should have next to the zipper fly. The only way to salvage the project was to sew the zipper fly of one pair to the zipper fly of the other pair. There’s absolutely no way that my heavy-duty domestic machines could do it so I turned to the Fabricator. It performed amazingly and took away all my fears. The control on it makes it so easy to use. 

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These two-tone jeans was the first project Angelina tackled with her Fabricator. We think they look stunning!

Q: Are you hoping to teach your kids to sew and pass along the skill? 

A: I just started teaching my kids to sew this year, mostly on my domestic machines. They are 12, 10 and 6, and I’m happy to say that they really enjoy it. After a few lessons, my 6-year-old son wanted to try using the Fabricator. He was able to make a few stitches and control the foot with ease.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of sharing your tutorial videos and being a DIY influencer?

A: Early in my channel, one of my subscribers commented that my videos inspired her to remake her clothes, which was helping her stay positive through her third bout with cancer. I didn’t realize how healing sewing could be. It has been a great source of my own healing after losing my husband to a rare form of meningitis in 2017. During the coronavirus pandemic, I made it my goal to upload as much positive content as possible to be a steady and uplifting part of my viewers’ day. That’s the most rewarding thing to me.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself, your family or your DIY lifestyle?

A: I think that I make sewing fun and not so intimidating. My sewing style is wild, crazy and experimental. People are more willing to be bad at it and learn from mistakes so that they can get better. I think it really takes some of the pressure off. I’m also building a community outside of YouTube. My Facebook group is taking on a life of its own. People are swapping materials locally, helping each other fix their sewing machines, and applauding one another’s projects. I’m striving for a community or family atmosphere, and I’m very proud that it’s growing into that.

Have you ever thought about upcycling clothing and breathing new life into clothes you don’t wear anymore or thrift store finds? If you need a place to start, Angelina has hundreds of upcycling tutorials on her YouTube channel. You can find her at BlueprintDIY. Thanks for chatting with us, Angelina, and good luck with your future upcycled fashions!

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Sailing Wife, Sewing Life

At the age of 10, Bailey Heyman received her first sewing machine as a gift from her grandparents. What she didn’t know was that this small gift would spark a lifelong passion that would change her life. Bailey is truly a Jill-of-all-trades, sewing everything she can get her hands on, such as apparel, marine projects, pet projects — you name it. Along the way she discovered sailing and then the Sailrite® website, which only bolstered her love of all things DIY. Not to mention it brought her face to face with a world-class sewing machine, the Sailrite® Ultrafeed® LSZ-1.

“I remained interested in the idea of sewing through middle school, high school and college. It wasn’t until after college that I had a well-paying job and could finally spend the money to pick up sewing again. I first bought a computerized machine even though it had been 14 years since the last time I’d had a sewing machine. My return to sewing started with making dog bandanas that I would give out to a local dog rescue I volunteer for. Sewing dog bandanas then turned into sewing dog vests and then it all escalated quickly!”

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Bailey, photographed here among her newly sewn boat cabin cushions.

While always the avid sewist, Bailey wasn’t always entwined with the sailing lifestyle or Sailrite. That she learned from her husband, who is from a long line of sailors and began to teach her the way of the water. This fact, combined with her infatuation with aerodynamics, led her to explore the world of sailmaking. It was here that things really began to gain momentum! Eventually, Bailey discovered the Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine and her ability to DIY grew tenfold.

“When looking into industrial sewing machines for sewing sails, Sailrite is the first thing that comes up. It did not take me long to look at the company and know that it was a brand with a community that I wanted to be part of. I received my Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 and immediately began to dress it up with stickers. Out of all the things I’ve done with my Sailrite, turning it into an angler fish has gotten the most likes on social media. That’s fine with me because it makes me smile every time I finish a project, turn off the lights, and see it glowing.”

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You might’ve seen Bailey’s customized Ultrafeed LSZ-1 on our Sailrite Instagram page, complete with a smiling sticker that glows in the dark. This gives the machine the appearance of an angler fish, even with the lights off. And if you thought that was ingenious, you should see the great number of other projects Bailey has finished recently using her portable powerhouse of a machine.

The project that Bailey is most proud of? Her lightning bug sunflower dress of course. She was kind enough to share the entire process with us.

“I wanted to make a dress to wear to an engineering banquet that I had coming up. I knew I wanted a dress with sunflowers because those are my favorite flowers. I loved the blue and yellow color combination. After I made the dress, I started to think about what I wanted to add to it next. I love building circuits and wanted to work them into my sewing projects. One day I had the idea to add lightning bugs to the sunflower dress. But I had to figure out how to sew the conductive wire to get them to light up inside the dress. Most DIYers will sew wire into dresses like that by hand, but because of the shape of the dress, I knew that would take a long time. I tried to use my computerized sewing machine first but the thread was too thick for it. I thought perhaps my Sailrite Ultrafeed would not work with it because the dress material was chiffon, but I decided to try anyway. It took a few minutes to get the settings right for the material but once I did, I was able to sew the conductive wire perfectly into the dress!”

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Following the creation of her prized sunflower dress, Bailey has been busy making even more wearable works of art. Her many successes include flowy skirts and gowns with a variety of leaves and creatures on them, each one perfectly showcasing her boundless creativity. She explained, “My inspiration for making them all comes from self-inspiration. It only takes about an hour to an hour and a half to make the base of a dress or skirt and then it usually takes a few hours to days to add appliques such as flowers or iron-on designs.”

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Within her eclectic portfolio of DIY projects, you’ll also find a slew of marine cushions she’s created to revamp her and her husband’s boat. She’s also crafted numerous additions to her Jeep as well as pet projects for her beloved dogs. And not only do these creative endeavors showcase the versatility of the Ultrafeed Sewing Machine, but more importantly, they showcase Bailey’s versatility and expertise as an enterprising young sewist.

We asked Bailey if she had any advice for DIYers who have dreams of following in her footsteps, and she was kind enough to share her thoughts with us. “My biggest pointer is to be self aware. If you do not know yourself and how your mind operates then you risk becoming your own worst enemy when creating things. A personal example of this is that I know I often get carried away with cutting fabric. When this happens I end up over-cutting or finding out the pattern I was cutting was a little off and so now I have a pile of cut fabric that will not work. This means that I have to either throw away the cut fabric, spend time to fix the cuts (if they are fixable), or set them aside (which ends up haunting me until I eventually throw them away). Because I am self aware of this, I always make sure to remind myself to not get carried away when I cut. If I was not self aware of how I operate, then I would continually get carried away with cutting and then kick myself for all the money I throw away.”

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Bailey recently crafted a new netted top for her Jeep. It’s even pup approved!

Bailey also has the support team of her family to thank for her ability to create. She remembers her grandpa having a big smile one his face while watching her sew and when she showed him the Sailrite he was certainly impressed. She likes to remember him fondly as a champion of her creativity.

With a can-do attitude, a great sewing machine and some DIY guidance, you too can create incredible DIY projects. We’re eagerly waiting to see what you sew next, Bailey!

Fashion Forward: Brant Shih’s Story

Creative genius is a flame that cannot be extinguished. For Brant Shih, there has always been a passion inside him pushing him towards the arts and fashion. A true creative spirit, he made the brave decision to travel over 7,000 miles to pursue his dream of becoming a fashion designer. In his younger years, he studied at a vocational school in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan (his home country), and majored in fashion design. As his love for fashion grew, he knew that it would lead him to new heights. Eventually, he found his way to Sailrite®, and we’re honored to have helped him pursue his education in the world of fashion design.

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Brant, his trusty Ultrafeed and many of his custom pieces.

From day one, Brant was well aware of his creative purpose. It only made sense that he dedicated his life to studying and creating wearable works of art. But in Taiwan, there were only two nearby high schools that taught fashion design. Across the globe, New York City is known as one of the world’s largest fashion hubs. So when it came time to get serious about his studies, Brant made his way to the Big Apple in 2017. 

Brant is currently pursuing a college degree in Fashion Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, New York. Located in Manhattan, this is the place where aspiring designers go to learn the tools of the trade. This public university is well-known for its fashion programs, and even boasts several famous designer alumni including Calvin Klein, Michael Kors and Randy Fenoli of “Say Yes to the Dress” fame just to name a few. Those are some big (patent leather) shoes to fill!

And while some students at other schools would be taking written exams, one of his most formative projects was to create a custom bag all on his own. His assignment was to exemplify a specific leather manipulation technique to make a bag or purse. And in the middle of this difficult project, disaster struck. Brant found himself stuck at home during the COVID-19 lockdown in New York City. Before the lockdown, Brant had been going to a communal space that had sewing machines for fashion students to use. But without access, he needed to start researching other avenues to finish his piece. 

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A willing model showing off one of Brant’s custom pieces.

Scouring the internet, Brant searched for a machine that could handle multiple layers of leather. It also needed to be portable and small enough to fit inside his living space. After ample research, Brant stumbled upon the Sailrite® Ultrafeed® Sewing Machine. “At that moment, I knew this was what I was looking for.” The Ultrafeed was an investment in his craft and future career and a way to assure his productivity during an unprecedented time. 

“For my assignment, I needed to make a handbag in any style of my choosing and combine two types of leather in a manipulation technique. It had to be done in a way so that one could see that there is leather woven on the front of the handbag and french binding on the opening. I chose to create a circular-shaped bag instead of a square or rectangle.” 

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A masterful creation made with help from the Ultrafeed.

“My Sailrite Ultrafeed Sewing Machine is a good investment, especially for people like me. I don’t have a lot of space at home but I hoped to get an industrial machine that could sew heavy materials like leather. I like that Sailrite helps customers learn more about sewing and can help fix any issues with their customers’ machines.” 

Aside from making purses and shoes, one of Brant’s favorite things to sew and create is millinery. According to the modern fashion dictionary, “Millinery is the manufacture and craft of making hats and headwear. A milliner historically would also produce everything from shirts, cloaks and shifts, to caps and neckerchiefs for both men and women, as well as designing and trimming their headgear. The term dates to the Middle Ages, when a Milener referred to someone from Milan — the home of the fashion and textiles trade. Millinery has evolved throughout history, but remains popular with a range of different events and uniforms. More often than not, hats can indicate social status, from a cowboy’s Stetson to a gentleman’s top hat, or the cocktail fascinators worn by ladies at the races.”

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One of Brant’s one-of-a-kind, handcrafted hats.

So what does the future hold for this enterprising young fashion up-and-comer? In a word, upcycling. “I am currently working on an upcycle project on my own. I have two pairs of pants and one pair of shorts that I am cutting into pieces and reassembling into a tote bag. I’ll also be using a vinyl raincoat for the bottom of the bag so it’s easy to clean. I’m also planning to sew a quilting pattern on the bag and use a piece of bubble wrap as the foam base for the quilting pattern.” 

We’re eagerly waiting to see what you create next, Brant!

DIY Dog Toys: Tough Stuff for Playing Ruff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sewing & the Mainsail: One Man’s Passion Project

Marc Weiner has always been the creative type. Born in New York, his mother gave him her sewing machine when he was around 23 years old. From there, his love of sewing and creativity took off. Over the years and throughout his different career paths, Marc has used sewing in unique and interesting ways. Now, he’s using it for the greater good. Marc volunteers for the Clearwater Sloop, a nonprofit environmental organization based in Beacon, New York, dedicated to cleaning up the pollution in the Hudson River and educating their community about conservation and environmentalism. Read the inspiring story of how one man is making a world of difference in his community through his passion for sewing.

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The Sloop Clearwater sailing on the Hudson River, New York. Photo courtesy of the Clearwater Sloop Facebook page.

A History of Creativity

Sewing is just one of the many ways Marc shares his creativity with the world. He’s had a fascinating career over the years, working as an actor and puppeteer. He started out as a street performer clown and puppeteer. Then he later joined a street theater group and made the puppets and all their clothing. He’s even done some voice work for the movie and television industry. You might recognize him as the voice of Map and Swiper on the kid’s show “Dora the Explorer.” He joined Saturday Night Live in 1980 and performed on the show with his puppets.

“When I first moved to New York City, I would ‘dumpster dive’ in the garment district, and I would find lots of great scraps of colorful fabric. I loved sewing them together and making pillows. The idea of taking a piece of flat fabric and making it something that is 3D — making puppet clothing is a perfect example of this.”

“I started sewing my puppets’ clothing for my night club act. When I performed my puppets on Saturday Night Live, their amazing costume department made my puppets’ clothing. They did a much better job than I ever could. After SNL, I continued making puppet clothing for all of my puppet projects until 1992 when I got my own show on Nickelodeon called ‘Weinerville.'” On his Nickelodeon show, there was an entire crew sewing the clothing for his puppets, but that didn’t deter Marc from finding other avenues to continue his sewing pursuits.

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Marc washes the Clearwater’s mainsail in preparation for sewing bags.

Sailing & Sewing

Growing up, Marc’s parents had a 12-foot sailboat on Lake Mahopac, New York. “My father taught me how to sail on that boat,” he recalled. The family also owned a 15-foot powerboat. Marc enjoyed a childhood of time spent on the water, enjoying the peacefulness and quiet of sailing or zipping around on the high-speed powerboat. Years later, his parents bought a 41-foot Morgan yacht. “They lived on the Morgan down in the Bahamas for 12 years. I would visit them and go sailing.”

Now, Marc owns his own sailboat and enjoys sewing projects for it. Five years ago, he bought a 34-foot Beneteau and jumped right into DIY work. “When I was working on projects for my boat, my home machine was struggling when I was making my cabin cushions. I found Sailrite on the internet, and I knew I would need the Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 for my next project — restitching my bimini and dodger.”

Marc named his boat the MelAdele in honor of his parents and their shared love of sailing and enjoying life on the water. Marc was excited to get to work sewing for his new boat. “I found Sailrite’s amazing DIY videos and started sewing new cabin cushions, winch covers and cockpit seat cushions. I made new curtains, restitched the bimini and dodger, made a companionway cover, made side window panels for the bimini, repaired the sail cover and so many other projects.”

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Educational programs are a fundamental part of the Clearwater’s mission. Here, children participate in a “Sailing Classroom” which promotes hands-on engagement learning.

Sewing for a Cause

Marc has been volunteering for the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater organization since 1973. “I crewed for one week, and then became the weekend cook for a month. They then took me on as the permanent cook, which lasted for two years. I was a vegetarian cook, and the captain loved eating meat. He couldn’t put up with my cooking any longer and made me the first mate during my third year on board.”

He has had various other roles during his many years with the nonprofit. He’s worked in the front office, worked on the boat, and helps out with the annual folk festival. Most recently, Marc has been sewing bags and totes from the Clearwater’s retired sailcloth as a way to raise funds for the organization.

“For our 2020 Clearwater restoration fundraising campaign, I made almost 100 assorted bags that we sold to raise money.” Clearwater’s mission is to protect the Hudson River and the surrounding wetlands and waterways through public education and environmental advocacy. Clearwater’s award-winning programs have grown consistently over the years. In 2004, the Clearwater was named to the National Register of Historic Places for its groundbreaking role in the environmental movement.

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Marc’s mainsail bags on display at the Clearwater Fundraiser. Photo © Bruce N Murray 2020

Environmental protection is a cause close to Marc’s heart. “When I went to college, I became more aware about the need for environmental advocacy. My years of service on the Clearwater Sloop have reinforced this belief. Air and water pollution, global warming, smog, acid rain, deforestation and wildfires — these are just a few of the environmental issues we are facing right now. It’s everyone’s responsibility to take care of our precious and beautiful planet and make it a safe and wonderful place to live.”

Recently, Marc mentioned taking a trip into New York City. He was walking down the street with one of his Clearwater mainsail bags slung across his shoulder with the ship’s original reefing lines acting as straps. A sudden gust of wind struck, and the bag said to him, “I think we should reef.” Marc felt the reefing lines tighten across his torso. In that moment, the spirit of the Clearwater mainsail was reawakened after being retired for six years.

Once a sail, always a sail.

clearwater sloop mainsail bag

If you’d like to learn more about the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater organization and its mission, please visit https://www.clearwater.org/the-sloop/.