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.

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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/.

Creative Cosplay With Jennifer Parker

Brimming with a can-do attitude and an innovative spirit, Jennifer Parker has always been a fan of the arts. From an early age, she was actively participating in local theater productions and soon found herself enamored with the costumes. Her pursuit of creative expression eventually led her to Sailrite® and the Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 Sewing Machine. Jennifer was kind enough to share her incredible DIY journey with us and explain how Sailrite became a small, yet crucial, facet of her unique artistic endeavors.

In an effort to expand her artistic ability, Jennifer began teaching herself leatherworking as a way to recreate the costume of a beloved video game character. The results were just the start of her journey into cosplay! “I started teaching myself leatherworking three years ago, simply because I was interested in making a cosplay of the character Ciri from “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt,” a visually gorgeous video game. They designed a strong, skilled, smart and capable heroine with a handful of awesome outfits and I thought, ‘Yep, I want to make that.’ Buying all the pieces was going to be crazy expensive, so I sought to learn how to do it myself.” 

By the time the project was done, Jennifer had enough motivation to tackle another project, then another and then another. Before long she had created several costumes that featured bags, sword sheaths, belts, corsets and more. With her experience and confidence growing, she eventually decided to do the leather accessories for a Captain America costume for her husband. This meant sewing gaiters, a utility belt, gloves and a shoulder harness. 

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Captain America, ready for action!

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Soon after that, Jennifer realized she would need a high-quality sewing machine to sew through the myriad of materials used in her costumes. Living in a one bedroom apartment at the time meant that her sewing space was limited and a portable machine was a must-have. While there were many household and light fabric projects on her radar, the machine in question also had to be equipped to sew through the occasional thick pieces of leather used in cosplay attire. But could there possibly be an industrial sewing machine out there that didn’t require a large, stationary setup and was versatile enough to meet Jennifer’s needs?

“I started doing research and came across leatherworkers who were recommending the Sailrite Ultrafeed Sewing Machine as a very versatile option. I went to the website and was immediately hooked by the entire culture and history. My dad was a sailing instructor before he moved into the aviation industry, so I have a very strong foundation in maritime culture and fond childhood memories of learning how to sail. So not only did this machine have everything I needed, it was beautiful and affordable and I thought, ‘Well, this is a perfect fit in every way!’”

The Stitcher Becomes The Witcher

With her new machine in tow, Jennifer began making boot covers and emblems, journal covers, dog collars and even Christmas ornaments. With those projects under her belt, she once again decided to delve into the wonderful world of custom costumes. Everything she had learned up until that point would prepare her for her most complex project yet (and the one she is most proud of to date). She was going to create an exact replica of the costume for the main protagonist, Geralt, in “The Witcher” video game series and Netflix show of the same title. 

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Geralt (right) and one of his many real-life clothing pieces sewn by Jennifer.

“I dusted off my costuming skills and wrote a production schedule for myself — including not only the insanely complex armored jacket, but also all the accessories, velvet jacket, linen shirt, leather and chino pants, boot covers, and all the leather straps that attach his armor throughout. Planning, engineering, patterning and constructing every single garment had its challenges. I used a total of three machines, but the Ultrafeed (whom I have affectionately christened ‘Big Blue’) made her mark somewhere on them all, and exclusively on the armored jacket. It was so much more difficult than I expected. Creating something real and wearable from a rendering is immensely challenging. I found entire weekends completely scrapped because something I tried simply did not work out — more than once!”

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We’re endlessly impressed by Jennifer’s dedication to her work and her patience to make sure every last detail was perfect, even the most minute ones. She went on to explain, “The jacket took nearly two weeks just to plan and over 100 hours to build. It weighs over 10 pounds, is fully lined, fully adjustable, and features removable rerebraces (sleeves) and armored mantle top piece. I used 20 square feet of five different leathers, 4 yards of canvas, 2 yards of cotton pique, 2 yards cotton batting, 5,000 aluminum chainmail jump rings, 2 pounds of hardware (rivets, snaps, buckles, spikes), 5mm foam for pauldrons and over 700 yards of nylon thread.”

Jennifer’s hard work speaks for itself and has garnered attention on Instagram and the admiration of friends and family. It’s certainly caught our eye! But for this creative connoisseur, the journey is just as important as the destination. “The most rewarding thing about all this has been discovering an art form that I love — and watching each project yield measurable progress in my overall craftsmanship.” 

Future Forward

Now that she’s taken her sewing skills to the next level, what advice would Jennifer give to someone ready to start their DIY journey? She was eager to share with us. “Start small and just jump in and do something. I got some leather and basic starter supplies to start and just rolled with it until I was sure I wanted more from the hobby. I watched HUNDREDS of YouTube videos on everything from saddle-making to foam-smithing and worked on scraps while I watched. I spent a day playing with my machine, seeing exactly what it could do. Make friends with your tools and you will get to know their limitations. I talk to myself A LOT and have different playlists (and alcohol pairings) for every mood and project.”

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“You will feel like your first project is totally awful. You’re going to make mistakes and do things inefficiently and take the long way and get super frustrated. In the end, you may not even be ‘doing it right’ but who cares because look at what you’ve just made! Just like anything, to become good, it takes study and practice — years of it.”

We can’t wait to see what you sew next, Jennifer! 

 

How to Sew a DIY Medical Hood

We were recently contacted by a Sailrite customer who created his own design for DIY medical hoods that are used in conjunction with PAPR (Powered Air Purifying Respirator) machines to keep medical workers safe when treating a COVID-19 patient. George Warner was generous enough to take time out of sewing hoods to answer our questions about his hood design, share his instructions and drawings, explain his motivation to help, and how he’s hoping other DIYers will join in the fight against COVID-19.

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One of George’s early hood designs made from Tyvek material.

Q. What was your reasoning or motivation behind wanting to design these medical hoods?

A. Our daughter is a third-year resident at one of the larger Boston, Massachusetts, hospitals in internal medicine. Her friends, who are our friends, are Emergency Room doctors, pediatricians and anesthesiologists. 

They will be intubating people for ventilators and are very at risk during some of these procedures. We are trying to produce hoods to fit positive pressure respirators known as PAPR units. PAPRs are a type of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) used by medical personnel to safeguard workers against breathing contaminated air. The low pressure, positive pressure keeps contaminated air from getting into the hood and potentially infecting the medical worker. These hoods have plenty of room in them. For added protection, you can wear an N-95 Mask inside of the hood and it is not going to get dirty.  They just came out with safe ways to re-sterilize these masks.

Q. Do you have a background in design work? Are you already familiar with these PAPR units?

A. I’m an architect and I have worked on building houses, boats and kiteboards. I have had two of these PAPR units for building and construction purposes for 20 years. Instead of breathing dust, you’re breathing clean filtered air, even when sanding or grinding metal with carborundum (silicon carbide) discs that produce very fine dust.

A few companies make these PAPR units, but there is no reason to expect that production will be ramped up in time to meet the impending surge. In the United States, we have the advantage and luxury of a small head start on the COVID-19 pandemic. All of the medical outlets and industrial outlets will be scoured and empty in short order. The units have HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters.

Q. What is your goal in making these DIY hoods for PAPR units?

A. To get these PAPR hoods in the hands of frontline medical workers who are at risk of contracting the coronavirus when treating COVID-19 patients. I am hoping that by sharing my design and story, other DIYers will help out and start sewing these hoods to donate to local hospitals in need.

For anyone interested in sewing these hoods, please be aware that they are not up to medical protocols, neither are they CDC approved as PPE. However, in a very short amount of time, no emergency room or ICU in the United States will be able to fully meet the PPE standards of a normal day. When that happens, medical professionals will get sick as they have in China, Italy and Spain. There are thousands of sick doctors in Europe right now. They can’t treat anybody. They are the ones needing treatment. My goal is to make these hoods in order to keep medical workers healthy so they can continue to treat the sick without getting sick themselves.

Q. What materials are required to make these medical hoods?

A. I have been using a medium duty white tarp that is easy to clean and not so difficult to sew. We have experimented with Tyvek® polyethylene dumpster bags and with Tyvek house wrap. The commercially made hoods made by 3M use a fabric called tychem, that is very similar to the Tyvek paper that is used for post office envelopes. My latest prototype using Tyvek house wrap worked well and sews easily.

I’ve also experimented with Stamoid™ Light and clear vinyl window material from Sailrite. The window material from Sailrite is excellent. It is strong and cleanable and still flexible enough to fold inside out in the sewing process. The 30-gauge vinyl is great if you have a Sailrite sewing machine that can easily handle it, which I do. A 20- or 12-gauge clear window vinyl might be better for home sewing machines. I’ve used an old windsurfer window and it worked great. Others are using clear file folders.

The Stamoid Light fabric is really great in many regards but a little stiff and difficult to maneuver in the tight turns. It is strong and will be easy to clean. Again, my Sailrite sewing machine was able to handle this vinyl material, but I’m not sure how a home sewing machine would do. Hoods can also be made from Dacron® sailcloth, which is easier to sew.

Q. Are you making your medical hood design available to the public for anyone who wants to make and donate them to hospitals? If so, where can people find your instructions and design illustrations?

A. We created a hood tutorial on the Instructables.com website. If anyone needs additional help, they can contact me through the website. The sewing is an intermediate skill level I would say. I would say that most Sailrite sewers should be able to do this. There will be a short video of the most difficult section. You can test this on a piece of scrap material and see how you do. You’ll get it quickly enough!

https://www.instructables.com/id/Protective-Hood-for-Powered-Air-Purifying-Respirat/

 Note: Neither Sailrite nor George Warner makes any claim that this medical hood design will protect the medical worker from contracting the coronavirus. Positive airflow is a safe procedure, but there are many elements that only the user can control. We are not an authorized medical or health safety authority. Use at your own risk.

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If you would like to help sew medical hoods for your local hospitals, please use the link above to George’s written instructions and drawings. Please check with your local hospitals that they are accepting DIY medical hoods and other protective gear beforehand. Sailrite would like to say a big thank you to all DIYers out there who are donating their time, talent and sewing supplies to help provide their communities and medical facilities with face masks, shields and other protective equipment. Together we can save lives and help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Jessica Roush: Horses & Hobbies

With passion, patience and persistence, anything is possible. When it comes to the world of DIY sewing projects, this statement still rings just as true. Sailrite® customer Jessica Roush has blended her impressive sewing skills with her love of horses to create something special. With her industrial Sailrite® Fabricator® Sewing Machine in tow, Jessica has started her own small business selling custom bareback pads for avid horseback riders like herself. And she was kind enough to share her inspiring story with us!

As any animal lover knows, the fascination with furry friends begins early on. Jessica’s interest in horses began at age 4 when she begged her parents for a four-legged friend. It was around this same time that her fascination with sewing began, and the two hobbies would develop side by side in the years to come. At age 5, Jessica received a toy sewing machine for Christmas that sewed with glue instead of a needle and thread. But she wished for a pony and a real sewing machine every year.

At 11, she finally got one of her wishes: her very own pony! “His name was Tony and he was so good for me. I was able to escape life while I was with him, pretending to be a cowboy or an Indian while riding him. I soon became tired of saddling him up and learned to ride bareback [without a saddle].”

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Jessica and one of her previous horses, Seeker.

But riding a horse for hours without a saddle creates a lot of sweat on both the legs of the rider and on the parts of the horse’s back that are in direct contact with them. To remedy this, a bareback pad is often needed. This pad secures to the horse in a similar way as a saddle but is made of lightweight material (regular saddles can be quite heavy). These pads don’t always have stirrups, which are not necessary to ride a horse bareback.

Jessica began riding bareback so often that she was given a bareback pad for Christmas one year. “It did not take long for me to get super frustrated with the bareback pad moving back, so much so that it got the point that I was not sitting on it properly. The rigging was in the wrong location and there was no wither relief.” For those readers who aren’t equestrians, the withers on a horse are the highest part of a horse’s back, located at the base of the neck between the shoulder blades. If a saddle or bareback pad does not fit properly on this part of the horse, it can cause soreness for both horse and rider.

It was also around this time that Jessica started sewing for a home economics class, for which she had an immediate talent. Her teacher was so impressed with her skills that she asked Jessica to hem all of her class curtains, which Jessica did with great joy. This was only the beginning of her foray into sewing.

After high school, Jessica moved to Indiana and got a job at a factory sewing boat cushions and other boating necessities. Later, she moved on to sewing at several sewing shops, working on anything from canvas toppers for boats to bedspreads for RV factories. She moved once again to Sandpoint, Idaho, where she found a job sewing for a company that made everything from saddle pads to Kevlar® bulletproof vests.

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Jessica’s current horse, aptly named Silver.

Even during that busy time, her passion for horses was never extinguished. “Over the next 40 years, I owned horses. For most of those, I rode bareback, still not finding a well-designed bareback pad. When I did find a good bareback pad, the price was way out of my range starting at $350! I barely had two nickels to rub together and no money to spend on such a luxury.”

So Jessica did what any crafty DIYer would — she began to work on her own bareback pads! “My first supplies were purchased at a local store. That was all I needed to make my own bareback pads. To my surprise, it turned out very well, which had me thinking … why not make these for other people just like me? I knew there was a huge need.”

Being familiar with Sunbrella® canvas from her long sewing career was a huge help in the construction of these prototypes. “I still did not put together the idea of searching for marine canvas, but one day I went to an upholstery shop and saw the name Sailrite. I memorized it and that’s where it all really took off. Sailrite offered me most of the materials I needed to make my bareback pads. I was shocked and delighted! Since they also offered such excellent customer service and video tutorials, I was hooked. I make every effort to be loyal to Sailrite out of gratitude to them for what they offer. Sailrite is such a blessing and I don’t even think you know how grateful I am for them.”

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Jessica and “Batman” her trusty Fabricator.

Jessica went on to purchase the Sailrite Fabricator Sewing Machine, a full-size, straight stitch industrial sewing machine with incredible speed control and the ability to power through multiple layers of fabric. And although Sunbrella canvas was good for bareback pads, it also became clear that Jessica’s bareback pads needed fabric with a slight bit of stretch. So began the hunt for the perfect material! She tried several options and first settled on Naugahyde® Universal vinyl. She purchased many of the colors until she saw that Sailrite was offering Sunbrella® Horizon and EverSoft Indoor/Outdoor vinyl. Being intrigued, she ordered a sample of both and finally had an epiphany.

“My mind was totally blown when I saw and touched the EverSoft! This was it! That was what I’d been looking for!” This soft, supple, waterproof vinyl is fantastic for indoor and outdoor projects, making it well suited for Jessica’s bareback pads.

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After arduous work and numerous less-than-perfect attempts, Jessica finally discovered a sewing system and a bareback pad design that was ideal for her small business. Early on, it took her six hours to make one pad, but now she can easily make two in a day if the mood suits her. Since 2016, she’s sold hundreds of bareback pads with many, many return customers. “I work very, very hard to put out only the best work I can do and use only the best materials I can afford. These pads can have about 1200 miles put on them and still have life left!”

To make her bareback pads the best they can be, Jessica utilizes many high-quality products from Sailrite. Along with the Fabricator, these include the Sailrite® Edge Hotknife, YKK® zippers, stainless steel clips, D rings, webbing, binding, thread and more! And our comprehensive customer support is always a plus whenever she has questions or concerns.

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Rescue pony Kricket uses Jessica’s custom bareback pads to trek hundreds of miles. Photo courtesy of Jen Joines.

So what does Jessica think is the most rewarding part about sewing for her own business? Well, to fully appreciate the answer to that question, you’d also need to understand Jessica’s previous experiences sewing in a much less artistic realm. Her story is proof that there’s always a silver lining if you look for it.

“I love creating. I create in my dreams and wake up in the night with ideas. If I see colors, fabrics or notions, I will probably think of something to do with them. Figuring things out is my passion. That’s probably why I hated every job I ever worked at. They want you to put piece one and piece two together over and over again. It’s a miracle I survived that! I really thought there was something wrong with me. I could not hold down a job and I had horrible anxiety issues. Now I love what I do. I wake up excited to work.”

Peace, Love & Handbags

Sometimes you get an idea for something and it takes off. That’s what happened to Laurie Carty. One day, she was looking online for purses and stumbled upon a crocheted fat bottom bag. She instantly fell in love with the classic hippie-style purse and thought the design and shape of the bag would look great in denim. Unable to find her dream bag in stores or online, Laurie set out to sew her own. What started as a purse for herself has now grown into a small business. Using her Sailrite® Ultrafeed®, she’s reintroducing these vintage-style bags to the world and reigniting her love of sewing.

The Start of an Idea

Laurie was excited to jump in and get going on her purse. She already had some basic sewing skills, so she knew she’d be able to sew the purse without a problem. However, she hit a speed bump early on. She didn’t know anything about pattern making or purse design. And since she couldn’t find a pattern for a denim flat bottom purse online, she needed a little help designing and patterning her purse. Luckily, her sister was coming for a visit. An accomplished seamstress, Laurie’s sister was able to help with the design process.

“I drew out my idea and we created the pattern together. Once I saw my dream come to reality, I was hooked! I got so many compliments on my purse that I started taking orders for them. For the most part, all the purses that I have sold have been local. Women stop me on the street and ask me where I got my purse. They are always surprised when I tell them I made it myself!”

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Laurie’s first purse made from an old pair of jeans and a bedsheet on her home sewing machine, before she upgraded to an Ultrafeed.

After that initial design, Laurie added fringe and beads to her bags as unique design elements. Since her fat bottom bags were inspired by the hippie era, the fringe fit right in with that style and aesthetic. “When I was in my teens and twenties, everything was fringe. I am 62 now, but back in the day, I was a complete hippie — with the clothes and hair. Everything was tie-dye and fringe, and we did it ourselves for the most part.”

Laurie upcycles used jeans that are still in good condition for her purses. She adds fabric panels, lace, beads and fringe to create truly one-of-a-kind designs. “I love every single one of the purses that I create. Each one has its own unique beauty.”

Finding Her Creative Process

Laurie lets her creative spirit guide her not only in her bag designs but in life too. A self-professed “avid student and seeker of personal change,” Laurie has a degree in behavioral sciences. She’s helped people with therapeutic stress and trauma relief, she’s taught dance classes and has even been a radio show host. “I’ve had a pretty crazy life!”

Laurie has always had a creative spirit. One of the things she loves the most about the DIY lifestyle is her ability to bring her dreams and ideas to life in a tangible way. She loves the process of taking an idea, a vision in her mind, and using fabric and thread to bring her idea to life. “Every purse I make I see fully completed in my mind, and then I know exactly how to create it. I have always been a very visually creative person. My brand-new idea is brought into reality, and now I am the only one on the planet who makes these bags. Every purse is uniquely different.”

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Laurie’s new Ultrafeed handles the thick layers of denim with ease.

Upgrading to an Ultrafeed

After completing her first two bags, her regular sewing machine was struggling to sew through the thick layers of denim. Laurie knew she’d need a heavy-duty machine capable of handling multiple layers of thick material. That’s how she found Sailrite. “I knew I needed something stronger and started searching the internet. I had never used an industrial machine before. In fact, I would not say I knew that much about sewing, really, but your videos made everything so easy to understand. I love that you also have troubleshooting videos on your site, which made it so easy to learn the machine.”

Her Ultrafeed has given Laurie the confidence to attempt sewing projects she previously had never dreamed of. Not only does she sew her hippie bags, but she is also branching out into projects for her husband’s motorcycle. “I have lined my husband’s riding chaps that he wears on his motorcycle and made a cover for his oil cooler on his Harley. I’m not afraid to tackle anything anymore!”

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Laurie’s Etsy shop, The Hippie Handbag Company, is a nod to her love of all things 1960s, especially the hippie lifestyle. “I grew up in that era. I was a little too young to go to the original Woodstock, but it was all about the lifestyle back then. It was a very creative time in so many ways — music, peace, love, rock ‘n’ roll, the hair, the dress styles. Upcycling was big back then too. It represented unique and individual creativity and expression. Just like my bags, every person is different and beautiful in their own way.”

Whether you were alive during that era or just have a fondness for all things boho, Laurie’s life philosophy is something we can all appreciate.

Sewing for Man’s Best Friend

Who doesn’t love our four-legged furry friends!? Not only do pets provide much-needed companionship and cuddle-time, but it’s been proven that owning a pet can help you live longer and have a healthier lifestyle. If you’re a sewer and dog owner, have you ever considered sewing dog toys? Bruce and Joan Calendrillo recently adopted Toby, an adorable terrier mix, from their local animal shelter. After Toby destroyed a store-bought toy in a matter of days, Bruce put his sewing skills to work creating better-made, more durable toys for his new pup. Read on to find out how Bruce uses supplies and how-to videos from Sailrite® to further his sewing talents and keep busy during his “semiretirement.”

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Meet Toby! He enjoys walks, playing with his toys, and annoying Mona the cat.

Old Dog, New Tricks

Bruce didn’t discover a love of sewing until later in life. Following a long and prestigious career in the medical field, his career took a sharp left turn when he bought a dry cleaning business. He took every opportunity to learn as much as he could — and that included learning how to sew. He dutifully watched his seamstress repair people’s clothes. “I honed my skills with practice, practice, practice. I learned new techniques through videos and books.” After Bruce closed the store, he took a job as a tailor at another local dry cleaning business and put his sewing skills to good use. “One year later that dry cleaner’s closed. I purchased all of their equipment and supplies and moved it all into my basement. I bought a sign and put it in my yard.”

Bruce is now semiretired and runs his own tailoring and clothes repair business from his basement. He’s only been sewing for about 10 years, but he has already amassed quite a reputation. “Tailoring is the perfect retirement job. I do as much work as I want while putting a few dollars in my pocket. A side benefit is that instead of working all day long away from home, I now get to meet all of my neighbors who quickly turn from customers to friends.”

His tailoring business allows him to keep busy and stay active while doing something he enjoys. “I love learning new things. Sewing lends itself to that passion in that there are always different techniques to learn and projects to explore.” Bruce’s sewing skills aren’t limited to just clothing repair and tailoring. He has made huge dock covers, reupholstered furniture, redesigned gowns and more.

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Through all his career changes, Bruce’s wife, Joan, has been the steadfast one. Joan is recently retired from a lifelong career as a preschool director and program developer. “She wonders how I can always be looking for such a dramatic change, while I will never understand how she could spend more than one day with a room full of 4- and 5-year-olds.”

Bruce first learned about Sailrite through a customer. The customer wanted a new bimini top for his boat. While doing some online research, Bruce found Sailrite. “I am a boat owner as well. As this was something that I had never done, and something I wanted to do for my own boat, I took on the job. When sewing canvas projects for customers, I always refer them to the Sailrite website. I have them choose and purchase their own material, always recommending Sunbrella®.” Bruce used the Sailrite bimini top video tutorial to guide him through the fabrication process for both the customer’s bimini and his own.

Bruce has also used Sailrite’s free video resources to sew new patio cushions for a friend of the family. “A close friend of my wife’s asked me to make new cushion covers for her patio set — about 20 cushions. This was a perfect winter job that I did last year and completed by the spring.” Bruce referred to Sailrite’s “How to Make a French Mattress Style Cushion” video to complete the mammoth undertaking. “I purchased Silk Film from Sailrite and, following the tutorial, I was able to easily stuff the foam back into each cover.”

Dog Days of Sewing

Bruce and Joan recently adopted a rescue dog, and that opened Bruce up to new sewing projects he hadn’t previously attempted. “My wife and I have taken on the challenge of adopting a terrier mix from our local shelter. When I am not walking or training Toby to sit and roll over, I am in the basement making him stuffed toys.” When they first adopted Toby, the Calendrillos immediately went to a local pet supply store and stocked up on food, treats and a stuffed toy. Two days later, the store-bought toy was ripped to shreds.

Bruce knew he could do better. He immediately set to work sewing dog toys from higher quality materials that could stand up to Toby’s canines. Using leftover Sunbrella from a recent sewing project, he got to work. “I felt that the toughness of the fabric would lend itself to the biting and pulling of the animal.” Bruce adapted the same French seam technique he learned from the Sailrite cushion video and applied it to the dog toy. He took two circles of Sunbrella and sewed them together with a French seam, stuffing the toy with fiberfill and a squeaker. “I have made several of these toys for family and friends with dogs. The French seam adds extra durability, and Toby has yet to get a tooth through the Sunbrella.”

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So many handmade toys to choose from!

He next adapted this simple design to make a Frisbee®-type toy. He added another circular stitch 1-1/2 inches in from the edge of the fabric disk once it was completed, making a flatter, more disk-shaped toy. “It flies much farther than the first toy. And since it’s only cloth and fiberfill, I can throw it in the house without breaking anything (so far).” Bruce challenged himself yet again when he designed “Toby’s Big Ball” — a pentagonal-shaped toy similar to a soccer ball. “The ball is half as big as Toby, but since it is so soft and light he can easily grab and carry it around. And he looks absolutely silly doing it.” Bruce added a small rope loop when closing the toy that he backstitched over several times to secure it. The rope makes it easier for Bruce to throw the ball and turns it into a pull toy also.

Not stopping at toys, Bruce has also made dog and cat beds from leftover fleece and fiberfill. “I am always looking to hone my skills and learn different sewing techniques.” Bruce shared that he plans on making a PVC-style elevated dog bed soon using the Sailrite video tutorial. Toby sounds like one lucky pup to be spoiled with all these handmade goodies!

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A cozy dog bed made from fleece and fiberfill.

What does Bruce do when he’s not busy with his sewing business or making toys for the newest member of the family? “When I am not working on hemming pants, shortening curtains, taking in dresses or letting out men’s pants that ‘must have shrunk in the dryer,’ I am putting my scrap material to good use.” With all the projects he’s done for customers and his own sewing, Bruce has amassed a large amount of scrap fabric. “Too much to throw away but too little to use on a major project,” as he put it. He sews eye pillows and sachets for his daughter’s farm store that she fills with organic herbs. He makes doll clothes for his granddaughter’s and great-nieces’ American Girl® dolls. “I volunteer at my granddaughter’s 2nd grade class and made Christmas presents for each of her classmates — wallets for the boys and wristlets for the girls.”

With no signs of slowing down in sight, Bruce will keep putting his sewing skills to great use. Whether he’s sewing canvas, hemming pants and tailoring clothes, or sewing more toys and dog beds for Toby, he’s doing it his own way and on his own schedule. Semiretirement isn’t slowing Bruce down one bit, and Toby is sure to keep him in stitches for a long time to come.