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!

fire hose dog toy

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.”

Laurie sewing on ultrafeed
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.”

toby collage
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.”

toby with frisbee
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!

toby bed
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.

Sewing for a Greener Future

Do you think about your carbon footprint? When you see trash or discarded items lying around, do you ever wonder if they could be turned into something useful again? Enoch Cincotta does. A self-starter and small business owner, he turns trash into treasure — literally. He takes discarded objects and trash from local businesses and uses the materials to create one-of-a-kind bags, wallets, backpacks, fanny packs and more. With the help of his Sailrite® Ultrafeed®, he’s doing his part to clean up his community and give a second life to the things we cast aside.

One Man’s Trash …

The idea to create usable items from trash came to Enoch when he was living in Miami Beach. At the time, he was making the occasional bag for friends and for himself. He was ordering his materials from suppliers and spending a lot of money in the process. Suddenly, everything clicked. “I realized that I wasn’t paying attention to how much waste was being generated by my artistic process — finding the material online, purchasing it, getting it in the mail two days later. It doesn’t make sense to me anymore.”

He was walking along the beach one day and noticed all the trash and discarded goods left behind. Things like inflatable pool toys and rafts, shade sail material and bicycle tubes were still in good condition but had been tossed aside. “Being a part of such a beautiful environment and noticing an immense quantity of trash left behind by the waves of tourists… I would find broken sun shades lying on the beach, the inconvenience of fixing them ultimately leading to them being discarded.” And so, an idea was born.

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In Miami Beach, Enoch had “regular” dumpsters that he would scavenge. He’d sort through the trash and find usable items for his budding business. The process was tedious and time-consuming. “It would be a process of finding materials, cleaning them, and transforming them into something new. I like the ritualistic nature of the process and taking my time to appreciate the material for what it is. They just need a little love and patience to be transformed.”

When he relocated to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, he found a more direct and cleaner way to obtain his sewing materials. Enoch initiated relationships with local businesses, making deals to procure the discarded materials before they made their way to the dumpster. This made the cleaning process much simpler and saved him a lot of time. He was also able to get a larger quantity of materials with the same amount of effort.

coffee bag collage
A collaboration with a local Harrisburg coffee shop produced these bags and wallets made from coffee bags, parachute webbing, bicycle inner tubes and convention center banners.

It’s in Harrisburg where his business really got off the ground and his business concept came to life. Enoch witnessed someone’s discarded plastic bag floating in the wind, and that’s how he came up with the name for his business: Reanimator Threadworks. He watched an otherwise lifeless object become transformed — reanimated if you will — into a moving, living thing. And that’s exactly what Enoch does. He takes lifeless, used up objects and reanimates them, giving them a second life and another purpose than what they were intended and created for. A torn sun shade becomes part of a backpack. An empty bag of coffee beans is transformed into a truly unique tote bag.

Sustainable Sewing Practices

Enoch learned to sew thanks to his mother’s teaching. A requirement of his homeschool curriculum, he started sewing as part of the home economics portion of his education. And now he’s taken that skill and turned it into not only a business but a way to do his part as an environmental advocate.

enoch sewing at market
Enoch uses the Monster II Balance Wheel to sew without electricity at farmers markets.

He sells his bags in local stores and hosts free sewing workshops at farmers markets. “The goal is to get out in the community and sew materials on the streets. The more people exposed to the power of sewing the more excited I get.” During the winter, when the farmers markets are closed, he collaborates with other environmental advocacy groups and hosts free sewing workshops for sewing panniers, bike bags, backpacks and more.

His bags are constructed using a wide variety of everyday materials. Everything from banners, inflatable rafts, bicycle inner tubes, parachute webbing, vinyl billboard material and more are transformed into “functional pieces of art,” as he calls them. It’s amazing the things you can sew with a little imagination and ingenuity. To sew through this wide range of materials, he needed a sewing machine that would be up to the challenge. And that’s where Sailrite came in.

sewing thick material
The Ultrafeed can handle layers of thick materials like these bicycle inner tubes, which make for a durable and water-resistant bag bottom.

“I learned about Sailrite while pouring through online forums for an industrial machine. I was intrigued by the Ultrafeed LSZ-1 and its modular nature — one machine for a bunch of different applications.” Another big asset of the Ultrafeed is its portability, which comes in handy when Enoch takes the machine — which he has affectionately dubbed “Ol’ Blue” — on the road for conventions. “I’m taking Ol’ Blue with me on a bicycle tour packed in her carrying case, but at home, she’s hooked up to the Workhorse™ Servo Motor and Industrial Table. That kind of functionality makes it ideal for the lifestyle I live.” Recently, Enoch acquired the Monster® II Balance Wheel so he could sew without electricity at conventions and workshops, furthering his green lifestyle and the machine’s versatility.

What are Enoch’s impressions of his Ultrafeed now that he has sewn everything from billboard vinyl to parachute webbing with it? Enoch had this to say about his machine: “So far I really love the reliability of the machine. It has taught me a lot about the mechanics of sewing. I’ve spent so much time reading the manual and feel really comfortable with how it’s designed to be repaired in the field. It’s built to last — I don’t see that too much anymore.”

enoch repairing ultrafeed
Enoch tuning his Ultrafeed LSZ-1 with the guidebook close at hand for reference.

Leading by Example

Enoch is mindful of his own carbon footprint and does what he can to live a green lifestyle. “I really work hard to be aware of my environmental footprint. I ride bikes and am active in the community as much as I can be. To be as effective as possible you have to live in the way that you want the world to be — not forcing your ideals onto others.”

Ultrafeed on bicycle
Hitting the road with his portable Ultrafeed and a makeshift work station!

Part of his mission is bringing awareness of living a more resourceful and self-reliant lifestyle through sewing. He donates 30% of profits from the sale of his bags to teaching free sewing workshops and educational programs in Harrisburg. “I was a camp counselor for six years and that got me really excited about youth education. I see an opportunity to educate individuals in my community about being self-sufficient.”

He also teaches repair classes where he promotes hands-on learning opportunities. People can learn how to repair textiles and gear instead of throwing them away and buying new products. “When we are empowered to make and repair, we stop being consumers. And we start using our brains!” Next year, Enoch plans on traveling to schools — biking his sewing machine and materials, of course — to facilitate educational workshops. “I’ll be teaching kids not only how to sew but how to get creative with trash.” Teaching the next generation how to be resourceful and environmentally responsible, “that’s the future, the big time.”

fanny pack collage
A truly one-of-a-kind fanny pack made from found objects.

“I like to think that when I interact with these materials I’m giving my energy to the object, transforming it into something that lives and breathes with a personality of its own. I see it as being more than just a transformation of an object, but also a transformation of an idea. By reanimating our garbage and repairing what is broken, we also reanimate our community — increasing self-sufficiency and resilience. That’s what I think is really important.”

Enoch’s drive and passion for upcycling is something all creatives can relate to. A big part of the DIY lifestyle is taking something and transforming it into something else. So, the next time you see trash on the side of the road or the next time you go to throw away an old sweater, an umbrella, a pair of ripped jeans, a pool toy, a beach ball … Stop and think, “Is there still a use for this item? What could this object become?” The possibilities are endless.

Taking DIY to New Heights

The possibilities of things you can make with a sewing machine are limitless! Sailrite customer Gregory Palmquist had a fleeting idea to sew his own kites after he was underwhelmed by the selection of mass-produced kite kits. This seed of an idea has grown into a bigger hobby that has led to more sewing projects, including patio furniture, beach bags, totes and more. With tools, supplies and how-tos from Sailrite, he’s been able to take his sewing skills to incredible heights!

It all started when Gregory was young. Like many kids, he grew up watching his mom sew on an old Singer sewing machine, and he would tinker around with it occasionally. Fast forward to junior high school and a woodshop class that was at full capacity. “Some of the boys, including myself, went to home economics class instead. We made stuffed dolphins for a project. Mine came out pretty good for a 12-year-old boy.” This early experience with sewing would pay off in a big way later in life.

Gregory has always been fascinated with aviation. As a boy, he made his own kites out of newspaper and sticks. A few years ago, he was given a used Kenmore machine and, on somewhat of a whim, he decided to try his hand at sewing kites. “I was at one of the big box home stores getting ideas on materials to put together a quickie box kite. I finally decided to go all in and do it right. I found plans online and just expanded the dimensions.”

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He makes his kites out of ripstop sailcloth and webbing. After several attempts on the Kenmore, he quickly realized his second-hand machine wasn’t up to the challenge. “Some of the nylon webbing reinforced areas are thick and the Kenmore just couldn’t handle it.” Next, he tried sewing on a Pfaff, but it still didn’t hold up to his kite-making demands.

Not wanting to give up his budding hobby, Gregory began the search for a better sewing machine that would be able to handle his needs. “I researched many machines when I came across the Sailrite® Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 Sewing Machine. Immediately I knew this was the machine for me. The portable size, the power and the price point were winners.”

After the Pfaff failed, he finally “drank the Kool-Aid®” as he put it and ordered an Ultrafeed LSZ-1. “How did I survive all these years without this machine?” He recently upgraded his Ultrafeed with the Workhorse™ Servo Motor in the Industrial Sewing Table. “For a 58-year-old guy who’s been in engineering, I appreciate the power and efficiency of the Workhorse Servo Motor coupled with the Ultrafeed and Industrial Table. Move over peanut butter and jelly because this is the perfect pairing ever!”

Gregory has sewn four large kites on his Ultrafeed. He started with a basic Eddy design and progressed to the complex Compound Cody, a modern double box design based on the original Cody War Kite designed and patented in 1901. His first kite, the Eddy, measured 6 feet tall x 6 feet wide. Gregory sews them during the wintertime, using the dining room table as a work station.

patio set

The new patio set Gregory sewed using his Ultrafeed LSZ-1.

Since his kite sewing was so successful, Gregory’s wife asked him if he could fix some things around the house. She put him to work replacing the tattered awning on their patio swing. “The 1″ Swing-Away Binder is a super tool! I used polyester thread throughout for UV resistance. Sailrite had everything I needed.” Next up was replacing the swing’s seating cushions and sewing a new barbecue grill cover for a matching and cohesive outdoor seating area.

“Having some leftover material, I threw together a bag for the missus. My wife is a nurse, and the girls at the hospital loved it! They were floored to hear that her husband made it.” This led Gregory to search for some of the Sailrite bag-making tutorials. He watched the “How to Make a Beach Bag” video and began making beach bags, totes and other bags. Gregory said watching Sailrite’s tote videos brought his sewing up to a professional level. “They’re a huge hit with the ladies. I couldn’t have come this far without Sailrite — thank you!”

tote bag collage
Gregory showing off some of the beach bags he’s made.

Although Gregory doesn’t get to fly his kites as much as he’d like, he can’t bear to part with them. “We’re in Rhode Island, and I never did have much time to take these big boys out to fly during the summer. I did consider selling them, but I don’t want to part with my labor of love. There will be time eventually.”

What does Gregory like best about sewing and the DIY experience? Not only is sewing a creative outlet for him, but it’s practical too. He’s been able to sew bags for his wife, spruce up their patio, sew his beloved kites — and who knows what other uses he’ll find for his Ultrafeed. “I’ve got so much inspiration and the creativity is just flowing out of me! This newfound medium has allowed me to express my artistic creativity. My creations are purposeful and give me satisfaction.”

The Art of Working With Leather

Few people start a business in their retirement, but that’s exactly what Sailrite® customer Varoujean Tilbian did. After a lifelong career in photography, graphic design and digital printing, he turned his creative eye toward leatherwork as a way to remember his father, a lifelong leather craftsman. In his retirement he’s busier than ever sewing handmade leather goods, running his own small business, and passing his family’s leather legacy onto his grandson. This is a story of family, fortitude and the power of perseverance.

A Family History of Leathercrafting

The art of leatherworking is ancient and storied. For Varoujean, leather’s significance is woven throughout his family history and played an important role in his upbringing. “I grew up under my father’s tutelage. From the age of 4 until I was 16, every day after school I went to his shop where he taught me everything I now know about leatherwork. Over time, I observed his dexterity and skill, but it never occurred to me that, someday, I would put those skills to use.” Originally from Armenia, both Varoujean’s father and grandfather had leathercrafting businesses. His grandfather had a small shoemaking shop in Western Armenia, which is today known as Turkey. 

Varoujean Tilbian
Varoujean Tilbian

Varoujean’s father, Avedis, eventually settled in Ethiopia where the family experienced both highs and lows but persevered through it all. At 27, Varoujean’s father started making leather shoes and established his own factory where he manufactured handmade shoes for men and women. When the Italian fascist regime infiltrated Ethiopia, the family fled to Somaliland. Once it was safe to return, Avedis opened a leather shoemaking factory where he specialized in high-end women’s footwear. 

When Varoujean was 10, his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. To cover the medical expenses, Avedis sold his business and all his assets. His wife recovered, but the family was completely bankrupt. Not one to give up, Avedis went to a flea market and bought an old, dilapidated English riding saddle. “He took it apart to study how it was made,” Varoujean recalled. “Since it did not require machinery and a big investment, he started making saddles and anything else you can imagine with leather.”

Although Varoujean chose a different career path than his father and grandfather, he remained a hardworking provider for his family. He got into photography at a young age thanks to his love of nature and animals. In Ethiopia, he worked for a printing company in the photo reproduction department to support his parents. Varoujean says his father was not upset that he didn’t follow in his footsteps. “My father and mother were the kind of people that let us choose our own path. My father always said, ‘Learn a skill or a craft. You will never be rich, but you will never be hungry.’”

Leather goods
Purses, wallets and other leather goods, and a look at Varoujean’s workshop.

Continuing a Legacy

Leathercrafting is more than a hobby or a way to keep busy post-retirement. For Varoujean, working with leather is the bridge that connects him to his father and his childhood. In fact, it seems as if he was always destined to be a leathercrafter — like it was stitched into his DNA. “As I work with leather in my workshop, I feel as if my father is next to me, watching my work and smiling. There are times when I am cutting leather, I look at my hands and fingers and realize they look just like his hands. After all these years, I am delighted to be reconnected with him at this age and period of my life”

His first leather project was to recreate a decades-old gun holster. His father-in-law was a naval aircraft carrier pilot during World War II, flying 28 missions in the Pacific theater. During his missions, he carried a military-issued 38 special pistol with a fitted gun holster. “On his 94th birthday, my wife and I went to celebrate with him. It was on this occasion that I found out how worn-out his beautiful gun holster had become. As I began to work on the holster, I was astonished how — after six decades — I remembered how to work with leather. I remembered the many meaningful hours I spent with my father in his shop.”

leather gun holster
The new gun holster that Varoujean made for his father-in-law’s WWII pistol.

The Search for the Perfect Sewing Machine

To sew beautiful leather goods with care and precision, Varoujean knew he would need a sewing machine that was up to the challenge. On a leatherworker’s online forum, he received advice from other leatherworkers who emphasized the need for a walking foot sewing machine. While on the hunt for the right one, he found the Sailrite website. “With the help of your videos and blogs, I was convinced that the Fabricator® was the right machine. Added to its great functionality, the price was perfect and less than other comparable ones.”

fabricator
Varoujean’s Fabricator set up in his leather workshop and ready for some sewing.

His Fabricator Sewing Machine has helped him reinforce the quality and beauty of his handmade leather goods. He uses the machine to sew everything from wallets and belts to tote bags, holsters and more. When asked what he enjoys most about working with leather, he had this to say: “What I love best is that from just a flat hide I create something of beauty, and that gives me great joy.” Varoujean has started teaching his grandson the art of leatherworking. He also goes to local elementary schools to introduce the students to the time-honored trade. 

Over a year and a half later, he’s still happy with his choice of sewing machine. “The Fabricator is an amazing machine. At first, when I had some issues, the calls I made were very helpful, which proved you stand behind your machine with service.” Recently, Varoujean started offering customizable tote bags where shoppers can select their own Sunbrella® fabric, purchased from Sailrite, and then choose their leather trim color and number of pockets.

sunbrella totes with leather trim
A selection of custom Sunbrella tote bags with leather trim.

 After three years on this path, he’s still enjoying his new pursuit and the memories it brings him. Varoujean named his business after his father as a way of honoring him and thanking him for teaching his young son the art of leathercrafting. “Avedis means ‘Good News’ in Armenian,” he explained. “It’s a name traditionally given to boys born on January 6, the day the Three Kings traveled to witness the birth of Jesus and receive the ‘good news.’” Varoujean will always carry a part of his father with him, whether through the leather he works with, the name of his business, or in the blood that runs through his veins. Remembering the past, finding solace and gratitude in the teachings of our fathers — that is good news, indeed.