Sewing for Entrepreneurs

Imagine getting to do what you love and getting to be your own boss. Does this sound like a dream come true? It’s not too far fetched of a concept when you have a creative vision and a can-do attitude. Theresa Harmon is a prime example of what talent and hard work can amount to. She was kind enough to share with us her sewing history and how she came to run her own small business using her Sailrite® Fabricator® Sewing Machine. 

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Together with her machine named Oz, Theresa is unstoppable!

For Theresa, sewing and crafting have been a passion since she could use crayons and paper. But sewing started in a 7th grade home economics class, and 48 years later, her creative drive has opened up more doors for her than she could have ever imagined. “In 2006, I bought my first embroidery machine. Upon returning to the store for new owner classes, I was solicited about a sewing job. There was a local woman restoring a historic carriage house in a bed and breakfast. She needed a seamstress and I needed to pay for my expensive machine! After successfully sewing window treatments, cushions, pillows and slipcovers for her, I decided to start my own shop called All the Trimmings. This was the first incarnation of my business, and so far I’ve sewn for interior designers, decorators and, of course, my own customers. The second incarnation of my shop started in 2018 and is still going strong today. ”

“My goal with sewing is to satisfy my creative, social and entrepreneurial needs while fabricating one-of-a-kind soft furnishings for a niche retail market. I’m a one-woman workroom! I make custom furnishings like pillows, seat cushions, curtains, drapes and more that aren’t available in the mass-retail market.”

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Custom pillows made for a happy customer.

Now you might be wondering where the Sailrite Fabricator comes into play in all this. Well, a small sewing business would be nothing without a trustworthy machine to build the business on. Theresa was more than willing to share how her journey intersected with the Sailrite mission to empower DIYers. “My reason for choosing Sailrite and the Fabricator was the customer service, hands down. At the time, I was shopping for machines and working as a sales associate for another sewing machine dealer who taught new owners how to use their machines. I quickly understood how important it was for customers to learn how to use their new sewing machines in order for them to feel satisfied with their purchase and be confident sewers.”

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Theresa crafted cushions for the adorable nook.

“The Fabricator had all the built-in features I wanted, like a built-in walking foot and the ability to go slow while still using full power. These features are critical for achieving meticulous upholstery detailing. Another plus is the access to all the free Sailrite videos and the promise of tech support via email and phone. Having my Fabricator (which I’ve named Oz) gives me a lot of confidence in my ability to turn out professional work!”

Theresa has made tons of incredible projects for clients with her industrial sewing machine, and both the results and the customers can attest to her talent. You might’ve even seen some of Theresa’s work featured on our Sailrite website or our Instagram page! So far she’s made things like vinyl banquette cushions, window seat cushions, pillows, breakfast nook seating and more! Theresa recalled one of her more daunting DIY projects, and one that she is most proud of —  a revamp of a mid-century papasan chair. A local interior designer reached out to her about the chair and she was able to tackle the project with a little ingenuity and elbow grease from the Fabricator.

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The real challenge —  a vintage papasan chair.

After speaking with Theresa, we had a few more questions about her DIY successes. Luckily, she had answers!

Q: What is it about the DIY sewing lifestyle that you enjoy the most?

A: I find the process of creating something that’s never existed before to be fascinating. To be able to get paid to do something I love and decide when I will work is an irresistible combination.

Q: Do you have any words of wisdom for someone thinking of starting to sew their own projects?

A: Don’t be afraid of failure. I believe all of us learn best through our mistakes. Perfectionism and comparison both squelch our creativity. Every person’s journey is unique; therefore, there are no absolutes to success other than trying your best while continuing to practice and try new things.

Q: What projects do you see yourself sewing in the future?

A: I’ve made a lot of purses in the past but never one from leather. Since I have some scraps and I know Oz (my Fabricator) will have no problem sewing through it, maybe a leather tote bag is in my future!

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Does the DIY lifestyle still sound like a pipe dream to you? Theresa’s story is proof that you can learn the tools of the trade and, with the right sewing machine and support, you, too, can sew projects for every area of your life. Who knows, you might even get good enough to be your own boss! Anything is possible when you embrace your inner creativity and put in the work. And Sailrite is here to help you every step of the way.

Sewing Upholstery With the Ultrafeed®

All DIYers, whether they’re a sewer, woodworker, crafter or other, have the same thing in common. They love the satisfaction they get from accomplishing a project on their own. Cory Springer is no different. She owns a small upholstery business in Virginia, and one of her favorite things about sewing is that she is always learning and improving. With the help of Sailrite® project videos and her Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine, she’s conquering the upholstery game and creating beautiful and unique furniture pieces.

Cory grew up watching her mother sew. “She was always sewing something — mostly curtains, but sometimes clothes too. As an adult, I started sewing when I wanted to make some clothes for my daughter’s American Girl dolls.” Her sister gave her an old, unused Janome sewing machine and she bought patterns and taught herself to sew.

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“I’ve gone from one end of the spectrum, making doll clothes, to the other, sewing upholstery!” Cory learns from what other people have made. She doesn’t consider herself to have creative vision. Therefore, she relies on pattern instructions and online videos to help her with her upholstery work, and that’s how she found Sailrite’s YouTube channel.

The first Sailrite video Cory watched and used for her upholstery work was the “How to Reupholster an Armchair” video. She used the techniques she learned in the video to upholster an armchair in an eye-catching white and navy polka dot fabric. “Ever since that time, I’ve looked to Sailrite first for tutorial videos and I direct anyone who asks to the Sailrite YouTube page!”

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Cory reupholstered this armchair with help from Sailrite’s free video tutorial. The results speak for themselves!

To get her small business off the ground, Cory needed a heavy-duty sewing machine that could handle her upholstery needs. Since Cory was already familiar with the Sailrite project videos, she saw how well the Ultrafeed Sewing Machine handled upholstery work and other materials. Choosing an Ultrafeed for her budding upholstery business was an easy decision. “Everything I could possibly want to ask about this sewing machine was answered on the Sailrite website. You guys have the best resources — clear, concise and easy to use. I felt absolutely comfortable and confident making this purchase.”

“If I want to learn to sew something, I always check Sailrite’s video library first. I fully trust your videos over anyone else’s because they are just so thorough!” Cory named her upholstery business Black Dog Furniture because of her love of Newfoundland dogs. She and her husband have two adorable Newfies: Cubby, an 8-year-old who is always close by “helping” while Cory sews, and Apple, a newly acquired puppy thanks to the recent quarantine.

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Cubby supervises as Cory works on a project using her Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine.

After four years of sewing with the Ultrafeed, Cory is still happy with the machine. “I love its durability and ease of use. I’m a newbie when it comes to sewing, and I’m probably really hard on the machine — but it can take it! I also love that Sailrite tells me exactly how I can perform routine maintenance on my machine.”

Cory doesn’t stop at upholstery work. She’s put her Ultrafeed to use over the years making everything from upholstery and cushions to pillow covers and window treatments. She recently used the Sailrite face mask tutorial to sew protective masks for herself and her family. What’s next on her list of new projects to tackle? “I’m sewing a new patio umbrella (my Newfoundland puppy chewed a hole in mine) and I’m making some outdoor sun shades for my daughter’s porch.”

In addition to sewing, Cory is also a skilled woodworker. She incorporates her woodworking talents into her upholstery work, but she also makes standalone wood pieces as well. Her first big woodworking project was a farmhouse trestle table she built for her daughter’s new house. “Also, I recently started learning to hand letter in a modern calligraphy style. That has been fun and also a very therapeutic activity.”

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Cory built this stunning farmhouse trestle table for her daughter.

Creativity runs in the family. “I have three older sisters. Two of them are also avid sewers and the other is a big redecorator. We all look forward to the arrival of the Sailrite catalog when it comes out each year. It’s like getting the old Sears Christmas catalog when we were kids. We’d scour every page of the toy section just like how we now scour every page of the Sailrite home catalog!”

We’re thrilled Cory is loving her Ultrafeed Sewing Machine. With patience, practice and the right resources, your sewing potential is limited only by your imagination! Good luck on your next project, Cory! Sailrite will be here to help with anything you need!

Jan West: A Seasoned Sewist

With a little help from Sailrite® and the Ultrafeed® Sewing Machine, Jan West felt like she could tackle just about any project. As an experienced sewist, she was no stranger to the world of DIY projects, and she was kind enough to share with us her most recent sewing successes. She is proof that there’s always a plethora of creative projects to create if you have just a little time, patience and determination.

Q: What’s your story? How’d you start sewing?

A: I started sewing when I was a young girl, probably 8 or 9 years old. Both of my grandmothers had a big impact on my love for sewing and crafting. I spent a lot of time with both of them, and they taught me to hand sew and allowed me to sew on their machines or work on crafts. As I grew older, my career and family didn’t allow me much time to sew, but recently, I’ve had free time again and gained inspiration to sew and work on different craft projects.

Q: What’s your most recent sewing accomplishment?

A: A few weeks ago, I decided to order fabric to re-cover my patio chair cushions. I had re-covered some a few years earlier and knew that I could tackle the job, but I wanted to refresh my memory by watching some YouTube videos. While watching these, I ran across the Sailrite video instructions on how to reupholster golf cart seats. The video was so easy to follow and understand and, knowing that I had sons that needed their seats reupholstered, I was convinced that I could do this. 

I immediately started to search Sailrite’s website for the vinyl fabric that I would need. I was concerned that I didn’t have a walking foot upholstery sewing machine like Sailrite showed in their videos, but I did have an older metal machine with a walking foot. With the Sailrite video at my disposal, I was able to sew the vinyl on my old machine and the golf cart seats turned out very well. 

At the same time, I knew that my stitching was not as perfect as it could have been due to having to coax the fabric through at times. Soon I realized that if I was going to continue these kinds of projects, I would need a Sailrite machine. It would take my next projects from looking good to looking great! Plus it would make the project so much easier to sew. By this time, I had already watched almost all of Sailrite’s videos and had convinced myself that I could re-cover an armchair, a bimini and much more.

I actually looked at different machines online, but after reading reviews, I always came back to the Sailrite website. I purchased the Ultrafeed LSZ-1 BASIC and am currently sewing new covers for some wicker patio furniture. If you’re accustomed to a regular home sewing machine, it might take a little getting used to the walking foot on the Ultrafeed, but I have been very pleased with it so far. No more coaxing the fabric through the machine and no more inconsistent stitches! I can’t wait to reupholster the next golf cart seat. I have my Morbern® vinyl from Sailrite ready and waiting!

Jan West

Q: Can you tell me a little bit more about your golf cart project?

A: My golf cart seat project went right along with your how-to video series. Luckily, the seats on my golf cart were exactly like the ones that you upholstered in your video. I started by removing the seat backs. I measured the lengths, widths and edges of them and also marked where I wanted the coordinating fabric to be centered on the backs. I used these measurements, along with the seat cushion measurements, to diagram out on paper how I would lay the pattern pieces out on 54-inch wide vinyl fabric. Then I decided how much fabric I would need to order from Sailrite.

I added a 1/2-inch seam allowance to all the measurements except the boxing pieces, marking the end boxing pieces as described in the video. Then I removed the staples holding the existing vinyl on and cut out the end boxing piece to be used as my pattern. With measurements from the plywood backing, I cut out the vinyl pieces for the front of the back cushion, including the coordinating fabric and allowed about 3 inches in length on each piece to wrap around and staple to the plywood back. I sewed the fabric strips together with a 1/2-inch seam and top stitched a flat-felled seam. I then stitched the boxing to each end and top stitched again, by watching your exceptional video. 

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My husband helped me by replacing the rusted tee nuts in the plywood and I used contact cement to reattach the foam to the plywood. I had purchased a pneumatic staple gun and my husband helped me to staple the vinyl to the plywood seat backs. I’m not very strong in my hands, so having someone to help you staple and stretch the vinyl is great. We attached the newly covered back cushions to the golf cart and transferred where I wanted the coordinating fabric to match up on the seat bottom and marked the old vinyl with a sharpie marker. I basically did the same process with the seat cushion as with the backs. 

Overall, I enjoyed my experience with this project. It was much easier than I expected because of your instructional video tutorials that I kept referring to. The biggest setback was having to cut off the old screws and replace the tee nuts without damaging the plywood. Even though I used fabric from Sailrite, at this time I didn’t have my Ultrafeed and I really wish I did. It would’ve turned out much better.

Q: In your opinion, what’s the most rewarding part about sewing your own DIY projects?

A: I think that the most rewarding part of sewing my own projects is the self-satisfaction of knowing that you can accomplish something that you’ve never done before, along with saving the money that you would have paid someone else to do it for you. And I can use my talent to help save my family money too!

Now that I have the Sailrite machine, I am already using it to sew some new patio cushions. I am thrilled with it, and I can’t wait to finish this project and use the machine on the next golf cart seat waiting in the wings. I even have plans to re-cover an armchair when I decide on the fabric I want. I’ve been so inspired by your video tutorials and I truly believe: “I can do that!”  

Please keep the videos coming!

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Sewing a Labor of Love

Kathy Roberson is no stranger to the sewing world. She’s been sewing as a labor of love for members of her family for years. But when her granddaughter wanted a complete revamp of her bedroom, she knew she would need a well-equipped sewing machine to get the job done. After some research and coaxing from her husband, Kathy embarked on her DIY journey with a little help from Sailrite®. And she’s here to share her heartwarming story with us!

Q. What’s your history like with sewing?

For years I dreamt of having an industrial sewing machine. In my young adult life, I worked at three different sewing factories and knew what they were capable of. When I was 40, my husband and I refurbished a 1978 Toyota Corolla for our then 16-year-old daughter’s first car. We borrowed a portable industrial machine from a friend to sew the covers for the seats. 

From that time on I searched for a machine that would compare to it. (Wish we had the internet then!) I found a few cast-off factory machines, but there was always something to keep me from buying one. I’ve had a couple of well-known machines that worked on regular home materials fairly well. But they struggled to sew pillows, curtains and light upholstery projects. They would also break multiple needles with each project. 

My very expensive computer machine quit a couple of years ago and for a few months, I didn’t have a machine for the first time in my life. I finally bought a $100.00 machine to do simple mending jobs with. I have two sergers also that I enjoy and thought I would be fine with them. 

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Some of Kathy’s sewing work.

Q. What led you to choose Sailrite?

Our granddaughter wanted her room updated because it was a little girl room and she is now a college student. We could have hired someone else to make the Roman Shades, but she wanted Gran to make them. So here I sat with yards of material and a sewing machine. I wondered whether the machine would make it through the simplest seams that the curtains would require. 

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon the Sailrite website. I was so mesmerized with the videos and products I found! I read tons of testimonies from people who were so happy with their machines. My dilemma was this: I will be 75 years old soon and my husband is 79, and I am wanting a new sewing machine! When I approached the subject of the machine, his response was, “YOU WANT WHAT?” I said, “It is a wonderful machine but if you are not on board with me getting it, I understand.” I didn’t cry and beg him to understand, but I wanted to!

I could not quit watching the videos on the Sailrite website. Like I said before, the videos just mesmerized me! I guess he caught me watching the videos one too many times because one day all of a sudden he came into my computer room and said, “Kathy if you want that machine, just order it!” I excitedly asked, “Are you sure?” You see, in our 55 years of marriage, we never buy anything that costs over a couple of hundred dollars without being in agreement. He answered, “Yes, you have wanted a machine like that for a long time.”  Happy is a calm word for the excitement I was feeling when I ordered my Sailrite® Ultrafeed® LSZ-1!

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Kathy’s custom Ultrafeed table sewing space!

That very day I ordered the machine and two days later it was here. When the delivery truck pulled into the drive, I hurried out to meet the driver, which happened to be a lady. She opened the back doors of the vehicle and pulled out the first box and then the second and as she was helping us get them out, she said, “You are going to love this machine! I have one just like it and I love mine.” I asked her what type of things she sewed on hers and she replied, “Everything!  After a week of working, when the weekends come, I am sewing. I love it! It will sew anything. I sew for myself and my grandchildren! I just love it! I am here to tell you that you will not be sorry for buying this machine!” She sure eased any qualms that I could have had in buying the machine!

Q. What was your experience like using the Ultrafeed for your project?

We had no problem putting the machine together. I put the Monster® II Balance Wheel on it but thought that the handle was supposed to stay on the balance wheel. When I began using the machine, it shook more than I thought it should. I had watched the videos and thought I knew everything! My husband told me that the handle might be causing the machine to shake, but I wouldn’t listen to him. I contacted the website and they wanted me to film a video while sewing to see the shaking. I did that and then they told me that the handle was not supposed to be left on the balance wheel while sewing. It was only for sewing when you were sewing manually! Uh-oh! But how nice to have my problem solved so quickly. The Sailrite customer service could not have been any nicer to me. I took the handle off and have not had any problem with it shaking. Just injured my pride a little!

Sewing the Roman Shades and pillows on my Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 was like cutting soft butter with a sharp knife. I never broke one single needle! It went over the thickest parts with no effort at all and made the project so much fun to sew. I have made curtains with welting the bottom before, but I’ve never ever enjoyed it like I did when I made these curtains. I watched the Sailrite videos for making welting and it was so easy with the LSZ-1. I didn’t have any issues or broken needles like I’ve had with the other machines in the past. I love it!

The way the Ultrafeed LSZ-1 feeds the material to keep both top and bottom even is wonderful. The larger window shade had to have a seam in it. I had cut the material so that the pattern would match when seamed. My experience in the past is, no matter how close you cut to get the pattern right, the real test comes with how the machine feeds the material. 

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In the picture where I am pointing to the seam, you can see that the Ultrafeed LSZ-1 fed the material really well. I was so pleased after I got the seam finished and opened it up and the pattern was perfect! Unless you are close to the shade, as I am in the picture, you cannot tell where the seam is!  That seam was only sewn once. I was amazed because in the past I have had to rework things multiple times until I got it right. 

Q. What’s next for you in the sewing world?

My husband took a folding table we had and cut a hole in it and made a box so that the Ultrafeed LSZ-1 would set down in it. That way I have a larger table area and if I need the machine to be portable it will just lift out. I made the skirt at the end of the table and the pockets at the front so that my notions would be handy as I need them. Under the table, I can store other sewing notions, thread, material, etc. Now when I need to sew, all my “stuff” is in one place! I LOVE IT!

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Kathy’s granddaughter loved her new and improved room.

I haven’t decided what project I will try next, but I am confident that whatever it is, I have the machine that will sew it! I love my Sailrite LSZ-1 machine.

Five-Star Sewing With Steve Bugg

While the term “do-it-yourself” is often associated with creativity, there’s another important aspect to the DIY culture: the ability to be both resourceful and self-sufficient. When Steve Bugg was laid off from his job in 2016, he decided to take matters into his own hands and embark on a career journey that involved learning new tricks and the Ultrafeed® LS-1. This is a story of ingenuity and hard work — one that proves that it’s never too late to learn a new trade and explore the world outside of your comfort zone.

The beginning of Steve’s story starts with the end. “I was a land manager for a small oil and gas exploration company. I’d been with the company for 20 years. In 2016, the company went under and everyone was let go. … It was then that I realized if I could bust my butt for someone else’s company, I certainly could work even harder for myself. I found a franchise that repaired and restored leather, plastic and vinyl.”

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Steve’s diverse customer base can be found almost anywhere — land, air and sea.

While this type of business was an entirely new realm of his career experience, Steve realized that the business was unique in that it fulfilled a common need but had little competition. The market for repair was everywhere, as leather, plastic and vinyl are found in nearly every industry. You’ll find these materials in automobiles, boats, furniture, restaurants, medical offices, hospitals, planes and more. The job involved redying, cleaning, conditioning and repairing various types of leather, plastic and vinyl.

After purchasing the franchise, Steve found he was often renovating restaurant seating, but kept running into the same problems again and again. “I was doing a lot of restaurant work but was spending a lot of money hiring other people to sew for me so I could go out and re-cover the restaurant booths. These guys were making a lot of money off me. … That’s when I decided that I needed to learn how to sew. I was missing out on way too much money.”

After doing extensive research on a number of different sewing machine brands, there were a few contenders in mind. But once Steve stumbled upon the Sailrite website, that all changed. “I was taken in by all the videos, all the support products that just fit right into what I was doing, what I wanted to learn how to do, and other supplies I didn’t know I needed until I saw them on the website.” While Steve initially was fond of the Fabricator®, the need for portability was at the forefront of his budding business, as some sewing jobs would have to be done on-site. That led him to the Ultrafeed LS-1. With its straight stitch capability, the LS-1 is portable and powerful enough to tackle the heavy materials encountered on the job.

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Steve getting the hang of his new Ultrafeed LS-1.

After purchasing his new machine, the next step was for Steve to learn how to sew. While the Ultrafeed glided through the heavy vinyl material he was sewing, it was a more difficult material for a novice sewist to learn the tools of the trade. He’d never sewn before and the challenge seemed daunting at first. In situations like this, Steve’s perseverance and “can-do” attitude made all the difference, and Sailrite’s instructional videos helped too.

“I was struggling with the whole concept, but I kept moving forward and watched a ton of videos. Then I saw a video on how to sew piping. I knew I could do that. Plus, the standard foot on the Ultrafeed has a groove that guides piping. After I learned how to make the piping, it hit me that I was going to get better.” Steve continued to watch videos and began trying out his new skills on a few restaurant booths. After making adjustment after adjustment to his sewing technique, he finally managed to become proficient in the trade. Now he can visit the job site in need of repairs, take measurements and patterns, and have the repairs sewn by the next day. And the best part is he can save money that he had previously spent outsourcing his sewing jobs.

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Steve continued to work arduously sewing and repairing materials for numerous clientele. But one day he noticed the machine wasn’t feeding the vinyl like it normally did. Being in the middle of a huge project for a restaurant, he frantically contacted Matt Borden from Sailrite customer support. Living in Texas, Steve couldn’t make it to the Sailrite facility in Indiana, but that wasn’t an issue — a simple phone call cleared everything up.

“Matt was cool, calm and collected while I was in a panic. He was extremely patient with me and guided me through the process of finding the problem and the solution. He couldn’t have been nicer and more helpful. … Before too long I was back up and sewing. I got the job done and the restaurant was thrilled. Matt Borden is my hero!”

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Matt Borden works closely with Sailrite customers for stress-free machine repairs.

From amateur to accomplished professional, Steve Bugg has been through life’s ups and downs and made it out on top. With his Ultrafeed LS-1 and determination, anything is possible. On top of the numerous restaurant booths, he’s sewn a few boat cushions, medical examination tables and cushions for mobility scooters. While Steve’s future may not always be certain, it is always bright, and he looks forward to helping his next customer.

“I’m not great, but I’m getting better all the time. It’s rewarding to hear my customers say how wonderful everything turns out. I have 100% five-star reviews to date and I don’t want that to change. I love learning. And the more I learn, the more new tools and supplies I need, and Sailrite has almost everything!”

The DIY Life: One Man’s Creative Story

When amateur woodworker and DIY enthusiast Bruce Steinert realized his La-Z-Boy® recliners were looking a bit worse for wear, he set out to have them reupholstered. To his shock and disbelief, the lowest quote from an upholstery shop cost almost as much as the original purchase price of the recliners. Being a handyman with a “can do” spirit, he began researching ways he could reupholster the recliners himself. Along the way, he learned a lot about sewing, the upholstery process, and what it takes to tackle a new hobby. He’s shared his story with us.

Over the years, Bruce had completed many woodworking projects, both big and small. He built a workbench and router stand for his workshop as well as smaller home projects and repairs. Two of his most complex and impressive woodworking jobs were for a local church. He built a 12- by 16-foot, 4-foot-high stage that disassembled into 4- by 8-foot sections for storage. He also constructed a 5-foot-diameter oak pulley wheel to restore function to the church’s bell. Other projects, including electrical work, plumbing and window sash replacements, added to his skill set.

Bruce credits his woodworking and other crafting experience for his seamless transition into sewing and upholstery work. Having previous DIY projects under his belt also gave him the confidence to tackle a new hobby. “For most DIY projects, I find there is a stage in the project when you can’t go back and your only choice is to forge ahead to completion. It’s a great confidence builder. Online videos are a great learning tool.”

Prior to his La-Z-Boy upholstery project, Bruce had done some basic sewing. He sewed curtains, baby clothes, and had made clothing repairs. At an estate auction, Bruce and his wife purchased a Morris chair (an early 20th-century version of a recliner) at a great price because it had no cushions. They tried to make do with a purchased cushion, but it wasn’t ideal. The chair was such a great find that they didn’t want to settle for a mediocre store-bought cushion.

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The store-bought lounge chair cushion (left) is no comparison to Bruce’s well-fitting, custom-made cushions (right).

So, Bruce set out to sew a custom-made cushion for the Morris chair. While researching how to sew a cushion, he came across Sailrite’s inventory of how-to videos. By watching the Sailrite marine cushion video and applying his pragmatic approach to learning new skills, he was able to create a great looking chair cushion. It was this successful project that convinced Bruce he could handle the recliners. “Making new cushions let me practice with a larger project that needed the fabric pattern to match, new foam and zipper plaques. That gave me the confidence to tackle the recliners.”

In preparation for reupholstering the recliners, Bruce knew he’d need a better sewing machine. His old machine couldn’t handle more than two or three layers of fabric. He needed a sewing machine with more power and slow speed control that could handle thick fabric assemblies. When working on his Morris chair cushion, Bruce had watched many of Sailrite’s free project videos featuring the Ultrafeed. Watching the Ultrafeed handle the various sewing applications in the videos is what sold Bruce on the machine.

With his new Ultrafeed LSZ-1 at the ready, he again turned to Sailrite’s project videos. He watched the “How to Reupholster a Recliner Chair” video and followed it step by step. “The patterning techniques were all applicable. My process mirrored Cindy’s process in the video.” He made sure to take careful notes during the recliner disassembly process as he knew this would help him smoothly reassemble all the pieces. “When you are about to start removing the fabric, think through how the pieces were probably assembled at the factory since you will want to remove them in reverse order. There were 47 pieces for each of our chairs. Start to finish I completed both chairs in about four weeks but did not work nonstop.”

Not only did Bruce follow Sailrite’s recliner upholstery video, but he also watched the accompanying “How to Make an Upholstery Work Table” video so that he’d have a nice, elevated workstation on which to reupholster his recliners. With his woodworking know-how in his back pocket, Bruce took the Sailrite work table design and improved it by making his table collapsible for convenient storage in his workroom.

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Bruce’s collapsible work table. He stores the legs, fabric and hardware pieces inside the table so everything stays together.

“I highly recommend building the stand if you don’t have a suitable work surface,” Bruce advised. “My workshop is fairly small and storing the stand was going to take up a lot of space. It needed it to be compact, yet easily reassembled.” Bruce modified his work table to make the legs detachable. The legs, trunk liner fabric and a bag of various hardware pieces are stored inside the collapsed table. The top and bottom of the table latch together for a secure hold. “From the original 9 square feet of floor space occupied, it’s now less than 3 feet.”

Now that Bruce has successfully reupholstered his recliners with his new Ultrafeed, he’s also used the machine to repair a tear in his computer bag. He used Sailrite’s video on how to repair a tear in a sail and adapted the technique. On the same bag, he replaced the worn out faux leather handle with real leather, also using his Ultrafeed. “It is a very well made product and simple to operate. It makes sewing truly a joy.”

One thing he learned along the way during his sewing DIY was to take it one step at a time. “Don’t let the scale of a project dissuade you from giving it a try. Reupholstering a chair is just a lot of little projects done in a sequence. Tackling these projects not only gives a great sense of accomplishment but is also a wonderful stress reliever. Put down the phone, turn off the TV and get started.”

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Bruce enjoying the results of his hard work!

What’s next for Bruce? He doesn’t have any future sewing projects planned, but as he put it, “one never knows what might happen along. Long term, I have a desire to restore classic cars in my retirement. I’m sure there will be opportunities to upholster and make door panels for those. Who can say, maybe there is a second career out there for me.”

A Mother & Son DIY Duo

It all started with an idea. Kitty Ellis’ son, Jeff Scheule, was renovating an old farmhouse and preparing for his soon-to-be wedding when he came to his mother with an idea. A big idea. What follows is the story of that idea and what would become a DIY bonding experience for mother and son.

Years earlier, Jeff had seen a giant ceiling fan that resembled fishing rods with fabric as the blades. He was awed and fascinated by this unique creation. He’d never seen anything like it. Kitty recalled her son marveling at the design: “It was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, Mom! I bet we could make one of these!”

Time passed and Jeff moved on to other things, but that fishing rod fan was always there in the back of his mind, lying in wait. Fast forward to 2018 when Jeff is renovating his farmhouse. Suddenly, the big idea reemerged. One of the rooms in his farmhouse was very large with an 18-foot vaulted ceiling, and Jeff knew exactly how to fill that space.

So, right before Christmas 2018, Kitty received a call from her son. “Mom, when you come to Atlanta for Christmas, can you bring your sewing machine?” When she asked why, Jeff told her they were finally going to build the fan. Kitty loaded up her conveniently portable Sailrite® Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 and drove up from Florida to help her son construct his dream DIY.

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A variety of totes Kitty has made. The ones on the left and top right she upcycled from used sailcloth and sail numbers.

“Jeff is very creative and is one of those people who makes things happen,” Kitty stated. “I had no doubt that Jeff would and could fabricate this thing.” He rebuilds and sells boats as the owner of Atomic Marine and Machine in Buford, Georgia, and his craftsman skills don’t end there. “He can tear down and rebuild a diesel or gas engine, rebuild any kind of car, engineer parts necessary for a project, and build additions to houses … he truly is an inspiration,” she proudly explained. So she knew a custom-built, giant ceiling fan would be no trouble for her handy son.

Kitty owns Halyards, a custom marine sewing business in Jensen Beach, Florida. She sews boat cushions, T-tops, repairs sails and the like. She learned to sew when she was 17 and hasn’t stopped since. Kitty is the sailor in the family while Jeff prefers powerboats. “I am the sailor who likes to let the wind take me to wonderful places,” she recalled. “Jeff needs to get where he’s going — fast!”

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Kitty and her great-nephew, Olly Bell, at the helm of friend Barry Stedman’s Catalina Morgan 504 named IMAGINE.
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Kitty in her shop in Florida. She owns three Sailrite sewing machines, including the industrial, straight-stitch Fabricator®.

At Jeff’s farmhouse, mother and son sat down together to plan out how they would build the fan. Kitty had brought her Ultrafeed and the Dacron sailcloth, basting tape, marking pens and other sundries she’d ordered from Sailrite. Jeff had already purchased five fishing rods and a fan motor. “Attaching the rods to the fan motor needed Jeff’s good concept and innovation for the mounting system,” explained Kitty. “He had already worked on that, so all we had to do was figure out the ‘bend’ radius for the fishing rods and how to fit the sailcloth to the rods.”

This part took some trial and error. They cut the sailcloth to the length of the rods and then added holes in the cloth to match up with the eyes on the fishing rods. They fit the fabric to the holes and figured out fabric dimensions. Unfortunately, their first fan “sail” blade did not turn out, and they had to trash the materials and start over. That first sail had taken hours to build, and the team was spent. They called it a night.

The next day, with fresh eyes and full of energy, they tackled the project again. They were able to correctly build all five fan blades and, best of all, they looked great. Jeff hung the ceiling fan with excitement and enthusiasm. He’d finally built his fan. “We were looking up at our creation with total awe and amazement,” Kitty recounted. “It was high fives all around! A fan 13-1/2 feet in diameter with five beautiful sail blades — what a glorious sight to behold. We had done it!”

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Jeff mounting the 13-1/2-foot fan constructed from fishing rods and sailcloth.

They were so proud of their accomplishment and ingenuity in creating this one-of-a-kind DIY masterpiece. Until that is, one of the grandkids asked them to turn the fan on so they could see the blades spin. “Jeff flipped the switch and the blades started turning, caught the air, and the ‘sails’ swelled up like huge, puffy marshmallows!”

Only slightly discouraged, they took the fan down, disassembled the entire thing, and sewed the eye holes in the sailcloth almost completely closed. That did the trick. Jeff reassembled the fan, remounted it to the ceiling, and the blades spun without the sailcloth billowing out as if the fan were about to set sail.

All in all, it was a great time and a fun way for a mother and son to bond over their shared love of DIY and working with their hands. With Jeff’s mechanical and engineering background and Kitty’s sewing skills, they were the perfect dynamic duo to tackle this project. “The sheer amount of pleasure one gets when doing a project like this is mind-boggling. Projects themselves are not hard, but there is always a learning curve. Just like when we threw away that first sail. It had to be done. The materials were not expensive, but the satisfaction of achieving a goal is priceless.”

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Jeff and Kitty posing proudly with their one-of-a-kind creation. What a team!

Sewing Like A Pro: Carol Gearheart’s Story

Sewing is a unique skill with the potential to take on any number of roles in one’s life. It can be practical, artistic, an occasional hobby or even a full-time profession. For Sailrite® customer Carol Gearheart, sewing has become much more than just a means to an end. It’s become a profession that has opened up a number of doors in the DIY universe … with surprising results!

Carol and her husband own and operate an embroidery business from their home, so creating fantastic projects is nothing short of commonplace for her. Through years of business operation, she’s become acquainted with a diverse array of people or groups who are in need of her sewing skills. One of these is the equestrian community around her home in Arlington, Washington. It all started when one customer needed a unique logo embroidered on her horse blankets and sheets. She was so pleased with the results that she spread the word of Carol’s great work to her friends and fellow horse owners.

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A custom banner sewn for a horse owner.

“Our customer base grew rapidly! I can’t tell you how many blankets, sheets, stall bags and halter bags we’ve embroidered. Then they started asking, ‘Can you repair this stall bag, can you fix this banner, can you make us some curtains and table covers?’ And that’s where the Sailrite® Fabricator® Sewing Machine comes in.”

In the past, Carol had sewn several smaller projects using her household Bernina sewing machine but she found it couldn’t handle big assemblies very well. With a growing demand for a variety of sewing projects, Carol realized she was in need of a dependable industrial sewing machine. And it was especially important to have one that had the performance capabilities to tackle any project she might be tasked with completing for a customer. During her search for a new machine, she discovered a company called Sailrite.

“I had bought a very old Pfaff industrial machine, but it didn’t have a variable speed motor and it didn’t work very well. I was lucky I didn’t get hurt while using it! I did a lot of research online and contacted Tanner Grant at Sailrite. He was very helpful and aided me in choosing which machine would work best based on the type of projects I wanted to do. I selected the Fabricator and love that I can take one stitch at a time if I want to.”

Fabricator in tow, Carol completed one of her largest projects for a horse show client. She made an 8 x 8-foot curtain out of Cordura with a 96-inch zipper that zipped to a 5 x 5-foot door panel that also had a 96-inch zipper down the center for the opening. To get the zippers and zipper stops just right, Carol had help from her friend, a seamstress at the boat manufacturing plant where they had worked for over 20 years.

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Carol’s finished curtain design.

The process of sewing the curtain was challenging, but Carol persevered. She had to reverse engineer the client’s existing curtains and figure out the zippers they wanted instead of using the Velcro® that connected the panels on the other curtains she’d received from them. After a few days of watching Sailrite how-to videos on zipper installations, she finally felt as though she had the confidence to master her project. She went on to explain, “There is no way I could have done it without the videos and tutorials. I watched them over and over again until I got it right.”

Carol has continued to watch numerous Sailrite how-to videos to further expand on her sewing skills and to try out some fun new projects. “The videos helped me to improve my pillow-making skills and I learned how to make a box cushion for the front of my fireplace ledge. I plan to create many other projects. There is much more to learn!”

For now, Carol has been hard at work sewing a wide variety of projects for the folks in her community and receives new requests for work all the time (as seen above). She’s been using the stitch-by-stitch power of the Fabricator to sew embroidered patches on bulky police uniforms, biker jackets and even sailor’s hats. “I put on the zipper foot to give me better visibility for sewing close to the edge of the patch and to better follow its unique contours. I absolutely love the variable speed because I can sew one stitch at a time to maneuver around the contour of the patches.”

Carol’s DIY journey has grown tremendously and allowed her to connect with various members of her community, from her embroidery work to tackling new and exciting sewing projects with her Fabricator. She has opened up her horizons to the diverse world of handcrafted projects and the opportunities are as endless as her imagination.