Welcome to Sailrite’s "Meet Our Customers” page where we feature fascinating interviews and interest pieces submitted by our customers. This page enables us to spotlight our loyal and creative customers and tell their stories. From tales of complete canvas refits to testimonials about how Sailrite products and services have greatly enhanced and improved their DIY lifestyles, these stories are sure to inspire you as much as they inspire us.
David Thiesmeyer isn’t new to the DIY world. He tackled his first big sewing project — a mainsail cover for his sailboat — well over 10 years ago. He considers himself a “DIY type of person” and takes pride in sewing great projects. His most unique creation was not sailing-related and happened during the first year of the pandemic.
With Sailrite® fabric, supplies and his Ultrafeed® LSZ-1, David designed, sewed and installed a patio enclosure that connected to the underside of his daughter’s elevated deck. With a well-made enclosure, she was able to use her patio into the fall and winter and have friends over for ventilated, socially distanced hangouts. Let’s learn more about David’s DIY background and how he transformed his daughter’s patio into a year-round entertaining hot spot.
Sewing, Sailing & Sailrite
In 2008, David bought his first sailboat. The MacGregor Venture 21 was over 30 years old and in major need of sail repair and new sail covers. David has always been the DIY type, so he decided to tackle the sail cover repairs himself. “I bought a mainsail cover kit from Sailrite. I reviewed the very well-done video instructions and sewed it on my wife’s home machine.”
It’s after that mainsail cover project that David realized he needed a heavy-duty machine. “I had overloaded my wife’s sewing machine and thought I’d ruined it. Luckily, I had just knocked it out of adjustment and was able to fix it. That is when I decided to get a real sewing machine and bought the Ultrafeed LSZ-1.”
Over the years, David has sewn many projects for his sailboat. He’s made a new mainsail from a Sailrite Sail Kit, a genoa sail bag, cushion covers, lifeline covers, winch covers, sail bags and more. He credits his Ultrafeed with his productivity and quality results: “I like the Ultrafeed because I have never found a job that it could not complete. I added the Workhorse® Servo Motor and Ultrafeed Industrial Table and have never been happier. This upgrade really added to my sewing enjoyment and quality of my finished projects.”
The COVID “Quaran-Tiki” Project
At the height of social distancing, when year-round outdoor entertaining spiked in 2020, David’s daughter asked him to make an enclosure with ventilation that would attach to the underside of her elevated deck. She had built a tiki bar from pallet wood and wanted to extend the use of her patio during the fall and winter seasons. David eagerly accepted the project request. “I was excited to do a new sewing project as sailing season had just ended. I decided that it should be removable and made use of the Sailrite awning track around the bottom of the upper deck and along the walls of the house.”
To sew the enclosure, he ordered Sunbrella® Marine Grade fabric, 30 gauge Plastipane window material, aluminum awning track and awning rope, YKK zippers and Shelter-Rite fabric — all from Sailrite. The Quaran-Tiki was David’s second enclosure project. He used the skills he learned while designing and sewing his first enclosure — an attachment for a travel trailer to keep mosquitoes at bay while enjoying the attached deck — to help make the enclosure.
And what did David’s daughter think of the Quaran-Tiki? “Sara was elated with how the project turned out, as were all her friends and neighbors who are always coming over to enjoy Quaran-Tiki. I am very satisfied with how it turned out.” The side panels roll up to let a breeze through in the summer, and Sara equipped the patio with two propane heaters for the colder months.
After well over a year, the enclosure is still in great shape and getting plenty of use. As for David, he’s still enjoying his Ultrafeed as much as the first day he purchased it. “Most of my sewing projects have been boat-related, although I have been known to repair anything made of canvas or in need of a heavy-duty sewing machine.”
We’re thrilled David has enjoyed his Ultrafeed for over 10 years now and that Sailrite could be part of his creative journey. Good luck with all of your future projects, David. Here’s to more sewing, sailing and DIY adventures.
What is EDC? It stands for “everyday carry” and it represents a lifestyle of utility and preparedness. EDC items consist of pouches, bags or backpacks containing everyday essentials. A person’s EDC kit is very personal, containing items they think are essential to their daily life. Typical EDC items include things like keys, wallet and phone, but also a small flashlight, pen and notebook, lighter, pocket knife or multitool — things that all serve a purpose and have a useful function. Having these essentials with you every day means that you’re ready for anything and prepared for the unexpected — should the need arise.
What do EDC and DIY have in common? More than you’d think. At its core, EDC embodies a belief in always being prepared but also being able to take control of a situation and handle it on your own. That kind of self-reliance and self-accountability is echoed in the heart of every DIYer. Having the right tools to handle any situation has a common thread in the DIY lifestyle.
Tim Galloway is a newcomer to both the DIY and EDC communities. He’s a professional photographer who has worked in news and done some commercial work for the past 10 years. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it put an indefinite hold on his photography business. With time on his hands and a desire to stay busy and productive, he turned his attention to something that has always piqued his interest: sewing EDC items.
The EDC community is popular and growing, and Tim is carving out his own space with his small business, goodwerks. Right now, it’s a one-man operation. Tim cuts the patterns for his bags and EDC accessories and sews everything himself. At first, he was using a home sewing machine. But he quickly realized it wasn’t powerful enough to sew through the heavy-duty layers of his bags and straps. He discovered the Sailrite® website and ordered the Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 Sewing Machine. With the Ultrafeed, he’s been able to sew with professional results and deliver the quality that the EDC industry demands.
Join us as we get to know this small-business owner, his DIY philosophy, and how Sailrite could be part of his sewing journey.
Sewing & Sailrite
Tim had never sewn before he decided to give his EDC hobby a real shot at success. But he didn’t let that small hiccup stop him. “I learned to sew in May of 2020 mainly through YouTube tutorials and trial and error. My mom helped me search for a domestic machine that would be able to handle heavier materials as I sew primarily Cordura and webbing. I grew out of that machine very quickly as I realized that it wouldn’t be able to handle the layers as smoothly as I had hoped and certainly not the volume. Especially if I’m sewing daily or close to it.”
In need of a heavy-duty machine that could handle materials like Cordura, ripstop and webbing, Tim started his search. “I did a bunch of research. I looked at a lot of other machines, peeking at Juki, Consew, etc. Frankly, the price point was a bit out of reach for me for a Juki setup, and I really wanted a new machine. I watched a ton of videos and read a bunch of articles. The thing that drew me to the LSZ-1 was the walking foot, ease that it dealt with heavier materials (like, you know, sails), the optional Workhorse® Servo Motor (which I use with the full table setup) and the fabled legendary customer service.”
He received his Ultrafeed LSZ-1 in July of 2020 and has been sewing with it regularly. Even though Tim is a new sewer, he still had a lot to say about the machine. “The machine works really well for flat work. I think with the correct thread and needle setup, it is pretty smooth sailing (see what I did there?). I really enjoy having the servo motor so I can sew at night when my wife is sleeping. With this being the only industrial-type machine I’ve used, there are a lot of things I don’t know about how they operate. So there was a bit of a learning curve. I refer to the manual somewhat often and have had to learn to have a few extra parts on hand in the event of a maligned needle strike, etc.”
The EDC Community
Tim’s bags and pouches are simple in design and are made with high-quality fabrics and hardware pieces. He uses 1000D Cordura fabric with a ripstop liner for a professional look and to help with water resistance. Cordura is well-known in the hiking, camping and rucking communities for its incredible durability and water resistance. Tim’s most popular design is the Boogie Bag, which is a fanny pack with zippered compartments to keep everything organized. “I based it off of other, similar bags but addressed a few things I did or didn’t like on others. I want my products to ooze quality and durability. My company slogan, if you’d call it that, is ‘Simple. Durable. Handmade.’ I’m not really looking to reinvent the wheel but just bring quality into small soft goods.”
Tim’s current demographic is people in the rucking community. Rucking is a form of endurance training that involves marching at a fast pace carrying a weighted pack. Anyone can ruck as a form of exercise, but those who participate in GORUCK events are serious endurance athletes who expect a lot from their gear. And they have started turning to goodwerks for their rucking needs. “I’ve been very fortunate to have made fantastic friends in that community who have supported my small business and buy from me every time I drop goods. I mainly sell out of my stuff but am slowly building stock. Ideally, I want to transition more to the EDC community. I want my products to be accessible for all folks that are interested in quality gear for their everyday organization and needs.”
“I hold high the value of handmade goods and small businesses. From personal experience, I know how challenging it is to run your own business. How you have to wear a lot of different hats to make things come together. The late nights, early mornings, weekends you sacrifice, and so on. I think that when people can find something that they care about enough to devote to that, it deserves praise. When I make my products I know that they’re not going to be perfect every time, but I do the best I can to make them look like they were produced on a mass scale. I take a lot of pride in my gear, and it’s incredibly rewarding getting positive feedback.”
Doing Good Works
Part of Tim’s mission with goodwerks is to become a contributing member of his local community and to, in essence, put good into the world. Where did the name “goodwerks” come from? We’ll let Tim explain: “goodwerks came about with the help of a friend. I initially was going to call it ‘threadwerks’ or something similar. But my friend Dan told me to take a look at the back of my right hand, which is tattooed with the word “good” and an ax through the letters. It’s a reminder to ‘sharpen my axe’ daily and to make the best of all situations.”
Good isn’t just part of his business’s name. It’s also fundamental to Tim’s personal philosophy and a guiding principle for the way he lives his life each and every day. “A large part of my business is to give back and to create good in the world. Each month, people that follow my Instagram account nominate others to receive some free gear from me. It’s a simple gesture to show others appreciation. I also am working on having regular raffles that benefit nonprofit organizations, mainly organizations that are veteran-oriented. In November 2020, with the help of my favorite local coffee shop donating some coffee, and a slap/patch maker, we raised $1,250 for One More Wave, a foundation that helps wounded veterans get surf therapy.”
Tim recently held his second nonprofit raffle and raised $1,700. Proceeds went to The Enduring Campaign, a Michigan-based nonprofit that offers job placement and other support to the homeless veteran community. Good works and gratitude keep Tim humble through the growing success of his sewing business. “There’s no way I’d still be running with this little business without the community that’s helped support me. The people that have spent their hard-earned money with me have helped me stay afloat during the shutdowns. It’s incredibly humbling every time I get an email with an order. goodwerks doesn’t exist without the community surrounding it.”
Tim’s positive outlook on life and his desire to pay it forward is something we can all appreciate and strive toward. It’s a nice reminder that anyone can give back and put some goodness into the world, whether that’s through DIY or by other means. The world could use a few more people like Tim. Putting good into the world, even in a small way, has a ripple effect that grows and expands beyond our sight. Let’s all go do some good.
If you’d like to follow Tim’s EDC sewing adventures you can follow him on Instagram @goodwerks.
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!
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.
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!”
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.”
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.
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!”
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.”
Imagine a quiet evening in the woods — you’re sitting by the campfire, and as the night draws to a close, you cozy up in your very own tent-cabin. For many people, spending time in the wilderness brings joy, tranquility and peace of mind. And while the casual camper might be content with a tent or pop-up camper, the more serious outdoorsman, like Scott Miller, seeks something bigger and better (and vastly more permanent). As both an inventive spirit and an outdoor aficionado based in Northeast Wisconsin, Scott was more than happy to share his journey into the wild with us and explain how Sailrite® could play a part in bringing his creative vision of totally unique cabins to life.
Scott has been in the design and wood fabrication business for over two decades, mostly focusing on heavy timber projects. No stranger to rugged terrain, he’s camped everywhere from upstate New York to Alaska. He even attended the Pat Wolfe School of Log Building in Ontario, Canada, and studied the craft of log and timber frame construction to truly hone in on this discipline and turn it into a viable career.
He’s always longed to get away and enjoy the wilderness in an effort to recapture the simplicity of Henry David Thoreau’s famous nonfiction novel, “Walden.” The popular true story was written in 1854 and describes Thoreau’s time spent living alone in a cabin at Walden Pond, near Concord, Massachusetts, — a simple life in the solitude of the forest. By the end of the Thoreau’s tale, he feels more at peace with himself and all living things around him, a peace that comes from being one with nature.
This harmony between both nature and the human mind truly resonated with Scott and was the driving force behind his most popular DIY creation to date. “My appreciation for the outdoors and camping inspired me to design a tent-cabin that could be enjoyed year-round.” As a seasoned craftsman, Scott had already been designing and creating several styles of tent-cabins for himself and felt confident in his abilities. But he also realized that this new style of tent-cabin would require a more streamlined effort if he was to make a successful business out of creating and selling them.
With a desire to comingle his ingenuity and craftsmanship, all that Scott needed to take his cabin-making venture to the next level was a dependable, heavy-duty sewing machine capable of tackling the thick canvas found on the tent-cabins. So, like any savvy businessman, he took to the internet to start researching his options. That’s where he stumbled upon Sailrite, took the plunge on his DIY journey, and began his foray into sewing.
“I started sewing in 2015 after purchasing an Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 PREMIUM Sewing Machine. I really like the compact style of the LSZ-1 and its robust power. I learned to sew after watching Sailrite how-to videos and from books I purchased. Then in 2018, I was excited to see the release of the industrial Fabricator® Sewing Machine and bought one immediately.”
Built for the avid backwoodsman (or woman), Scott’s cabins are compact, comfortable lodgings not to be confused with a yurt, a tiny house or any other more livable dwellings. In his own words, these cabins are built for those looking for an authentic American camping experience with a style and amenities similar to those found in the cabins of the 1860s. Scott explained that “I’m mainly interested in the United States market, as the tent-cabin is part of our American history. They were lived in throughout mining camps in the West.”
As an amalgamation of imagination and traditional techniques, Scott was kind enough to explain the painstaking process that goes into each and every one of his tent-cabins.
“I design the tent-cabins on a sophisticated CAD (Computer-Aided Design) program used for wood design. I create a 3D model of the tent-cabin and produce shop drawings for fabrication. My son does help me when I need it, which I really appreciate. His review of my CAD drawings and help with the layout work is great. All my tent cabins come as a precut kit. Tent-cabin making is an ‘art form and craft’ and is gradually turning into a business of making tent-cabins for others. I’ve made eight tent-cabins so far and they usually take five to seven weeks to make, depending on the style.”
Although these tent-cabins come as kits that must be assembled by the customer, a great deal of thought and preparation goes into each one before they’re sent to their new home. And Sailrite is there to help every step of the way! Scott explained that, “I am extremely happy with all the products from Sailrite. I use the 1/2-inch basting tape for sewing the canvas and I also use hole punches, thread and grommets.”
And of course, the Ultrafeed LSZ-1 and Fabricator help to sew the heavy canvas for all the canvas tents, as the roof and walls of the cabins are made of heavy-duty cotton army duck canvas pruchased from Sailrite. The tent-cabin is precut and marked for all screw locations and assembly drawings are included. The customer then erects the wooden tent-cabin frame based on the assembly drawings and, as the final step, attaches the canvas to the frame.
“These tent-cabins are not portable, but they’re not entirely permanent either. They’re popular with folks who own acreage or need a cabin for hunting or fishing. They might be set near a lake, along a river, or on a wooded lot. If someone needs a place to write, do art, a nice garden structure, or just to relax while enjoying nature, these tent-cabins are great.”
So what’s next for this environmental entrepreneur? Bolstered by his success in the DIY world, Scott explained to us that he enjoys sewing so much now that he’s even planned to tackle a number of non-cabin-related sewing projects in the future and is always open to new ideas. But for now, it’s fulfilling enough for Scott to connect with nature through his cabin creations.
“The most rewarding part of my work is providing a product for others to enjoy.”
Debra Brown is well acquainted with the world of sewing, having started her first project as a teenager. But what began as a fun, sporadic hobby turned into necessity years later when Debra and her husband moved to Portland, Oregon, and purchased a beautiful Cape Cod home built in 1937. After moving in, they quickly noticed their dream home was not without flaws. “The back of the house faces west and the August sun in Portland can be brutal. The house came with seasonal awnings for each window to mitigate the heat, but unfortunately, they were old and tattered. The awning company wanted $4,000 to remake them — seven in all!”
Bolstered by her “can do” attitude and sewing skill set, Debra set off to find a way to perfect her new home by creating her own awnings. This would prove to be her greatest sewing adventure yet, and would eventually lead her to Sailrite’s tools and supplies. We’re happy to have been a part of the journey, and Debra was kind enough to share her success story with us.
Q: What’s your history like with sewing? How long have you been doing it and how did you learn?
I learned to sew in middle school and still recall my very first projects as a 14-year-old — a simple gym bag and a dirndl skirt. Since then, over the years I’ve enjoyed sewing clothing and simple home décor items. When my husband and I moved to Portland, Oregon, and bought an 80-year-old house, my brother, Jesse, encouraged me to take on more ambitious sewing projects including draperies, duvet covers and Roman Shades. Jesse had been sewing custom home décor items for decades and taught me everything I know about sewing with heavier weight fabrics. He had also loaned me one of his industrial sewing machines to complete my projects in the past.
Q: What was the process like of creating your awnings?
When I decided to try making new awnings for our house, I knew it would be challenging. I had no idea what types of fabric were available, or what tools and notions I’d need. I began by taking apart one of the old awnings and documenting each step so I’d know how to construct a new one. My brother suggested I visit the Sailrite website to learn about appropriate fabrics and thread. I was amazed by the selection available and settled on Sunbrella® Marine Grade Fabric, based on Sailrite’s recommendations for awning construction.
I ordered just enough fabric to complete the first awning, as it would be a test as to whether or not I could really do this. Next, I needed the right tools. My best friends turned out to be the Sailrite® Edge Hotknife and Seamstick Basting Tape. I could never have managed the Sunbrella without these two lifesavers. Construction of the first awning was slow going. I borrowed two different sewing machines from Jesse just to get started.
It took me two entire days to create the test awning. I made lots of mistakes but also learned a lot about working with large pieces of Sunbrella. Sailrite’s videos on sewing flat-felled seams were incredibly helpful and helped me gain confidence in my abilities. I knew that if I was going to proceed with constructing six more awnings, I’d need a lot more fabric. But most importantly, I knew I’d need a heavy duty walking foot sewing machine that could handle the project, and that I could easily set up and move around in my sewing area.
Q: How did you decide on selecting a Sailrite Ultrafeed® Sewing Machine? What are your thoughts on the machine so far?
I spent a lot of time on Sailrite’s website researching machines and watching videos on working with Sunbrella Marine Grade Fabric. I decided on Sailrite’s Ultrafeed LS-1 PLUS machine. I selected the PLUS package because I wanted the Industrial Carrying Case and accessories included in that package. I was not disappointed. The day my machine arrived, I spent time watching Sailrite’s assembly video and videos on winding bobbins, threading the machine, and sewing basic seams. Without these videos, I would not have felt comfortable setting up my machine and getting started sewing. They were incredibly helpful.
After completing six more awnings — the last one in a record time of three hours — I can say with confidence that the Ultrafeed LS-1 is an elegant workhorse that seems to have been made for my project. The machine easily handled multiple layers of Sunbrella fabric. I never experienced stuck fabric, the machine losing its timing, or any of the other issues that I had with the borrowed sewing machines I’d used in the past.
Q: Do you plan to sew other projects using the Ultrafeed?
Now that I’ve finished the awnings, I’m excited to try other projects that utilize Sunbrella, such as patio cushions or maybe a heavy duty tent for my husband’s hunting trips. He’s already asked me to do some repairs on one of his canvas backpacks. Now that I have the experience, the tools and the Ultrafeed LS-1 machine, I’m thinking the sky’s the limit!
Q: What was the most rewarding, and most challenging, part of constructing this project?
One of the most rewarding parts of the project was simply the realization that I could recreate a large custom item from scratch if I invested in the right tools and materials. The other big rewards are the energy savings on the second floor of my house, which, in the absence of awnings, can be very hot in the summer, not to mention saving over $2,500 by making the awnings myself. That’s even after my investment in the LS-1, the fabric, and the tools and supplies needed.
The greatest challenge was not having an existing pattern or sewing instructions for these custom awnings. Sailrite made the sewing easy. It was the cognitive piece — thinking through the steps involved — that was the most challenging.
Q: What was the reaction of your family and friends to the new project?
My family was really impressed with the new awnings. They watched me sew them over a couple of weeks, and were amazed at how professional they look. At first, some of my friends didn’t believe that I actually made them myself. “No way!” was the most common response I received after revealing the beautiful new awnings on the back of my house. Thank you, Sailrite!
For Jean Buchanan, sewing is not just a hobby and career, but it also may very well be her destiny. She’s been sewing for over 50 years and comes from a long line of sewists. Her great-grandmother was a tailor of men’s suits, and her grandmothers, aunts and mother have all sewn and quilted through the years. Jean first learned to sew from her mother-in-law, and she’s never looked back. With a little help from Sailrite®, Jean’s taken her talent to the next level and made a name for herself in the process.
After five decades of sewing children’s clothes and stuffed animals, plus clothing for herself and her husband, Jean encountered a project that she had never attempted before and one she never thought she would stumble upon in her lifetime. But always being an adventurous sewist open to new ideas and experiences, she took a cue from her daughter to try out a different kind of DIY, which would lead her to her largest project yet.
“One day my daughter brought me a southwestern printed tarp and asked me to make her a visor for her T@B 320 trailer. It took many more tarps and three attempts to get the patterns tweaked — it fit the T@B pretty well.”
If you’re not familiar, T@B (or TAB) is a brand of trailerable camper with a sleek teardrop design. These charming, pint-sized campers blend European design with Ohio Amish craftsmanship for cozy living on-the-go. After Jean finished her daughter’s project, she found that these campers were perfectly complemented by her custom sunshades with their petite, visor-like design. Not only was her first sunshade good-looking, but it also functioned as a way to protect the camper’s occupants from the sun and rain while maintaining convenient portability for those looking to get up and go.
Spurred by her first success, Jean decided she enjoyed the work and wanted to continue the process. The next step was to make efforts to reach a larger customer base and make sure she could streamline her sunshades for more efficient sewing. She first began by creating a shop on Etsy (an e-commerce site focused on handmade or vintage items), based out of North Olmsted, Ohio. She later launched her own website and enlisted the help of a professional engineer to create a dependable design for the T@B 400 trailer — and success! A small business was born.
But when your business revolves around sewing, you need a dependable sewing machine to carry you through your toughest assemblies. So with this new business resting in her capable hands, Jean decided that none of her work could be completed without a heavy-duty industrial sewing machine to sew through multiple layers of fabric. The hunt for such a machine was what led Jean to Sailrite in the first place.
She explained, “I chose the Fabricator® Sewing Machine after looking at many industrial machines because it was advertised as a small awning shop machine. I read reviews that were positive concerning the machine and watched videos. Based on what I read and what I watched, I decided it was the right one and I have not been disappointed.”
With her husband, Clyde, by her side, Jean has expanded her creations and has now launched her own website to showcase and sell her unique camper sunshades worldwide. With a customer base reaching as far as Spain, Germany, Poland, Switzerland and Canada, it’s hard to deny the growing popularity of these adorable additions. Not only are these unique sunshades a way for campers to express their creativity, but they’re also a way for Jean to utilize her adept sewing skills for a practical cause.
She was happy to explain the painstaking steps that go into the creation of the TAB sunshades, as they’re tailored to the requests of each customer. First, each piece of fabric and webbing is cut with the Sailrite® Edge Hotknife, then a convenient carrying bag is sewn, followed by a reinforcement of webbing to the places where the visor pole begins and ends. Next comes the construction of the sleeve for the pole followed by the main fabric assembly. Each part of the process that requires sewing is done using the Fabricator Sewing Machine — and the results speak for themselves.
Here at Sailrite, it gives us great joy to be there every step of the way to help make things a little easier. “Not only do I use the Fabricator Sewing Machine and the Sailrite Edge Hotknife, but I just started using some of Sailrite’s 300 denier polyester outdoor fabric [Odyssey]. The quality and support are outstanding! One could not go wrong using any of their products. I especially love the magnetic sewing guide and zipper feet for sewing keder rope!”
With a thriving business to attend to, what lies ahead for crafty creator Jean? She explained, “I plan to go back to regular sewing when I can no longer physically sew these sunshades. But who knows, I’m always ready for a challenge. My daughter is full of ideas for me.” And although her daughter does not share her passion for sewing, she helps with the business as a public relations assistant and is always ready to bring Jean more ideas to practice her sewing on.
At this point in time, Jean’s future is wide open, but regardless, she is confident that she and the Fabricator can tackle anything that may come. We can’t wait to see what she creates next!
Mark Carter is not your typical Sailrite® customer. He doesn’t sew for his boat or RV, and he doesn’t do any home sewing or upholstery work. Instead, his hobby is a bit more … cold. He enjoys winter tent camping with his family in the upper Midwest United States. Winter camping might sound bitterly unpleasant, but Mark has found a way — with a little ingenuity and a can-do DIY spirit — to turn this frigid hobby into a pleasant activity for him and his family.
Mark and his family began winter camping around 10 years ago. They connected with other winter campers from online camping forums, including HammockForums, Bushcraft USA and WinterTrekking.com — plus camping groups on Facebook — and found a community of like-minded outdoor enthusiasts. They soon began winter camping together as one big group. There’s a camp going on almost every week throughout the year among the woodsy friends in these online groups. Mark and his family join in as often as they can.
“Most camps last three to five days, but I’ve done up to two weeks in Canada,” he recounted.
“People from all over the United States and Canada meet up in places like the Huron-Manistee National Forests [extending across the northern lower peninsula of Michigan],” said Mark. “The camps can last for three days up to a week with campers staying however long they can.”
The Carters camp year-round, mostly in the Midwest and Canada. Although his sons are grown now, they still enjoy spending quality time outdoors with their father and other family members. Winter camping is a bit of a tradition for the Carter Clan. “My son Carl and his wife, Jessica, my son Corey, my brother James and a few cousins camp with me,” Mark stated.
Through his winter camping hobby, Mark realized there was a void in the camping gear and equipment industry for hammock tents. So what does any self-reliant, determined hobbyist do? He made his own, of course! Mark first learned to sew practicing on his mom’s old Singer, repairing his camping gear. He later purchased a used Singer that he uses to sew his tents and hammocks.
Mark was inspired to sew his own hammock hot tent after watching a YouTube video his friend, and fellow winter camper, Tom Brown had posted. The video featured a tour of Tom’s handmade hammock hot tent as he explained how he’d constructed and sewn it. In the video, Tom mentioned using double-sided Seamstick Basting Tape on the tent’s seams, and that’s how Mark first learned about Sailrite.
Why sew a DIY hammock hot tent instead of buying one? “No one makes them commercially to the specifications I’m looking for,” Mark explained. “Sewing allows me to make the things I dream up a reality. I can make them the way I want them to look — a tent that weighs 4 lbs. that lets you sleep in a hammock and stays heated with a small wood stove. By sewing the tent myself, I can save money and build a tent with quality materials.”
Mark has sewn two tents so far, as well as hammocks. His first tent was based on a wall tent, also known as a safari tent, and sleeps three. With more experience under his sewing belt, he kicked his design skills up a notch for his next tent. “My second tent was based on a Dogger TZ Brown design. I modified it for additional height and simplified it for easier construction and faster set up.”
When designing and constructing a tent, Mark always begins with a paper drawing. He scales it down and decides how he wants it to look and the features he needs. He then figures out the dimensions and measurements. Next he plots out a full-size pattern on the floor in his home using painter’s tape to map out the pieces. After that, he marks and cuts the fabric to match the taped pattern on the floor.
Next come the sewing and construction process. Mark uses Sailrite basting tape to sew the slippery silpoly tent panels together. “Silpoly is very slippery fabric to sew and you want to avoid using pins through the fabric as it can create work waterproofing all those extra holes. After I assemble the tent, I set it up to evaluate how I did and look for ways to make it better the next time.”
In addition to basting tape, Mark also orders the other materials for his tents and hammocks from Sailrite, basically everything but the fabric. “I started buying supplies from Sailrite after watching Tom Brown’s YouTube video. I order #10 Vislon zippers, 1-inch webbing, binding and vinyl window material. Hammock campers are DIY types, and Sailrite is well-known in the community.”
Altogether Mark’s tent weighs about 5 lbs. It’s heated with a small wood burning stove with an opening in the roof that fits the pipe for the smoke to escape. He can cook food protected from the elements and he can dry his clothes and gear in the comfort of his tent. Plus, sleeping in a hammock means he’s protected from the cold, hard ground.
Mark loves the tents and hammocks he’s custom made to fit his camping pastime. For him, it’s not just a way to be creative and experience the joy and pride that comes with making something with your hands. Camping is also his family’s way of coming together for good laughs, good fun and a little adventure. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what life’s all about?
“My hammock hot tent lets me travel to remote areas and sleep in comfort,” Mark said. “Winter camping is peaceful. Give it a try!”
Creativity is the common denominator that exists in all crafters regardless of their preferred medium. Whether it’s the need to feel productive, to channel restless energy, or to unwind and relax after a stressful day, having a creative outlet is good for the soul. Having a hobby, especially a craft such as sewing in which you make something with your hands, engages the mind, promotes wellness and is a great way to connect with like-minded people in your community. It’s the perfect remedy for the overwhelming dominance of our technology-dependent lives.
Brett Walker has searched for a creative outlet his entire life. A hobbyist at heart, he describes himself as a “DIY type of person” who enjoys learning how to do things himself. He learned how to sew about eight years ago by watching videos online. He wanted to get into puppet design and stop-motion filmmaking, but when this idea didn’t work out, he switched to live-action filmmaking to channel his creativity.
“I always try to find hobbies to keep myself busy and have an artistic outlet. I’ve done a lot of drawing and painting, then filmmaking, and now cycling and bag making.”
It’s his cycling hobby that propelled his desire to get back into sewing. “After cycling for a while and more than a few flat tires, I realized I needed a bag to carry my flat tire repair kit with me. The custom ones I wanted kept selling out, so I figured I could just make my own. I had also started to hear about bike camping and wanted to buy panniers (a pair of bags or containers attached to the sides of a bicycle for storage), but found out that they are pretty pricey, so that led me to want to make my own as well.”
Ready to pick up his sewing hobby again, he needed to test the waters and find out if he still had his sewing skills. It had been a few years since Brett had sewn anything, so his best friend’s wife let him borrow her machine to see if he could relearn how to sew; he practiced making a few bags and instantly fell back in love with the craft. With his hobby firmly reestablished, he began sewing his own bags to carry things on his cycling adventures.
Enjoying making bags for himself and his cycling excursions wasn’t enough. He recognized a need in his cycling community for locally made, custom bags and decided to turn his sewing hobby into a small side business. He named his business Canal Workshop, inspired by the canal located next to his apartment in Phoenix, Arizona, which provides miles of traffic-free bike paths. It’s this canal that spurred Brett to get back into cycling as an adult, which he’d dropped after outgrowing his childhood BMX bike.
For about a year and a half, he’d been sewing bags with a Singer Heavy Duty sewing machine, but he found that it wasn’t handling the workload as well as he needed. So he began his search for a more powerful and dependable machine that could handle the thick Cordura canvas, packcloth and nylon webbing he uses for his bags. “I was talking to a cyclist friend of mine and he told me about Sailrite®. He mentioned that their machines were more economical and could just as easily get the job done [compared to more expensive heavy duty machines on the market].”
Brett initially looked at the Ultrafeed®, but Sailrite happened to be running a sale on the Fabricator® Sewing Machine, so he decided to take a look at an industrial sewing machine instead. “I figured that an industrial machine was more suited for the work I was doing. I liked that it had a classic steel look, was all black, and the name of the machine spoke to the type of work I was doing. When it went on sale, I thought this was a no-brainer.”
He’s been sewing with his new Fabricator for about six months and has no regrets about his choice of machine. “It’s strong, straightforward, and when I see it, I just want to sit down and work. The machine hums along and causes me no real issues. I love that it’s inset into the table that it came with and that you can wind the bobbins while you work. It works like a charm.”
The sewing process has been a bit of trial and error for Brett, as it is with most hobbies, and he’s learned some valuable lessons along the way about how to sew with skill and professional results. “One of the most important things I’ve learned is to take my time. Like in filmmaking, the more time and effort you put into preproduction (planning, pattern making and cutting), the faster and more efficient the production (sewing) is. I like to make one panel of a bag at a time, then put them all together. When I first started I was so eager to see the final product that I often left off important parts like a handle or my label.”
“It’s such a timesaver to take your time with a project. Planning out the process and then executing it correctly the first time means spending way less time with a seam ripper. One thing I’ve learned, and am still trying to perfect, is setting the tension properly. I had a hard time sewing certain lightweight materials before I learned to dial back the tension.”
When asked what he enjoys most about the sewing experience, Brett mentioned the sense of accomplishment he feels when making something himself and how his sewing hobby has led to new friendships. “I enjoy that I can make something for myself that is exactly the style, size and quality that I look for in a bike bag. I also really enjoy that I can provide that same service to the cycling community in Phoenix. What I love most is I’ve made a ton of new friends; a lot of my customers have gone on to become close friends because we’re all into cycling so much.”
While the majority of his sewing projects are for his bike bag business, Brett has put his Fabricator to other uses. “I’ll hem some pants or make some pillowcases for my girlfriend. I did recently make a regular backpack. I’ve also got an order for a bike bag with leather accents, which will be new territory for me. I did some research on that through the Sailrite website and am putting in an order for diamond tip needles from Sailrite for that project.”
With a restless, creative spirit, Brett is constantly searching for the next project to tackle and a new skill to learn. “I’m always looking for ways to grow and add to my skill set. I recently learned that custom bags for off-road vehicles is a thing, so I’m going to try that out. My buddy actually put a bug in my ear about making some bags to organize his new truck. Another project I’ve got on deck is blackout window coverings for a van.”
The creative vein through it all is Brett’s need to channel his artistry into something tangible. Whether you’re a sewer, woodworker, painter or knitter, the pure joy of creating something with your hands is the thread that ties us all together.
Sometimes, the only thing standing between you and your dream DIY is a few supplies, some research and a little encouragement. Sailrite® customer and crafty creator Anita Jackson learned that with the right tools and the right attitude, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. As a retired nurse, Air Force and Navy Reserve veteran and mother of five, Anita is no stranger to hard work and perseverance.
It all began with six old patio chairs. What had once been white sling fabric was now torn, dirty and covered in what appeared to be mold. Everyone told her to throw them out, but Anita had a better idea. Why not just clean them up and replace the sling fabric? It seemed like an easy enough project. Besides, it wasn’t as if Anita was without sewing experience. Both her parents were skilled at sewing and she’d had many lessons starting from the age of 10. As one of her favorite hobbies, Anita often sewed small cellphone bags, purses and quilts in her spare time. However, the closest thing she had done to patio chairs was re-covering dining room chairs.
Armed with her previous sewing knowledge, Phifertex® sling fabric and a Sailrite how-to video, Anita set to work completely revamping all six chairs. It wasn’t long before the entire thing turned into a family affair. Her husband and two of her sons offered much-needed help by taking the chairs apart, cleaning, spray painting, fitting the sling fabric and putting them back together.
Although the Sailrite video was straightforward and easy to follow, the project was not without its hiccups. Originally, Anita had cut out all the pieces of sling fabric to replace her chairs. “Next time, I would cut and sew one to check the fit before cutting the rest. I sewed the seams as instructed in the video for all six chairs. I enlisted the help of my son and my husband to install the fabric into the frames. No matter how hard I tried, the fabric was sewn too small to install!”
Just like with any project, it’s natural for mistakes to happen. Her husband, Tim, was very supportive and further encouraged her to continue. He said, “The only way to not make mistakes is to not get up when the alarm clock rings.” Thankfully, the sling fabric was very forgiving and it was easy to rip out the old seams and adjust them so they would fit correctly on the chairs. There’s no doubt that it was hard work, but the entire DIY process gave Anita a new outlook on the creative possibilities that come from having the right tools and the right attitude. There’s a special feeling that comes from turning something old and worn into something completely one of a kind.
“I was so proud of the job that I sent photos to friends and relatives. I got a lot of compliments and some people said they didn’t realize the slingback chairs could be re-covered. I told them about the Sailrite videos and wonderful products all on one website.”
Through her adventurous DIY efforts, Anita was able to finish all six chairs just in time for her grandchildren’s spring break visit. “This project definitely boosted my confidence in trying new projects with Sailrite. Maybe they’re not perfect, but we enjoy using the chairs again. I’m ready for another project!”
For our full selection of sling chair fabric shop Sailrite and to see the full how-to video on replacing sling chair fabric, click here!