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.
Sometimes the perfect project comes along that lets you put all your DIY skills to use. That’s what happened to Ronnie Miller. This talented DIYer found a powerboat for sale online that needed A LOT of work — a complete overhaul. He bought the boat in February 2019, for only $1,000 and worked hard to get it water-ready by June. Keep reading to learn more about this powerboat transformation and how Sailrite® supplies and project videos helped Ronnie tackle this massive DIY endeavor.
Like a lot of DIYers, Ronnie learned the ropes as a young boy. “My grandmother taught me to hand sew when I was 5 years old. My uncle was a tailor and he gave me swatches to work with.” From those humble beginnings, his talent grew and grew.
In addition to sewing, Ronnie enjoys a variety of other hands-on hobbies. “Projects are my hobby. I have always been good with my hands, fixing and rebuilding things.” Ronnie recently moved into a condominium, and he has been enjoying remodeling it himself and turning it into a proper home. “I’ve been working on carpentry and woodworking projects. I laid the vinyl floor, painted and fixed sheetrock. I have installed a mosquito mister at the house, a new metal fence to see the lake, a new wood fence, and I installed an entire sprinkler system for the front yard and back.”
Let’s learn more about the big powerboat project! “I always wanted a boat. This was the first one I ever owned, towed, worked on and completed in just three months.” What an accomplishment! So, exactly how much work went into the powerboat transformation? We’ll let Ronnie explain in his own words.
“I found the boat on a for-sale website and thought if I failed, I couldn’t lose too much considering I only paid $1,000 for it. I later put in an additional $6,000 including the engine, materials and tools, which I am always using now. I didn’t realize I had to replace the engine, floor or dashboard with all-new electronics until I started tearing it apart.”
After all the hard gutting and rebuilding work, Ronnie was ready to tackle the upholstery. That’s where Sailrite came in. “I needed vinyl to cover the seats and I found Sailrite online.” He chose a striking combination of white, silver and black Morbern® vinyl fabrics. He also ordered Medium Density Polyurethane Antimicrobial Foam from Sailrite — a great choice for powerboat upholstery.
The project went fairly smoothly, and Ronnie only hit a few minor snags along the way. “Once I got started, I wanted everything to look new. I had the trailer sandblasted and had to replace parts there. I needed a new gas tank float and a new dashboard with new Bluetooth® radio. I replaced the old carpet with gray-and-black striped flooring, and I installed lights on the front for boating at night.”
Before his recent move, he lived just five short minutes from Lake Houston, a reservoir on the San Jacinto River northeast of Houston, Texas. Ronnie took the boat out almost every week. After enjoying the water and the boat for a while, he decided to sell it and made a whopping $5,000 profit! He credits the eye-catching upholstery work for garnering such a big profit. True to his DIY nature and need to keep busy, Ronnie bought and restored a second boat and made $6,000 on that sale!
So, what’s he working on now? “Since completing the boat I have now started a wall covering of large fabric-covered squares behind my bed. It’s still a work in progress, but I should be finished soon.” Ronnie is using the Sailrite how-to video “How to Make Upholstered Wall Panels” to help complete the project.
“I find that working on a project is great for the mind; it gives you time to think alone. I also get great satisfaction by looking at it and saying, ‘Hey, I did that!’” Way to go, Ronnie! We love your positive attitude and can-do spirit. Good luck on all of your future DIYs. We’re sure they’re going to be huge successes.
We all love our pets, and we often wish we could take them everywhere. But can you imagine taking them along to circumnavigate the open ocean? Andrew and Jazz might seem like your average sailing couple, but they have a unique sailing companion — their Bengal cat, Captain! The two have been happily sailing on their boat, Villa Veritas, for some time now. We wanted to know what it’s like to sail with a furry companion and see if this enterprising crew had any advice to offer new sailors or budding DIYers.
The couple that sails together, stays together! Jazz first experienced sailing as a child on her uncle’s monohull in the Canadian San Juan Islands. In high school, as an exchange student on the coast of Spain, she joined a local sailing team and learned to handle small boats. Once in college, she made friends at the yacht club and went out for races when she could. In her adult life, Jazz went on to travel through Asia, helping crew a handmade 32-foot boat from Bali through Borneo and Singapore.
Andrew had gone sailing a few times as a kid, and then he took classes with the American Sailing Association in San Francisco when he married Jazz. Together the two crew a 1993 Prout Snowgoose Elite 37 named Villa Veritas after their last name. It’s the first boat that either of them has owned and the first catamaran that they’ve sailed, not counting vacation ride-alongs. The two moved onto their boat full time in October 2018, and have been blissfully sailing the open ocean ever since. They’ve traveled from the southern United States, through the Bahamas and the Caribbean, and even to locations like Saint Kitts and Saint Vincent. They’ve even documented the ins and outs of their journey on their sailing blog.
So how did Captain, the beautiful Bengal cat, join the crew? “We met Captain in Savannah, Georgia. He joined us full time in November when he reached three months old. We’d waited to get a cat until we had the boat because, supposedly, kittens will always adapt to a boat while older cats may never get over seasickness. Captain doesn’t always like it when the boat moves, especially when the engine is on. But aside from the death glares, he doesn’t seem to have any other problems, and he’s good about staying inside when we’re underway. At anchor he keeps a good watch, often from the top of the boom. One time a pelican (bigger than he is) landed on the front of the starboard bow, and after chasing it off, Captain now patrols that spot daily.”
Sewing & Sailing
If you’re familiar with the sailing world, you also know that it pays to be a sewist in order to make much-needed repairs and other marine DIY projects. Much like sailing, Jazz’s sewing experience began at a young age. She received needles and thread in daycare and crafted new outfits for the resident dolls. Her mother and grandmother also sewed, encouraging her craftsmanship. For Andrew, things were a bit different. When Jazz started a cockpit enclosure project but got sick halfway through, it was up to him to learn the ropes. So he began watching Sailrite® videos and kept charge of their sewing machine — the Sailrite® Ultrafeed® LSZ-1.
But how exactly did these intrepid travelers hear about Sailrite? Andrew was kind enough to share. “We learned about Sailrite from another devoted fan and sailor who insisted that a sewing machine was a necessary piece of offshore safety gear. After breaking a borrowed home sewing machine on a relatively minor project, we decided that a more expensive but dependable machine actually had a pretty short payback period. We went with the LSZ-1 because we wanted to work on sails. Actually, we justified the purchase when we priced out a new asymmetrical spinnaker versus a machine and a custom spinnaker kit from Sailrite.”
When it comes to sewing with the Ultrafeed LSZ-1, a circumnavigator’s work is almost never done. Not only that, but the majority of the repair work on a boat must be completed right away if one wants to continue sailing. Andrew and Jazz have completed their fair share of projects using the machine, with Captain’s help of course. One of their largest projects, and one that they are most proud of, is their spinnaker. Before the crew left the United States, they purchased a Sailrite spinnaker kit that they would later sew themselves. Captain had a part to play as entertainment and moral support. Since acquiring their Ultrafeed, they’ve crafted many projects including:
Reflective/insulated covers for the boat windows
But the Sailrite supplies don’t stop there! Andrew explained, “After borrowing two different friends’ hotknives for embarrassingly long times ‘because we’re almost done with projects,’ we finally got our own Edge Hotknife. It has a bit of a learning curve to cut cleanly…but we use it all the time, and even our friend’s 12-year-old was able to figure it out without any scorch marks. Everything else has been materials — Sunbrella® fabric, awning rope, zippers and a shockingly large number of snaps.”
The projects on a liveaboard usually always continue as the time and nautical miles go by, so we were curious what Andrew and Jazz planned to sew in the future.
Andrew: “There are so many more projects — replacing some covers that just weren’t made to sit in the sun, replacing the failing zipper on our stack pack (actually, replacing failing zippers has been a pretty regular project), adding some patches and chafe guards to the high-wear areas of our dinghy chaps, a more robust, water-resistant bag for our spinnaker so we can store it outside, and adding stainless steel seizing wire to the nose area of all the masks we’ve bought for the COVID era so they’ll fit properly without steaming up sunglasses and still be washable.”
Jazz: “It’s just a slow process of replacing everything on the boat with Sunbrella.”
There’s no doubt that Andrew, Jazz and Captain have a treasure trove of sailing experience. But what do they think is the most rewarding (and most difficult) part of the sailing and DIY lifestyle? “The most rewarding is when you make things yourself. When you know how it was done, why all the hard decisions were made, and just how trustworthy the work is. The biggest surprise about sailing has been how difficult it has been to pay for work to be done to our DIY standards. We do almost all of our own work because we can be sure of the results, even if it takes us a couple of tries. When we needed to run from hurricane Gonzalo, we hadn’t fixed our tack yet, so we had to sail with a reef in. But our neighbor boat was waiting for their sails to be finished by a shop, which had closed for the weekend, and so they had no choice but to tie down and stay put. In this sense, having this machine aboard is a huge boon for our safety — we never have to take the sails off our boat and depend on someone else’s timeline.”
This crew of accomplished voyagers was kind enough to offer advice to anyone who wants to start sailing and sewing. “Just start. You can do this for literally any amount of money, only your comfort level changes. Your projects aren’t going to be perfect the first time, but the only way to get it right is to start trying and see what goes wrong. Just about every successful project on our boat is version two or version three.”
Andrew and Jazz are proof that the liveaboard lifestyle is always within reach — it simply requires a little tenacity, imagination and ingenuity. We can’t wait to see what other adventures this colorful crew will embark on in the future. And we’re honored that Sailrite could be part of their DIY journey as well. If you’d like to keep up with the Veritas family, you can check out their blog at andrewandjazz.com. Happy sailing!
To DIY or not to DIY — is that even a question!? Not for enthusiastic sewer Regina Fuller. Though she’s new to sewing, she’s full of that can-do spirit that lives and thrives in all sewers and makers. Regina and her husband, Jacob, purchased a fixer-upper NorSea 27 sailboat. The boat needed major restoration, from helm to hull and everything in between. Regina knew it was going to be a big project, and while her husband did the brunt of the work, she wanted to contribute to the boat’s revamp in a tangible way. She decided to sew new cushions for the interior cabin and exterior cockpit, even though she’d never done upholstery work before. With the help of Sailrite’s supplies and how-to videos, she was able to successfully complete her cushion projects with great results.
Regina learned to sew at a young age, but she never really caught the sewing bug. “My mom taught me the basics of sewing when I was a kid, but I never really took to it. As an adult, I could mend clothes and made a bed skirt once, but that was about the extent of my sewing experience.” Even with such minimal practice, and not having touched a sewing machine in years, Regina was ready to take on her first upholstery project. First up were the cushions for the boat’s cabin. She used a home sewing machine for the project and followed Sailrite’s “How to Make V-Berth Cushions” how-to video. Though she had a couple of small struggles, she completed the cushions and was thrilled with the end product.
For the cockpit cushions, she knew her home sewing machine wouldn’t be able to handle the thickness of the vinyl and piping. So Regina turned to Sailrite again. After thorough research and consideration, she invested in the Ultrafeed® LSZ-1. Her delight and excitement at how the cockpit cushions turned out speak volumes. The right tools and supplies make all the difference. What’s Regina’s favorite part about sewing and DIY? “The end product! There is a lot of satisfaction in knowing that you made something that you and your family get to enjoy for years.”
Join us as we learn more about this determined DIYer, her family’s sailing lifestyle, and what she’s learned from her sewing experiences so far.
Q. When and how did you learn to sail?
A. My husband is a skilled sailor and has been sailing since he was a kid. He took me sailing on our second date and I fell in love with him and sailing! We live in Humboldt County, California, so we sail primarily in Humboldt Bay. When we have vacation time, we like to trailer our sailboat to the San Juan Islands in Washington or Clearlake, California.
Q. What do you love about sailing?
A. Everything! The wind, the fresh air and the wildlife you see in the bay. Our boat is a mini floating home and we often stay the weekend on it. I love being confined to the boat where you aren’t distracted by house chores and other worries of the world. The soft lull of the sea is so relaxing. We have two teenage boys ages 13 and 16. At this age, they just want to be with their friends or on electronics. We love stealing them away from all of that and getting them on the boat. There is nothing better than being hunkered down inside playing Yahtzee and drinking hot chocolate or sailing in 15+ knot winds using all their skills to have a successful sail. I have so many amazing moments and memories over the past 20 years on one of our sailboats.
Q. Can you tell us what all was involved in your big Nor’Sea restoration project?
A. My husband has always wanted a Nor’Sea 27. We’ve had two other monohulls over the years, and some Hobie Cats and daysailers, but never a Nor’Sea. It’s a seaworthy classic sailboat that can be put on a trailer and taken to any sailing grounds you want. Over the years he has seen them for sale, but not at a price point we could afford and usually located states away. Five years ago, one came up for sale only 45 minutes away from our home. He took me to see it and I thought he was crazy. Yes, it was only $5,000, but the amount of work it needed was more than I had a vision for. We have renovated two homes and built a third, so I knew he had the skills and determination to see it through. But this time I didn’t see how it would be possible that I’d ever want to stay a night on this boat. Five years later he proved me wrong and all I want to do every weekend is go to the boat. We named the boat “Zephyr” and launched her for the first time in June 2020.
Almost everything had to be done. He had a new gas tank made and he installed it. He put in a newer diesel engine and redid the plumbing and electrical. He renovated the hanging locker on the port side in order to install a propane heater. He gutted the galley and installed all new appliances and customized the galley to maximize the space and fit my dishes. He gutted the starboard side navigation station and turned it into shelving and settee — painted, sanded and restored woodwork. On the outside, he sanded and painted, built the bowsprit, and installed some new rigging and lifelines.
Right now he is restoring the trailer and I’m planning to make a bimini. We plan to pull the boat back out in the winter for a few more improvements. Given all the blood, sweat and tears that he put into this renovation, I was determined to make a contribution by making the cushions. We thought about paying someone to do it, but I really wanted to be able to say that I put some time, energy and skill into our dream boat as well. The cushions were the sprinkles on the cake to make his beautiful restoration look complete.
Q. What made you decide on an Ultrafeed Sewing Machine? What specific qualities were you looking for in a sewing machine?
A. I used a “heavy duty” inexpensive Singer sewing machine for the inside cabin cushions. I was afraid to invest in a quality upholstery machine when I didn’t know if I would even be able to successfully make the cushions. I broke several needles pushing through that project. After successfully making those cushions and realizing that I had enough skill to really do this, I knew I had to invest in a quality machine if I planned to make the cockpit cushions with piping and vinyl. There was no way my other machine would do it. I needed it to be able to easily go through several layers of heavy-duty canvas or vinyl.
I looked at several heavy duty upholstery machines. Sailrite had a quality product for a very reasonable price. I ultimately decided to purchase the Ultrafeed because my experience to date with Sailrite has been exceptional. I love all the how-to videos and online tools to help me decide on the best materials for my projects. The Ultrafeed sewed the vinyl and piping like it was cutting through butter. I couldn’t be happier with it. I have really appreciated the short tutorials to help me understand how to thread the machine, wind the bobbin, and provide general care for the machine. All the Ultrafeed videos have been really thorough and helpful.
Q. Now that you’ve been practicing and have sewn a few projects, have you learned any sewing tips along the way that you’d like to share?
A. I do have an important tip to share from my experience. When using the seam ripper on the zipper plate, use the plastic tip side down to rip after you get it started. I accidentally ripped my fabric when I continued to use the sharp side down — it’s a real bummer to rip it for so many reasons.
Here are all my take-aways from my vinyl cockpit cushion project:
1) Definitely use the basting tape to help keep the vinyl from puckering when attaching it to the piping. It will make it SO much easier to line everything up nicely when sewing the plaque on. Your how-to video recommends it, but I tried the first panel without it and wished I had listened to your recommendations. I used the basting tape on everything after that.
2) If using the YKK® AquaGuard® Water Repellent Zipper, don’t forget to sew it into the zipper plaque the opposite way you would for a regular zipper. I totally forgot about this and sewed it in wrong and threaded the pull on like you would a normal zipper. Of course it wouldn’t zip closed and didn’t work. I thought the zipper was a joke. I went back to the Sailrite website and found a video tutorial about this zipper, and that’s when I realized I did it all wrong. Once I got it sewed correctly it worked like a dream!
3) I used closed cell foam for the cockpit cushions for its flotation. Closed cell foam is very different to work with than the interior foam I used for the cabin cushions. When cutting out the fabric and foam, I used the same allowance for my seams and compressing the foam that I did for the interior cushions. When I finished the first one and put the foam inside, I was so disappointed. It was extremely loose. The correct fix would have been to cut the foam out larger; however, I had already cut the foam for two of the cushions and there was really no way to easily add another 1/2 inch of foam to all sides. So I ended up tearing apart the cushion cover, cutting it down, and re-sewing. Although it ended up being 1 inch shorter than my original pattern, you wouldn’t be able to tell. It still looks nice in the cockpit. I had a few other cushions to make that I hadn’t cut the foam for yet, so those turned out nice and exactly to pattern.
Q. What advice would you give to a brand-new sewer or someone thinking about getting into sewing?
A. You can do it. The Sailrite videos teach you everything you need to be successful. If you know you want to complete upholstery projects, then invest in a quality machine from the start. By having a quality machine, your very first project will be easier, which will help build your confidence.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about your sewing, sailing lifestyle or yourself in general?
A. My motivation in entering to be a featured customer was to hopefully inspire others. I had only basic/limited sewing skills and I’m so proud of what I have accomplished with my first few projects. I hope others see this story and take the plunge in trying something new. My success was truly due to the excellent tutorials, materials and equipment offered by Sailrite.
Now that Regina has conquered the boat cushions, she’s ready to put her new skills and her new machine to work again. Next up, she plans on sewing a bimini for their newly restored boat. She also wants to learn how to do sail repair (perfect for the Ultrafeed LSZ-1) and wants to sew duffle bags from used sailcloth — a great way to reuse and upcycle used sails! With an ever-growing project list, we’re thrilled that we could be a part of Regina’s sewing and DIY journey. Good luck with all your future sewing projects, Regina! We know you’ll do great!
In recent years, the market for handcrafted projects has skyrocketed and so has the support for the crafter community. Because we’re a small business as well as a one-stop shop for all things sewing, we know this community well. Jo Yee Yap is a budding professional sewist brimming with creativity and a can-do spirit. Although she hasn’t been sewing for long, she’s already created a number of impressive projects and caught our attention. Together with her Sailrite® Fabricator® Sewing Machine, Jo is proof that anybody with an eye for ingenuity can become a maker.
Jo’s introduction into the world of custom leather crafting began with a simple project. She explained that she first had the urge to learn how to make a canvas tote bag and signed up for a local sewing class. After the class, she was inspired to see what else she could create. She then began attending regular sewing classes, watching sewing videos on YouTube, and reading books on beginner sewing techniques. “I am inspired by the countless designs of bag styles, and I believe that your own bag has the power to define and describe your personality. This led to a desire to create my own timeless designs out of durable goods and further develop my sewing skills.”
But how did this crafting curiosity lead her to Sailrite? Well, that, too, started with a simple sewing class. “At a sewing class I attended at the Klum House in Portland, Oregon, I had the opportunity to test out sewing leather on a Sailrite Fabricator versus a Juki industrial machine. The main reason why the Sailrite Fabricator stood out to me as the clear winner was because of the great slow speed control. After that class, I decided to research more about the Fabricator and made the investment. As I’m relatively new to sewing, I was nervous about setting up the machine. However, Sailrite had clear, easy and concise steps, and the variety of video tutorials on their YouTube page really served as an added bonus.”
“I have been able to create such unique projects with the Sailrite Fabricator! The stitch-by-stitch power is something that should not be underestimated. Sailrite also offers a unique leather foot to ensure that your leather is protected from any marks that could be caused during sewing. What I love most about Sailrite as a company is that they always prioritize customers first. The customer service is as great as it gets. I’ve always had my questions answered, and I’ve always received guidance on my troubleshooting issues on my machine almost immediately by members of the Sailrite team.”
“Currently I sew projects for myself, friends and family. Some of my most recent projects include a leather tote bag and a wallet. I hope to one day launch my own business and join the dynamic community of local makers in the greater Seattle area. I look forward to continuing my journey in leathercraft and defining my voice in the makerspace. I look forward to introducing new bag designs in the near future.”
But with all these projects on the horizon, we wanted to know what Jo enjoyed most about the makers’ lifestyle and what factors she considered to be the most difficult. “My favorite part of this unique lifestyle is the endless possibilities and designs you can create. Innovation is a fundamental concept for us as creators, and it is what gets me excited to continue to build upon my skills in the realm of leather crafting.”
It’s no secret that the DIY process is rife with trial and error until you achieve the perfect project, and it’s always beneficial for crafters to share their experiences with one another. When asked about what advice she would give to the budding DIYer, Jo had some thoughts to share with us. “Take risks and have the drive to always learn. For one successful bag design comes many trial prototypes and errors. Passion and perseverance are two key skills for emerging crafters. I also recommend cultivating a network of local crafters so you can learn from one another.”
If we learned one thing from Jo, it’s that the DIY spirit doesn’t have a time limit. If you have the desire to create, there’s no time like the present to embark on that dream project. It doesn’t matter if you dream of sewing your first stitch or you’ve been sewing for years, Sailrite is here to help you every step of the way. With our support behind you and the support of crafters in the DIY community, the only limit to your success is your imagination!
A self-proclaimed jack-of-all-trades, master of none, Joe McFarland has a well-rounded DIY skill set. From sewing canvas and upholstery, welding, woodworking and electrical skills to motorcycle repair, machining and mechanical engineering — the list goes on and on. Joe is a true thrill seeker and big kid at heart; he loves boating, motocross, RC cars, drones and planes. An engineer by trade, he spends his free time volunteering, sailing, writing, canning, beekeeping and has recently gotten into vinyl lettering.
One of his most enduring and favorite activities is sewing. Having learned from his mother, he uses his sewing skills to outfit his four boats and recently completed a Meyers Manx dune buggy overhaul. He completely refurbished the buggy and sewed the backseat upholstery using his well-invested Ultrafeed® LSZ-1. Keep reading to learn more about this energetic go-getter and his long list of DIY triumphs.
Learning to Sew
Joe and his brother learned to sew, both by hand and machine, when they were kids. They were raised by their mother, who is just as self-dependent as her sons, and she instilled them with important life skills at an early age. “I remember clearly being in summer camp and one of our group projects was to hand-sew torn clothing. The counselor asked me if he had the final lock stitch correct, and I showed him how I was taught — and that I still use to this day when hand sewing.” This upbringing made Joe the self-reliant and motivated person he is today.
And just like his mom, Joe shares his skills and knowledge and enjoys helping others to grow and learn how to do things for themselves. “Knowledge can save a person’s life, especially on a sailboat, in a storm, on a lee shore, or with a failed motor due to water contamination in the fuel system (as I’ve experienced firsthand on my boat). Being able to fix things is important.” All of Joe’s boats have been fixer-uppers, and he takes as much joy from refurbishing and getting them seaworthy as he does from sailing and cruising.
What does Joe love about sewing? “I really enjoy sewing. It’s relaxing and slows me down. Not so much as a hobby, but as a means to get things done and to save significant dollars.” He also enjoys the independence that sewing brings. Being able to make or fix something yourself and have it turn out exactly the way you’re envisioning is a sentiment all sewers can relate to and appreciate.
Boats, Sewing & DIY
Joe bought his first sailboat, a semi-derelict 1972 30-foot C&C named Wild Irish, in 2003. It needed a lot of work. Joe purchased the boat in the spring, and he spent several months sanding, polishing and sprucing up the boat while it was in dry dock storage. A few years after the initial refit, it was time to upgrade all of the canvaswork. “To save time and money, DIY was the only way the work that was needed was going to get done. Providing my own canvaswork was one, if not the biggest, cost savings.”
He needed a sewing machine that could handle the many canvas projects he had planned. “I knew I needed an industrial machine. After researching the options I chose the Ultrafeed LSZ-1, which best fit my needs. It’s portable and robust, can be hand cranked, and the support offered by Sailrite is important. I will have my machine on my boat for long distance sailing for sure.”
“I was getting ready to undertake my first major boat canvas project — bimini, dodger, side and rear enclosures, and shades. So while I was at the Annapolis Boat Show that year, I went to the Sailrite booth and started asking questions. [Vice President and Owner] Matt Grant assisted me one-on-one and from that point on I was hooked on Sailrite. Working for a customer-driven corporation, I know that customer support is key.”
He has made numerous projects over the years, including canvas projects, covers, cushions, pillows and more. He relied on Sailrite’s how-to videos to help him through the hardest projects. “The only way I was able to tackle the canvas enclosure project was by living on YouTube and watching the Sailrite instructional videos over and over. I would test-sew small demo pieces of Strataglass™ to ensure I was doing it right before cutting into the large and costly rolls.”
For his dodger DIY, Joe took extensive photos of every step of the process. He did his patterning on the boat, and then took everything back to his sewing loft 127 miles away from the boatyard. Such diligent and careful planning paid off in the end. Joe’s dodger turned out beautifully and his hard work can be seen in the finished project. “The first fit was perfect and I was terribly thrilled. I plan on adding snaps in the summer when the canvas is hot, and then cut in the grab rails and running rigging holes.” Joe created a three-piece dodger, and all three panels can be removed or installed for weather conditions and comfort.
Joe now has four boats: the 30-foot Wild Irish, a 22-foot Catalina named Irish Rover, an 8-foot Zodiac Inflatable named Ulysses and a 20-foot Sea Ray called Irish Wake. He has sewn projects for all of his boats. “I have sailed my boats in all but one of the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Coast and the Bimini Bahamas.” This small fleet of sailing vessels is sure to keep Joe busy in his sewing loft for the foreseeable future.
A Year on the Sea (Almost)
Joe, like a lot of people, had big plans for 2020. But as the John Lennon lyric goes: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Flashing back to 2015, Joe announced to friends, family and coworkers that he planned on taking a yearlong sabbatical in 2020 to sail the Atlantic and Caribbean on his 30-foot sailboat, Wild Irish. “It was my 50th birthday gift to myself and was supposed to start in February 2020. I worked diligently over the past five years refitting the boat for ocean sailing, including the last bits of canvaswork and interior upholstery. In April 2020, one year’s worth of provisions were ready to be loaded and the boat was scheduled for launch.”
Joe meticulously planned and prepared for his yearlong voyage. He arranged the time off with his employer. He organized, he packed, he cooked and canned a year’s worth of meat and other provisions. He even made his own soap from the rendered beef fat! He installed solar panels on his bimini and added a new barrier coat and bottom paint to the hull specifically for saltwater. He was excited and ready to finally begin his sea voyage. And then … the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“Wild Irish will not launch this year. It pains me to see her alone on the hard. I was almost there and was ready to load the last bit of stores, which are all now in storage.” Ever the optimist, Joe didn’t let a year off work go to waste. “No worries on the postponed boat trip; everything is a blessing in disguise. I finished my buggy!”
Plan B: Project Dune Buggy
With a year off from work and no hopes for his sea voyage, Joe, was unwilling to while away a whole year. So he turned to another project to occupy his time. “The buggy is an original 1970 Meyers Manx and the project has a long history – 31 years to be exact.” Joe grew up in Southern California, and Pismo Beach was considered the dune buggy mecca. “At the time, my stepfather had several buggies, one of which was a one-piece fiberglass body dune buggy.”
At age 19, Joe was living in Ohio, and he traded in his motorcycle for a buggy. It was kept behind an old barn buried in weeds and heavily damaged from the elements. “That summer, I had completely stripped it down to pieces and readied it for the rebuild. After re-fiberglassing the many holes and damage from years past, a friend’s father owned an auto body shop where my buddy worked. I was able to barter the 1989 I-Roc Z metallic blue paint job for a car audio system, which I installed in his classic car. While the body was being painted, I continued work on the chassis. Then life got in the way. Between working several jobs and putting myself through college, the buggy sat in storage.” The project was started and stopped several times over the years. Until, finally, the 2020 pandemic offered the perfect opportunity to complete the rebuild. A serendipitous consolation prize for his canceled sailboat trip.
In February 2019, Joe flew to California to meet Bruce Meyers, the creator of the Manx, for a group breakfast organized by the Manx Group. The Meyers Manx dune buggy was produced from 1964 to 1971 in California and was initially designed for desert racing. The recreational vehicle has the shortened chassis of a Volkswagen® Beetle and became the first-known street-legal fiberglass dune buggy. Meeting Bruce Meyers gave Joe the motivation he needed to restart his dune buggy project, and the pandemic gave him the opportunity.
And so, in early 2020, Joe began working on his buggy restoration project. He washed 30 years of dust off his buggy and got to work. “The restoration went as expected with few surprises. Fortunately, I had rebuilt the motor and transmission in 2019. I had restored the chassis pan in 1989. There was considerable time for disassembly, washing, cleaning, sandblasting, priming, painting and reassembly of all the subcomponents. There were also components that needed to be manufactured, including the rear engine cage frame, front seat frames, rear seats and more.”
Joe’s dune buggy project was coming along nicely, but there was one more thing he needed. The yellow vinyl for the backseat needed to perfectly match the prefabricated front seats. Luckily, with time on his hands and Sailrite headquarters a short road trip away, the solution was clear. “I went to the Sailrite website and found several shades of yellow. I knew there was no way I was going to match the color online since the yellow I needed was a very off shade.” He contacted Sailrite and asked if he could bring a sample of the vinyl to the Sailrite office so they could find a vinyl in stock to match. One of Sailrite’s customer service reps worked with Joe personally to find an exact match to his yellow front seats. He returned home with the vinyl he needed and had the backseat upholstered the next day. After a few finishing touches, the buggy was complete and Joe took it out for its first drive in over 30 years — a happy ending to what could have been a wasted year.
What’s next for this adventurous DIYer? Well, he’s still on sabbatical for the rest of the year. He’s currently working on refurbishing a 1958 chopper that he purchased in 1998. Joe plans on relaunching his Wild Irish trip in 2021. Until then, we’re confident this hardworking sewer will find plenty of projects to occupy his time. We wish you all the best, Joe, and hope that when you do finally launch your yearlong sailing voyage that it’s truly the trip of a lifetime. You’ve earned it!
Fall is a season filled with colorful leaves, pumpkins and, of course, Halloween. And with the spookiest of seasons approaching, why not focus on a hauntingly talented sewist? Mari Mortem is the founder of the online shop Strange Coven. Her creative spirit and love of all things Halloween even carries over into her ingenious sewing projects — many of which are made using her Sailrite® Fabricator® Sewing Machine. Mari was more than happy to share the story of her sewing endeavors with us, and her skills are nothing short of supernatural!
Q. How and when did you first become interested in sewing?
A. My love for sewing began when I was very young, and it was more of a necessity. Even if I didn’t have access to nice things, sewing was one thing always within reach in my household. I first started learning when I saw what my parents would mend or make. Later on, in my teenage years, I started taking sewing books out of the library to advance what I’d gleaned from my parents. There’s still so much I’ve yet to learn!
Q. What types of projects do you sew?
A. For the last few years I have been almost exclusively sewing purses. Before this shift, I was predominately sewing clothing with just a splash of crafting purses and other accessories.
Q. How did you become a Halloween fan and collector? What drew you to it?
A. Oh Halloween! What to say. Beneath all the scares, the thrills and the chills, there’s a wholesomeness surrounding Halloween that often gets overlooked. Whether you grew up blessed with opportunity, or less fortunate in your circumstance, Halloween is the one day/night that melts away all the pretense, all the divides, all those societal pressures very naturally.
It’s unforced in its message of neighborliness — people come together for their community’s enjoyment, sometimes without really realizing they are doing so. They put together haunted houses and give away candy to all the neighborhood kids, some that have even travelled from other less fortunate neighborhoods, such as I did when I was young. Even when I couldn’t go out, I could be home carving pumpkins, watching them glow through the night, and roasting the seeds. Even if I expect nothing but the pleasure of a chilly evening with pumpkin treats and a spooky movie, I still feel like I’ve participated in the festivities and traditions.
My obsession with collecting true vintage Halloween odds and ends came about because nothing exemplifies this “hidden” wholesomeness quite like Halloween imagery and characters of the past. They’re very sweet and charming, much like I hope to revive in my own work!
Q. How does the Sailrite Fabricator Sewing Machine fit into your work? What are your thoughts on the machine so far?
A. The year I started shifting my interest toward bag making, I was reading a lot of online blogs and publications in order to get better. I realized that both technique and equipment could further the quality of my projects. A lot of the sources that I was using to perfect my bag making, many of which became my favorite references, had made purchases from Sailrite. They lauded the company for their quality products and services that welcome even the less knowledgeable customer with tons of visual aids. These were visual aids that a first-time industrial machine owner such as myself might encounter. When I browsed the Sailrite catalog I came upon the Fabricator and its sleek black look instantly set it apart from other machines. Knowing how much the people I looked up to loved their machines purchased from Sailrite, plus the added aesthetics of the Fabricator, I knew that it was a machine I would eventually come to own.
At first, I felt intimidated by the machine; like I didn’t know enough to own such a machine. But any time I have a question about it, the answer is so easy to find, whether it’s found intuitively or by reading the Sailrite website and watching helpful videos. It’s a robust machine and it sews through all my heavier projects quickly and beautifully. I have not felt like I’ve sacrificed anything for the speed. It has a lot of control, which matters when I am zipping through straight lines or slowing to a literal crawl on precise details.
Q. Can you tell me about a project (or projects) you’re most proud of?
A. Any time I create anything that is objectively better than the last time I created a similar item makes me very proud. I’m able to see my growth in the craft I am most passionate about. I’m always looking to improve what I do and that in itself can be a challenge because it’s difficult to be impartial about anything you create yourself. You have to find a way to get better without any other kind of guidance but your own wits. It can be quite a hurdle to overcome with even the smallest of projects.
Q. What’s your favorite part of the DIY lifestyle? What’s difficult?
A. My favorite thing about the DIY lifestyle is not being at the whim of what is trending and available — being able to carve out things that match my tastes and wishes perfectly. If I want it to be Halloween every day, I can make it so! However, the most difficult part of this lifestyle is not having enough time to make all the things I want to make! I have to harmonize personal projects with projects and products I want to add to my shop. It’s a tough balance for a solo crafter!
Q. What are you looking forward to sewing in the future?
A. I hope to do much more detailed work in the future, expanding from pumpkins to other more intricate vintage-inspired Halloween goodies as wearable accessories.
Q. What advice would you give to someone who is new to sewing but wants to create fun DIY projects like yours?
A. Never underestimate the value of small accomplishments! When I started bag making, or clothes making (anything really), I focused on perfecting one thing before moving onto the next. Sometimes that meant making a bunch of “easy things” that seem far removed from a nice jacket or a bag, like pillowcases or zippered pouches. However, I learned to perfect my piping and corners through making pillowcases and installing zippers with lined bags on those little pouches. Every little project builds on your skill, whether you immediately realize it or not. Eventually, you’ll be able to look at projects like mine and say, “Yeah, I know how to make that.”
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Mari. We’re looking forward to seeing more of the otherworldly designs you’ll create with the Fabricator. And remember, whether you’re an avid sewist or you’re looking to break into the world of DIY sewing, Sailrite is here for you. With a little imagination, passion and persistence, you, too, can create your dream project. No tricks, just treats!
Captain Helen Deitrick-Kovach is an accomplished boater and sewist. She grew up in a boating family and has been cruising the waters for 62 years. In 2004, she and her husband sold their house and moved aboard their 50-foot Marine Trader trawler powerboat. These liveaboards have logged thousands of miles and explored countless waters. In late 2018, they left the boat in heated winter storage for the first time in 16 years! Captain Deitrick took that time on land to complete an assortment of sewing projects for the trawler. She used her Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 to help her accomplish this huge sewing endeavor. Keep reading to learn more about this intrepid boater, her DIY philosophy, and what she loves about the boating lifestyle.
A Love of the Water
Boating and sailing have been a big part of Captain Deitrick’s life since early childhood. “I learned to sail at the age of 8 at a day camp on Rogers Lake in Old Lyme, Connecticut. We sailed Blue Jay dinghies. I acquired a 12-foot johnboat at the age of 10 and worked the inlets of the Connecticut River with my three lobster pots and pitchfork collecting longneck clams.” She spent high school summers sailing One Design boats at a local yacht club.
After college, she and her husband sailed their 28-foot S2 Performance Cruiser on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina, at Western Carolina Sailing Club. “We used the boat as our weekend lake house and raced competitively in the PHRF (Performance Handicap Racing Fleet). We did this for 18 years until we purchased our Marine Trader trawler.”
When the family moved to Charleston, South Carolina, her husband went to work for Tow Boat US, and he needed a Coast Guard license. Their son knew he wanted to attend a maritime school, so they both attended Sea School in Charleston, considered to be the premier maritime training school in the United States. Upon completion, they received their 100 ton license with sail and towing endorsements.
Adventures on the Horizon
In 2004, when their son went off to college, the couple decided to sell their house and move to the coast. They lived aboard the trawler while their son attended Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, Maine, a four-year academy that graduates officers and engineers for the United States Merchant Marine and marine-related industries.
The 50-foot trawler came with a bit of a learning curve. “We used that time to get acclimated to the systems on the trawler.” The couple graduated from a sailboat with a single 9 horsepower Yanmar engine to twin 150 horsepower diesel Lehman engines, 12 batteries, 760 gallons of fuel, 360 gallons of water, a 50-gallon holding tank and five air conditioners — all packed into a 50-foot boat.
They knew they wanted to be full-time cruisers, and so Captain Deitrick decided it would be prudent for her to get a captain’s license as well. “I did not need to have it to drive the boat, but the education was valuable. I knew how to drive, but docking and undocking required some learning. We took a shakedown cruise (in which the performance of a vessel is tested) in the spring of 2010 with our son on board to help me get the hang of it.”
They named the trawler “ALLEZ!,” which is French for “Let’s Go!” — a very fitting name given the couple’s wanderlust spirit. They have logged thousands of miles since purchasing the trawler in 2004. “She is a 1992 model wide-body and we are the second owners. We have lived on board for 17 years full time. We do not own a house and, until February 2020, we didn’t own a car either.”
In 2010, the intrepid travelers began cruising full time. They cruised all up and down the East Coast to the Florida Keys. In 2013, they started the Great Loop. “We took almost four years to complete the 6,100 mile trip.” The Great Loop is a system of interconnected waterways on the eastern portion of the United States and part of Canada. The Great Lakes, the Mississippi River, the Atlantic and Gulf Intracoastal Waterways and the Rideau Canal are just some of the natural and manmade waterways that form the Great Loop. “We have been all the way up the Potomac to Washington, D.C., and have spent entire summers just cruising the Chesapeake Bay — 1,300 plus miles each summer exploring the rivers and small towns on the Bay. Because we live on the boat full time, we are pretty much always moving around.”
Sewing & DIY
Captain Deitrick taught herself to sew at the age of 10. She started out simple, making throw pillows, but soon moved on to garments including jumpers and skirts. “I graduated to more complex sewing projects like Vogue Patterns® and formal gowns. When I was at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, I became the lead student costumer for the theater department. After college, I made all my own clothes for my working career. When we purchased our S2 sailboat, I made sail covers, winch covers, and several boom tents and bow triangles for shade. I was called upon to make similar products for members of the sail club, for which I was paid. I like the independence that being able to do my own work affords me, as well as the ability to customize my projects.”
Over the last 18 years aboard ALLEZ!, Captain Deitrick has tackled numerous sewing projects for the boat. In her words: “If it is made of fabric — Sunbrella®, Phifertex®, Stamoid™, Naugahyde® or upholstery/curtain material — I have made it for ALLEZ!” Just a handful of the bounty of projects she’s made for the trawler include curtain panels, door panels, roll-up screens, handrail, grill and winch covers, and so many cushions. A 50-foot boat is a lot of space, and there’s a DIY project everywhere you look.
“Being able to sew and having the machine on board at all times has been invaluable. I have also been able to take on projects for other boaters who need repairs or replacements and do not have the skill or inclination to undertake the project themselves.” Her most recent DIY was a new bimini for the upper deck. She chose Stamoid for the 12-foot x 15-foot bimini and used her Ultrafeed to tackle the project. “Every bit of material I have used on the boat has come from Sailrite®. Additionally, the supplies I have purchased for my projects for hire have all come from Sailrite as well.”
Captain Deitrick says the new upper deck bimini was her toughest project to date. “It was big and I had never used patterning material before. I had always just used the old bimini, but since it was a new design with adjusted rails it was different. Add to the fact that while we removed the fifth rail and adjusted the heights on the two intermediate bows, I did not have the luxury of walking all around the frame.” The mid-summer heat in South Carolina didn’t make it any easier either. Captain Deitrick had limited time to pattern the frame before the temperatures rose and the wind kicked up every afternoon. But the satisfaction and happiness of completing a big project just can’t be beat!
A New Beginning
After almost two decades on the water, Captain Deitrick and her husband are bidding farewell to the liveaboard lifestyle. They’ve decided to sell the trawler and relocate closer to family. “We have two young grandchildren and want to be full-time grandparents, and that is hard to do when you are 1,200 miles away.” The couple have traveled and boated to all the places they wanted to visit, and they’re looking forward to this next chapter of their lives. They plan to continue traveling — this time by land. A bittersweet ending perhaps, but the memories they made aboard ALLEZ! are sure to bring smiles to their faces whenever they are missing life on the water.
For many, the idea of living aboard your boat and sailing the world is simply a pipe dream. It takes a lot of preparation and courage to cut ties with the land and jump into a life at sea. Glen and Oana Sansom decided years ago to devote their lives to sailing and traversing the open water. Along the way, they’ve had incredible adventures and even became acquainted with the Sailrite® Ultrafeed® Sewing Machine.
Glen is British and Oana is Romanian. They met in Bucharest while under the employment of the same international oilfield services company. Later, the two moved to Dubai and were married. In early 2016, Glen was offered an early retirement after 31 years in his field and Oana took forced retirement as requested by Glen. Like the old saying goes, when one door closes, another opens! This catalyst prompted the two to reexamine their professional life — the long office hours and material ties. Both adventurers at heart, they decided it was time for a change.
Glen had been a sailing enthusiast in his teen years and Oana had begun sailing while in Dubai where the couple raced a J/22. It only made sense that they jump headfirst into sailing and start cruising exclusively following a trip to the Dusseldorf Boat Show. After months of extensive research, they finally found their dream boat! Enter Cloudy Bay, a Hallberg-Rassy 54 launched in Sweden in 2008. The previous owner had named her after a famous New Zealand wine and it stuck. And so the adventures of Cloudy Bay began!
It wasn’t long before Glen and Oana realized that living aboard their boat required a certain level of self-reliance when it came to repairs. If you’re in the middle of the ocean and experience a tear in your sail, you better be ready to fix it! When it came to sewing, Oana was familiar with hand sewing and Glen had done some sewing in the past with his mother’s old Singer. They soon began researching for the ideal machine to have onboard and quickly settled on the Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1. “When we saw the Sailrite machine at the Annapolis Boat Show, the Ultrafeed was an easy purchase, along with all the materials and little bits needed to complete the projects we had in mind.” It was also critical to have instructional materials, so they quickly began utilizing Sailrite’s how-to videos.
“We started our various projects with the simplest and worked upwards in complexity. Our first project was making fender blankets ready for our transit through the Panama canal. The latest project, and the one we are most proud of, was a set of dinghy chaps. We templated the dinghy using shrink-wrap plastic then transferred the pattern to Sunbrella® material. We put strengthening pieces around all the protruding fittings and secured the chaps to the dinghy using velcro glued to the dinghy. It was the little things that made the difference. For instance, a tip made in Sailrite’s dinghy chaps video was to do the patterning with the dinghy slightly deflated. Then, when we finally fitted the cover and pumped to full pressure, the chaps fit like a glove! Other projects included side and rear sunshades for the bimini, putting six solar panels on top of the bimini and repair work to our aging dodger.”
When you spend all your time sailing, the world is your oyster. After purchasing Cloudy Bay in 2016, the couple cruised the Western Mediterranean. That winter they did a big refit in Spain, making all the necessary changes for circumnavigation. The next summer, they cruised the Eastern Mediterranean, then set off across the Atlantic in early 2018. After that, they visited the Caribbean Windward Islands, spent the summer of 2018 cruising the East Coast of the United States up to Maine, and then went back south again for another winter in the Caribbean. And that’s just the start of their travels! Thankfully, all of their trips have been aptly documented via their blog site, Sail Cloudy Bay, and their YouTube channel of the same name.
When it comes to committing to a floating home, Glen was happy to share some tips for potential cruisers. “First and foremost, it may look like an idyllic lifestyle, but all good things become the norm after a year or more. I would not want to discourage people, but I would say to try it by doing a charter or two before you commit too much. Don’t spend years preparing and spending, only to find it’s not for you. Of course, if you love independence, remote off-grid living and sailing, it’s a perfect life if you both like it. But if one partner enjoys it more than the other, there has to be some empathy and compromise.”
“Our compromise is to spend at least four months a year back at home, Oana’s home in Romania. Behind all the apparent fun and adventure, consider these points: the incessant movement of the boat, always getting wet when going ashore with the dinghy, needing to constantly be aware of the weather forecast, knowing that almost every day something will break, and that never-ending nomadic feeling of always being on the move. I would recommend always keeping a home somewhere other than the boat. Because you will want a break from it sometimes, and there is no place like home when that time comes. Another key piece of advice is above having a good seaworthy boat, it needs many of the home comforts too if you are to live on it 24/7/365. Otherwise, it’s like the difference between camping and glamping. And whatever the luxury of your boat, it’s never going to be up to living in a roomy, warm, dry, stationary house!”
Since their foray into the world of boating, Glen and Oana have been happy to share their experiences via their blog, social media and their YouTube channel. While they initially started documenting their experiences on video for family and friends, it quickly grew into a popular channel with over 16,000 subscribers. Their goal is to show real sailing and share cruising wisdom with their fans. They even filmed a video dedicated to their Sailrite projects!
While traversing the globe has its own set of challenges, Glen and Oana have also had to manage the global COVID-19 pandemic. For a cruiser, this poses its own unique set of hurdles. Glen was kind enough to share his experience with us.
“For Oana it’s wonderful! She gets to have a longer break back at home with friends and family. Unfortunately, she suffers from seasickness, so six months at a time onboard is about her limit. Frankly, COVID has stopped us, and many like us, in our tracks. We should be halfway across the Pacific by now. Even restarting again this November looks unlikely. Most of the countries we need to enter either still have their borders closed or apply highly restricted movement. Add to that, we need to look at if/when we catch COVID ourselves, what is the probability that one of us would need hospitalization. Currently looks like about a 14% chance given our ages. That may be okay at home, where good hospital care is available, but those odds feel too high to venture to places where no hospital care, or limited care, is available. In summary, it looks like COVID will cause us to have a break, but things will get back to normal and it will prolong our adventure, which is a good thing (for me).”
While current circumstances may seem daunting, this intrepid pair of adventurers isn’t letting anything keep them from enjoying life on the water. As soon as they’re able, they’re determined to continue their circumnavigation. When they do set off, they’ll be heading for Panama to start the Pacific crossing. Once across the Pacific and its many islands, they hope to spend some time exploring New Zealand. After that, there will be a trek to Southeast Asia, the islands of the Indian Ocean, the final leg up to Brazil and a trip to the Chesapeake Bay on the East Coast of the United States.
The cruising lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but if you can make it work it’s full of exciting adventures and countless lessons to learn. Self-reliance is key, and Sailrite is here to help you every step of the way. From our instructional videos to top-of-the-line sewing machines, you’ll have everything you need to excel. Glen and Oana are perfect examples of the ingenuity, tenacity and lifelong curiosity that makes for a worthwhile life at sea. Thanks for sharing your story with us, and we look forward to hearing more about the voyages of Cloudy Bay!
Though not raised in a boating family, Laura Weller-Brophy has a very unique and interesting job in the marine industry. She co-owns a boat club that maintains a fleet of boats that the members have unlimited use of during boating season. “This is the perfect way to get on the water,” Laura explained. “Our members enjoy the best part of boating without the hassle of maintaining the boat.” Laura contributes her sewing skills, among other expertise, to the business. She sews upholstery and canvaswork projects for the boats, and she needed a sewing machine that was up to the challenge. She discovered the Sailrite® Ultrafeed® Sewing Machine and has been putting it to great use.
While boating is a hobby for many people, to Laura it’s an enjoyable business opportunity. “I like the ability to be outdoors in an environment that I love, meeting the boat club members and enjoying the pleasure that they take in boating.” The business was founded by Laura’s business partner and has been in operation in the Rochester, New York, region for six years. Though she had no boating experience, her business expertise made for an excellent and profitable partnership. “We have tripled the size of our business since working together,” she shared.
In addition to her business acumen, Laura was able to contribute another one of her skills to the business: sewing. She learned to sew as a young girl on her grandmother’s treadle Singer sewing machine. “My grandmother and her two sisters were accomplished sewers and made clothing for themselves and their family members. My aunt is a very skilled seamstress — she designed and made my wedding gown. I learned a lot from her and my mother.”
Laura’s love of DIY stretches beyond just sewing. “I enjoy soap making, canning, painting the house … I did my first stained-glass project last summer.” Regardless of the craft, the joy that comes from making something with your own hands is a universal part of DIY. “DIY means having the freedom and ability to independently make things just like you want them to be — no need to search the web for poorly made items stitched from poor quality fabrics. I love sewing because it enables me to make beautiful things, sew my own curtains and clothing, and make special things for others.”
Laura found the Sailrite website when she was searching for canvas fabric to complete a boat project. It wasn’t too long till she discovered the Ultrafeed LSZ-1. Instantly, she knew it was the machine she needed. “I love the Ultrafeed! It is exceptionally well made, robust, and it has the features that I need. I especially value Sailrite because of the videos that you have. I watch them when I need to learn new skills and how to do specific projects.” The Ultrafeed’s portability allows Laura to work on projects outside at the marina.
She purchased her Ultrafeed in 2019 and has already tackled a number of marine projects. Her first project was making new boat cushions for a vintage Rubbermaid Hellion boat. She turned to Sailrite’s inventory of how-to videos to help her complete the refit. “After the boat cushions I made a number of canvas repairs for customers of Boat Club USA. These are smaller jobs that larger canvas shops may not want to do.” Laura recently made a bimini for a customer’s boat. She watched hours of Sailrite’s bimini top videos for guidance.
A project that Laura was quite proud of and enjoyed was patching a torn cover for a customer’s personal watercraft. She was able to get creative with the repair job — not just patching but making artistic patches that enhanced the visual appeal of the cover. “I made ‘dog bone’ patches over the handlebars and a rectangle with zigzag stitching over the ‘nose’ of the PWC. The customers liked the repair because it was effective and because the design element added to the end product. I liked it because it was fun. I have customers who just want a square patch; I try to use dog bones and other shapes that add design interest and get the job done. I find that people may not take the time to incorporate compelling design into the repair of a canvas cover.”
Laura is a big fan of Sailrite’s project videos. She has turned to them again and again to help her through specific projects or to learn new sewing tricks. “Sewing for boats is not the same as making clothing, which is what I was most familiar with. I find that the boat projects incorporate engineering skills beyond what a person learns when they sew clothing. I would not have been successful with the boat canvas and cushions without the videos.”
What projects is Laura looking forward to diving into next? “I have some beautiful canvas that I need to make into outdoor curtains before the summer is over. I also want to learn how to restore outdoor umbrellas — keeping the frames and learning how to make the fabric covers. I also want to learn to make my first full boat covers!” Looks like Laura is in luck — Sailrite has how-to videos for all of those projects!
What words of DIY wisdom does Laura have to share? “I’d like to encourage your readers to tackle new DIY projects using the Sailrite products and videos. Your company is great at helping us succeed at new projects that may look rather daunting at first.”
DIY is all about trying something you’ve never done before, practicing your newly learned skills, and having fun while doing it! We’re thrilled our products and video tutorials were able to help this enthusiastic sewer flex her sewing skills and learn some new techniques. With DIY, you’re only limited by your imagination! Thanks for sharing your story with us, Laura, and good luck on all your future projects.
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.
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.”
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.”
“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.
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!
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.