Boldly Sewing: Adjusting an LSZ-1 for Home Projects

In episodes of the classic sci-fi show Star Trek, landing parties exploring uncharted planets needed three pieces of equipment: a communicator to contact the crew still on the Enterprise starship, a phaser for defense and a multiuse device called a tricorder. Self-proclaimed Trekkie and Sailrite® customer Adrienne Killey would add one more crucial piece of equipment to that list — a Sailrite® Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 Sewing Machine.

Adrienne purchased an Ultrafeed LSZ-1 in early 2021. A little over a year later, she set a goal to make custom Star Trek cosplay outfits in time for a convention in early 2022 — but she had to overcome some challenges with her machine first. Luckily, her experience sewing began long before she purchased an Ultrafeed.

Adrienne started out sewing décor items and clothes on a home sewing machine that her mother gave her in 2002. Her mother’s other gift to her — the love of sewing — came during Adrienne’s childhood. She grew up seeing her mother sewing nearly every weekend. “In watching her, I learned how helpful knowing a skill like sewing could be,” Adrienne said. “Sewing gave her, and now me, an outlet for creativity.”

She has sewed a variety of projects, including clothing, a quilted wall hanging and crossbody water bottle caddies. Her home machine was fine for those projects — but when Adrienne set her sights on a more ambitious DIY, she realized she needed a more powerful machine to match.

Discovering the Ultrafeed LSZ-1

During the 2020 boating season, Adrienne and her family were able to spend some time on their Four Winns Vista 268 cruiser powerboat. That’s when Adrienne decided that the boat’s existing canvas enclosure needed an upgrade to fit her family’s preferences.

“A full set of canvas with Strataglass™ came with the boat. When anchored, we would hang towels from the bimini to provide shade, but that blocked the view. That was the inspiration to create new canvases on both the starboard and port sides that would provide shade, but also allow air to move through the boat.”

Knowing that her domestic sewing machine wouldn’t be able to handle marine-grade material, Adrienne and her husband began shopping for a heavy-duty machine. Their search was quick and easy. The couple had seen the Ultrafeed in several sailing videos they’d watched on YouTube — and when they did more research on the machine, they liked what they saw.

The machine’s sturdy construction and zigzag stitch capability were definite pluses. But Sailrite’s vast library of free educational content was the biggest draw for Adrienne.

“I also liked that Sailrite produces very detailed how-to videos to share sewing knowledge and advice,” Adrienne said about choosing a Sailrite machine. “The huge number of videos gave me the sense that Sailrite is not only a manufacturer of sewing machines, but they also care enough about their customers to try to give them all the information they need to have a positive project outcome.”

As it turned out, the videos became even more important as Adrienne began using her Ultrafeed.

sewing on Ultrafeed LSZ-1
It took some practice, but now Adrienne is a pro at sewing home projects on her Ultrafeed.

When the LSZ-1 arrived, Adrienne tried a test project to see what the machine could do. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out how she hoped…

“My first project on my Sailrite was a tank-style dress using cotton jersey fabric. I watched the ‘Home Sewing with a Sailrite Ultrafeed Sewing Machine’ video and read the Guidebook. When I sat down to my LSZ-1 for the first time, I assumed I didn’t need to check or adjust the timing because the machine was brand-new directly from Sailrite, and they set the timing before sending it out the door.”

Adrienne was right that her Ultrafeed was perfectly timed. The problem was that the machine wasn’t timed for the light home fabric she picked out for her dress.

You see, Sailrite’s expert technicians tune and tension LSZ-1 machines to sew thick marine-grade fabrics right out of the box. That’s because most people who buy an LSZ-1 sew for their boats, and they need the machine to be ready for sailcloth, marine canvas and vinyl right away. The Ultrafeed can easily handle thinner home fabrics and thread after some adjustments — but Adrienne’s machine wasn’t adjusted yet, so she couldn’t finish the dress.

“The problems I had with that project were newbie user error and not an incompatibility of the stretchy fabric and the machine,” Adrienne said. “For the first couple of projects, I treated the machine as I would my [home sewing machine] and only adjusted the [upper thread] tension.”

It would take a few more tweaks to complete a home sewing project. But for the moment, Adrienne turned her attention to the reason she bought an Ultrafeed in the first place: the canvas enclosure for the family’s powerboat. Before getting started, Adrienne dove into the how-to videos on Sailrite’s YouTube channel.

“The videos on the Sailrite YouTube channel have been an indispensable resource for me,” she told us. “For example, when I made my canvases, I watched ‘How to Make an Enclosure Aft Curtain,’ ‘Double Sided Tape for Sewing – Seamstick Basting Tape for Canvas,’ and many others related to making canvases before I even bought the materials. I often referenced the videos throughout my project.”

The videos helped Adrienne get comfortable with the new machine, and she completed the enclosure in time for the 2021 boating season:

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Although the Killey family is still new to boating, having purchased their Four Winns Vista in 2018, they find great joy in the hobby. “We enjoy the serenity on the water and the time to spend as a family,” Adrienne said. “When we’re on the boat, we’re exploring, swimming, relaxing, having fun and making memories. We find the time on the water to be rejuvenating.”

The family likes taking weekly dinner cruises and weekend excursions on Lake Michigan. This summer, they hope to cruise some different waterways in their home state of Wisconsin.

Voyages of the Ultrafeed LSZ-1

Adrienne’s success with the canvaswork gave her the confidence to try another complex DIY: cosplay costumes that she, her daughter and her dad could wear to a Star Trek convention. It would be her second attempt at a home sewing project on her Ultrafeed, and she was determined to make themost of it.

“After some initial home sewing disappointments, I learned I cannot be timid about making adjustments to my LSZ-1,” Adrienne said. “When I decided I wanted to create the Star Trek cosplay costumes, I deliberately used the project as a way to really get to know my LSZ-1 and figure out how to adjust the machine correctly for home sewing. I just knew that it could handle it and my challenges in the past were user error, not the machine.”

To do that, Adrienne rewatched the Ultrafeed home sewing video, as well as a video on machine timing. She also checked the Guidebook again. Armed with this research, she tried several adjustments on her machine.

In addition to installing a #10 home sewing needle, “I also adjusted the upper tension, bobbin tension and pressure-regulating thumbscrew appropriately for light fabric and thread,” Adrienne told us. She then went above and beyond what’s required for sewing home fabric by tweaking the shuttle gib hook’s rotation and position — in other words, adjusting the machine’s timing.

The adjustments were a complete success! Adrienne and her family had a great time showing off their finished cosplay uniforms at the Star Trek: Mission Chicago convention in April 2022.

“The uniforms came out great,” Adrienne said. We couldn’t agree more:

Kayla, George and Adrienne showing off their custom uniforms at the Mission Chicago convention.

Adrienne’s daughter, Kayla, wore an Ensign Mariner’s uniform from the new animated show, Star Trek: Lower Decks. Her dad, George, dressed in a Captain’s uniform from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. And Adrienne herself went in a stylized version of the uniforms worn by members of a covert organization called Section 31, which has appeared in multiple Star Trek shows and novels.

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The Mission Continues

Now that Adrienne has boldly sewn where few have sewn before, what’s next for her? We’re happy to share that she has plans to remake a beloved backpack purse using marine vinyl from Sailrite.

Adrienne also told us that she hasn’t forgotten about the tank dress project, and she plans to take another stab at it soon. Since she first tried that project, she’s learned so much about adjusting her machine for home sewing.

“Learning how to properly master the LSZ-1 is a journey. Making adjustments to the entire machine is necessary at the beginning of a project — and maybe even during the project.

“My journey has taught me to always have a screwdriver nearby; to not skip making timing adjustments; to be patient when dialing in the right tension and timing; and to have scrap fabric handy during the adjustment process. Taking the time in the beginning to properly adjust the LSZ-1 for every aspect of the project will save you from seam ripping later.”

We wrapped up our interview by asking Adrienne if she had any words of wisdom for other new or prospective LSZ-1 owners. Here’s what she said:

“I love my LSZ-1, and I look forward to completing more projects on it. For those considering purchasing an LSZ-1, it is a very versatile machine and well worth the cost. For new owners, read through the manual and watch all the videos in the ‘Sailrite Ultrafeed Set-Up, Use & Maintenance’ playlist on the Sailrite YouTube channel. Also, before starting a project, search for and watch any videos on the Sailrite YouTube channel that are similar or related to the project you’re starting.”

Thank you for your kind words and thoughtful advice, Adrienne! We wish you success in all your future projects on your Ultrafeed, and we can’t wait to see what you make next. Sew on and prosper!

Stitching Pieces of the Past: Quilt Artist Kathleen McVeigh

What do you see when you look at a quilt? An old-fashioned bedspread? Something your mother or grandmother used to sew? Most of us only see what’s in front of us: cotton, batting and thread. We don’t look past what it is to envision what it could become. That’s what sets Kathleen McVeigh apart. She doesn’t see just a quilt. She sees a coat, a dress, a top, a bag — she sees endless possibility and potential. With care, thoughtfulness and great consideration, Kathleen transforms handmade vintage quilts into one-of-a-kind garments and accessories. With the help of her Ultrafeed® LS-1 Sewing Machine, she is bridging the past to the present and creating something truly unique.

quilted coat
One of Kathleen’s unique quilted coat designs.

Transformation. It’s the core of all DIY. To take something and turn it into something else. Breathing new life into heirloom quilts is Kathleen’s calling. With a background in fine art, she has used her creative talents and eye for design to transform these forgotten treasures into beautiful coats, dresses and bags for a new generation to fall in love with and cherish all over again.

Kathleen’s love of quilting runs deep. She grew up watching her grandmother quilt and, later, taught herself to quilt as an adult. “My grandmother taught me to sew when I was 4 or 5. I would go over to her house for visits or sleepovers and she would give me some of the triangle pieces she was quilting to sew together while we watched movies. I have really good memories of sewing with my grandmother and learning about the different fabrics we were using, mostly from old family clothes, linens, sheets or curtains.”

You can imagine that a great deal of consideration goes into cutting apart quilts and piecing them together, creating something completely new yet that retains the beauty and personality of the original quilt. Considering how much time goes into making a quilt — vintage quilts took anywhere from several months or even years to complete — you can tell that Kathleen has the utmost respect and appreciation for the original quilter, and she reflects that in the care and attention she puts into creating her coats and other quilted goods.

Kathleen started her business, Kitty Badhands, in 2016. At the time, she focused solely on handcrafting minimalist modern quilts and custom, made-to-order quilts. Due to time limitations, it was a part-time hobby. In 2020, she relocated her sewing studio to her apartment and space became a major issue. So, she decided to make a quilted coat because it was a project that she could work on in her dining room. What she intended as a personal side project turned into the future of her business and brand. “The response from friends also wanting a coat was overwhelming, and it grew from there into a full-time job fairly quickly.”

We sat down with Kathleen to learn more about her DIY inspiration, her history with sewing and quilting, and why she chose the Sailrite Ultrafeed to help her turn quilts into unique and wearable works of art.

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Q. Do you consider yourself a creative person?

A. I do. I think almost everyone is creative in their own way, and my creativity manifests itself visually. I love dreaming up forms in my head and being able to create those forms with my hands. Whether that’s making a coat, a sketch, the way I decorate a room, or cook a meal, I think creativity is a huge part of what makes everyday life interesting and exciting.

Q. What do you love about the DIY and creative lifestyle?

A. The DIY/creative lifestyle, in my case, has been about creating and building the Kitty Badhands brand. There is so much to love about running my own business. I get to do what I love every day, on my terms, and I get to be my own boss. I worked in the service and restaurant industry for 12 years. Every day, when I would go to work, I would think: “This isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing. This isn’t a good use of my energy and it doesn’t make me happy.” Having a creative and DIY lifestyle for me means living on my own terms and being responsible for my own happiness and survival. It’s a dream.

A handful of Kathleen’s stunning creations!

Q. How did you get the idea to turn vintage quilts into one-of-a-kind coats?

A. I had a beloved wool coat that was passed down to me by a friend. The cut of it was very unique and it was beginning to fall apart. I tried to mend it, and when that didn’t work, I decided to cut the coat apart and try to use the pieces as a pattern to recreate the same coat from a new material. I think I naturally gravitated toward remaking the coat out of a quilt because I felt very comfortable working with quilts (I had already been quilting for several years), and the quilt I had in mind to use was a similar weight and thickness to the wool from the coat. This was just a personal side project for me, but friends were really interested in the coat I made and wanted one of their own. So I started making them for friends and, eventually, folks I had never met started asking for their own quilt coats.

Q. Can you describe the process of turning a quilt into a coat?

A. I first spend a lot of time looking at the quilt and thinking about how I will cut it up. I only ever cut into vintage quilts that are damaged in some way and in need of new life (stains, rips, holes, etc.). If I find an heirloom quilt in pristine condition, I leave it alone, as it would be wrong to cut into something like that. Once I have an idea of how I want the coat to look, I lay my coat pattern pieces over the quilt, making sure I have enough quilt to work with (sometimes I find out that I don’t and then I have to rethink the placement and design), and then trace them with a chalk marker. I cut all of the pieces and now I’m ready to sew.

First, I work on lining up and attaching pockets first. Next I sew up the sleeves. Lastly, I attach the front panels to the back panels. Then I serge all of the seams together before attaching the sleeves to the body of the coat. I use a mannequin to pin and adjust as I work. After serging the armholes, I work on either a collar or a hood and attach it to the neckline of the coat. The last part of the sewing process is all of the topstitching to keep seams folded and to give it a more professional finish. I use antique brass snaps for my coats, and I measure and mark where the snaps will go so that the coat will come together evenly when snapped. I either use a snap fastener or a hammer, depending on how thick the quilt I’m working with is. My final step is sewing in my tags; it feels like I’m “signing” the work and deciding that it’s finished.

From quilt to coat!

Q. How do you acquire the quilts and where do they come from?

A. They come from all over. When I started, I had a small collection of handmade quilts that I had collected from thrift stores and estate sales throughout the years, but those ran out very quickly. Right now, because of COVID, I am mostly finding my quilts on websites that do online auction and estate sales. I am excited that in-person estate sales and antique shops are beginning to open back up in my area. A nice surprise has been that as my business has grown, folks have begun to reach out to me with quilts that they want to sell, or local people will tip me off to a quilt that is for sale in one of the thrift/antique stores in town. Searching for and finding old quilts that speak to me is one of my favorite parts of the job.

Q. What made you decide on an Ultrafeed Sewing Machine?

A. What first caught my eye was the design and look of the machine itself: I think it’s quite beautiful and stylish. What made me decide to pull the trigger on purchasing one was that Sailrite seems to be a very involved company that cares about its customers. There were lots of glowing reviews, lots of troubleshooting videos on YouTube, and I heard that the manual was very easy to follow (super important for me). I’m a visual person, so I used the Sailrite videos almost exclusively instead of the guidebook to set up my machine, learn how to thread the machine, and how to wind the bobbin. They were super clear and helpful.

sewing with ultrafeed
Kathleen works on a quilted project with her Ultrafeed LS-1.

Q. How has the machine performed for you?

A. It’s been a business-saver. It has been able to sew through many thick layers of heavy quilts. I have a stack of thick quilts that have just been sitting on my shelves because my other sewing machine could not handle them. So far, the Ultrafeed hasn’t encountered a single quilt that it can’t sew through.

Q. Where does your design inspiration come from?

A. When I first started out, I didn’t really “design” the coat at all. I would just start cutting and the finished pattern was a surprise (sometimes good and sometimes not so good). It was by doing this and seeing the different results that I started to understand how the different pieces of the quilted coat would come together. Now, I can look at a quilt and the coat jumps out at me. I can visualize how different parts of the quilt would lend themselves to a sleeve or a pocket, or where the patterns will come together at the seams of the back and front. It’s very important to me that the pattern flows seamlessly throughout the coat to create one cohesive piece and that there is a balance of different colors and shapes throughout. The most exciting, and also excruciating, part of the design process is that I can often see many different ways a quilt could be cut to make a coat. Each option would create something that looks entirely different, but there is only one quilt and one opportunity to make the coat. Deciding which direction to go can be difficult.

Recently, Kathleen has expanded her quilted offerings to include dresses, tops, totes and clutches. With the weather getting warmer, she wasn’t sure customers would be interested in purchasing coats during the summer months. Adding warm-weather wearables was a natural next step in her new and growing online business. Her quilted totes incorporate a waxed canvas base and strap, adding a modern look and finish to her classic quilted style. Kathleen relies on her Ultrafeed to handle the thickness of the combined waxed canvas and quilt layers.

It takes a special person to appreciate the artistry and dedication that goes into cutting, piecing, sewing and binding a quilt. Kathleen gives these once-loved quilts the care and attention they deserve. They are in good hands with Kathleen. Someone’s beloved heirloom is no longer lost to history. She gives these family treasures a new life as they find their way into the hands of someone who will cherish them as much as their original creators.

If you’d like to see more of Kathleen’s quilted creations, you can follow her on Instagram at @kittybadhands.