Outdoor Awnings: A Dream Home DIY

Debra Brown is well acquainted with the world of sewing, having started her first project as a teenager. But what began as a fun, sporadic hobby turned into necessity years later when Debra and her husband moved to Portland, Oregon, and purchased a beautiful Cape Cod home built in 1937. After moving in, they quickly noticed their dream home was not without flaws. “The back of the house faces west and the August sun in Portland can be brutal. The house came with seasonal awnings for each window to mitigate the heat, but unfortunately, they were old and tattered. The awning company wanted $4,000 to remake them — seven in all!” 

Bolstered by her “can do” attitude and sewing skill set, Debra set off to find a way to perfect her new home by creating her own awnings. This would prove to be her greatest sewing adventure yet, and would eventually lead her to Sailrite’s tools and supplies. We’re happy to have been a part of the journey, and Debra was kind enough to share her success story with us.

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Q: What’s your history like with sewing? How long have you been doing it and how did you learn?

I learned to sew in middle school and still recall my very first projects as a 14-year-old — a simple gym bag and a dirndl skirt. Since then, over the years I’ve enjoyed sewing clothing and simple home décor items. When my husband and I moved to Portland, Oregon, and bought an 80-year-old house, my brother, Jesse, encouraged me to take on more ambitious sewing projects including draperies, duvet covers and Roman Shades. Jesse had been sewing custom home décor items for decades and taught me everything I know about sewing with heavier weight fabrics. He had also loaned me one of his industrial sewing machines to complete my projects in the past.

Q: What was the process like of creating your awnings? 

When I decided to try making new awnings for our house, I knew it would be challenging. I had no idea what types of fabric were available, or what tools and notions I’d need. I began by taking apart one of the old awnings and documenting each step so I’d know how to construct a new one. My brother suggested I visit the Sailrite website to learn about appropriate fabrics and thread. I was amazed by the selection available and settled on Sunbrella® Marine Grade Fabric, based on Sailrite’s recommendations for awning construction. 

I ordered just enough fabric to complete the first awning, as it would be a test as to whether or not I could really do this. Next, I needed the right tools. My best friends turned out to be the Sailrite® Edge Hotknife and Seamstick Basting Tape. I could never have managed the Sunbrella without these two lifesavers. Construction of the first awning was slow going. I borrowed two different sewing machines from Jesse just to get started. 

It took me two entire days to create the test awning. I made lots of mistakes but also learned a lot about working with large pieces of Sunbrella. Sailrite’s videos on sewing flat-felled seams were incredibly helpful and helped me gain confidence in my abilities. I knew that if I was going to proceed with constructing six more awnings, I’d need a lot more fabric. But most importantly, I knew I’d need a heavy duty walking foot sewing machine that could handle the project, and that I could easily set up and move around in my sewing area.

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The Sailrite Edge Hotknife was an invaluable tool for cutting Sunbrella.

Q: How did you decide on selecting a Sailrite Ultrafeed® Sewing Machine? What are your thoughts on the machine so far?

I spent a lot of time on Sailrite’s website researching machines and watching videos on working with Sunbrella Marine Grade Fabric. I decided on Sailrite’s Ultrafeed LS-1 PLUS machine. I selected the PLUS package because I wanted the Industrial Carrying Case and accessories included in that package. I was not disappointed. The day my machine arrived, I spent time watching Sailrite’s assembly video and videos on winding bobbins, threading the machine, and sewing basic seams. Without these videos, I would not have felt comfortable setting up my machine and getting started sewing. They were incredibly helpful. 

After completing six more awnings — the last one in a record time of three hours — I can say with confidence that the Ultrafeed LS-1 is an elegant workhorse that seems to have been made for my project. The machine easily handled multiple layers of Sunbrella fabric. I never experienced stuck fabric, the machine losing its timing, or any of the other issues that I had with the borrowed sewing machines I’d used in the past.

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Working with layers of thick Sunbrella required the Ultrafeed LS-1.

Q: Do you plan to sew other projects using the Ultrafeed? 

Now that I’ve finished the awnings, I’m excited to try other projects that utilize Sunbrella, such as patio cushions or maybe a heavy duty tent for my husband’s hunting trips. He’s already asked me to do some repairs on one of his canvas backpacks. Now that I have the experience, the tools and the Ultrafeed LS-1 machine, I’m thinking the sky’s the limit! 

Q: What was the most rewarding, and most challenging, part of constructing this project?

One of the most rewarding parts of the project was simply the realization that I could recreate a large custom item from scratch if I invested in the right tools and materials. The other big rewards are the energy savings on the second floor of my house, which, in the absence of awnings, can be very hot in the summer, not to mention saving over $2,500 by making the awnings myself. That’s even after my investment in the LS-1, the fabric, and the tools and supplies needed. 

The greatest challenge was not having an existing pattern or sewing instructions for these custom awnings. Sailrite made the sewing easy. It was the cognitive piece — thinking through the steps involved — that was the most challenging.

Q: What was the reaction of your family and friends to the new project? 

My family was really impressed with the new awnings. They watched me sew them over a couple of weeks, and were amazed at how professional they look. At first, some of my friends didn’t believe that I actually made them myself. “No way!” was the most common response I received after revealing the beautiful new awnings on the back of my house. Thank you, Sailrite!

Baby on Board: Sailing, Sewing & Raising a Family

Jon and Leah Kruger have been enjoying the liveaboard lifestyle since 2011. They both grew up in sailing families — Jon sailed on traditional wooden sailboats in Maine, and Leah spent seven years of her childhood aboard her parents’ Frasier 41 named “Synchronicity.” She spent four of those years circumnavigating and sailed the South Pacific, the Red Sea, the Mediterranean, Caribbean and the West Coast of the United States.

Jon and Leah met in 2009. They spent their early dating years borrowing Synchronicity from Leah’s parents and sailing in the Pacific Northwest. They both knew they wanted to live on a boat, and so they eventually scraped together enough money to buy a 1981 Nor’West 33 dubbed “Brio” in 2011. Ever since, they’ve been living aboard and sailing the open waters, including transiting the Panama Canal in 2014, wintering for three seasons in Portland, Maine, and cruising up and down the East Coast.

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Jon and Leah during the early years of their sailing adventure.

In April 2018, the couple welcomed their first child, Zephyr, to their crew. Now, this adventurous sailing family lives year-round on their sailboat with their 1-year-old son in tow. In addition to her captain duties, Leah is also in charge of all sewing projects and sail repair onboard using her Ultrafeed® Sewing Machine. With the addition of their smallest crew member, some of her recent DIYs have included safety and baby-proofing projects, including weather cloths and an enclosed v-berth sleeping area for little Zephyr.

She shared her one-of-a-kind story with us…

Q. What made you want to become liveaboards? How long do you plan on being full-time cruisers?

I think we both independently knew we wanted to live on boats, even before we’d met each other. So when we realized that this was a shared dream, it really cemented our relationship and our future paths. We had the advantage of living with our parents and keeping our initial living costs super low, so we were 100% focused on funneling all of our energy and savings into finding a boat and outfitting her for cruising.

When people ask if we’ll live on Brio forever, I always say definitely not – we want a bigger boat at some point! Not to say we’ll never want to live on land – forever is a really long time, after all – but we have no immediate intention to become land-based.

I work remotely and Jon runs his own business, so living on a sailboat has enabled us to be climatic nomads, heading south in the winter and north in the summer, and enjoying the most of the East Coast that we can! Having a baby has really reinforced how much we value our time together and the freedom to dictate our own schedules, and I don’t think any of that will change any time soon.

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The happy family enjoying some fun and sun at the beach.

Q. What do you like most about the liveaboard lifestyle? What do you like least? What’s a typical day like now with Zephyr onboard?

I heard someone describe cruising as “a series of Saturdays,” and I think that’s pretty perfect. It’s not that there aren’t chores to be done or groceries to be bought (or water to be lugged, or decks to be scrubbed), but it’s all in a sort of fluid, schedule-less manner. One of the things I like best about cruising is how flexible it is. When we started cruising, I was 24 and Jon was 25 and we had $6,000 saved to make it through the year. We had no refrigeration, no electronics, literally lived on tacos and beans, and somehow still spent $10,000 – giving us our first lessons in boat maintenance and debt!

Now that we have a steady paycheck income, we can afford to stay in marinas and upgrade Brio with new electronics and refrigeration. We still try to live carefully and within our means, but I appreciate how elastic your spending can be with this lifestyle.

I also have to say that the people you meet cruising are hands-down the best part of the whole deal. Regardless of your boat or your budget, cruisers are a welcoming crew – and adding a baby to the mix has just made it easier to strike up conversations with strangers!

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Zephyr “helping” at the helm of Brio.

Q. Can you tell me how you came up with your weather cloths design using window material so you can still enjoy the view?

I’ve spent so many hours staring at solid weather cloths, wishing I could see the horizon! Actually, the other factor was we bought a roll of Strataglass™ for our dodger project, and later decided to use Makrolon® instead (a stiff, glass-like polycarbonate window material). So we had a leftover roll of Strataglass just begging to be used! It felt a little frivolous to use such an expensive product on weather cloths, but we absolutely LOVE them. We haven’t even bothered taking them down since they no longer block the view. Another bonus? They act as toy-containment devices since little Zephyr has quite the arm on him.

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A beautiful, uninterrupted view thanks to Leah’s clever Strataglass weather cloths.

Q. Besides the weather cloths, what other sewing projects have you made for your boat?

Oh gosh, there are so many projects! I got super lucky with a secondhand Ultrafeed LS-1 that another cruiser was selling in Mexico, and I put that baby through the paces. On the LS-1, I made two biminis (the first from hand-me-down Sunbrella®, the second from new!), replaced the windows in our old dodger, made jerry can covers, replaced the v-berth and quarter berth cushions, updated the main settee cushions, cockpit cushions, etc. – all the little stuff! We never had any real money to work with, so I was always collecting other people’s handoffs and repurposing them. For example, someone’s discarded boat cover became our new bimini, the leftover foam from someone’s v-berth project became our cockpit cushions, and an old mainsail cover made great new jerry can covers!

The first really big project I tackled was dinghy chaps. I probably watched the Sailrite video 15 times, pausing and rewinding to understand each step as I attempted patterning for the very first time! This was also one of the first projects I ever attempted with all-new materials – Sunbrella and double-sided basting tape included – and it felt absolutely incredible to realize that I could actually make something really nice!

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Leah’s first big sewing project was making dinghy chaps.

The dinghy chaps gave me the confidence to tackle a project my husband had been nagging me to try for years – a new dodger. We modified our existing frame to be a couple inches lower, so the top could be wide enough for two 100-watt solar panels, and then we set about building a brand-new Stamoid™ and Makrolon dodger. Since we were saving the labor costs on the dodger, we went all out on the materials. Stamoid, a vinyl-coated polyester fabric, is such a nice product to work with. I bought a leather hide to add reinforcement along the bottom edges and on the handrails, and Makrolon windows are the absolute clearest and most rigid windows you’ll find in a soft dodger. I will admit that sewing through Makrolon sounds a bit like gunfire – I don’t think the LS-1 appreciated it – but it was a workhorse right to the end!

After the dodger, we decided it was worth it to invest in a brand-new Ultrafeed machine. I wanted to replace the luff tape on an old genoa so that it could work with our new furler. So for the first time in 7 years of Ultrafeed ownership, I needed a zigzag machine. I bought a new Ultrafeed LSZ-1 and it was like Christmas in September – what an incredible machine!

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Leah proudly completed this dodger project with her secondhand Ultrafeed LS-1. Shortly after this project, she upgraded to a new LSZ-1.

Since then, most of my sewing has been focused on baby-containment devices! I started with a Phifertex® and Stamoid lee cloth that went across the whole v-berth, and then quickly moved on to a full baby-berth zip-in enclosure when we realized Zephyr was not going to be slowed down by a mere suggestion of a wall! The zip-in enclosure has been a lifesaver, giving us a completely safe space to tuck him away when it’s rough or he’s asleep and ensuring we don’t have to worry about an accidental fall or escape while underway. Peace of mind is our new priority!

Q. What made you decide on an Ultrafeed? How do you enjoy sewing with it?

The Ultrafeed Sewing Machines are amazing. My experience sewing on an older LS-1 really sold me on the quality of these machines, and the support is unparalleled. I remember having an issue with the thread balling up, and when I contacted support from Mexico, they emailed me step-by-step troubleshooting directions and answered all of my questions, despite the machine being secondhand and probably 10+ years old!

The new LSZ-1 is even more impressive – my impression is that you can really sew anything on this, including lighter-duty “household” projects. Additionally, I tell anyone who will listen to fork over the extra money for a Sailrite Swing-Away Binder. After going through 400 feet of binding on the dodger and bimini projects, I am 100% a binding attachment convert!

People often raise their eyebrows when they realize I own a full-size Ultrafeed on our 33-foot sailboat. “Where do you keep it!?” is a common question. I always tell them that the Ultrafeed is like another crew member, and it fits in exactly one spot on the boat (under the v-berth) – so that’s its home! It’s not even just our projects – the dockside sail repairs and last-minute patches we’ve been able to help other cruisers with help me feel like we’re able to repay some of the cruising kindness and favors we’ve been shown! There is no way I would ever sail without a Sailrite.

Q. What do you love about sewing? When did you learn to sew and from whom?

I love that you can take something someone else might consider broken or useless and repurpose it into something completely new. I love that sewing enables you to feel self-sufficient and to make dramatic changes to the way the boat looks and feels. Initially, I learned to sew from my mom and grandma, so I think I also love the feeling of family and a shared passion that it instills. I hope my son will grow up to love sewing as much as I do!

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With views like this, it’s no wonder Leah and Jon plan on continuing their life on the water.

It sounds like this happy little family is loving life on the open sea. Baby Zephyr seems born to thrive in this nomadic lifestyle, and Leah and Jon have no immediate plans to stop cruising. As the saying goes, when you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work.

Finally, are you wondering how they came up with the name “Brio”? Leah was looking for a short word that expressed the couple’s passion and excitement for sailing and the cruising lifestyle. Brio means “enthusiastic vigor and vivacity.” Looks like they found the perfect word to sum up their life philosophy.

If you’d like to tag along on their aquatic adventures, you can follow their blog at www.withbrio.com.

“Glamping” With Jean Buchanan

For Jean Buchanan, sewing is not just a hobby and career, but it also may very well be her destiny. She’s been sewing for over 50 years and comes from a long line of sewists. Her great-grandmother was a tailor of men’s suits, and her grandmothers, aunts and mother have all sewn and quilted through the years. Jean first learned to sew from her mother-in-law, and she’s never looked back. With a little help from Sailrite®, Jean’s taken her talent to the next level and made a name for herself in the process.

After five decades of sewing children’s clothes and stuffed animals, plus clothing for herself and her husband, Jean encountered a project that she had never attempted before and one she never thought she would stumble upon in her lifetime. But always being an adventurous sewist open to new ideas and experiences, she took a cue from her daughter to try out a different kind of DIY, which would lead her to her largest project yet. 

“One day my daughter brought me a southwestern printed tarp and asked me to make her a visor for her T@B 320 trailer. It took many more tarps and three attempts to get the patterns tweaked — it fit the T@B pretty well.” 

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One of Jean’s latest sunshade designs on a TAB camper.

If you’re not familiar, T@B (or TAB) is a brand of trailerable camper with a sleek teardrop design. These charming, pint-sized campers blend European design with Ohio Amish craftsmanship for cozy living on-the-go. After Jean finished her daughter’s project, she found that these campers were perfectly complemented by her custom sunshades with their petite, visor-like design. Not only was her first sunshade good-looking, but it also functioned as a way to protect the camper’s occupants from the sun and rain while maintaining convenient portability for those looking to get up and go.

Spurred by her first success, Jean decided she enjoyed the work and wanted to continue the process. The next step was to make efforts to reach a larger customer base and make sure she could streamline her sunshades for more efficient sewing. She first began by creating a shop on Etsy (an e-commerce site focused on handmade or vintage items), based out of North Olmsted, Ohio. She later launched her own website and enlisted the help of a professional engineer to create a dependable design for the T@B 400 trailer — and success! A small business was born.

But when your business revolves around sewing, you need a dependable sewing machine to carry you through your toughest assemblies. So with this new business resting in her capable hands, Jean decided that none of her work could be completed without a heavy-duty industrial sewing machine to sew through multiple layers of fabric. The hunt for such a machine was what led Jean to Sailrite in the first place.

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Fabricator in tow, Jean is ready to tackle any project.

She explained, “I chose the Fabricator® Sewing Machine after looking at many industrial machines because it was advertised as a small awning shop machine. I read reviews that were positive concerning the machine and watched videos. Based on what I read and what I watched, I decided it was the right one and I have not been disappointed.” 

With her husband, Clyde, by her side, Jean has expanded her creations and has now launched her own website to showcase and sell her unique camper sunshades worldwide. With a customer base reaching as far as Spain, Germany, Poland, Switzerland and Canada, it’s hard to deny the growing popularity of these adorable additions. Not only are these unique sunshades a way for campers to express their creativity, but they’re also a way for Jean to utilize her adept sewing skills for a practical cause.

She was happy to explain the painstaking steps that go into the creation of the TAB sunshades, as they’re tailored to the requests of each customer. First, each piece of fabric and webbing is cut with the Sailrite® Edge Hotknife, then a convenient carrying bag is sewn, followed by a reinforcement of webbing to the places where the visor pole begins and ends. Next comes the construction of the sleeve for the pole followed by the main fabric assembly. Each part of the process that requires sewing is done using the Fabricator Sewing Machine — and the results speak for themselves.

Here at Sailrite, it gives us great joy to be there every step of the way to help make things a little easier. “Not only do I use the Fabricator Sewing Machine and the Sailrite Edge Hotknife, but I just started using some of Sailrite’s 300 denier polyester outdoor fabric [Odyssey]. The quality and support are outstanding! One could not go wrong using any of their products. I especially love the magnetic sewing guide and zipper feet for sewing keder rope!”

With a thriving business to attend to, what lies ahead for crafty creator Jean? She explained, “I plan to go back to regular sewing when I can no longer physically sew these sunshades. But who knows, I’m always ready for a challenge. My daughter is full of ideas for me.” And although her daughter does not share her passion for sewing, she helps with the business as a public relations assistant and is always ready to bring Jean more ideas to practice her sewing on. 

At this point in time, Jean’s future is wide open, but regardless, she is confident that she and the Fabricator can tackle anything that may come. We can’t wait to see what she creates next!

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Jean’s ingenious designs make “glamping” possible.

The DIY Life: One Man’s Creative Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bruce enjoying the results of his hard work!

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

A Stitch in Time: Sewing for the USS Slater

Out with the old and in with the new is a phrase we’ve all heard. In fact, the DIY spirit is often centered around transforming something old into something new. But what happens when that old thing isn’t just a secondhand knickknack, but rather a part of American history? Fred Antico, a volunteer aboard the USS Slater, had to consider this carefully. Along with his trusty sewing companion, the Sailrite® Ultrafeed®, Fred has been revamping numerous upholstery projects for this national treasure with great results.

Looking Back

As one of 563 similar ships built between 1943 and 1945, the USS Slater DE766 is a CANNON class destroyer escort that served in the United States Navy during World War II. The ship was named after Frank O. Slater, an Alabama-born sailor who lost his life during the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942. Destroyer escorts, like the USS Slater, were built to remedy a serious shortage in anti-submarine vessels in the Atlantic Ocean during the war. These ships combined heavy anti-submarine and anti-aircraft weapons alongside cutting edge technology to help them secure a victory for the Allied forces in the Atlantic.

The USS Slater had an illustrious history during World War II in both the Atlantic and Pacific, where it escorted 176 merchant ships across the Atlantic without any losses. Following the end of the war, Slater was deactivated and transferred to the Hellenic Navy in Greece and renamed AETOS, where it remained until 1951. Forty years later, under the care of the Destroyer Historical Foundation, the ship was transferred back to the United States.

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Upon its return to the United States, the USS Slater was found to be in rough shape.

After arriving in New York City in 1993, Slater has since undergone tremendous restorations and is one of less than a dozen surviving destroyer escorts. Entire crews worked tirelessly to restore her back to her prime 1945 condition. The painstaking process included removing Greek modifications, chipping and repainting the hull, decks and bulkhead, and reinstalling tons of authentic WWII naval equipment. Two decades of renovations later, the USS Slater is now a floating memorial to both destroyer escorts of the time and those who served aboard them.

Today, civilians have the unique opportunity to visit and tour the USS Slater in Albany, the capital of New York. It seems fitting, as more destroyer escorts were named for New York naval heroes than any other state, numbering 44 in total. The Destroyer Escort Historical Museum is open to guests of all ages, offering an up-close and personal look at the USS Slater as well as other ships. The USS Slater is even listed on the National Register of Historic Places; in fact, it’s the only ship of its type to have maintained its original WWII configuration.

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The freshly renovated USS Slater, ready for tours.

Preserving a Legacy

It was a during his time as a professor teaching television and radio production that Fred Antico became connected with the USS Slater. When the ship was first brought to Albany, it was undergoing extensive refurbishing projects — a perfect subject for students practicing video production. Fred asked those in charge of Slater if his students could come aboard and document the ship’s rehabilitation for a more hands-on teaching experience. The ship’s superintendent, Tim Rizzuto, welcomed Fred and his budding videographers and photographers. As a great supporter of Fred’s educational efforts, Tim even set up interviews with volunteers working on the ship and those who had previously served on ships like the USS Slater.

Fred explained that he and Tim are currently editing a video of the ship’s recent hull restoration with hopes to turn the multitude of photos and video footage into a documentary about the project. “When Tim and I were discussing the video project, I noticed the condition of some of the upholstered seats and mentioned that I would be willing to volunteer my upholstery skills. That lead to what I expect will be many upholstery projects. Our first was to create new cushions for the sofa and an armchair in the officer’s wardroom.”

Something Old, Something New

Fred decided to take up upholstery as a hobby following his retirement. He was no stranger to the DIY world, as his father and two uncles ran an upholstery shop in Albany, New York between the 1950s and 1970s — a place where Fred spent a lot of time as a child. But how did the Ultrafeed become part of the mix? Most of Fred’s sewing experience came from books, articles and the internet. During one of those sewing-related internet searches, he managed to stumble upon the Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine.

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Fred and his trusty Ultrafeed LSZ-1.

“This being my first serious go at upholstery, I was cautious about investing in an expensive machine. I found the Ultrafeed to be affordable and certainly capable of what I needed. But just as important were the support materials — the guides and supporting videos.”

For the USS Slater projects, the goal was to make the updated pieces look as close to the original as possible to match the rest of the historically-accurate renovations. Fred explained that in order to accomplish this, he researched manufacturer pictures of what the item originally looked like in order to perfectly replicate them. There aren’t any deadlines, so Fred takes great care to experiment until the desired result is achieved. He then creates templates to expedite the reupholstery process for future items with the same design.

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Ultrafeed in tow, Fred successfully revamped a 1940s era Art Deco sofa and multiple chairs aboard the ship, ensuring they look as close to the original as possible. For the couch, the Naugahyde Universal fabric, zippers, upholstery foam, Dacron batting and spray adhesive used to complete the project were all acquired from Sailrite. Fred was thankful to have gleaned techniques from the Sailrite videos to baste parts before sewing by using staples and hiding the zipper under the underlining fabric on the back panel of the cushion.

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The 1940s era sofa (top) revamped with Naugahyde vinyl (bottom).

The Ultrafeed machine has been a huge help in this endeavor as well, with Fred explaining, “The Ultrafeed is an excellent machine to use right out of the box, which is how I used mine for about a year. Later, I upgraded by adding the Industrial Sewing Table and Workhorse™ Servo Motor. When producing multiple items like the seat cushions, I needed to make them as uniform as possible…I’ve seen highly experienced upholsterers sew seams at high speeds without a problem, but for a novice like me, being able to sew slowly enables me to stay on the stitch line whether it’s on a straight line or going around a corner. The Workhorse Servo Motor does that.”

Fred also explained that the most rewarding aspect of the work he does for the USS Slater is the company between Tim Rizzuto and the many volunteers that work on the ship and for the Naval Historical Museum. “They are dedicated to educating future generations about WWII vessels and the people who worked aboard them. And I’m happy to be able to make a small contribution towards that effort.”

Modern Day Slater

Today, the USS Slater serves as a constant reminder of those who served in WWII, and its extensive renovations have helped maintain its status as a historical landmark to educate young and old alike. Walking aboard the ship is like taking a step back in time, and Fred’s authentic upholstery projects have helped guarantee this. And here at Sailrite, we’re proud to have assisted in this noble venture. If you’d like to learn more about the USS Slater or plan your own visit, follow this link: https://www.ussslater.org/.

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Great dedication and teamwork allow the USS Slater to be an education beacon for guests.

Seeking the Blue: Tales of a Lifelong Sailor

Sailing, sand and sun have been a part of Sailrite® customer Marina Batham’s life from the very beginning. Born on Tortola, the largest of the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean, Marina grew up “in the life” — the sailing life, that is. Learn how Marina’s two favorite hobbies, sailing and sewing, are the perfect ingredients for a self-sufficient and rewarding life.

Marina learned to sail at a young age by everyone around her. “My parents and both sets of grandparents all had sailboats in the British Virgin Islands,” she recounted. “One of my earliest memories is when I was 3 years old, sailing down to the island of Martinique on my Grandfather Jack’s Brixham trawler named ‘Maverick.’”

Now living in Maui, Hawaii, she’s continued her sailing lifestyle as an adult. The sea has been her playground all her life, and she’s taken advantage of its endless possibilities. Marina has earned her United States Coast Guard captain’s license, and when asked what she loved most about sailing, she couldn’t pick just one thing. “I love the adventure, the self-sufficiency, the creativity, the problem solving and the peacefulness that comes with sailing.”

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Marina’s sailboat with the new bimini and dodger installed.

A weekend sailor, she and her partner, Haydn, take their Beneteau 461 dubbed “Seeking The Blue” out every Sunday where they sail off the coast of Lahaina. Marina has owned a few sailboats over the years, but this is her largest boat to date. She purchased the Beneteau in May of 2016 and couldn’t wait to not only take her new boat out on the water but to start sewing projects to spruce it up.

Marina has been sewing almost as long as she’s been sailing. “My mother taught me to sew clothes when I was 13. I love really getting into a project. It seems to get all the endorphins going.” She doesn’t limit her sewing to only marine projects. She’s reupholstered chairs for her home, sewn lots of curtains — she’s even made a hula dress!

When Haydn gifted her with an Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 Sewing Machine last year, it took her sewing hobby to the next level. As Marina put it, “There’s been no turning back!” Using her new Ultrafeed, she tackled a variety of sewing projects for the Beneteau. First up were new cockpit cushions with piping she made herself. Other projects included a mast ladder made entirely out of webbing and a bosun’s chair.

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(Top Left) Marina patterned the cockpit cushions using art paper. (Top Right) Sewing piping for the cushions with her Ultrafeed LSZ-1. (Bottom) Haydn enjoying the new cushions.

“The bosun’s chair I made up myself just from looking at pictures online,” Marina said. “I used ripstop nylon, Dacron® sailcloth, seatbelt webbing and welded D-rings. I used a piece of wood in the seat, which I padded with foam before covering it in Dacron.” Not slowing down, she remade an aging companionway dodger. She was able to salvage the eisenglass from the original piece and added new Sunbrella® marine fabric.

Next, she replaced the main cockpit bimini. Marina sewed the new bimini from scratch using her Ultrafeed and materials from Sailrite. The original bimini was over 10 years old and the fabric was yellowed and ripped in places, but she was able to use it as a template to pattern the new one. After the new bimini, she completed a cockpit awning. “It’s 12 feet wide by 8 feet long with many zips, backstay funnels and flaps. My precise measurements created a super professional finish! I even used fabric weld tape (Seamstick) to join the large widths of fabric together.”

Marina also sewed new awnings, throw pillows and more cushions. She used Sailrite’s inventory of free how-to videos to get her through the projects she needed help with. In fact, she learned how to sew projects for her sailboat by watching Sailrite videos.

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A better look at the bimini Marina sewed with her Ultrafeed LSZ-1.

Her biggest and toughest project was retrofitting a standard storm sail to go over the roller furling sail. She successfully completed the project, but the retrofit took a toll on her machine and threw off the timing. Luckily, the Ultrafeed tuning and sewing machine maintenance videos were there to help. With the videos as a great resource, Marina was able to troubleshoot and solve the issue herself — the mark of a truly self-reliant sailor. Her machine is now back up and running and ready for more projects.

Now that the majority of her sewing projects for her Beneteau are done, Marina is enjoying taking her boat out on the weekends and basking in the beauty of the open water, as well as appreciating the effects of all the hard work she put into updating her boat.

Always looking for the next adventure, Marina recently purchased a second boat — an Allied Mistress. She’s looking forward to a whole new set of sewing projects to complete for her new boat. Among the list of projects includes cockpit cushions, side curtains, salon cushion covers and more. “I might even tackle the forward and aft bunks!”

Marina is breaking in her new sailboat with a big trip planned for summer 2019. “I’m planning to move aboard on July 1 and will be traveling the Gulf of Mexico and up the East Coast, then back down to the Bahamas after hurricane season.”

With new sailing adventures on the horizon and smooth seas ahead, the future looks bright for this intrepid sailor.

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Marina enjoying the view of Waimea Bay, Oahu, during a sailing trip in summer 2018.

Winter Camping: A Cold Case DIY

Mark Carter is not your typical Sailrite® customer. He doesn’t sew for his boat or RV, and he doesn’t do any home sewing or upholstery work. Instead, his hobby is a bit more … cold. He enjoys winter tent camping with his family in the upper Midwest United States. Winter camping might sound bitterly unpleasant, but Mark has found a way — with a little ingenuity and a can-do DIY spirit — to turn this frigid hobby into a pleasant activity for him and his family.

Mark and his family began winter camping around 10 years ago. They connected with other winter campers from online camping forums, including HammockForums, Bushcraft USA and WinterTrekking.com — plus camping groups on Facebook — and found a community of like-minded outdoor enthusiasts. They soon began winter camping together as one big group. There’s a camp going on almost every week throughout the year among the woodsy friends in these online groups. Mark and his family join in as often as they can.

“Most camps last three to five days, but I’ve done up to two weeks in Canada,” he recounted.

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Mark with one of his custom-made hammock hot tents.

“People from all over the United States and Canada meet up in places like the Huron-Manistee National Forests [extending across the northern lower peninsula of Michigan],” said Mark. “The camps can last for three days up to a week with campers staying however long they can.”

The Carters camp year-round, mostly in the Midwest and Canada. Although his sons are grown now, they still enjoy spending quality time outdoors with their father and other family members. Winter camping is a bit of a tradition for the Carter Clan. “My son Carl and his wife, Jessica, my son Corey, my brother James and a few cousins camp with me,” Mark stated.

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Mark (on the left) and several family members including his youngest son (on the right) enjoying a winter camping reunion in 2014.

Through his winter camping hobby, Mark realized there was a void in the camping gear and equipment industry for hammock tents. So what does any self-reliant, determined hobbyist do? He made his own, of course! Mark first learned to sew practicing on his mom’s old Singer, repairing his camping gear. He later purchased a used Singer that he uses to sew his tents and hammocks.

Mark was inspired to sew his own hammock hot tent after watching a YouTube video his friend, and fellow winter camper, Tom Brown had posted. The video featured a tour of Tom’s handmade hammock hot tent as he explained how he’d constructed and sewn it. In the video, Tom mentioned using double-sided Seamstick Basting Tape on the tent’s seams, and that’s how Mark first learned about Sailrite.

Why sew a DIY hammock hot tent instead of buying one? “No one makes them commercially to the specifications I’m looking for,” Mark explained. “Sewing allows me to make the things I dream up a reality. I can make them the way I want them to look — a tent that weighs 4 lbs. that lets you sleep in a hammock and stays heated with a small wood stove. By sewing the tent myself, I can save money and build a tent with quality materials.”

Mark has sewn two tents so far, as well as hammocks. His first tent was based on a wall tent, also known as a safari tent, and sleeps three. With more experience under his sewing belt, he kicked his design skills up a notch for his next tent. “My second tent was based on a Dogger TZ Brown design. I modified it for additional height and simplified it for easier construction and faster set up.”

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The two photos on the left show Mark’s tent panels laid out and matched up with tape lines. The photo on the right is a 12-foot toboggan Mark uses to haul his supplies to the campsite.

When designing and constructing a tent, Mark always begins with a paper drawing. He scales it down and decides how he wants it to look and the features he needs. He then figures out the dimensions and measurements. Next he plots out a full-size pattern on the floor in his home using painter’s tape to map out the pieces. After that, he marks and cuts the fabric to match the taped pattern on the floor.

Next come the sewing and construction process. Mark uses Sailrite basting tape to sew the slippery silpoly tent panels together. “Silpoly is very slippery fabric to sew and you want to avoid using pins through the fabric as it can create work waterproofing all those extra holes. After I assemble the tent, I set it up to evaluate how I did and look for ways to make it better the next time.”

In addition to basting tape, Mark also orders the other materials for his tents and hammocks from Sailrite, basically everything but the fabric. “I started buying supplies from Sailrite after watching Tom Brown’s YouTube video. I order #10 Vislon zippers, 1-inch webbing, binding and vinyl window material. Hammock campers are DIY types, and Sailrite is well-known in the community.”

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The wood burning stove inside his tent keeps Mark warm and dry.

Altogether Mark’s tent weighs about 5 lbs. It’s heated with a small wood burning stove with an opening in the roof that fits the pipe for the smoke to escape. He can cook food protected from the elements and he can dry his clothes and gear in the comfort of his tent. Plus, sleeping in a hammock means he’s protected from the cold, hard ground.

Mark loves the tents and hammocks he’s custom made to fit his camping pastime. For him, it’s not just a way to be creative and experience the joy and pride that comes with making something with your hands. Camping is also his family’s way of coming together for good laughs, good fun and a little adventure. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what life’s all about?

“My hammock hot tent lets me travel to remote areas and sleep in comfort,” Mark said. “Winter camping is peaceful. Give it a try!”

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Mark kicks back in his hammock while enjoying the view outside.

Driven to Sew: A Lifelong Hobby

The DIY spirit can take any number of forms — there’s no end to what you can create with the right supplies, a good idea and a little extra time on your hands. That’s exactly the same mindset held by Sailrite® customer and long-time crafter Louis Cossey. Following his retirement in 2016, Louis realized he had more opportunities than ever to start exploring the things he was really passionate about: creating custom projects of all shapes and sizes.

Louis has always been a car guy. Since high school, he’s successfully rebuilt eight cars, taking charge of the metal fabrication, welding, fiberglass, bodywork and paint all by himself to create a one-of-a-kind labor of love. Upon retiring, he started work on his 1923 Ford T-Bucket, a hot rod based Model T. As a pillar of American history, the Model T was built by the Ford Motor Company between 1908 and 1927. The T-Bucket still retains many of its classic features but also has a more modern engine. Louis was determined to make this car just as immaculate as all his others, perhaps even more so given that he could now devote his full attention to it.

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Louis had his work cut out for him with the T-Bucket.

After getting past much of the bodywork, Louis began the process of sewing the interior upholstery but quickly ran into unforeseen problems. He had no real prior sewing experience before starting on this particular endeavor. Back in the ’70s, he’d taken a 15-hour auto upholstery class but explained that he’d never had the time or proper equipment to try any serious sewing projects on his own.

“The first mistake I made was to try and sew with an old sewing machine with no walking foot and use cheap interior material. It just didn’t work.” In search of a new sewing machine, he visited a local sewing supply store. There he was told to look into a company called Sailrite, as these would be the best kinds of sewing machines for the type of work he wanted to do.

“Of course I found Sailrite online and couldn’t stop watching the YouTube videos. I think I watched all of them several times and eventually bought the Sailrite® Ultrafeed® LS-1 machine. It instantly made me think I could sew!”

While the Ultrafeed had made the interior car upholstery sewing easier, there were still a few roadblocks in the way. Louis originally tried using an off-brand of faux leather, but after sewing three separate assemblies, he still couldn’t get things to lay down properly. He realized this was due to the poor quality of the material, not his sewing skills, and instead opted to try some Naugahyde® All American Black fabric. Voilà! The high-quality, abrasion-resistant vinyl made for the perfect car upholstery.

“I learned the hard way that I couldn’t practice with less expensive materials because it doesn’t act or react the same way that higher quality fabric does. After getting the Naugahyde, the project totally came together.”

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With help from the Ultrafeed, Louis began to gain confidence in his sewing abilities and could finally visualize just how the T-Bucket would turn out. It also helped to have support from his wife, as she aided in lining up seams and helping pull the material so it could be stapled down with his Sailrite® Long Nose Upholstery Staple Gun. After weeks of toiling, Louis’s first big retirement project was finally in its full splendor! Both the seats and the top of the T-Bucket looked amazing and it was time to start thinking of potential projects to sew with the Ultrafeed.

So what’s next on the agenda? Louis plans to stay true to his car obsession, as he’s got his eye on reupholstering the interior of his 1971 El Camino. Plus with more time for fishing, he also plans to sew a completely new bimini and cover for his old fishing boat. “Although working with old cars is my passion, I really enjoy making things with the Ultrafeed. It’s both extremely satisfying and a little aggravating! I’m getting all kinds of people wanting me to sew little projects for them. And between the quality of the Ultrafeed, the fabric and the staple gun, Sailrite is the only place I will purchase products from here on out.”

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The fully restored T-Bucket — ready to ride.

No matter where your DIY journey takes you, or at what point in your life, it’s never too late to start on that project you’ve been dreaming about. When you really love the type of work you’re doing, sewing becomes more of a hobby and less of a chore. Whether you’re young, or just young at heart, expressing your creativity can have impressive results.

A Mother & Son DIY Duo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sewing Like A Pro: Carol Gearheart’s Story

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

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

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A custom banner sewn for a horse owner.

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

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

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

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

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Carol’s finished curtain design.

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

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

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

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