Peace, Love & Handbags

Sometimes you get an idea for something and it takes off. That’s what happened to Laurie Carty. One day, she was looking online for purses and stumbled upon a crocheted fat bottom bag. She instantly fell in love with the classic hippie-style purse and thought the design and shape of the bag would look great in denim. Unable to find her dream bag in stores or online, Laurie set out to sew her own. What started as a purse for herself has now grown into a small business. Using her Sailrite® Ultrafeed®, she’s reintroducing these vintage-style bags to the world and reigniting her love of sewing.

The Start of an Idea

Laurie was excited to jump in and get going on her purse. She already had some basic sewing skills, so she knew she’d be able to sew the purse without a problem. However, she hit a speed bump early on. She didn’t know anything about pattern making or purse design. And since she couldn’t find a pattern for a denim flat bottom purse online, she needed a little help designing and patterning her purse. Luckily, her sister was coming for a visit. An accomplished seamstress, Laurie’s sister was able to help with the design process.

“I drew out my idea and we created the pattern together. Once I saw my dream come to reality, I was hooked! I got so many compliments on my purse that I started taking orders for them. For the most part, all the purses that I have sold have been local. Women stop me on the street and ask me where I got my purse. They are always surprised when I tell them I made it myself!”

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Laurie’s first purse made from an old pair of jeans and a bedsheet on her home sewing machine, before she upgraded to an Ultrafeed.

After that initial design, Laurie added fringe and beads to her bags as unique design elements. Since her fat bottom bags were inspired by the hippie era, the fringe fit right in with that style and aesthetic. “When I was in my teens and twenties, everything was fringe. I am 62 now, but back in the day, I was a complete hippie — with the clothes and hair. Everything was tie-dye and fringe, and we did it ourselves for the most part.”

Laurie upcycles used jeans that are still in good condition for her purses. She adds fabric panels, lace, beads and fringe to create truly one-of-a-kind designs. “I love every single one of the purses that I create. Each one has its own unique beauty.”

Finding Her Creative Process

Laurie lets her creative spirit guide her not only in her bag designs but in life too. A self-professed “avid student and seeker of personal change,” Laurie has a degree in behavioral sciences. She’s helped people with therapeutic stress and trauma relief, she’s taught dance classes and has even been a radio show host. “I’ve had a pretty crazy life!”

Laurie has always had a creative spirit. One of the things she loves the most about the DIY lifestyle is her ability to bring her dreams and ideas to life in a tangible way. She loves the process of taking an idea, a vision in her mind, and using fabric and thread to bring her idea to life. “Every purse I make I see fully completed in my mind, and then I know exactly how to create it. I have always been a very visually creative person. My brand-new idea is brought into reality, and now I am the only one on the planet who makes these bags. Every purse is uniquely different.”

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Laurie’s new Ultrafeed handles the thick layers of denim with ease.

Upgrading to an Ultrafeed

After completing her first two bags, her regular sewing machine was struggling to sew through the thick layers of denim. Laurie knew she’d need a heavy-duty machine capable of handling multiple layers of thick material. That’s how she found Sailrite. “I knew I needed something stronger and started searching the internet. I had never used an industrial machine before. In fact, I would not say I knew that much about sewing, really, but your videos made everything so easy to understand. I love that you also have troubleshooting videos on your site, which made it so easy to learn the machine.”

Her Ultrafeed has given Laurie the confidence to attempt sewing projects she previously had never dreamed of. Not only does she sew her hippie bags, but she is also branching out into projects for her husband’s motorcycle. “I have lined my husband’s riding chaps that he wears on his motorcycle and made a cover for his oil cooler on his Harley. I’m not afraid to tackle anything anymore!”

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Laurie’s Etsy shop, The Hippie Handbag Company, is a nod to her love of all things 1960s, especially the hippie lifestyle. “I grew up in that era. I was a little too young to go to the original Woodstock, but it was all about the lifestyle back then. It was a very creative time in so many ways — music, peace, love, rock ‘n’ roll, the hair, the dress styles. Upcycling was big back then too. It represented unique and individual creativity and expression. Just like my bags, every person is different and beautiful in their own way.”

Whether you were alive during that era or just have a fondness for all things boho, Laurie’s life philosophy is something we can all appreciate.

Sewing for Man’s Best Friend

Who doesn’t love our four-legged furry friends!? Not only do pets provide much-needed companionship and cuddle-time, but it’s been proven that owning a pet can help you live longer and have a healthier lifestyle. If you’re a sewer and dog owner, have you ever considered sewing dog toys? Bruce and Joan Calendrillo recently adopted Toby, an adorable terrier mix, from their local animal shelter. After Toby destroyed a store-bought toy in a matter of days, Bruce put his sewing skills to work creating better-made, more durable toys for his new pup. Read on to find out how Bruce uses supplies and how-to videos from Sailrite® to further his sewing talents and keep busy during his “semiretirement.”

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Meet Toby! He enjoys walks, playing with his toys, and annoying Mona the cat.

Old Dog, New Tricks

Bruce didn’t discover a love of sewing until later in life. Following a long and prestigious career in the medical field, his career took a sharp left turn when he bought a dry cleaning business. He took every opportunity to learn as much as he could — and that included learning how to sew. He dutifully watched his seamstress repair people’s clothes. “I honed my skills with practice, practice, practice. I learned new techniques through videos and books.” After Bruce closed the store, he took a job as a tailor at another local dry cleaning business and put his sewing skills to good use. “One year later that dry cleaner’s closed. I purchased all of their equipment and supplies and moved it all into my basement. I bought a sign and put it in my yard.”

Bruce is now semiretired and runs his own tailoring and clothes repair business from his basement. He’s only been sewing for about 10 years, but he has already amassed quite a reputation. “Tailoring is the perfect retirement job. I do as much work as I want while putting a few dollars in my pocket. A side benefit is that instead of working all day long away from home, I now get to meet all of my neighbors who quickly turn from customers to friends.”

His tailoring business allows him to keep busy and stay active while doing something he enjoys. “I love learning new things. Sewing lends itself to that passion in that there are always different techniques to learn and projects to explore.” Bruce’s sewing skills aren’t limited to just clothing repair and tailoring. He has made huge dock covers, reupholstered furniture, redesigned gowns and more.

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Through all his career changes, Bruce’s wife, Joan, has been the steadfast one. Joan is recently retired from a lifelong career as a preschool director and program developer. “She wonders how I can always be looking for such a dramatic change, while I will never understand how she could spend more than one day with a room full of 4- and 5-year-olds.”

Bruce first learned about Sailrite through a customer. The customer wanted a new bimini top for his boat. While doing some online research, Bruce found Sailrite. “I am a boat owner as well. As this was something that I had never done, and something I wanted to do for my own boat, I took on the job. When sewing canvas projects for customers, I always refer them to the Sailrite website. I have them choose and purchase their own material, always recommending Sunbrella®.” Bruce used the Sailrite bimini top video tutorial to guide him through the fabrication process for both the customer’s bimini and his own.

Bruce has also used Sailrite’s free video resources to sew new patio cushions for a friend of the family. “A close friend of my wife’s asked me to make new cushion covers for her patio set — about 20 cushions. This was a perfect winter job that I did last year and completed by the spring.” Bruce referred to Sailrite’s “How to Make a French Mattress Style Cushion” video to complete the mammoth undertaking. “I purchased Silk Film from Sailrite and, following the tutorial, I was able to easily stuff the foam back into each cover.”

Dog Days of Sewing

Bruce and Joan recently adopted a rescue dog, and that opened Bruce up to new sewing projects he hadn’t previously attempted. “My wife and I have taken on the challenge of adopting a terrier mix from our local shelter. When I am not walking or training Toby to sit and roll over, I am in the basement making him stuffed toys.” When they first adopted Toby, the Calendrillos immediately went to a local pet supply store and stocked up on food, treats and a stuffed toy. Two days later, the store-bought toy was ripped to shreds.

Bruce knew he could do better. He immediately set to work sewing dog toys from higher quality materials that could stand up to Toby’s canines. Using leftover Sunbrella from a recent sewing project, he got to work. “I felt that the toughness of the fabric would lend itself to the biting and pulling of the animal.” Bruce adapted the same French seam technique he learned from the Sailrite cushion video and applied it to the dog toy. He took two circles of Sunbrella and sewed them together with a French seam, stuffing the toy with fiberfill and a squeaker. “I have made several of these toys for family and friends with dogs. The French seam adds extra durability, and Toby has yet to get a tooth through the Sunbrella.”

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So many handmade toys to choose from!

He next adapted this simple design to make a Frisbee®-type toy. He added another circular stitch 1-1/2 inches in from the edge of the fabric disk once it was completed, making a flatter, more disk-shaped toy. “It flies much farther than the first toy. And since it’s only cloth and fiberfill, I can throw it in the house without breaking anything (so far).” Bruce challenged himself yet again when he designed “Toby’s Big Ball” — a pentagonal-shaped toy similar to a soccer ball. “The ball is half as big as Toby, but since it is so soft and light he can easily grab and carry it around. And he looks absolutely silly doing it.” Bruce added a small rope loop when closing the toy that he backstitched over several times to secure it. The rope makes it easier for Bruce to throw the ball and turns it into a pull toy also.

Not stopping at toys, Bruce has also made dog and cat beds from leftover fleece and fiberfill. “I am always looking to hone my skills and learn different sewing techniques.” Bruce shared that he plans on making a PVC-style elevated dog bed soon using the Sailrite video tutorial. Toby sounds like one lucky pup to be spoiled with all these handmade goodies!

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A cozy dog bed made from fleece and fiberfill.

What does Bruce do when he’s not busy with his sewing business or making toys for the newest member of the family? “When I am not working on hemming pants, shortening curtains, taking in dresses or letting out men’s pants that ‘must have shrunk in the dryer,’ I am putting my scrap material to good use.” With all the projects he’s done for customers and his own sewing, Bruce has amassed a large amount of scrap fabric. “Too much to throw away but too little to use on a major project,” as he put it. He sews eye pillows and sachets for his daughter’s farm store that she fills with organic herbs. He makes doll clothes for his granddaughter’s and great-nieces’ American Girl® dolls. “I volunteer at my granddaughter’s 2nd grade class and made Christmas presents for each of her classmates — wallets for the boys and wristlets for the girls.”

With no signs of slowing down in sight, Bruce will keep putting his sewing skills to great use. Whether he’s sewing canvas, hemming pants and tailoring clothes, or sewing more toys and dog beds for Toby, he’s doing it his own way and on his own schedule. Semiretirement isn’t slowing Bruce down one bit, and Toby is sure to keep him in stitches for a long time to come.

Sewing & Shattered: Jeanie Shafer’s Story

Jeanie Shafer is a jack-of-all-trades. Not only has she been sewing for 30 years, but she’s also a creator in many mediums. Between painting, pottery, sculpture, nature photography and even cake decorating, her passion for creative expression cannot be tamed. This artistry also carries over into her love of boating, which is how she became acquainted with Sailrite and embarked on her most ambitious DIY adventure yet!

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Jeanie and Tim are lifelong sailors.

Jeanie and her husband, Tim, have been enjoying life on the water for 35 years. No stranger to buying boats, the pair have owned numerous boats, ranging in size from 16 to 35 feet — all found and purchased the traditional way. That was until their most recent boat, a 27-foot Catalina.

In Jeanie’s hometown, the 27-foot Catalina had been unused and was no longer on the water as her current owner was no longer interested in sailing. There she sat in her rented spot in plain sight so that many townsfolk knew both boat and owner. One morning, the boat had been moved, and much to everyone’s surprise, it was not done by the owner. The boat’s sudden disappearance remained a mystery until later that summer when someone spotted it hidden not far from where it had been stolen.

Jeanie went on to recount the details of the discovery, “Whoever had stolen the boat had been a very busy beaver! She had been stripped of all hardware inside and out. The name had been removed and her old numbers had been replaced with numbers registered to a different boat. The mast had been unsuccessfully taken down and had crashed down onto the bow. Newly covered cushions were damaged and the brand-new sails that had only been used one summer were missing. The boat showed all signs of being lived in all summer!”

Luckily, the boat’s hull was undamaged and the outside deck and cockpit were in very good shape as well as the teak below deck. The only thing that remained in the cabin was the head, sink and stove. Jeanie and Tim eventually decided that they wanted to purchase the wayward boat, and so the work began!

The first step was deciding on a name. Would it be “Phoenix” because the boat was rising out of its old ashes? No, that was too popular among boats. Jeanie and her husband finally agreed on “Shattered” as a reminder of what the boat had once been, but wasn’t any longer. It was also a nod to The Rolling Stones song of the same name.

Even before Shattered needed new sails (among many other things), Jeanie had a 35-foot Catalina requiring a new dodger. To accomplish this, a heavy-duty, portable sewing machine would be of the utmost importance. After ample research, this lead to the purchase of the Ultrafeed® LSZ-1. “Sailrite not only had the machines but seemed to be a sewist and boater’s paradise for fabric, hardware, lines and tools! We discovered many items that we didn’t know existed and these products would soon make our DIY lives easier. The detail in your how-to videos and your personnel’s prompt willingness to share their expertise shines above all. I could never have made these sails without [Sailrite Sail Designer] Jeff Frank being able to help me!”

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Shattered in her newfound glory.

“Please know that all of these attributes in your company keep people like myself returning for life, and we share our positive experiences with others who then call upon Sailrite for their needs. It’s a marvelous domino effect!”

After repairing her own dodger, Jeanie was able to start a marine repair business on her dock that quickly spread to the entire marina! Canvas repair businesses in the area were shutting down, driving Jeanie’s customer base up even further. Before long, the projects became so massive and so frequent that Jeanie couldn’t sew them on her dock or kitchen counter. In response, Tim built her a sewing table molded after Sailrite’s loft tables — a huge undertaking that took up the entire spare bedroom in her basement!

Since then, Jeanie’s been a creative machine, churning out project after project. Her projects ranged from dodger, canvas and glass repair to a total sail pack and bimini revamp. With the help of Sailrite’s tools, supplies and instructional videos, the list goes on to include:

  • Bimini repairs
  • New winch covers
  • Topside window covers
  • Custom helm covers
  • New sail cover for Shattered
  • Main and headsail from Sailrite’s custom designed sail kits
  • And much, much more!

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What lies ahead for Jeanie and Tim Shafer? They’ve already planned for a plethora of other DIY projects to revamp Shattered. More recently, the two added another boat to their collection, a rare 21-foot Martini — a model that’s no longer in production. And with the winter months rounding the corner, the projects requiring Sailrite materials and instructions just keep coming. On the agenda is a new companionway screen, track curtains, window coverings, lifeline covers and cushion covers with Moisture Prevention Underliner beneath them to battle the Florida humidity where the boats will be sailing.

In short, it seems as though Jeanie and her Ultrafeed are ready to take on the DIY world and anything that life throws at them, and we’re happy to be part of the creative process. Reminiscing on her past projects, Jeanie gushed, “The best part of making your own DIY projects is the learning process! The “aha” moment when you get it and feel more confident in the project. And then, of course, the satisfaction when the end result looks great!” We can’t wait to see what you sew next, Jeanie.

Sewing for a Greener Future

Do you think about your carbon footprint? When you see trash or discarded items lying around, do you ever wonder if they could be turned into something useful again? Enoch Cincotta does. A self-starter and small business owner, he turns trash into treasure — literally. He takes discarded objects and trash from local businesses and uses the materials to create one-of-a-kind bags, wallets, backpacks, fanny packs and more. With the help of his Sailrite® Ultrafeed®, he’s doing his part to clean up his community and give a second life to the things we cast aside.

One Man’s Trash …

The idea to create usable items from trash came to Enoch when he was living in Miami Beach. At the time, he was making the occasional bag for friends and for himself. He was ordering his materials from suppliers and spending a lot of money in the process. Suddenly, everything clicked. “I realized that I wasn’t paying attention to how much waste was being generated by my artistic process — finding the material online, purchasing it, getting it in the mail two days later. It doesn’t make sense to me anymore.”

He was walking along the beach one day and noticed all the trash and discarded goods left behind. Things like inflatable pool toys and rafts, shade sail material and bicycle tubes were still in good condition but had been tossed aside. “Being a part of such a beautiful environment and noticing an immense quantity of trash left behind by the waves of tourists… I would find broken sun shades lying on the beach, the inconvenience of fixing them ultimately leading to them being discarded.” And so, an idea was born.

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In Miami Beach, Enoch had “regular” dumpsters that he would scavenge. He’d sort through the trash and find usable items for his budding business. The process was tedious and time-consuming. “It would be a process of finding materials, cleaning them, and transforming them into something new. I like the ritualistic nature of the process and taking my time to appreciate the material for what it is. They just need a little love and patience to be transformed.”

When he relocated to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, he found a more direct and cleaner way to obtain his sewing materials. Enoch initiated relationships with local businesses, making deals to procure the discarded materials before they made their way to the dumpster. This made the cleaning process much simpler and saved him a lot of time. He was also able to get a larger quantity of materials with the same amount of effort.

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A collaboration with a local Harrisburg coffee shop produced these bags and wallets made from coffee bags, parachute webbing, bicycle inner tubes and convention center banners.

It’s in Harrisburg where his business really got off the ground and his business concept came to life. Enoch witnessed someone’s discarded plastic bag floating in the wind, and that’s how he came up with the name for his business: Reanimator Threadworks. He watched an otherwise lifeless object become transformed — reanimated if you will — into a moving, living thing. And that’s exactly what Enoch does. He takes lifeless, used up objects and reanimates them, giving them a second life and another purpose than what they were intended and created for. A torn sun shade becomes part of a backpack. An empty bag of coffee beans is transformed into a truly unique tote bag.

Sustainable Sewing Practices

Enoch learned to sew thanks to his mother’s teaching. A requirement of his homeschool curriculum, he started sewing as part of the home economics portion of his education. And now he’s taken that skill and turned it into not only a business but a way to do his part as an environmental advocate.

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Enoch uses the Monster II Balance Wheel to sew without electricity at farmers markets.

He sells his bags in local stores and hosts free sewing workshops at farmers markets. “The goal is to get out in the community and sew materials on the streets. The more people exposed to the power of sewing the more excited I get.” During the winter, when the farmers markets are closed, he collaborates with other environmental advocacy groups and hosts free sewing workshops for sewing panniers, bike bags, backpacks and more.

His bags are constructed using a wide variety of everyday materials. Everything from banners, inflatable rafts, bicycle inner tubes, parachute webbing, vinyl billboard material and more are transformed into “functional pieces of art,” as he calls them. It’s amazing the things you can sew with a little imagination and ingenuity. To sew through this wide range of materials, he needed a sewing machine that would be up to the challenge. And that’s where Sailrite came in.

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The Ultrafeed can handle layers of thick materials like these bicycle inner tubes, which make for a durable and water-resistant bag bottom.

“I learned about Sailrite while pouring through online forums for an industrial machine. I was intrigued by the Ultrafeed LSZ-1 and its modular nature — one machine for a bunch of different applications.” Another big asset of the Ultrafeed is its portability, which comes in handy when Enoch takes the machine — which he has affectionately dubbed “Ol’ Blue” — on the road for conventions. “I’m taking Ol’ Blue with me on a bicycle tour packed in her carrying case, but at home, she’s hooked up to the Workhorse™ Servo Motor and Industrial Table. That kind of functionality makes it ideal for the lifestyle I live.” Recently, Enoch acquired the Monster® II Balance Wheel so he could sew without electricity at conventions and workshops, furthering his green lifestyle and the machine’s versatility.

What are Enoch’s impressions of his Ultrafeed now that he has sewn everything from billboard vinyl to parachute webbing with it? Enoch had this to say about his machine: “So far I really love the reliability of the machine. It has taught me a lot about the mechanics of sewing. I’ve spent so much time reading the manual and feel really comfortable with how it’s designed to be repaired in the field. It’s built to last — I don’t see that too much anymore.”

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Enoch tuning his Ultrafeed LSZ-1 with the guidebook close at hand for reference.

Leading by Example

Enoch is mindful of his own carbon footprint and does what he can to live a green lifestyle. “I really work hard to be aware of my environmental footprint. I ride bikes and am active in the community as much as I can be. To be as effective as possible you have to live in the way that you want the world to be — not forcing your ideals onto others.”

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Hitting the road with his portable Ultrafeed and a makeshift work station!

Part of his mission is bringing awareness of living a more resourceful and self-reliant lifestyle through sewing. He donates 30% of profits from the sale of his bags to teaching free sewing workshops and educational programs in Harrisburg. “I was a camp counselor for six years and that got me really excited about youth education. I see an opportunity to educate individuals in my community about being self-sufficient.”

He also teaches repair classes where he promotes hands-on learning opportunities. People can learn how to repair textiles and gear instead of throwing them away and buying new products. “When we are empowered to make and repair, we stop being consumers. And we start using our brains!” Next year, Enoch plans on traveling to schools — biking his sewing machine and materials, of course — to facilitate educational workshops. “I’ll be teaching kids not only how to sew but how to get creative with trash.” Teaching the next generation how to be resourceful and environmentally responsible, “that’s the future, the big time.”

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A truly one-of-a-kind fanny pack made from found objects.

“I like to think that when I interact with these materials I’m giving my energy to the object, transforming it into something that lives and breathes with a personality of its own. I see it as being more than just a transformation of an object, but also a transformation of an idea. By reanimating our garbage and repairing what is broken, we also reanimate our community — increasing self-sufficiency and resilience. That’s what I think is really important.”

Enoch’s drive and passion for upcycling is something all creatives can relate to. A big part of the DIY lifestyle is taking something and transforming it into something else. So, the next time you see trash on the side of the road or the next time you go to throw away an old sweater, an umbrella, a pair of ripped jeans, a pool toy, a beach ball … Stop and think, “Is there still a use for this item? What could this object become?” The possibilities are endless.

Five-Star Sewing With Steve Bugg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking DIY to New Heights

The possibilities of things you can make with a sewing machine are limitless! Sailrite customer Gregory Palmquist had a fleeting idea to sew his own kites after he was underwhelmed by the selection of mass-produced kite kits. This seed of an idea has grown into a bigger hobby that has led to more sewing projects, including patio furniture, beach bags, totes and more. With tools, supplies and how-tos from Sailrite, he’s been able to take his sewing skills to incredible heights!

It all started when Gregory was young. Like many kids, he grew up watching his mom sew on an old Singer sewing machine, and he would tinker around with it occasionally. Fast forward to junior high school and a woodshop class that was at full capacity. “Some of the boys, including myself, went to home economics class instead. We made stuffed dolphins for a project. Mine came out pretty good for a 12-year-old boy.” This early experience with sewing would pay off in a big way later in life.

Gregory has always been fascinated with aviation. As a boy, he made his own kites out of newspaper and sticks. A few years ago, he was given a used Kenmore machine and, on somewhat of a whim, he decided to try his hand at sewing kites. “I was at one of the big box home stores getting ideas on materials to put together a quickie box kite. I finally decided to go all in and do it right. I found plans online and just expanded the dimensions.”

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He makes his kites out of ripstop sailcloth and webbing. After several attempts on the Kenmore, he quickly realized his second-hand machine wasn’t up to the challenge. “Some of the nylon webbing reinforced areas are thick and the Kenmore just couldn’t handle it.” Next, he tried sewing on a Pfaff, but it still didn’t hold up to his kite-making demands.

Not wanting to give up his budding hobby, Gregory began the search for a better sewing machine that would be able to handle his needs. “I researched many machines when I came across the Sailrite® Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 Sewing Machine. Immediately I knew this was the machine for me. The portable size, the power and the price point were winners.”

After the Pfaff failed, he finally “drank the Kool-Aid®” as he put it and ordered an Ultrafeed LSZ-1. “How did I survive all these years without this machine?” He recently upgraded his Ultrafeed with the Workhorse™ Servo Motor in the Industrial Sewing Table. “For a 58-year-old guy who’s been in engineering, I appreciate the power and efficiency of the Workhorse Servo Motor coupled with the Ultrafeed and Industrial Table. Move over peanut butter and jelly because this is the perfect pairing ever!”

Gregory has sewn four large kites on his Ultrafeed. He started with a basic Eddy design and progressed to the complex Compound Cody, a modern double box design based on the original Cody War Kite designed and patented in 1901. His first kite, the Eddy, measured 6 feet tall x 6 feet wide. Gregory sews them during the wintertime, using the dining room table as a work station.

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The new patio set Gregory sewed using his Ultrafeed LSZ-1.

Since his kite sewing was so successful, Gregory’s wife asked him if he could fix some things around the house. She put him to work replacing the tattered awning on their patio swing. “The 1″ Swing-Away Binder is a super tool! I used polyester thread throughout for UV resistance. Sailrite had everything I needed.” Next up was replacing the swing’s seating cushions and sewing a new barbecue grill cover for a matching and cohesive outdoor seating area.

“Having some leftover material, I threw together a bag for the missus. My wife is a nurse, and the girls at the hospital loved it! They were floored to hear that her husband made it.” This led Gregory to search for some of the Sailrite bag-making tutorials. He watched the “How to Make a Beach Bag” video and began making beach bags, totes and other bags. Gregory said watching Sailrite’s tote videos brought his sewing up to a professional level. “They’re a huge hit with the ladies. I couldn’t have come this far without Sailrite — thank you!”

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Gregory showing off some of the beach bags he’s made.

Although Gregory doesn’t get to fly his kites as much as he’d like, he can’t bear to part with them. “We’re in Rhode Island, and I never did have much time to take these big boys out to fly during the summer. I did consider selling them, but I don’t want to part with my labor of love. There will be time eventually.”

What does Gregory like best about sewing and the DIY experience? Not only is sewing a creative outlet for him, but it’s practical too. He’s been able to sew bags for his wife, spruce up their patio, sew his beloved kites — and who knows what other uses he’ll find for his Ultrafeed. “I’ve got so much inspiration and the creativity is just flowing out of me! This newfound medium has allowed me to express my artistic creativity. My creations are purposeful and give me satisfaction.”

Sewing for Salmon Season: A Marine DIY

Sewing for yourself is rewarding enough, but sewing for others opens up a whole new realm of DIY possibilities. When Debbie Stitz saw that her son’s boat was in dire need of new seats before salmon season in their hometown, she knew just the person to reupholster them — herself! Backed by her extensive sewing knowledge and a few key tools and supplies from Sailrite, she set out to completely transform her son’s boat. She was generous enough to share the story of her many ups and downs on the road to do-it-yourself success with us.

Q. Have you always loved to sew? When did you learn?

I learned to sew at a young age. I remember it well. My mother was never a sewer, but my Aunt Susie was. My first project was a skirt with shoulder straps that crossed in the back and buttoned in the front. I remember making it at my cousin’s house in Upstate New York with my aunt’s help. I was so proud when I finished the skirt. I wore it the next day and told everyone I made it myself. 

From that day forward, I was hooked on sewing and determined to teach myself. I got a job working at a fabric store in my hometown of Corning, New York, and made most of my own clothes in high school. I taught myself to read and follow patterns, put in sleeves and sew in zippers. I just loved the creativity of being able to design and make my own clothes.

Q. How did you come across Sailrite? What made you choose the Ultrafeed® LSZ-1?

I started on a Kenmore machine, but tension problems and motor speeds convinced me to invest in a Bernina as I started to venture into curtains, home décor and quilting. There is nothing more frustrating than sewing with a machine that cannot do the job and give you professional-looking results.

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Debbie and her trusty Ultrafeed LSZ-1.

I then started doing small upholstery projects and cushions, but my Bernina machine was having a tough time with the heavier fabrics and achieving a professional-looking stitch with heavier threads. I needed a commercial machine but could never justify the high cost for one. I was surfing the web one day and found the Sailrite® site. When I read about the features of the Ultrafeed LSZ-1 and the price point, I was ecstatic and ordered one. I chose the LSZ-1 model because I wanted the zigzag feature. 

Q. So you used the Ultrafeed to remodel boat seats? How did that happen?

At that time, my oldest son had asked me if I could make new vinyl berth cushions for his boat. Not only did I discover the Ultrafeed LSZ-1 machine at Sailrite, but all the choices of marine vinyl, V-69 threads, needles, zippers, foam, cushion wrap silk film, cording, 1/4” basting tape — everything I needed to make his new V-berth cushions. I had made cushions before with fabrics, but sewing with vinyl was a new challenge for me. Sailrite offered wonderful videos that guided me in purchasing the right vinyl for my project and how to make my own cording and cushions.

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The final V-berth cushions looked immaculate.

Together, my son and I chose Morbern® Seabrook Sea White vinyl. I also purchased the Flex20 LED light, Deluxe 5 ½ Magnetic Sewing Guide. And for my new LSZ-1 Machine, I chose the Right Roping Zipper Foot, Cording Foot Set and 1” Swing-Away Binder. The tutorials for learning the LSZ-1 machine were extremely well done and very helpful to get started. I was convinced that this machine was a powerhouse and sewed anything I asked it to!

My confidence was soaring when my youngest son asked if I could re-cover his torn and tattered boat seats in his newly purchased used fishing boat. Of course, I said yes. After removing the tattered vinyl from the seats to try and get some sense of a pattern, I soon realized that all three of the seats needed to be totally rebuilt. The wood and foam were so rotten, and the screws so rusted, that it took my husband and I a full day to get the seats apart! We thought about just buying him new seats, but these were Bentley seats at $400 each that were just not taken care of. We decided these seats were worth restoring and took on the challenge together, as a team. 

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My husband ordered the marine plywood, stainless steel machine screws, 4-prong hex nuts and supplies to build the seat structures. I went directly to the Sailrite site, where I found all the fabric and supplies needed to construct the new seat covers. I basically followed the original pattern of how the old covers were made, and my son’s choice was two colors of Naugahyde® vinyl that I got from Sailrite.

Q. Can you explain your DIY process a bit more?

Making and marking the pattern pieces were the most important. I took the least tattered pieces of the old covers and trimmed them where the original stitching holes were. I drew them out on poster board and added 1/2-inch seam allowances on all sewing sides. I marked the center points on the corners, and all other areas, to ensure a good match when sewing together. I then transferred and traced the pattern and markings to the Naugahyde fabric back, being sure to flip the pattern and mark for left and right sides, top and bottom, etc. I made all the contrasting cording first and machine basted to the seat pieces and then sewed the pieces together. I absolutely love my Ultrafeed LSZ-1 machine! It sewed through the layers of Naugahyde with ease and the topstitching looked so professional. The Cording Foot Set also helps to make your own cording a breeze and is actually my favorite step. 

The next step was to remove the bad foam and replace with new foam after my husband had finished the wood seats and arms. Even though we used marine plywood, I still put 3 coats of Varathane® on the wood to keep it moisture and water-repellent. I used an electric kitchen knife to form and shape the foam and then used contact cement to glue the foam to the newly made wood seats. I lightly sprayed foam adhesive to the foam and covered the foam with Cushion Wrap Silk Film. The small amounts of adhesive spray kept the silk wrap from shifting as I was putting the new covers over the foam.

Using an electric staple gun and stainless steel staples (no rust), I attached the covers over the foam for the final fit. It was a two-person effort with my husband pulling and me stapling! I then attached the Hidem Gimp purchased from Sailrite to the bottom of the seatbacks to hide the staples. There were some hiccups along the way, but nothing too serious. It took a lot of “thinking and planning” before “cutting and sewing.

Q. Sounds like quite the project. What was the reaction of your family/friends to the finished product? 

The end result was three new boat seats that looked so professionally made. My husband and I were so proud to have accomplished something that we had never done before. It was a team effort. He was the carpenter and I did the sewing. Family and friends were amazed by the professional look of our final project, and our son was so thrilled to have new boat seats for the start of salmon season here in Oregon! I am hooked more now than ever, not on catching salmon, but hooked on sewing and starting my next project with my Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1! New patio cushions and pillows are next.

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Thank you, Sailrite, for the machine, the accessories, the fabrics and all the inspirational videos you so thoughtfully put together on your website to inspire us all!

The Art of Working With Leather

Few people start a business in their retirement, but that’s exactly what Sailrite® customer Varoujean Tilbian did. After a lifelong career in photography, graphic design and digital printing, he turned his creative eye toward leatherwork as a way to remember his father, a lifelong leather craftsman. In his retirement he’s busier than ever sewing handmade leather goods, running his own small business, and passing his family’s leather legacy onto his grandson. This is a story of family, fortitude and the power of perseverance.

A Family History of Leathercrafting

The art of leatherworking is ancient and storied. For Varoujean, leather’s significance is woven throughout his family history and played an important role in his upbringing. “I grew up under my father’s tutelage. From the age of 4 until I was 16, every day after school I went to his shop where he taught me everything I now know about leatherwork. Over time, I observed his dexterity and skill, but it never occurred to me that, someday, I would put those skills to use.” Originally from Armenia, both Varoujean’s father and grandfather had leathercrafting businesses. His grandfather had a small shoemaking shop in Western Armenia, which is today known as Turkey. 

Varoujean Tilbian
Varoujean Tilbian

Varoujean’s father, Avedis, eventually settled in Ethiopia where the family experienced both highs and lows but persevered through it all. At 27, Varoujean’s father started making leather shoes and established his own factory where he manufactured handmade shoes for men and women. When the Italian fascist regime infiltrated Ethiopia, the family fled to Somaliland. Once it was safe to return, Avedis opened a leather shoemaking factory where he specialized in high-end women’s footwear. 

When Varoujean was 10, his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. To cover the medical expenses, Avedis sold his business and all his assets. His wife recovered, but the family was completely bankrupt. Not one to give up, Avedis went to a flea market and bought an old, dilapidated English riding saddle. “He took it apart to study how it was made,” Varoujean recalled. “Since it did not require machinery and a big investment, he started making saddles and anything else you can imagine with leather.”

Although Varoujean chose a different career path than his father and grandfather, he remained a hardworking provider for his family. He got into photography at a young age thanks to his love of nature and animals. In Ethiopia, he worked for a printing company in the photo reproduction department to support his parents. Varoujean says his father was not upset that he didn’t follow in his footsteps. “My father and mother were the kind of people that let us choose our own path. My father always said, ‘Learn a skill or a craft. You will never be rich, but you will never be hungry.’”

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Purses, wallets and other leather goods, and a look at Varoujean’s workshop.

Continuing a Legacy

Leathercrafting is more than a hobby or a way to keep busy post-retirement. For Varoujean, working with leather is the bridge that connects him to his father and his childhood. In fact, it seems as if he was always destined to be a leathercrafter — like it was stitched into his DNA. “As I work with leather in my workshop, I feel as if my father is next to me, watching my work and smiling. There are times when I am cutting leather, I look at my hands and fingers and realize they look just like his hands. After all these years, I am delighted to be reconnected with him at this age and period of my life”

His first leather project was to recreate a decades-old gun holster. His father-in-law was a naval aircraft carrier pilot during World War II, flying 28 missions in the Pacific theater. During his missions, he carried a military-issued 38 special pistol with a fitted gun holster. “On his 94th birthday, my wife and I went to celebrate with him. It was on this occasion that I found out how worn-out his beautiful gun holster had become. As I began to work on the holster, I was astonished how — after six decades — I remembered how to work with leather. I remembered the many meaningful hours I spent with my father in his shop.”

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The new gun holster that Varoujean made for his father-in-law’s WWII pistol.

The Search for the Perfect Sewing Machine

To sew beautiful leather goods with care and precision, Varoujean knew he would need a sewing machine that was up to the challenge. On a leatherworker’s online forum, he received advice from other leatherworkers who emphasized the need for a walking foot sewing machine. While on the hunt for the right one, he found the Sailrite website. “With the help of your videos and blogs, I was convinced that the Fabricator® was the right machine. Added to its great functionality, the price was perfect and less than other comparable ones.”

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Varoujean’s Fabricator set up in his leather workshop and ready for some sewing.

His Fabricator Sewing Machine has helped him reinforce the quality and beauty of his handmade leather goods. He uses the machine to sew everything from wallets and belts to tote bags, holsters and more. When asked what he enjoys most about working with leather, he had this to say: “What I love best is that from just a flat hide I create something of beauty, and that gives me great joy.” Varoujean has started teaching his grandson the art of leatherworking. He also goes to local elementary schools to introduce the students to the time-honored trade. 

Over a year and a half later, he’s still happy with his choice of sewing machine. “The Fabricator is an amazing machine. At first, when I had some issues, the calls I made were very helpful, which proved you stand behind your machine with service.” Recently, Varoujean started offering customizable tote bags where shoppers can select their own Sunbrella® fabric, purchased from Sailrite, and then choose their leather trim color and number of pockets.

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A selection of custom Sunbrella tote bags with leather trim.

 After three years on this path, he’s still enjoying his new pursuit and the memories it brings him. Varoujean named his business after his father as a way of honoring him and thanking him for teaching his young son the art of leathercrafting. “Avedis means ‘Good News’ in Armenian,” he explained. “It’s a name traditionally given to boys born on January 6, the day the Three Kings traveled to witness the birth of Jesus and receive the ‘good news.’” Varoujean will always carry a part of his father with him, whether through the leather he works with, the name of his business, or in the blood that runs through his veins. Remembering the past, finding solace and gratitude in the teachings of our fathers — that is good news, indeed.

Custom Cabins: Tales of an Outdoor DIYer

Imagine a quiet evening in the woods — you’re sitting by the campfire, and as the night draws to a close, you cozy up in your very own tent-cabin. For many people, spending time in the wilderness brings joy, tranquility and peace of mind. And while the casual camper might be content with a tent or pop-up camper, the more serious outdoorsman, like Scott Miller, seeks something bigger and better (and vastly more permanent). As both an inventive spirit and an outdoor aficionado based in Northeast Wisconsin, Scott was more than happy to share his journey into the wild with us and explain how Sailrite® could play a part in bringing his creative vision of totally unique cabins to life.

Scott has been in the design and wood fabrication business for over two decades, mostly focusing on heavy timber projects. No stranger to rugged terrain, he’s camped everywhere from upstate New York to Alaska. He even attended the Pat Wolfe School of Log Building in Ontario, Canada, and studied the craft of log and timber frame construction to truly hone in on this discipline and turn it into a viable career. 

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Scott has long been immersed in the outdoors.

He’s always longed to get away and enjoy the wilderness in an effort to recapture the simplicity of Henry David Thoreau’s famous nonfiction novel, “Walden.” The popular true story was written in 1854 and describes Thoreau’s time spent living alone in a cabin at Walden Pond, near Concord, Massachusetts, — a simple life in the solitude of the forest. By the end of the Thoreau’s tale, he feels more at peace with himself and all living things around him, a peace that comes from being one with nature. 

This harmony between both nature and the human mind truly resonated with Scott and was the driving force behind his most popular DIY creation to date. “My appreciation for the outdoors and camping inspired me to design a tent-cabin that could be enjoyed year-round.” As a seasoned craftsman, Scott had already been designing and creating several styles of tent-cabins for himself and felt confident in his abilities. But he also realized that this new style of tent-cabin would require a more streamlined effort if he was to make a successful business out of creating and selling them. 

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Create your own solitude with a totally unique tent-cabin.

With a desire to comingle his ingenuity and craftsmanship, all that Scott needed to take his cabin-making venture to the next level was a dependable, heavy-duty sewing machine capable of tackling the thick canvas found on the tent-cabins. So, like any savvy businessman, he took to the internet to start researching his options. That’s where he stumbled upon Sailrite, took the plunge on his DIY journey, and began his foray into sewing.

“I started sewing in 2015 after purchasing an Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 PREMIUM Sewing Machine. I really like the compact style of the LSZ-1 and its robust power. I learned to sew after watching Sailrite how-to videos and from books I purchased. Then in 2018, I was excited to see the release of the industrial Fabricator® Sewing Machine and bought one immediately.”

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Scott and his trusty Fabricator, ready for action!

Built for the avid backwoodsman (or woman), Scott’s cabins are compact, comfortable lodgings not to be confused with a yurt, a tiny house or any other more livable dwellings. In his own words, these cabins are built for those looking for an authentic American camping experience with a style and amenities similar to those found in the cabins of the 1860s. Scott explained that “I’m mainly interested in the United States market, as the tent-cabin is part of our American history. They were lived in throughout mining camps in the West.” 

As an amalgamation of imagination and traditional techniques, Scott was kind enough to explain the painstaking process that goes into each and every one of his tent-cabins. 

“I design the tent-cabins on a sophisticated CAD (Computer-Aided Design) program used for wood design. I create a 3D model of the tent-cabin and produce shop drawings for fabrication. My son does help me when I need it, which I really appreciate. His review of my CAD drawings and help with the layout work is great. All my tent cabins come as a precut kit. Tent-cabin making is an ‘art form and craft’ and is gradually turning into a business of making tent-cabins for others. I’ve made eight tent-cabins so far and they usually take five to seven weeks to make, depending on the style.”

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Although these tent-cabins come as kits that must be assembled by the customer, a great deal of thought and preparation goes into each one before they’re sent to their new home. And Sailrite is there to help every step of the way! Scott explained that, “I am extremely happy with all the products from Sailrite. I use the 1/2-inch basting tape for sewing the canvas and I also use hole punches, thread and grommets.”

And of course, the Ultrafeed LSZ-1 and Fabricator help to sew the heavy canvas for all the canvas tents, as the roof and walls of the cabins are made of heavy-duty cotton army duck canvas pruchased from Sailrite. The tent-cabin is precut and marked for all screw locations and assembly drawings are included. The customer then erects the wooden tent-cabin frame based on the assembly drawings and, as the final step, attaches the canvas to the frame. 

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Scott’s cabins can be transformed to suit any camper!

“These tent-cabins are not portable, but they’re not entirely permanent either. They’re popular with folks who own acreage or need a cabin for hunting or fishing. They might be set near a lake, along a river, or on a wooded lot. If someone needs a place to write, do art, a nice garden structure, or just to relax while enjoying nature, these tent-cabins are great.”

So what’s next for this environmental entrepreneur? Bolstered by his success in the DIY world, Scott explained to us that he enjoys sewing so much now that he’s even planned to tackle a number of non-cabin-related sewing projects in the future and is always open to new ideas. But for now, it’s fulfilling enough for Scott to connect with nature through his cabin creations. 

“The most rewarding part of my work is providing a product for others to enjoy.”

Full Speed Ahead: Sewing for the USCGC Mackinaw

Joe and Barb Traub aren’t your typical museum volunteers. They volunteer their time and sewing talents for the United States Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw WAGB-83. This decommissioned Icebreaker ship was built during World War II as part of the war effort. While touring the ship, the couple couldn’t help noticing that some canvas covers were torn up and damaged due to the harsh winters on Lake Huron. One project led to another, and they have been sewing covers and other pieces for the ship ever since. Read about Joe and Barb, their sewing background, and a little bit of the Icebreaker’s history and the role it played in the war.

A Piece of History

The USCGC Mackinaw was built in response to the increased need to transport war materials — specifically ore — during the winter months of World War II. Icebreaker ships are designed with a strengthened hull engineered to plow through heavy ice and create a path for smaller boats to travel. Dubbed the “Queen of the Great Lakes” and “The Largest Icebreaker on the Great Lakes,” Congress authorized construction of Mackinaw on December 17, 1941, just 10 days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

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A photo of the USCGC Mackinaw breaking ice on Lake Huron in 1948.

The ship was built in Toledo, Ohio, and cost $10 million. The Toledo Shipbuilding Company won the contract. However, several delays and penalties forced the company to declare bankruptcy, and the construction was completed by the American Shipbuilding Company. The keel was laid on March 20, 1943. The ship is 290 feet long and the design is based on the Wind class of Coast Guard Icebreakers. However, Mackinaw was built wider and longer than other ships in this class so that the draft would be shallower. The hull was launched on March 4, 1944, and the ship was commissioned on December 30 of that year. Cheboygan, Michigan, remained the ship’s home port its entire life during active service.

The ship served many roles over its esteemed 62-year career. Not only was the Icebreaker a vital part of the war effort, but it also rescued stranded ships, assisted with shipwrecks, and even delivered Christmas trees to underprivileged children in Chicago. Mackinaw is a beacon of hope, a symbol of determination and goodwill not only for the Great Lakes region, but America at large.

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Decommissioned in 2006, the Icebreaker now resides in its namesake port, Mackinaw City, Michigan, and serves as a floating maritime museum. The museum’s educational programming and exhibits teach visitors about maritime history and the economy and ecology of Michigan and the Great Lakes. The ship is open to the public from mid-May to mid-October every year. Aboard the ship, workers offer public tours, educational tours, overnight encampments and group events.

Sailing, Sewing & Sailrite

Barb learned to sew during her youth. Her mother was a high school home economics teacher and taught her daughter everything she knew. When they were married, Barb then taught Joe how to sew. The couple enjoys working on sewing projects together — both projects for their home life and sailing hobby, as well as the projects for the Mackinaw. “We do the projects together for the ship,” Joe said. “Barb is the guiding hand that directs the process. She is the brain, and I work at her direction as I learn.”

The Traubs are longtime Sailrite customers with a unique connection to the company. Their first sewing project as a couple was a tiller cover for their Ranger 26 sailboat. Working in Columbia City in 1989 and needing supplies, Joe happened upon a local business called Sailrite. “I purchased the materials from [founder] Jim Grant himself and have been a customer ever since.” The couple even raced with Jim Grant when they were living in Indianapolis and members of the same sailing club.

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Joe and Barb Traub show off the docking pedestal covers they made for the USCGC Mackinaw using their Ultrafeed LSZ-1.

Besides sailing, they enjoy travel and home improvement projects. “We have made a variety of projects over the years,” recounted Joe. “We’ve sewn Sunbrella® window covers for our cottage and diaper bags and tote bags from old sails.” The couple have also completed a hard top dodger and bimini for their Catalina 30 sailboat, a fire pit cover and numerous sail repairs for their friends in Florida, where they’ve wintered for the past 10 years.

Sewing for the Mackinaw

Joe and Barb Traub have been involved with the Mackinaw since 2015. “Our neighbor is the director of the museum and another friend works in the office,” Joe explained. “During a visit on the ship, we noticed that some of the canvas covers were in bad shape from the continued exposure to the weather. We asked if we could make a cover for the fuel storage area. One project led to another, to another, and on and on.”

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The first sewing project the Traubs completed for the ship was a fuel storage cover.

The Mackinaw received a grant in 2018 to spruce up the historic ship, including resurfacing and repainting all exterior surfaces. The project’s goal was to preserve this important piece of American history and prevent further deterioration. Joe and Barb have been busy helping with this effort by sewing covers to keep certain parts of the exterior protected and well maintained. “We are volunteers just trying to maintain the appearance of the ship,” Joe stated.

The couple has completed three projects for the ship. Their first project was the cover for a fuel storage area made from Sunbrella Marine Grade fabric. Next, they completed eight docking pedestal covers made from vinyl and eight letter bags that hang above the lifeboats. “For the letter bags, one side required stitching through four layers of 20-ounce vinyl. No problem for the Ultrafeed®! “We’re currently working on a tow line winch cover that is 60 inches wide by 12 feet in diameter. The Sunbrella, thread, fasteners and HH-66 Vinyl Cement were all ordered from Sailrite.”

Joe and Barb are proud that their covers protect exterior parts of the ship and enhance the look and appeal of the vessel. They feel honored to donate their time and talents toward volunteering for such an important and noble piece of American history. Mackinaw WAGB-83 is a continuous reminder of American ingenuity, hard work and determination. The ship serves as a goodwill ambassador throughout the Great Lakes region, educating and inspiring both the young and young at heart.

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To learn more about the ship’s history and museum information, please visit www.themackinaw.org.