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. 

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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.

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.

morris chair upholstery
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.”

completed recliner upholstery
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.

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