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.

patio set

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!”

tote bag collage
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.”

12 thoughts on “Taking DIY to New Heights”

  1. Love your sewing story and passion! It’s a sense of personal accomplishment and very rewarding to have created something as challenging as a complex kite and very cool bags + more that were pictured. Thanks for sharing!! Question: What material did you use for the barbecue cover?

    1. Hi David,

      We’re not sure what material Gregory used, but Sailrite recommends fabrics like Odyssey, Top Notch, Top Gun and Sur Last for grill covers. You’ll want a fabric that is highly water resistant with excellent abrasion resistance and durability.

  2. This was a fun article! Since you live right next door in Rhode Island, you should come to the Kite Festival held annually (I think it is in Sept every year) on Martha’s Vineyard. You might find it listed on MV on line (MVOL). Boston also has a kite festival in Franklin Park every year. Really fun!

  3. Enjoyed your story of kites. After retiring, I had a different experience in that I finally flew a kite! Never did before. Maybe I will apply my sewing to make one now. I have sewed grocery bags (3) and get the same comment, “you made these, they are great.” My main sewing is sail making for our local club members on Lake Nockamixon in eastern PA. Again, great article.

  4. Way to go Gregory! My Dad was an avid sewer as well. As a retired RN, I can just imagine the girls at work talking about your wonderful beach bags. I just got a Sailrite LSZ-1 and have made 2 fabric rugs on it. Thanks for sharing your story.

  5. Thank you Emily and Gregory. I really like reading about these projects. I am using my LSZ1 to recover my 87 bronco seats. But I have had this nagging question – What else? I too love handmade kites and the history behind them This what Gregory is doing is just what I needed .

  6. Boy, that box kite sure brought back memories! Many years ago, my dad would build box kites with heavy plastic bags. He’d fly them over Lake Superior and wherever he got a good wind. One time he and I went out near local airport and put up his biggest one to date. It was all we could do to hang on…it was up over a mile! Then we saw a plane coming in and we had to scramble to pull it in. Thanks for reminding me!

  7. Hey I never thought to use my Sailrite machine to make kites! I have a 9’ Delta kite that I use for Kite Aerial Photography. I have always wanted to upgrade to an 11’ for extra lifting power but the price was prohibitive. Gregory’s story has inspired me to search for some Delta patterns and try making one on my own. I bought my Sailrite Machine to sew leather projects but this definitely looks like another possibility down the road! Thanks for a great article!

  8. Thanks for sharing Gregory, big kite fan myself. My plan was to make kites in the winter now I’m retired but other projects keep getting in the way ! lol
    Now the wife wants to move again so I guess it’ll be a while yet !
    Good luck selling the bags, they look great.
    Ady (UK)

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