You may recognize Brian from a few of our how-to videos, from a boat show, or maybe he’s helped you on the phone. Brian is a true jack-of-all-trades around here at Sailrite and he’s an avid DIYer and boater himself (who always has a countdown to when his boat can go in the water again!). Brian is also prominently featured on the cover of the 2016 Sailrite Marine Catalog. I recently asked him a few questions about his passion for boating and his role at Sailrite so you can get to know him a little better.

Meet Brian -  

Q: How long have you been a boater? 

A: Literally my entire life.  Legend has it that the night I was born my mom had been pulling my dad, brothers and sisters skiing earlier that day. We have skied and boated my entire life.  I started sailing when I was about 9 when we bought our first sailboat upon which I spent many summers cruising the great lakes, primarily the North Channel of Lake Huron.

Q: What kinds of boats do you have? 

A: Currently I have a 1987 Seaward 22 Sailboat which has served as our weekend cottage at Lake James, Indiana for about five years now, a 1977 19’ Marquis runabout which has been in the family since new and has belonged to my wife and I for about 14 years, and a recently acquired 1982 24’ Regal cabin cruiser which is my winter restoration project, that will ultimately replace the Seaward. I hope to come back to sailing, but for now our boating lifestyle is more about destinations then journeys so my wife has won the power vs. sail debate in our family.

Q: How long have you been DIYing and sewing for you boat? 

A: I have been repairing and maintaining boats as long as I have been using them.  I remember helping Dad with the “work” end of boating as young as 6 or 7 years old. I have known how to sew nearly as long, but never really started sewing my own boating projects until I started at Sailrite.

Q: What is your DIY project you are most proud of?

A: Probably the one I am most proud of isn’t really a DIY project, but a Do-It-For-Someone-Else project.  Last spring a friend who runs a great “floating food truck” as I would call it upgraded to a larger houseboat.  I made rail covers and a front screen enclosure the latter being required to pass health department inspections.  My payment for the project was a summer of free food including the best cheeseburgers around for the family.

Q: What is your role at Sailrite? 

A: I oversee the customer service and shipping departments at Sailrite, and also help to answer any project or product questions customers may have.  I also get to, and most enjoy working on, developing new projects and helping in the work process of filming said projects.

Q: You have an interesting story of how you came to work here, how did your Sailrite journey start?

A: I stopped in one day for a catalog while I was restoring the Seaward.  When I inquired about the for-sale sign (our old facility in Miriam) and the implied growth it represented I was told whom to e-mail.  A resume, few e-mails and an interview later here I am. My parents were customers of Sailrite since the 80’s, and I remember going to the facility downtown way back when.

Q: What is your favorite Sailrite product?

A: It has to of course be the Ultrafeed Sewing Machine.  I have a great old metal Kenmore that has served me well, but without the Ultrafeed there is no way I could have sewn the things I have, and definitely not as easily.  My Ultrafeed goes with me to the lake nearly every weekend, and is always on standby to fix a zipper, blown out seam or tears and holes for fellow lakers.

Q: What are some fun facts you’d like to share about yourself?

A: It’s no secret I live to be on the water.  I try to be the first boat in the water and the last one out, and we seldom miss a single weekend at the lake.  When I was growing up, we lived much of the same lifestyle with our sailboat acting as our weekend cottage on Lake Wawasee, Indiana. I remember my Mom and I waiting in the parking lot where my Dad worked every Friday night as leaving from there got us to the lake in time to get in an evening sail or a couple passes on the ski.  I also have a rule that I don’t wear pants as long as the boats are in the water.  Luckily Sailrite is an environment where shorts fit right in.

Thanks, Brian!

The 2016 Sailrite Marine Catalog (with Brian on the cover) will be available in early 2016. Make sure you get one right away by pre-ordering your free copy today.

Here at Sailrite, we want you to be well-prepared, self-reliant sailors. Rips and tears happen in sails, battens fall out, and hardware comes free. With the right knowledge and tools, you can make repairs and fixes to your own sails, both in emergency situations and carefully on the docks. We’re going to share a multi-part series here on the blog with repair techniques for fixing the most common problems. Today, we’re focusing on small rips and holes.


We’re defining a “small” rip or hole as a hole 6 inches or under and a rip 12 inches or under. Small rips and holes like this can easily be patched. If your sail has a large rip, you’ll want to consider why the rip occurred before patching it. If the rip was caused by damage, you can use a large patch or even replace the entire panel of the sail. If the rip was more spontaneous, it’s likely that your sailcloth is getting worn and it might be time to consider replacing the sail altogether.

The instructions below are for making permanent repairs to your sail. If you’re in an emergency situation and you need a temporary repair until you can take the time to sew a proper patch, we recommend using adhesive backed repair tapes. Sailrite stocks Dacron, Laminate and Ripstop repair tapes that you can affix to both sides of your rip as a fast patch. You can also use adhesive-backed Insignia Dacron fabric for patches, too. Patches should be sewn on later to better secure and more permanently fix your tear.

For your patch fabric, use the same fabric (or a slightly lighter weight) that your sail is made out of. Non-adhesive-backed tapes can be convenient for patch applications. Their smaller size makes them easy to work with and easy to store.

For this repair you’ll need:

How to Patch a Rip or Hole in a Sail

  1. Cut a patch that is 1” larger than the rip on all sides.
  1. Using Seamstick basting tape, baste the patch in place. If you’re repairing a rip, try to keep the ripped sides as close together as possible.
  1. Sew around the perimeter of the patch with zigzag stitches.
  1. Turn the sail over. Carefully cut out the frayed, ripped edges of the fabric so a clean edge is left next to the stitches. Doing this step last helps to maintain the shape of your sail.

Here’s a video that shows this same process being done on a rip in a spinnaker. Since the rip is close to the edge of this sail, you’ll notice we add extra stay tape along the edge of the sail to nicely finish that side of the patch.

You can find all the necessary sail repair tools and materials, including our Sail Repair Manual written by Sailrite founder, Jim Grant, at

Be sure to keep an eye out for the subsequent posts in our sail repair series that will be coming out in the coming months. Subscribe to the blog to be sure you don’t miss a post!

Whether your shopping for a new sewing machine or just looking to better understand the one you have, it can be helpful to understand the differences in features and functionality between machines. One feature that plays a key role in how your sewing machine works is the hook system. This is the part of the machine that catches the thread as it is forced out of the needle to create a stitch. There are two main types of hooks, rotary and oscillating. Both hooks create lockstitch stitches, but they work differently and have a couple different considerations. Let’s take a closer look at these two systems.

Rotary Hook Machines

Rotary vs. Oscillating Hook Sewing Machines

Rotary Hook in the Sailrite Big-N-Tall. Shown without the bobbin.

A rotary hook machine, sometimes called a full rotary machine, is a machine in which the hook rotates in a full circle around a stationary bobbin. In this system, the shuttle hook catches the thread when the needle is going back up through the fabric and the hook then carries the thread around the bobbin cage to form the stitch, going all the way around the bobbin.

Rotary machines use a gear or timing belt linkage between the top and bottom shafts of the machine. To keep this function working properly, it must be set very precisely. This need for precision means that rotary hook sewing machines have tight thread tolerances. In other words, they work well with threads of specific, recommended sizes but can be unforgiving outside of their range. Additionally, small rotary hook machines tend to need their timing adjusted more frequently to maintain that precision.

A sewing machine with a rotary hook runs smoother at higher speeds (no vibrating), is quieter and has less frequent thread jams than machines with oscillating hooks. However, these machines are usually more expensive than oscillating hook machines. Rotary hooks are the standard choice for industrial sewing machines.

The Sailrite 111, the Sailrite Professional Series and the Sailrite Big-N-Tall are all full-sized, industrial machines with rotary hooks.

Oscillating Hook Machines

Rotary vs. Oscillating Hook Sewing Machines

Oscillating hook shown without the bobbin in the Ultrafeed LSZ-1.

Oscillating hook sewing machines have a hook that, instead of rotating in a full circle, oscillates back and forth. In this system, the hook picks up the upper thread from the needle and carries it down around the bottom of the bobbin cage. Once it has done this, the hook reverses its direction and returns to its original location.

Oscillating hook sewing machines have simpler mechanics and tend to be more affordable than rotary hook machines. They are also easier to time and maintain. Since oscillating hook machines have looser tolerances than the precise rotary hooks, oscillating hook machines can sew heavier threads in smaller machines. The drawbacks to oscillating hook machines are that they are louder and are generally not as fast.

Both the Sailrite Ultrafeed LS-1 and LSZ-1 Sewing Machines have oscillating hooks.

Which Machine Do I Have?

If you’re looking at purchasing a new machine, the shuttle type is often listed in the machine’s specifications. If you’re unsure what type of hook your current machine has, there’s a simple way to tell. Remove the bobbin from your machine and turn the balance wheel by hand. Watch the motion of the hook. Does it make a full circle or does it change directions? If it changes direction, it’s an oscillating hook and if it stays on a full circular pattern it’s a rotary hook.


In general, oscillating hook machines offer more versatility with their looser thread tolerances. We find that they tend to be easier for amateurs to use because they are more forgiving to use and are easier to maintain because they require fewer adjustments. However, both types of machines will give you excellent stitches and performance. For many, the choice is preferential or driven by necessary features.

To learn more about the features of Sailrite’s rotary and oscillating hook sewing machines visit

Do you use pre-wound bobbins in your sewing? These fully loaded bobbins can be a great benefit when sewing—keeping you sewing longer and making the transition between bobbins much faster. We’re going to take a closer look at the different pre-wound bobbin options so you can start enjoying the benefits of sewing with them.

All About Pre-Wound Bobbins

A Bobbin By Many Names

You may have heard pre-wound bobbins being referred to as belbobs, barbobs or hembobs. These little bobbins have many names, but in general these terms refer to the same thing. Each thread company over time has branded their own name for their pre-wound bobbins. Belbobs, for example, were from the Belding Corticelli Thread Company. These are sideless bobbins with a core. Barbobs came from Barbour Threads and are bobbins with a core and paper sides. A hembob came from the Hemmingway Bartlett Thread Company and is a sideless, coreless bobbin. Through company mergers over the years, none of these original companies are still in existence today and the terms are now used interchangeably.

You’ll see on the Sailrite website that we generically refer to all pre-wound bobbins generically as “hembobs.” We do this because we originally sold only hembobs from Hemmingway Barlett. After that company was bought out, we don’t actually carry any true hembobs anymore (without a core or sides) but we kept the name hembob because our customers were familiar with that term over the other synonyms for pre-wound bobbins.

Why Use Pre-Wound?

Why use a pre-wound bobbin over one you wind yourself? The main benefits to using a pre-wound bobbin are that hembobs are easier for the sewist and create better stitches.

One main difference between pre-wound bobbins and those you wind yourself is that a pre-wound bobbin can hold 30-50% more thread than an own-wound bobbin. This extra thread leads to fewer bobbin changes while sewing. Also, because the thread is wound on the bobbin at the factory there is more consistency with how much thread is on each bobbin. This will help you better anticipate when the thread will run out.

Factory wound bobbins create better stitches because the wind is more consistent than on self-wound bobbins. This, in turn, makes the tension of the thread more consistent as it comes off the bobbin, which improves the stitch appearance and the bobbin tension. The soft sides of pre-wound bobbins also reduce the risk of the thread breaking if there are rough edges on a metal bobbin.

Arguably the biggest reason to use a pre-wound bobbin is that it is just easier. You don’t need to worry about winding a bobbin before threading your machine during set-up for a project so it saves you time. Pre-wound bobbins can also save you money because you won’t need to buy a stash of empty metal bobbins.

Bobbin Styles

When you go to purchase a pre-wound bobbin of thread, you’ll see that there are different “styles” to choose from. Style is a guide for the diameter and height of a bobbin as expressed through a letter designation. Common bobbin sizes include Style A, Style L and Style M, for example. You can find which style will fit your sewing machine in the machine’s guidebook. Sailrite also lists common sewing machines that each bobbin will fit in. The Ultrafeed Sewing Machines use a Style A (also known as Type 15) bobbin.

Hopefully you learned something new about pre-wound bobbins. If you want to give them a try for yourself, you can get white or black bobbins for all Sailrite sewing machines at

Do you sew with pre-wound bobbins? What do you like or dislike about them? Share your experiences in the comments!

Fort Lauderdale Boat Show -- Show

Fort Lauderdale Boat Show — Show

This past weekend Sailrite president and vice-president Hallie and Matt Grant went to the 2015 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. This show is one of the largest in the country and there were a large range of boats on display. However, Matt and Hallie found that it was mostly focused on powerboats big and small from super yachts to speedboats.

Walking around and touring boats, Matt and Hallie noticed a few trends starting to appear. So today we’re sharing the top trends they saw at the Fort Lauderdale boat show that you can incorporate on your boat.

Below Deck


Interior on an Astondoa 52 – Source

Making your boat cabin feel more like home is always a goal and there was even more of this at the show. Familiar materials are being used in new ways along with incorporation of textures and colors in the cabins. Genuine leather and faux leather materials like Ultraleather were popular choices for cabin seating. Additionally, boat interiors weren’t just white, as many powerboats have been previously. They had pops of color with throw pillows and accents made from bright Sunbrella colors or even patio fabrics like Waverly Sun N Shade or P/Kaufmann Outdoor fabrics.

One look that really surprised Matt was seeing Phifertex used as a wall covering. It looked great and we think it’s is a really cool idea for DIYers to explore. There were also several boats with Ultrasuede as a headliner, which brought a beautiful, subtle texture to the ceiling.

On Deck

 60 Cantius with Retractable Awning - Source

60 Cantius with Retractable Awning – Source

There were many ingenious ideas being used on deck that, like in the cabins, were using common materials in exciting new ways. Sunbrella fabric, for one, was everywhere. It was above and below deck on all types of boats at the show. An interesting Sunbrella use that Matt and Hallie saw was in retractable awnings covering aft decks. Just like on a patio, these were small-sized retractable awnings for a boat. We thought this was a really cool idea!

They also saw Flex-A-Rail awning track being used for awnings and tops on many boats. This is a Sailrite product we really like because it can be bent and it easily fits on narrow areas of your boat. We’ve used Flex-a-Rail at Sailrite on a radar arch to attach aft enclosure panels and this use for it was seen again and again at the show.

Flat, snap-on covers seemed to be a new popular trend that utilized Sunbrella fabric and YKK SNADs. These covers are used to protect sections of the boat. For example, covers drape over deck chairs and then snap to SNADs on the deck. SNADs are a neat product because they stick right to your deck so you don’t have to drill holes and they have a domed top so they won’t hurt if you step on them.

All in all we’re really excited about the new trends Matt and Hallie saw on the powerboats at the show and we definitely have new ideas to test out and share with you!

Try out some of these trends for yourself! You can find Sunbrella fabric, Ultraleather, Flex-a-Rail, SNADs and much more at

Would you try any of these ideas on your boat? Have you already? Have you noticed any other trends in boating recently? Share your ideas, opinions and experiences with us in the comments!

How to Recover a Recliner Cushion

On Wednesday we shared how to reupholster a reclining chair. Today we’re back to show you how we sewed up the seat cushion for the chair. The new cushion cover is a pretty straightforward sewing process; let’s take a closer look!

The cushion of this chair mostly assembles like any other box cushion, but the zipper plaque is a little different. For this cushion we wrapped the zipper around the sides of the cushion and then covered the ends with fabric. Since both the sides and the back of the cushion will be hidden on the chair, this is a good way to give the zipper a little extra protection.

We used the old cushion cover to pattern the fabric for the new one. This is an easy way to make sure your new cushion cover will be the right size for the foam and the chair. Additionally, we reused the original foam because it was still in really good condition. You can fluff up older foam with a polyester batting or, if it’s beyond a facelift, you can replace the foam completely. Be sure to use high-density foam that’s appropriate for upholstery.

In this video you’ll learn how to pattern the cushion fabric, create the zipper plaque and assemble the seat cushion for an upholstered chair.

Materials List:

You can find all the materials you need for this and other re-upholstery projects at

How to Reupholster a Recliner

Recliners are popular seating options for family rooms because they are comfortable and casual. There is something so relaxing about putting your feet up in a soft, reclining chair. But you don’t have to trade style to get that feet-up comfort in your own home. If you have an old recliner that doesn’t fit your décor anymore, why not cover it in new fabric? We made a step-by-step video that will walk you through every detail so you can DIY reupholster your own recliner.

The recliner we’re recovering in the video was in really great shape but the fabric wasn’t working in the owner’s new home. A quick way to tell if a recliner is worth working on is to check the stability of the arms—are they loose or shaky? If they are only a little loose, you can tighten them, but if they are very wobbly, the chair may be beyond saving. Also make sure the reclining mechanism is still in good working order.

How to Reupholster a Recliner

When selecting a new fabric for your recliner, think about the pattern. We don’t recommend choosing a very linear pattern, like stripes or plaid, because of the chair’s many moving parts. It can be hard to line the pattern up along the chair and as you use your recliner the pieces might shift and make the piece look sloppy. We chose a large-scale paisley, P/Kaufmann Paisley Park Lagoon, because the paisley print won’t have to perfectly align.

Reupholstering a recliner is a little different from other armchairs because it will actually disassemble into smaller parts. You can remove the back from the frame and then the seat deck and footrest. Each piece is reupholstered and then reassembled.

In the video, you’ll learn how to disassemble the chair and remove the old fabric, how to sew and install piping, arm covers, the seat deck, and the attached back cushion.

Materials List:

You’ll notice in the video that we didn’t cover how to sew the box cushion for the seat. We have a separate video just for the seat cushion, which we’ll be sharing here on the blog on Friday. Be sure to check back!

Have you ever reupholstered a recliner? Share your advice and tips in the comments!


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