Humble seamstress beginnings: repairing a pillow case on our Sailrite (industrial) sewing machine

“If you can’t handle a pillow case, what’s it going to be like when you make our dinghy chaps?” says Paul as he looks at me in front our new sewing machine and laughs. Paul is 10. He is a lovely person. This summer he cradled a pot-bellied pig on his lap. But he is still at the stage when he has been known to trap a kid’s head in his shirt until they shout.

My first sewing project was to achieve a single seam on a torn pillow case. However, my short-term goal is to create a set of dinghy chaps. Here is a picture of a set of dinghy chaps.

Dinghy chaps as seen on the Sailrite website

Dinghy chaps are covers for the dinghy to help protect it from the sun and chafing at the docks. Unlike a storage cover, dinghy chaps remain on an inflatable boat full-time. I don’t know why they are called ‘chaps’ plural as though there are more pieces than one. The chaps are one continuous piece of cover.

We are in need of new dinghy chaps. But as you can tell from the photo, they are quite complicated, involving darts, custom pattern making, cutting with a hot knife, and combining different fabrics.
I begin with a pillow case. Excitement is in the air. My foot is on the pedal. I pick up speed and the flimsy pillow case is threatening to force itself inside my machine.
Torn pillow case: my first sewing project to tackle with the Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Plus (aka the blue Sailrite, and not the red one)
Visitors to our boat will find it interesting to note that the Escher family now has pillows, and guest pillows as well. The guest pillows are still in shrink wrap. Previously, we threw out our pillows due to mildew. Now with new pillows and mildew-proof covers, we will no longer have to give our guests our pillows to sleep with, or suggest they roll up a blanket o use as a headrest.

I survey my newly-made seem. “Mom, I think you’re a great sewer,” said Henry. Henry is 7 years old. The repair I made is shown above.

Our Sailrite arrived earlier this week. Henry is interested in all thing related to our Sailrite sewing machine. He spent at least two hours this week watching Youtube videos related to making dinghy chaps and using the machine. He doesn’t miss a beat, and gently corrected my technique as I sewed the pillow case, directing my hand to lift the presser foot.
Henry as he assembles our Sailrite sewing machine
Sailrite has a reputation for making robust, powerful machines. Our new sewing machine will allow me to make repairs and be less reliant on sail lofts and upholsterers. The machine we bought is powerful enough to sew through 8 pieces of thick vinyl.
Based on my pillow case repair, the dinghy chaps will test my skills as a seamstress.
I am undeterred. I have spent hours sewing. I enjoyed sewing very much as a teenager. Other than a brief stint working for $3.50 an hour at Wendy’s ‘restaurant’, I worked at two fabric stores in Ottawa, cutting fabric, and selling outrageous drapery concepts. But, this was before I was 20 years old, and I have never sewed in a zipper.
My mom sewed, her mom sewed. I sew a bit, and when Henry’s short legs reach the sewing machine peddle he will carry the torch of sewing. Perhaps the other kids will share his interest.
Henry threading the Sailrite for the first time as Paul (background) and his twin, Karen, watch.
Here are some pictures of Paul threading the machine.
Here are some pictures of Henry assembling the sewing machine. In truth, he could have probably done it himself, and often directed me to hold a flashlight as he tightened screws.
Tonight, we tried the machine for the first time. That meant we had to thread the machine. Henry was keen to test out what he learned in the videos.

I was so pleased to have repaired a pillow case. It as puckered but it was stitched together. I thought I’d decrease the tension on my second attempt. It was still puckered.

I will have to watch more videos and test the machine on fabrics with an industrial weight. I will test, try, and work slowly to get the results I want. Patience will be my friend. And, when that doesn’t work I will write a blog post or meditate. This won’t be my last post about sewing with our Sailrite machine.


  1. Lorraine, loved this article, it was informative and it gave me and my wife the incentive and prodding to go buy one of these same machines. I think we’ll order today for the free shipping, she wants to make curtains and I need to make dinghy chaps. She read your post this morning after she read the Sailrite website for about the 9th time. Your post was the gentle encouragement we needed to go buy one of these, which I’ve always wanted but it’s alot of money. Thanks and keep it up. We leave in Oct of 19 for Baja Ha-Ha and an extended adventure-


  2. I would love to buy one of these machines! Thanks for blogging about it. I do have to say that it is pretty encouraging to know that your boys can thread it! LOL! Good for them!


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