Since we are planning on being in Oriental until next spring, I gathered up my courage and went to (in my opinion) the best local sail loft, Inner Banks Sails and Canvas, and asked for a job.  Inner Banks has been in business for over 20 years in Oriental building custom dodgers, biminis, and enclosures as well as covers and interiors; in addition, they are affiliated with Doyle Sailmakers and have a full service sail making and repair department.

Sewing and canvas/sail repair is one of my areas of responsibility on the boat, so I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn from people who do it for a living.  Mark and Luann, the owners, hired me on a part-time basis, and I am just thrilled.

I started a couple of days ago, and already I’m in heaven.  The loft floor is built up about 3 feet, and we each sit in pits so that the floor is even with the beds of our sewing machines.  It’s like the world’s biggest sewing table.

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Here’s my pit.  I have to come in and out through the top, so it’s a good workout all day.  I sit on a backless rolling chair, and everything I need is right there.  It’s tough to see, but hanging on the wall of the pit to the right is a hot knife, so I can cut fabric without having to get out.  I use the long strip of formica at the far right side of the picture as my cutting mat.

There are two other employees (one dedicated to canvas and one dedicated to sails), and each of us work on our own sewing machines.  Mine is a powerful Consew, and even though it’s one of the smaller machines in the shop, the amount of throat space is incredible.  It’s so easy to work on large projects because they can pass under the machine without getting caught.  The stitch it makes is just beautiful—and yes, only another sewer can truly appreciate such a strange sentiment!

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That’s my girl.  She sounds like a machine gun when I’m sewing and can sew through a block of wood.

So far I’ve been working on canvas repair, primarily dodgers and biminis.  I have been restitching areas where the thread has rotted or broken, replacing Velcro, replacing zippers, patching holes, resetting hardware such as grommets and fasteners, and replacing windows.

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I’ve worked quite a bit with missing hardware and zippers with broken teeth.  Out with the old, in with the new.

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And this is what sun does to Strataglass when you don’t cover it up.  This poor dodger window is so sunburned that when I cut it out, it was brittle enough to break into shards.

But more importantly, I am picking up loads of useful information as the days go on.  I am self taught, and I’m proud of that, but what I know is based on mimicry or what I think makes sense.  I much prefer knowing why experts do things certain ways and what are the preferred or rule-of-thumb ways.  Everyone has been very open and willing to answer my frequent questions, and I am mentally “full” when I come home each night.

I am hoping to make myself useful enough that eventually I can be a part of patterning new fabrications, particularly dodgers and biminis.  There is an art to going to a boat and patterning canvas covers, and I want to learn it.  We have an enclosure that zips to our dodger and bimini that encloses our cockpit, but it’s on its last legs, and I want to make a new one this winter.  Here’s to hoping.