Grist Columnist: Letter Home 6/26/18

…The reason I keep staying is that a man has promised me a lot of goods and I am wanting for them. If I ever get them I know just where I can sell the whole works provided I am on the ground…

Perhaps you can tell from the handwriting that the “18” on this letter is not for 2018, but 1918! The author was my grandfather, John Walton Fite, writing from Chicago to his bride of three years back home in Nashville, Adine. They had a new baby and a new business and he hustled around the country “on the ground” for the next forty years keeping that business going, then my father returned from WWII and kept it going another forty.

We’re just youngsters, having been at pretty much the same business here at SouthStar for only thirty years, but I am happy to report that this summer, another descendent of John and Adine Fite joined our crew – Tori Bagsby, their great granddaughter. She joins Customer Service Manager Carla Catignani making sure your calls are answered with smiles in their voices and your orders are filled perfectly, first time and every time and on time. Or as close as humanly possible. Because like John Walton Fite, we’re not just online, we’re still “on the ground,” too. For you!

Thank you for your business!

John F. Rebrovick
service@southstarsupply.com

P.S. The Morrison Hotel, when it was completed in 1925, was the first building outside of New York City to have more than forty floors and was the world’s tallest hotel for thirty years. It was razed in 1965 to make way for the Chase Tower. At that time, it was the tallest building ever demolished. (Wikipedia)

SouthStar’s new Bulletin #255 is now available. If you are a current customer or a recent addition to our mailing list, it should be showing up in a mailbox near you soon. If not, you can request a copy by writing us or click here to download a copy. Thank you!

 

Grist Columnist: Trump Got that Right!

Ha ha – made you look! Whether you hate him or love him, he does get your attention, doesn’t he?

He sure got my attention when he lambasted Amazon recently for ripping off the post office. He did get that right – except I don’t blame Amazon; it’s the post office that gave away the store. And they are no different from UPS and FedEx except for this: although they all bend over backwards for Amazon’s and other giant etailers’ business, USPS looks to the taxpayer to cover their losses while UPS and FedEx make up the loss by putting exorbitant shipping costs on smaller customers like you and me.

If you ship any packages, you know what I mean. They charge more for residential, for rural, for nonstandard packaging, for the cost of gas, and now, they’ve gotten really sneaky by charging for “dimensional” weight. So you can put in a simple one pound package and if it doesn’t fit their desired dimensions, you will pay the rate of a two pound package or more. Stuff that just a few years ago would go cross country for less than $5 now can cost $15 or more. And air delivery? We routinely warn customers of costs over $100 for a single package.

Wherever possible and practical, we consolidate your orders in Nashville and ship them complete. This takes a couple extra days but it keeps you from paying exorbitant freight rates twice. We ship priority mail flat rate when possible. And we watch our UPS and FedEx bills closely. They will charge us around $10 for a mionor address error, and they are not always right.

The best thing you can do is have all your packages shipped to you on your own FedEx or UPS account and raise Cain with them over every little thing. If you don’t know how to do that, just study Trump a bit and you’ll know how to get under even a big company’s skin enough that they’ll give you a break now and then!

And thanks for your beautiful orders!

John F. Rebrovick
service@southstarsupply.com

SouthStar’s new Bulletin #254 is now available. If you are a current customer or a recent addition to our mailing list, it should be showing up in a mailbox near you soon. If not, you can request a copy by writing us or click here to download a copy. Thank you!

Cutting & Sewing Bottleneck Openers

A FEW POINTERS (NO JOKE) FOR IMPROVING WORKFLOW IN YOUR CUTTING & SEWING JOBS
 
The biggest single difference between now and thirty years ago when I started supplying SewBiz products is not what we sell but who is buying. Back then all over the country there were still literally millions of folks whose first – and maybe their lifelong – job was in the local sewing factory, whether it was making overalls, jeans, t shirts, dresses, lingerie, living room furniture, auto upholstery, or who knows what. Those folks knew more about what we were selling that we did. Well, we haven’t gotten any smarter, but nowadays so many of you who find yourselves somehow making a sewn product are more likely to have stumbled into it without the benefit of the experience that those local factories provided. So now we seem smarter because we know about products you might not even have suspected exist. But trust me, we’re still pretty much the same dumb clucks as when we started. Nevertheless, we’re happy to share a few glints of wisdom about sewing aids that might make your life easier.

1. If there is sewing crack, it is silicone spray. If you don’t want to have to keep buying silicone spray, don’t ever buy the first can. You just don’t realize how hard you work at a sewing machine table until you spray some silicone on its surface and see how much easier it makes moving your work through the needle. The formulas we sell – whether SouthStar Jumbo Silicone Spray as pictured above or Sprayway #946 Silicone Spray – are colorless and dry so they won’t stain your fabric, and odorless. The Sprayway brand we stock, by the way, is certified safe for use on or around sewn products that might come into contact with food.  The SouthStar brand comes with free straws for directed spraying. The formulas are different but we can’t tell you how, some customers like one better than the other, but it seems to be like chocolate and vanilla, a matter of taste more than function. We sell lots of both.

2. Work on a good surface. Starting out, many folks do their cutting on the dining room table. Once they’ve ruined that table and it’s too small anyway, they decide the cheapest quickest fix is to go to Lowes and get some plywood and 2X4’s and build a nice big surface that is soon warped, dinged, and has a big crack between plywood sheets that catches your cutter and knotholes that make your straight lines curved. If you are going to move on with your business, eventually you need to bite the bullet and invest in a good, firm cutting table. I am happy to report that the best ones in the world are made right here in the U.S.A., right here in Tennessee in fact, and we’ve got the inside track on them. For all the steel and nice wood laminate you get, they really don’t cost much; the biggest hurdle is shipping, because they have to come by truck, and then you need wrenches and pliers and hours to assemble the many nuts and bolts that hold them together. The smaller sizes are called workshop tables and the larger ones, which can be any length you want in 4’ increments, are called cutting tables. Click on either one of those links to see popular sizes and prices, but they can be ordered to fit any space or need.

3. Cutting & sewing are pains in the back, and the wrists. Once you have things really going in your business, you or somebody has actually got to cut and sew all that stuff, and that is when the pain begins. For one thing, whether sewing or cutting, you are bending over a work surface, and that means stress on your lower back. For another, you are repeatedly working your wrists in ways they’re not used to, which in the worst case can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Many years ago an Aussie gent came up to me at a trade show and offered me a product that was being used by the Australian pro football league (yes, they do have one, and knowing those blokes I bet they’re as tough as our guys, and party harder). The products – a back wrap and a wrist wrap – were hits with our customers right away. In fact, here is a bona fide testimonial we got many years ago: “Your new product has worked wonders. Production is up among the sewers who wear them. They have all thanked me repeatedly for providing this product to them.” I wear one of the back wraps myself at times and can attest, it works. They are more expensive than the similar things you see in Walgreens, but try them and you will see the quality is far better.

This post is getting too long so I will have to continue it another time. Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with a great deal: Use coupon code TWEEZER online in checkout when ordering our #TWE6 stainless steel 6” bent, serrated grip sewing tweezer with alignment pin and save 20% at any pricing level! Click here to get to the TWE6. This coupon expires June 30.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR BUSINESS & HAVE A JIM DANDY DAY!!!

This post is one of our series of occasional emailers dealing with SewBiz technicalities.
If you would like to make sure you receive our emails, please
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Scissor Science 101

A FEW POINTERS (HA HA – SAME JOKE AGAIN) TO TAKE SOME OF THE MYSTERY OUT OF ORDERING SCISSORS

 

Scissors have been around since before the Roman Empire, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing new about them, nor that it’s always an easy purchase. I figure we’ve sold about ten million in our thirty years in business. Well, frankly, I pulled that number straight out of my imagination. I have not a clue how many we’ve sold, but it’s a lot and we’ve learned a thing or two along the way. So here are few things about scissors it might benefit you to know:

1. Bent trimmers are for cutting on flat surfaces; straight trimmers are for cutting up in the air. For example, if you’ve got your fabric laid out on a table top, you’ll want bent trimmers (as pictured above) because the handles are angled up from cutting plane so that your lower blade is riding flat on the table as you cut. On the other hand, if you’re doing something like trimming around the edges of an assembled product, straight trimmers will feel less awkward as you round the corners.

2. Scissors don’t hold an edge as well as they used to. This is increasingly true. The steel in scissor blades is hardened only on the cutting edge, as shallow as the manufacturers can get away with, to reduce costs. So if you sharpen your scissors very much you wear away the hard steel and get into the soft steel, and you’ll notice then that they go dull very quickly. In the old days, the steel on good scissors was hardened well into the blade allowing for many sharpenings. No more.

3. Scissors grow legs when they are free. Many shops solve this problem by buying their employees one pair of scissors and if that disappears, the employee is responsible for the replacement pair.

4. Spend money if buying scissors for yourself; save money if buying for others. If using scissors is an important part of your job, an expensive investment in a quality scissor like Kai or specially hardened Kevlar-capable scissors, as some that Clauss and Heritage produce in particular, is well worth it, as you are sure to keep up with them and take care of them. But if you are buying lots of scissors for other folks, it might make much more sense to purchase stainless steel scissors with plastic handles at half or less the cost of solid steel as long as the lightweights are up to the particular job.

5. Knife edge is nice but not always necessary or even desirable. Knife edge scissors have the upper blade sharpened to a more acute angle than the lower blade. This is why you can just cock some scissors partially open and zip through a layer of fabric without closing and opening the blades. But that sharper blade dulls more quickly than a standard blade because there’s less steel at the edge.

6. You will work best when you have scissors that you like. They should both cut well and be comfortable in your hand. There are scissors that allow all five fingers in the handle which can be a great help on tough jobs, scissors with spring assisted opening which can make a great difference in repetitive jobs, scissors with fine points for fine work like embroidery or dull points for carrying in your pocket. Some true left-hand scissors are still available, but only in 8” or 10” models (scissor size is always the overall measurement including handles). A spongy comfort handle is available for some models.   If you’re not sure what scissor is right for you, shoot us an email describing your job or send a picture of one you need to replace and we’ll be glad to give you our best advice.

Click for: ClaussEmeryFiskarsGingherHeritageKaiKretzerMundialWiss

This post is one of our series of occasional emailers dealing with SewBiz technicalities.
If you would like to make sure you receive our emails, please CLICK HERE to request it, and if you’d like to receive our snail mail bulletins as well, please provide your company name and postal address. Thank you!

 

Deciphering Needle Hieroglyphics

A FEW POINTERS (HA HA) TO TAKE SOME OF THE MYSTERY
OUT OF ORDERING SEWING MACHINE NEEDLES
Many customers ordering more needles for their sewing machines, look at a needle sleeve such as the one above and say to us,
“Which numbers do you want me to read?”
Uh, all of them. Though the fact is, only a few are important. Most of the numbers on a needle box are just aliases. In the old days when sewing machines were new, many different brands would use the same needle but the manufacturers wanted you to buy needles only from them, so they’d give the needles sent with their machines a unique code even though they were a common needle. Eventually this was figured out and all the needle companies started printing the various codes on each box, making it seem way more complicated than it is. But it is still a bit complicated, because there is a great variety of needles available. Know the following few things and you are way ahead of the game:
1. There are three main features of a needle: SYSTEM –SIZE – POINT.
The SYSTEM is a code that identifies the main specifications of the needle – its overall length, length of the shaft, diameter of the butt or shank (the part that fits into the needle bar), the configuration of the scarf (the cut-out part above the eye where the thread loops) and so forth. Typical systems, for example, are 135×17 or 16×257 or 251LG. In the above example, all the codes below “134LR” are different codes for that very same system.
The SIZE is how thick the shaft of the needle is (the part that pokes down into the fabric). There are several sizing methods. The most common are METRIC and SINGER. In the above example, the size is indicated by 130 (metric) and 21 (Singer). A smaller size would be 110/18 and a larger one would be 140/22. Most needles used for sewing apparel will be in the range from about 75/10 to 110/18 and larger sizes would be used for sewing upholstery, canvas, and other heavier applications. The size of the eye increases with the size of the needle, so smaller needles take lighter threads and thicker needles take heavier threads.
The POINT is either going to be ROUND (sharp), BALL POINT (blunted), or CUTTING POINT (diamond, wedge, tri-point, and so on). Round point is used for most woven fabrics. Ball point is used on knits, so as not to cut the strands of the weave and create a run. Cutting points are designed to slice through dense materials like leather or vinyl. That’s the kind of needle shown above. The point style is LR/RTW which creates a slightly slanted stitch. Special points are getting harder to come by as the needle manufacturers only want to make high volume needles. Stock up.
2. Nearly all home sewing machine needles are the same system: 15X1.
That system has many aliases, such as 705H, 130R, HAX1, PFX130.
3. Just because you know your machine make and model, we can’t guarantee giving you the right needle.
A huge number of machines operating these days are decades old, some nearly a century old, and have gone through multiple owners. Often, a good mechanic working on a machine and lacking the right needle will adjust the needle bar and timing to whatever needles he has in his toolbox. Once that happens, it’s anybody’s guess what needle that machine takes. Measurements are often misleading, too. So whenever you acquire a machine, make sure you know what needle it uses and write it in permanent ink on the head. And don’t throw away any old needle sleeves or boxes that might be in the drawer.
4. Industrial Sewing Machine Needles are sold per hundred per size.
With very rare exception. With the huge variety of needles the market still demands, we can’t afford to have all those broken packs taking up inventory capital.
5. Thread & needle breakage is often caused by too much needle heat.
In demanding sewing jobs where the needle is passing through thick or dense material, the needle will get hot and in turn heat up the thread, making it brittle and sometimes even overheating the steel in the needle. The first thing you should try to solve this problem is lubricating the thread with silicone. Needles are also sold with a Teflon coating or using Titanium steel for this purpose, but they are relatively expensive so try the silicone first.
6. There are only four major needle brands left – Groz-Beckert, Orange, Organ, and Schmetz.
Many brands have bit the dust in recent years including Beka, Lammertz, Muva, Singer, Top, and Torrington, among others. And a German needle name no longer means a German needle. They are made all over the place. We carry all the major brands, but there are too many to show all the different systems, sizes, and point and finish styles on our website. So if you don’t find what you are looking for there, drop us an email with as much information and/or a picture of your needle box, and we’ll get you fixed up.
Click for: Groz-BeckertOrangeOrganSchmetz
This post is one of our series of occasional emailers dealing with SewBiz technicalities.
If you would like to make sure you receive our emails, please CLICK HERE to request it, and if you’d like to receive our snail mail bulletins as well, please provide your company name and postal address. Thank you!

Grist Columnist: Is A.I. Taking Over?

I often grouse around the office that technology is not making life easier at all, but in fact is making it harder. True, when I think back on starting when faxes were the newest thing, I know computers and the web have made our work much more efficient. Customers can come to us from anywhere in the world simply by pulling their smartphone out. We needed a lot more folks when we started in 1989 to do just about everything we do.

The problem is – besides what the workers are doing who have lost their jobs to technology – that those of us left on the job have to work like switch engines to keep up with the new demands that technology has foisted on us. Almost everything used to funnel in and funnel out by mail or telephone and only within business hours. No more. Now everybody wants to know where their package is, why it takes so long, send me the invoice, where’s the receipt, why was shipping so much, and on and on, 24/7, coming by mail (you plain folk), phone, fax, email – and thank goodness we haven’t gone Twitter. BTW, I’ve noticed, too, that we’ve already got driverless cars – the ones where the drivers have their eyes on their phones rather than the road. I’ve been rearended by one of those. I think we’re all getting rearended by technology as we’ve willingly enslaved ourselves to it. A.I. (artificial intelligence) ain’t even here yet, but it’s looking as if the chips are stacked against us. (Get it? “Chips – microchips” Ha! I challenge A.I. to come up with such brilliant humor.)

Well, it’s up to us to make the best of it. Some advantages of our slick website are always knowing current prices, finding parts diagrams for your machines, or finding a mechanic or suppliers for goods we don’t carry et al. And better yet, here’s a no brainer, artificial or otherwise: see page 13 for 10% savings on popular products with our current online coupon.

And as always, thanks for your business!

John F. Rebrovick
service@southstarsupply.com

SouthStar’s new Bulletin #253 is now available. If you are a current customer or a recent addition to our mailing list, it should be showing up in a mailbox near you soon. If not, you can request a copy by writing us or click here to download a copy. Thank you!

Online Sewing Factory Auction

Mill Direct, Inc.
2110 Highway 12, Benson, MN, 55305

Online Bidding Ends: Wednesday, January 31st, 2018 at 2:00 P.M. EST
Inspection: Tuesday, January 30th from 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.

Featuring: Fabric Cutters: (11) Gerbercutter, Maimin, Wolf Blazer, Wolf Pacer, Eastman, USM, Etc. · Embroidery Machines: (3) Barudan Mdl’s BEHJ-UP-12 (12) Head, BERX-UP-12 (12) Head, 106UF (6) Head · Sewing Machines: (65) Brother, Juki, Mitsubishi Singer, Merrow, Cote Brothers, Union Special, Kansai, Wilcox & Gibbs, Rimoldi, and Others Including:  Double Needle, Industrial 5-Thread, Programmable, Buttonhole, Single Needle, Top & Bottom, Cover stitch, Overlock Etc.  · Lockstitch Machines: (7) Juki Lockstitch Buttonhole & 7-Needle Lockstitch Feed · Also Including: Foot Operated Punches, Grommet Presses, (50) Shamrock Meese 4-Wheel Cloth Carts, Gerber Traveling Heads, Pneumatic Lift Tables, Assorted Size Work Benches, Carts, Wood Stands, Plus More!

CLICK HERE to enter auction site.

Grist Columnist: 29 and holding…

Some years ago Jerry Lee Lewis had an uncharacteristically mellow song that described a fellow who was “39 and holding – holding everything he can.” Well, that’s a melancholy 39, and frankly that looks quite young from my 59 years. So when SouthStar hits year 29 next January 1, why, we’re still youngsters!

The truth is, time does fly when you’re having fun and it seems like just yesterday that co-founder Bill Starks and I opened the doors at SouthStar. Not that some days haven’t seemed awfully long, but the years have just clipped on by.

Our first office was in a spot of town so bad that we were broken into three times in a year – even with steel doors and a burglar alarm. The manager of a paper recycling business across the street was kidnapped one afternoon when he was locking up, forced to drain his bank account at an ATM, then was part of a getaway that included the hijacking of a city bus before he was finally released, unharmed but with quite a story to tell.

We had some very slim days in those early years that involved skipped paychecks for us owners and at one point, suggesting to our very first employee Robbie Matthews that he apply for a job at the Wal-Mart store, a fairly new business in town then that seemed to have more upside potential. Now 29 years later Robbie’s still doing shipping for us part-time and a better man you’ve never met, so I’m glad Wally World didn’t get hold of him.

Sadly our next hire, Evalene Wilson, was not with us long, succumbing to an illness in our second year. She was a joyful and loving soul, one who made it fun to show up at work. She died on the same day, in the same hospital where my son was born. Which says something about the cyle of life. And reminds me, though you’ve got to make money to stay in business, you don’t remember each dollar; but if you’re lucky, you’ve got a lot of good people to count along the way.

John F. Rebrovick
service@southstarsupply.com

SouthStar’s new Bulletin #252 is now available. If you are a current customer or a recent addition to our mailing list, it should be showing up in a mailbox near you soon. If not, you can request a copy by writing us or click here to download a copy. Thank you!

Grist Columnist: Larnt along the way…

The first indication that you don’t know it all is thinking that you do. Some in my family might dispute it, but I do not claim to know it all. However, when you’re getting along in the latter half of life, if you’ve been paying attention at all, you’ve larnt a few things. I mean to impart some of what I’ve larnt along the way to you youngsters now.

You are a business; act like it. You may think if you draw a paycheck from someone else that you’re just an employee. Not so. You own your labor and you are selling it to your employer. In other words your employer is your customer. Make sure what you’re selling them is worth what they’re paying you, and if they don’t value it high enough, sell it somewhere else.

If you do have a bona fide business going where you’re the boss, make sure you have someone knowledgeable from the get-go minding your tax obligations. The government is merciless about collecting their money. They will find you and they will put you out of business and take whatever property they can find if you are not paying your taxes properly, including ESPECIALLY payroll taxes.

(Note: The day after I wrote this Grist post, I found a news report out of Dallas about the IRS seizing the assets of a small sewing business without due process in a dispute over taxes. CLICK HERE to see it. / JFR)

Education is important and all that, but these days college is a big ripoff. If you have a talent for design or sewing or whatever, pursue it to the hilt while you are young, energetic, and relatively unencumbered. Get your degree later if it will help. Only doctors, lawyers, engineers & such really need the college before they can get out and do anything in life.

If you’re familiar with Ayn Rand, you know there are three types of people in this world: the producers, the looters, and the moochers. Don’t be a sniveling, whining member of the latter two categories. And be careful about who you associate with lest it rub off on you.

Sorry, that’s all I have room for. You’ll have to “larn” the rest yourself. But I will give you one more tip: Life is made to be enjoyed – larn to laugh about it!

John F. Rebrovick
service@southstarsupply.com

SouthStar’s new Bulletin #251 is now available. If you are a current customer or a recent addition to our mailing list, it should be showing up in a mailbox near you soon. If not, you can request a copy by writing us or click here to download a copy. Thank you!

SewBiz Help Wanted: Cut & Sew Process Engineer

Hyperlite Mountain Gear
 
Job Description:  Cut and Sew Process Engineer          
Position Summary:
The Process Engineer is responsible for developing standards for all cut and sew manufacturing operations, analyzing compliance to standards and identifying opportunities for improvement.  The primary objective is to increase productivity by eliminating waste and non-value added (unproductive) operations and improving the effective utilization of resources.
Responsibilities:
  • Organize, implement and maintain production process flow
  • Develop working instructions, workmanship standards and process documents and ensure they are followed
  • Improve continually existing operations for increased quality, efficiency and cost savings
  • Investigate operational problems affecting production and report recommended solutions
  • Conduct process capability studies and eliminate failure costs
  • Manage manufacturing documentation i.e. BOM, BOL, accurate work instructions process procedures and manufacturing standards (SMV’s for all operations).
  • Work with Product Design Engineering on:
    • o   Design for cost
    • o   Design for manufacturability
    • o   Design for assembly
    • Establish training and quality culture based on continuous improvement
Requirements:
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering
  • 5+ years in the cut and sew industry is preferable
  • Computer skills, ERP,CAD and CAD/CAM experience
  • Proven analytical and problem solving skills
  • Mechanical aptitude
Success Criteria:
  • Documented value of annual process improvements and cost savings to be equal to or greater than two times the Process Engineer’s annual salary.
If you are someone who enjoys working in a creative, fast pace environment, and would like to join our team, please submit your resume and cover letter to:
Like us on Facebook  Follow us on Twitter  Find us on Google+
We thank all applicants for their interest in Hyperlite,
however, only those selected for interview will be contacted.
Overview
Hyperlite Mountain Gear is a rapidly growing outdoor gear company with a mission to optimize outdoor adventuring for everyone.  We value our employees and encourage life-long learning, fostering everyone’s professional growth.
*     *     *
Listing above is courtesy of SEAMS – www.seams.org