Technical Sewing Engineer needed in Alabama

Announcement courtesy of SEAMS:

Homtex is hiring a Technical Sewing Engineer. The requirements for this position are:

·     5+ years of sewing engineering experience.

·     Must be willing to move to North Alabama. (No remote work).

·     Salary is very competitive

·     A Degreed Engineer is preferred.

·     Start date: ASAP

Interviews will start immediately!! 

To Apply:

Please contact or 256-734-3937 x257

Surplus Office & Warehouse Furniture for the Taking

SouthStar moved from Nashville two years ago already! It’s hard to believe it’s been so long, we’ve had so much fun in between.

We still have some items in the Nashville space that need a new home including six work stations in various sizes and configurations of the same style as shown here, a matching executive desk and credenza set and various tables, file cabinets, shelf-units, office chairs, wastebaskets, and other items not all pictured here.

If you have a home for any or all of these items, they are yours with easy access through a truck dock. Please email us with any questions or to make an appointment for viewing.




Grist Columnist: Dollars & Sense

It’s an upside-down world these days: “no country for old men” to borrow the title of Cormac McCarthy’s book, which itself came from an old poem. Everything is changing. Whatever we’ve thought about business, we have to think again, and likely as not, we’re still wrong!

In the sewing world, the only thing constant is change anyway. Not that anything changes about taking a needle and thread to fabric to make a stitch, but the creations we dream up and manufacture are never static. If you don’t keep up with fashion and technology, you soon go the way of the dinosaurs.

But these days running a business in this industry, and probably any industry, seems like trying to walk on quicksand. Prices are changing. Labor is changing. Competition is changing. Sources of supply are changing. The rules are changing. And all this is happening fast!

Even the idea that to stay in business, you need to make a profit has changed. Amazon put the lie to that. It operated for years and years without a profit. It was an upside-down strategy: grow fast enough and big enough, and you never have to make a profit because you destroy all competition. In the process they killed bookstores first, then all kinds of other entrepreneurs including many retailers, boutiques, and name brands. What they couldn’t kill by underselling, they bought out of existence or copied and stole. Still today, they give away the fastest rising cost in business – shipping – and somehow we all subsidize it with the outrageous rates we pay.

But mark my words. Some things never change. He who lives by the sword, dies by it. Amazon and the other new monopolies will collapse under the weight of their own success. And those who have not changed the most basic of rules – get up and get at it every day – will win the day. Maybe not us slowing old folks, but the youngsters we teach. With good cooperation, we can still make dollars and sense out of an upside-down world.

John F. Rebrovick

Grist Columnist: Woo Hoo!

Man oh man that virus sure upset the apple cart, didn’t it? We’ve not been closed a day because of it—or the riots, as if pandemic wasn’t fun enough—but I know many of you folks haven’t had any choice but to hunker down at home unless you were making PPE. And thank goodness for that! The silver lining is that our beloved, beleaguered SewBiz industry got some newfound respect from the frantic search for masks and gowns and such. Maybe, just maybe, this virus damnpanic will spur some bona fide onshoring, not just the cheerleading and talk about it we’ve been hearing for years. Hey, you Retailers and Etailers – You can start your onshoring right here!

Luckily for SouthStar we skeedaddled out of Nashville just in time to miss all the lockdowns and arson there in the big city. We now operate in the charming little town of Charlotte, Tennessee. One traffic light, most of the time blinking. Cows, horses… I’d invite y’all to visit but I’m afraid you’d want to stay and the last thing we need around here is crowding. It’s fine just like it is. So keep your social distance!

And while you’re doing so, look through this Bulletin and find a few things to order. Those of you who have been with us lo these many years will notice that there are no prices in this new Bulletin. We’re not trying to be sneaky, but with all the money the government is printing now, we expect prices are going to be changing quite a bit in the near future. And not for the better. So go to the website or get in touch with us to find out the current pricing.
And here’s some investment advice: to beat inflation put your money into scissors. Lots and lots of scissors. They retain their value much better than gold and they double as a defense weapon should someone try to steal your investment.

All kidding aside, I hope you all are healthy and productive and ready to rock and roll with the reopening of the economy. And thank you for your patronage!

John F. Rebrovick

A printed copy of SouthStar’s Product Bulletin is available by request or to download a PDF copy of it, CLICK HERE.


Grist Columnist: 780 Payrolls Later…

     You read that right. This January 1 marked the start of SouthStar’s thirtieth year in business, which means we have met 780 consecutive biweekly payrolls. Wow! No wonder we feel so old!

It’s been a great trip, not always peachy-keen great, but all in all, one heck of a sweet ride. We’ve survived the savings and loan crisis, the first Gulf War, NAFTA, Y2K, the 9-11 downturn, the second Gulf War, the derivatives crisis, Obamacare, and now, Brexit. No, wait, we’ve not survived Brexit yet and who knows if it will survive itself. But I can say we now have at least one (partial) government shutdown under our belts.

In this bewildering age when Googles and Amazons and Microsofts and Facebooks and Apples seem to team up with governments to make being a brick and mortar small business seem anachronistic, it’s kind of nice to know that we and our customers are still really making it happen out there, producing things that real human beings want and need. A.I. and self-driving cars may be all the rage, but they will never look good in a bathing suit, or need a bathing suit that covers how bad they look.

The sewing industry may have changed a lot over the years, but human beings still like to dress well, whether in jeans or tailored suits, and to sit on nicely upholstered furniture and sleep on well made mattresses and enjoy quality sewn camping gear and on and on… fill in the blank with what you make!

There is a special relationship between companies like ours and our customers. We depend on each other and make good business both ways if the relationship is working right: We sell you good products so that you can make good products. That’s called a win-win.

We know we are blessed by your choosing us as part of your good business for lo these thirty years and we have to say thank you, thank you, thank you – 780 times over!

John F. Rebrovick

SouthStar’s new Bulletin #256 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: 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

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

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

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.


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!


Scissor Science 101



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

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!