Is it spelled DUFFLE or DUFFEL??

Ok, i’m going crazy reviewing copy on our website. Is it duffle bag or duffel bag? Apparently, spell check takes either. But shouldn’t there be only one that is correct?


duf·fel   /ˈdʌfəl/ Show Spelled[duhf-uhl]
1.a camper’s clothing and equipment.
2.a coarse woolen cloth having a thick nap, used for coats, blankets, etc.
3.duffel bag.

Also, duffle.

1640–50; after Duffel, a town near Antwerp

Well..that doesn’t help. I guess I’ll get over it. At least I learned it came from Belgium.

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Where to find a starter Industrial Sewing machine

People often struggle sewing through heavy coated fabrics like nylon and web with a home machine. But they may not have the funds to buy a new industrial sewing machine either. So here’s a suggestion. There are several resellers of industrial machines in the US and would suggest you check out one of these companies. They all do a great job of prepping the machine to your requirements. Just give them information on what types of fabrics you plan to sew, the size of the needle, and whether you want 110 or 220 power. Chances are you will save significant money for a machine that will still last you a long time.

T&T Liquidators:

Advanced Sewing:


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What do we check during inspection?

In the custom sewn business, it would be great if there was a standard checklist for every finished product. However, each product is different will have its own specific criteria.

Without giving away all of our secrets, here is a standard list of things we check to ensure a quality product.

Fit: Does the item the bag/pouch is designed to hold fit properly inside

Placement of Parts (web, veclro, snaps, etc): At mark or within tolerance allowed

Seam Allowances:  typically 3/16” on all products; seams are to be within +/- 1/16”.

Cuts – cuts in material flaws, crooked cuts, ragged cuts

Snaps/Rivets – set in wrong position, missed hole, machine not set correctly

Closing Stitches: in the same line as the binding stitches on the front and back of the product.

Bartacks: check location; placement is critical, can cause some items to be too small

Tension and Thread Clipping:  Stitches should be tight and the tension should be set so you cannot see the loop of the top and bottom threads. Threads clipped to within tolerance.

Stitch Length – typically 7-11 stitches/inch

Binding – not applied correctly, loose, smashed, uneven, not caught on both sides, overlapped binding not covered.

Programmable stitching – out of bobbin thread, missing bartack, tacked in wrong position, located part in wrong position, tack chewed up binding.

Remember, it’s always best to have a second sets of eyes inspect.

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Good news for U.S. sewers, not so great for U.S. Textile Mills

It won’t make headlines, but the landscape for defense suppliers just changed. DoD acquisitions generally fall under the Berry Amendment or Buy American Act. These guidelines require 100% of raw components and manufacturing labor to be derived in the U.S. However, the rules are different now. A recent determination made by the Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy ruled that the Buy American Act “component test” is inapplicable to acquisitions of commercially available off-the-shelf items (COTS).

What does this mean???

The raw materials that go into certain finished products don’t have to be Made in the USA. This is a huge shift in policy. I’m sure a lot of analysis went into this. It’s a very fine balancing act supporting the current needs of our country while still adhering to the principle of self-defense. The reality today (which I am very well aware of) is that it is very difficult to make a 100% Made in USA product. There is simply not a strong enough textile base in this country anymore. Across the entire spectrum of textile components (fabric, velcro, fasteners, molded plastics, thread, etc), there is only a tiny fraction of suppliers there once was. My frustration grows day by day as more businesses exit textiles and smart people leave the industry for good.  

The Dept of Defense is certainly recognizing this and clearly is frustrated by how difficult it is to buy items that otherwise are common in the marketplace. In these times of global threats, our military can’t go without the supplies they need. And they need them fast too.

Back to my world…When I am presented with an opportunity to make an item, often the biggest challenge is not making the item (we can sew as well or better than anywhere on this globe), but sourcing the components. Leave the price differences aside. The bigger effect of  a ravaged textile base is fewer choices, higher minimums, and longer lead times. You can’t find what you need or get it when your customer has to have it. This doesn’t work well for government entities that like to take a long time to make decisions.  When the decisions are finally made, they need it yesterday. No one will solve the bureaucracy issue. Instead, more frequently than not,  I get to explain the bad news and look like the bad guy.  

It’s important to remember that the ruling applies to off-the-shelf items only, not the significant amount of items that are made custom for our U.S. military. So we’re only talking about a smaller segment of the DoD budget. Selfishly and from a short-term perspective, this creates more opportunities as a finished product manufacturer. However, long term it’s going to make things even more difficult for our  manufacturing supply base, and for me, making the custom items. That’s not good news for our country.  

Obviously, there’s not a perfect decision. Soldiers can’t go without.  While long term, we need to ensure we have the manufacturing base to defend ourselves against the growing threats of this world.

I’d love to hear what you think.

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Walking Foot Machines – A Primer

A walking foot machine is great for industrial applications that require working with heavier materials. It looks just like a straight stitch/single needle machine, but it is designed to move materials evenly together during stitch formation.

How it works?

The sewing foot on this type of machine features a set of teeth that interact with the sewing machine feed teeth to grip the fabric while running the machine. Instead of relying on the bottom feed dog to pull the fabric through, the foot keeps one foot on the fabric as the other rises with the needle. This even feed motion allows both pieces being sewn to go through with minimal slippage, keeping patterns and cut pieces straight during sewing. The needle actually makes a circular motion as it rises and falls. The needle will rise up, come down in the hole, but the hole and needle move together to the back along with the fabric and the needle rises up again.
The purpose of this walking motion is to keep your layers from shifting as they are receiving equal pressure from the top as well as the bottom. It will also prevent puckered seams when working on items with longer seams.

These machines are very popular in the tactical gear sewing industry. In mass production, time is money and the customer won’t pay you to spend a lot of time sewing any one piece, so a walking foot is often used.

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How to resolveStitch Skips

Here’s a short list to consider if you’re having issues with stitches skipping.

Wrong thread for the application.
Quality defects in the thread.
Improper needle / thread size relationship.
Worn or defective thread guides or eyelets.
Improper threading.
Excessive machine thread tension.
Defective needle or improper positioning of the needle.
Needle heat.
Worn or defective machine parts (burrs or sharp surfaces on thread handling or stitch forming devices).
Machines out of adjustment.
Improper feeding.
Improper operator handling.

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Urgency in Business

I promised that I would include in this blog articles or educational pieces that I feel would help a lot of people regardless of your industry. Just read this in Inc. magazine and believe this is recommended reading for any entreprenuer.


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Changes in Marine Gear

Thanks to my friends at for alerting me to this informative video.

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Why Chicago still makes sense?

I’ve often pondered and more often asked by prospects and customers why we choose Chicago for our sewing facility. Well, the simple reason would be that the company founders chose it, all the way back in 1921. But many things have changed since then, and it’s worth discussing why it still makes sense today.

Co-location with your customers is ideal for almost any business. But for us, we have a widely-dispersed national customer base. In fact, many of them are on the coasts: California, Florida, Virginia, Washington, the list goes on…Meanwhile, we’re sitting right smack in the middle. As it turns out, the numbers of customers on the east and west coasts have remained relatively balanced. If we were to shift to one coast, we would be at a significant coast disadvantage trying to serve the other. So we’re making a cognizant compromise to appeal to both. Consequently, we try to make up for any difference by running a tight ship. Fixed costs are maintained low so we can ride the ebbs and flows of a made-to-order business.

But in reality, why would a California customer chose us over someone in their backyard? Well, several do and here’s why. Just like our founders played a big role in our location, the birth and formation of the US textile industry on the East Coast has a lot to do with it.

The portfolio of raw goods that we work with are not freight-friendly (unless you’re the freight company, I guess). It’s expensive to ship heavy, oversize rolls of nylon, canvas, webbing, and foam. Assuming a Berry compliant product, chances are a West Coast cut and sew shop is ordering their materials from a mill in North Carolina, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Georgia, etc. That’s a long way to ship bulky goods. Being here in Chicago, it’is a much shorter trip. We take those bulky goods, convert them into compactible soft goods and ship them the rest of the way in their new form. Essentially, it helps level the playing field with our West Coast competitors. At the same time, you can see it puts a West coast competitor at a significant disadvantage if the ship-to address for the finished goods are back East

Having said all of that, we’re not in a commodity business. By definition, a sewn product is a hand made product. The level of craftsmanship displayed in the sewing plays the biggest part. And that’s clearly an advantage of being in business for over 80 years. Yet, I’m always asked price first. That’s a discussion for another post sometime. Have a great day!

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One of my Favorite Quotes

This is a quote from a speech given by Theodore Roosevelt in Paris in April of 1910:

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

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