Monday, February 24, 2014

Grist Columnist: It's What You Make It

SouthStar's new Bulletin #242
is in the mail.
Way back when in the 1970s before many of you were born and maybe even some of your parents, I was a teenager cruising around Nashville in my older sister's 1966 Cheverolet Corvair, which I had inherited after the middle child, my older brother. Although it looked kind of sporty and had a rag top, that car had seen better days and was always breaking down, diminishing my coolness quotient considerably, forcing me to shoe leather to get around from time to time. But beggars can't be choosers and I learned from the experience. I learned to take the good with the bad.

Perhaps my Corvair education is why I remember one song from those days so fondly: Dick Feller's "Makin' the Best of a Bad situation." In it, he talks about a woman whose husband thinks he's a chicken. She says it's not so bad because they can sure use the eggs.

Sometimes you just have to get philosophical when things aren't turning out quite how you pictured them. or when everybody's telling you how lucky you are and you're not feeling all that lucky. Or... when the government's telling you you're in a recovery, that the unemployment rate is down, and stuff like that, kind of making you think they're going to take care of you in sickness and in health... Dream on.

What I like about this business is that I work with lots and lots of people, you among them, who know better. You get out there and get at it. You may not be able to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but you are indeed making valuable things out of scraps of fabric and thread and whatnot, and making a living at it.

With you folks, it really is what you make it, and we're darn(ed) proud to be a part of it.

Go to SouthStar Catalog Search Page.

Go to SouthStar Sewing Business Resources Page.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Made in USA: Pointer Brand Overalls

I promise we don't get a kickback from the Pointer Brand folks. It's just that their stuff really fits my lifestyle and it's top quality and reasonably priced. Not to mention, of course, made in U.S.A. I promise I'll move on to another product line next time out.

My lifestyle? Some folks would say that "life" and "style" are an oxymoron when applied to me. I once dated a girl whom my dear old verbally gifted Aunt Adine referred to as "sartorially splendid." I'm sure the girl's rating went up in that category just from standing next to me. She was, incidentally, a designer for an apparel company, back in the day. We didn't last long.

To get to the point, a year or so ago I ordered a pair of Pointer Brand's "Full Cut Hickory Stripe Carpenter Overalls (Wide Stripe)." When I'm not SouthStarrin', I have some land I like to work on way out in the country. You can quickly ruin shirts and even jeans out there, as for one thing there's a lot of clay. It's hard to wash out when you've been kneeling in the clay working to extract something like an old stand of barbed wire from your mower blade, %*&#!

And there are constantly things to get snagged on, not the least of which is hypodermic-quality thorn vines. I like to wear my jeans to work (see previous post), and as hayseed as its reputation may be, sporting overalls is not quite the bomb in Nashville, so I save the jeans for working in the city and the overalls are for the country. By the way, the tractor, the boots, and the workshirt in the picture are all made in the U.S.A., too.

Back to the overalls, the pockets are fabulous, especially the zippered bib pocket on the front, for all those things I need to carry around out there. They're 100% cotton and all that; you can read about all the features on Pointer Brand's web site. But here's what I like about them: They're loose cut, so they're easy to move around in. The legs have some extra length to them, so they cover my boots well, affording me extra protection from snakes. They are light enough to wear in summer (the one non-poisonous snake bite I've gotten was enough to cure me from wandering around out there in shorts) but give good coverage against winter winds (with plenty of room for long johns underneath). Speaking of pests, I think the high waist gives at least a bit of an advantage against ticks getting in. And they're durable; I must have washed them twenty or more times already and they're still good as new. They are available in denim and so forth, but I like to think I look quite stylish in my Hickory Stripes.

Of course, there are some things I don't like, but they're nuisances about overalls in general, not Pointer Brand's. Like straps always falling off the shoulder. But I think everyone, especially you pattern designers who have to carry a lot of compasses and rulers and pens and such, should have a good pair of overalls, and you know those tight fitting skinny jeans of yours are terrible for leaning over cutting tables. Support fellow American manufacturers and order a pair today. I promise you won't be sorry.

Go to SouthStar Catalog Search Page.

Go to SouthStar Sewing Business Resources Page.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Website Improvements Coming

     Every now and then we’ll get a little love note from a customer like the one we got this weekend:

     This whole user name and password is a pain. Just let me order my items or I will find another supplier that doesn't insist I create yet another user name and password.

    Thank you.

     We’ve been using the same website and e-commerce system for several years now. It’s done a yeoman’s job for us. We’re now approaching our 13,000th order processed through it! Even if it’s getting a little long in the tooth, not quite up to date with all the mobile apps and so forth, it’s still a workhorse. As far as I can figure it, about a third of our business comes directly through the website and easily another third may come by phone or otherwise, but anyway has something to do with the website. You can’t imagine how many of our telephone conversations start with, “I’m looking at your website and…”

     In fact, despite the occasional little criticisms we get of it like the one above, we also get a fair amount of praise. I think our web site works best because it works more like a traditional catalog that most of our industry grew up on and everybody misses (except for those of us who had to pay for their printing and distribution!). That’s why I’ve been slow to change it. Most of the stuff out there today seems to want to do your thinking for you, and often because of that you can find everything but what you set out to look for. So we will not allow that to change.

     But some things, like the way we process credit card orders, will have to change, and the simple fact that our old software won’t work so well on all current-day servers, means that we do indeed have to update it. It’s a tedious process to get it right, and we’re not exactly when it comes to resources, so we have to be very careful not to throw money at the wrong thing. All that being said, I’m happy to report that we’re on the verge of some major upgrading and changing. 

     And right now, Sewbiz friends, your input would be very helpful. What do you like about our site, what do you hate about it, what would you like to see us add to it? No time is better than the present—and I mean the real present, right now, January 2014—to speak up about our site. Just email your comments via . Your comments will remain confidential, but will be greatly appreciated and will be put to good use if we can do so. 

     And check in frequently to watch for our improvements. Or better yet, test drive it by placing an order. Frequently!!!

     We look forward to hearing from you, thank you, and best wishes for the new year!

Go to SouthStar Catalog Search Page.
Go to SouthStar Sewing Business Resources Page.



Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Made in U.S.A.: Pointer Brand Barn Coat

Don't say you can't find jackets made in the U.S.A. True, you're not likely to find any at the mall, but just look to work wear and you can find plenty of dandy coats and jackets.

Now that there's a nip in the air here in Nashville, the first thing I've pulled out to wear on the chilly mornings is my Pointer Brand barn coat. The barn coat is just the thing for throwing on to go fetch the paper from the driveway, to wear in the cold car on the way to work, or... to go milk the cows in the barn.

The barn coat has got a nice soft lining and collar and plenty of space if you're also wearing a sweater or maybe a bullet proof vest. But the most remarkable thing you'll notice about it is the weight. It's heavy. They don't scrimp on material when they make this coat, and you just know it's going to last for years and years.

The only thing I don't like about it is that it doesn't have pockets you can really put your hands in to keep them warm, though it's got plenty of cargo pockets. But that's not enough of a negative that you won't find me wearing this jacket most every day this winter. And if you want different pockets, or you don't want denim like mine, there are several other styles to choose from. Just click here to see their selection.

Pointer Brand, by the way, is not only  made in the U.S.A. but better yet is made right here in Tennessee. It's a brand of the L.C. King Company in Bristol which has literally been around a hundred years and is still going strong. Their web site is also a winner. And you'll be a winner too if you support made in the U.S.A. by buying a jacket from them this winter!

Go to SouthStar Catalog Search Page.

Go to SouthStar Sewing Business Resources Page.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

SouthStar: Where the Star Shops!

Folks, after 25 years of doing this, it could get boring... but it doesn't! At least not for long, as operating a business like SouthStar, like life itself,  is just full of surprises. So I don't know why I was so eager to get out of here one Thursday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, except the weather was gorgeous and I was taking Friday off. I told myself I'd stay until 4pm.

The phone rang about 3:55 and I debated whether to answer it, but I did. It was some guy trying to find us, and I had the hardest time getting him to our driveway as he kept going up and down the street missing it.

Meanwhile Pete the landlord came in with the supervisor of a new cleaning crew. He introduced me and told me that the actual cleaning lady was out in the parking lot and getting ready to come in. Right on cue, in came the new cleaning lady Myrna, and behind her a big gangly guy wearing earrings. Pete thought they were together, but I recognized the big guy as my customer. I say "recognized" because I assumed he was my customer, but really, though he looked familiar, I couldn't say for sure if I had seen him before.

Ms. Myrna & Sinbad at SouthStar
I was introduced to Myrna, then greeted my customer and hurried back to the stockroom to get his order. As I went I heard Ms. Myrna say, "Sinbad, what are you doin' here?" Then when I got back she was having her picture made with him. Still, I figured Sinbad was his nickname and they were just old friends. Pete meanwhile was really confused, thinking he'd come in with Myrna.

So when I wrote his order up, just so as not to look stupid, I asked his name. He looked at me as if I'd just landed on this planet, laughed and said, "Sinbad." Sure enough. And what a nice, pleasant fellow, just as he comes across on TV. I'm a real ignoramus on popular culture but when my kids were little, I remember watching his show with them because it was not only funny, but clean, too.

And speaking of family, it turns out that Sinbad was in town to help his daughter make a music video. And Ms. Myrna tells me that she not only met Sinbad that day, but met his daughter that night when she was working another job as a security guard!

All of which goes to show, if you put yourself out there, life, and life at SouthStar, is full of surprises.

I did not mind one bit, by the way, that my exodus from the office was delayed that day.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Grist Columnist: Sew Political

I don’t know about you folks, but I have just had it with politics in this country. I am here to tell you today that I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican. Both of those parties are all about big government, high taxes, too many rules, and corruption.

Instead, I am forming my own party, one that is based on the ideals of liberty, individual achievement, private property, free enterprise, artistic expression, mechanical ingenuity, efficient use of fabric resources, and good old hard work: the Zippertarian Party. This new third party is for anyone who puts needle and thread to fabric for commercial purposes and we here at SouthStar are here to serve as all three branches of your government, not to mention chief lobbyist and pork barrel aggregator. Just think of us as your own personal community organizer.

You - the upholstery shop, the budding fashion designer, the parachute repairer, the department store sample department, the jeans factory, the costume creator, the embroiderer, the alteration shop, the niche product bring-an-idea-to-fruition person – you are our not-so-huddled masses and the salt of our earth.

We are glad to be part of your body politic. Call on us for your scissors and silicone spray, your pattern paper and notchers, and we will reward you with that greatest of life’s pleasures: a package at the door.

Thank you, my fellow needle traders. You will have something different as a Zippertarian party member: We don’t want your vote; instead, you will always have our vote. We just want your orders. And remember, in the rag trade, if we all hang together, not only will we not hang separately, but we’ll do it with proper fit and draping.
SouthStar Product Bulletin #241 is now in the mail. If you're not on our mailing list, shoot us an email and we'll get you fixed up.

Go to SouthStar Catalog Search Page.

Go to SouthStar Sewing Business Resources Page.