Thursday, December 16, 2010

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

And that is Merry Christmas to one and all, regardless of your faith or tradition!

We're taking a break from December 23 through January 2 because we've just had too much business this year and can't stand any more.

We won't be answering the phones during the break but if you have an emergency, you can email us at . We'll get back to you to let you know if we can get it taken care of in time for your requirements. Of course, you can order online or fax or email your regular orders to us during the break and we'll get right to them on January 3.

Thank you for your business!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Long Walk In...

What a surprise when Jason Shaw and Daniel Jerabek showed up at our offices one recent day. Not that walk-in customers are so surprising... but when they're walk-ins all the way from Australia, that's special!

Jason and Daniel are pictured here in our "lobby" with SouthStar's own Carla Catignani, snapped when Jason and Daniel were freewheeling around the U.S. on holiday this fall. Among their stops were a monster truck meet in Kentucky, Nashville's night life, Dollywood.... and SouthStar! Jason's girlfriend back on the big island told him SouthStar was a must-see and like the good sensible fellow he is, he complied, picking up some essentials for her rather serious sewing hobby.

They're fine fellows and entertaining guests. We're proud to award them the first ever SouthStar virtual trophy for foreign walk-in customer of the year. Or decade for that matter!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Made in USA: L.L. Bean Rubber Mocs

Now that cold, wet weather is finally here, at least where we are in Middle Tennessee, it's time to talk about another top notch Made in USA sewn product: L.L. Bean's Rubber Mocs.

These shoes are a real surprise! They may actually be the most comfortable shoes I own thanks to their excellent arch support. And of course, in the Bean manner, they are expertly designed and crafted.

We had a good downpour recently after a long period of dry weather, so I had to get out in the yard before work and clear my drainage ditch of debris. Normally that would mean I get to work with shoes and socks about half drenched. Not this day. I pulled on the Rubber Mocs and arrived at work with feet dry and warm, raring to go in fine form for another day of serving the sewn products industry.

The sizes run larger than reality. I suppose if you want them to fit snugly you should order down a size, but I ordered my normal size and thus will have plenty of room for thick socks on those extry cold days.

And made in USA - that's just icing on the cake! Perhaps they'd make a good Christmas gift for someone on your list?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Made in USA: Union Line Men's Work Shirts

For someone who makes a big part of his living from the fashion industry, I'm a terrible shopper. I'm resistant to changes in style, for one thing. Even that's pretty much a moot point, as I wear clothes until they're full of rips and stains. And I h-a-t-e going into clothing stores.

Today it's Saturday and I've got chores to do, so I'm in my overalls. I can't put change in the right pocket because it falls right through. I don't dare unsnap the right chest snap because it's holding on by threads. And I can't close the upper side snaps because I've developed a bit of a middle age belly since I bought these things some ten years ago. I have intended to buy some new ones for some time, especially since I've found a couple of different Made in U.S.A. sources, but these still serve the purpose...

When I do shop, I always look for made in U.S.A., of course, and I'm happy to report that I've found a good source of American made shirts. Not the dressiest shirts--those are still available from some custom sources--but just some good average woven cloth shirts appropriate to wear to the office or out to dinner without a tie. One is pictured at left.

I've bought from a couple of sites in the past few years but my most recent purchase was from a site called All Seasons Uniforms. I am especially pleased with them. Service was prompt, the fabric and fit are good, and so far they're holding up well in the laundry.

So if you're going to spend some money on clothes, try supporting your fellow sew-biz professionals by spending it stateside first!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Nashville Sew-Biz Meet & Greet

For years I've wanted to get all the folks together who are somehow involved in the business of commercial sewing locally. Finally I'm doing something about it.

On the surface that may not sound like much. Thirty years ago when I started out in this industry that would have included several factory managers representing thousands of sewing machines. Not today. But today it's even more interesting, if not as lucrative.

Today in and around Nashville there are a whole bunch of creative entrepreneurial type individuals who are doing everything from embroidery to upholstery, from patternmaking to high fashion, making a living or at least part of a living from sewing. Many of them are our customers. And frequently we get asked, "Where can I get such and such?" or "Who does sew and sew?"

Well, if you're one of those people, please join us at SouthStar on Sunday, December 7, from 4-6pm for the first ever Nashville Sew-Biz Meet & Greet. This is a chance to let other folks in the local sewing industry know who you are and find out who they are. It's that simple. I promise we're not selling anything. In fact we will provide refreshments and delicious snacks free gratis! Dress is casual.

Simply RSVP to us by October 31 if possible via

Ya'll come!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Mustard Seed

The parable, in business terms, is that great companies grow from start-ups.

First let me reassure you customers who work for large corporations and government agencies that I value you every bit as much as our other customers. In fact I know you have to put up with far more bureaucracy and political correctness to get the job done than those of us in the private sector. I salute you!

But I have to admit I relate best to those of you who work in a private for-profit business. Sometimes it feels that we are the last of the Mohicans when it comes to free market economics. And with the new 1099 reporting requirements in Obamacare and the prospect of the Bush tax cuts running out and the inheritance tax roaring back, I think we Mohicans are the ones about to be scalped.

But that's not to say there's no hope. NFIB's "My Business" magazine reported this summer that "a recent study from the Pew Center showed that small business is the most trusted institution in America." According to the research, small business tops the pack at 71%, then churches at 63%, universities 61%, unions 32%, big business and the Feds at 25% each, and banks bring up the rear at 22%. Wow! Vindication! Almost makes you feel sorry for the banks...

So to my comrades in small business who are feeling a bit beleaguered these days, I say hold your head up and look to the future! A lot more of us are running for office now. There are big elections coming up in November. Make sure to get out and support the voices of small business.

One more thing: When my parents' generation came back from WWII, starting a business was the thing to do. But my generation seems to have sought security rather than the risk of success. Where's that gotten us? This new generation is entering in very uncertain times. Perhaps the best thing you can do for them is not tell them to get a job, but help them start a business.

Just think of the mustard seed...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Made in USA: Diamond Gusset Blue Jeans

It's tough to find clothes that are made in America, especially everyday wear, but when it comes to the great American standard blue jeans, there are still a few places to find them. One of my favorite is Diamond Gusset, a local company whose jeans are tough, comfortable, and 100% made in the U.S.A. They have both men's and women's jeans available and I'm told their jeans are among the best for motorcycle riders. Personally I prefer the carpenter jeans because of all the pockets. One thing you'll notice when you buy them is that they fit right time after time. And best of all, they're competitively priced!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Made in USA: New Balance Running Shoes

For obvious reasons we're rather big on Made in USA around here. The Made in USA Showcase on the Sewing Business Resources page of our web site is a great place to shop. But the truth is, it's pretty hard to be a Made in USA purist these days when most retailers rely so heavily on imported merchandise - ourselves included. For example there are very few sewing machines or parts made in the U.S. today. The same is true for high volume sewn goods.
So I am very glad to report that you can still get some damn good running shoes made in the U.S.A. from New Balance. I've got some myself, pictured here. They're great. Next time you're buying athletic shoes, take a look at what New Balance has to offer. And note that they say Made in USA right up front. (Also note that New Balance does source source some of its shoes elsewhere, so be sure to pay attention to the source info for each particular model you consider.)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

An American Story

Timid people don't make a great nation.

So I'm proud to say that I come from a long line of difficult people. I've got a photo of me as a baby in diapers sitting on my grandfather's sickbed shortly before he died. He's smoking a cigarette and glaring at the camera through his bifocals. I love that picture. Nobody told him what to do.

When he was about 15 he and his father got to butting heads, so he hopped on a train and away he went. This was about 1905. Somehow he ended up in Detroit and got a job as a driver for an owner of one of the new automobile factories. That's how he learned about business among other things, I guess.

I wish I knew all the details. I've heard he wrote an autobiography before he died but some good woman in the family decided it was best his colorful stories went to the grave with him.

In any case, he wasn't all rascal. I know that when he heard his father was too sick to carry on his dry goods business, he came back to Nashville and took it over for him and eventually started a company like SouthStar serving cut and sew factories. He built it into one of the biggest employers in Nashville. It wasn't that simple, though. Along the way he was partners in a factory that went bankrupt. He had a sideline too into the early flying business that ended when his plane crashed.

He was bullheaded! As my mother says, trying to tell him anything was like hollering down a well. Does this sound like someone in your family? Or maybe YOU? It wouldn't surprise me! You have really got to be a contrarian to carry on in the sewing business, or to start out in it. It's dying, you know. Except that we get calls every single day from folks who've got a better idea about fashion, or canvas, or any fool thing and they can't or won't got to China to get it made.

I guess I'm saying you're a bunch of difficult people. But if you ask me, that's the best kind of people to have as customers. You're as American as it gets.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Things We Make

Jeep is out with an ad that features their new Grand Cherokee which makes a powerful statement about manufacturing in America:

Note our beleaguered but beloved sewing industry is part of the message in the form of a straight knife cutting through a lay of fabric!

This comes to me courtesy of Mike Todaro over at American Apparel Producers Network who sent it in one of his many informative, thoughtful email broadcasts that alone are worth the price of admission to the network. He provided as well a link to the following blog entry that shares thoughtful comments about the ad:

As Minnie Pearl used to say, "I'm just so proud to be here!" Even if we're a mere shadow of our former self in the U.S., the sewing industry is still a great thing to be a part of.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I'm sitting here trying to figure out how to explain the impossible. No, not how our country has embraced higher taxation, less freedom, and overall mediocrity, but the complex issue of ordering sewing machine needles.

The first rule of ordering sewing machine needles is: DON'T THROW AWAY YOUR OLD NEEDLE PACKAGE!!!

If you just call us and start reading all the seemingly gibberish numbers on the needle package, we can figure out what you need quite quickly.

FYI, the reason needles have so many numbers is that back when sewing machine needle brands like Singer and Pfaff and Union Special etc. were brand new on the market, they each came up with their own numbering system for needles so that customers would have to buy the needles under their brand name even though they were usually available cheaper under other brand names. This is one reason so many people hate capitalism today, it being the worst form of economic life known to man, except for all the others.

Anyway, over time we sewing supply people figured out which needles were the same, so nowadays the packages carry the most common aliases.

Also, know that there are two pieces of information we need to know about your needles: SYSTEM and SIZE. System is the type of needle, like 135X17 or B27. Size is how thick the shaft of the needle is, like 12 or 14 or 18 or whatever. Note that just to make things more confusing, there are also several sizing systems, so you will usually see something like 12/80 on the package, which is the Singer size and the metric equivalent.

We cannot reliably choose needles for you based on the machine model because over the years, mechanics might have retimed the machine to work with whatever needle they had on hand.

So here's the bottom line:

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sewing Business Resources

This time around, I'm going to depart from my usual diatribe against big government, high taxes, and excessive regulation which make it ever harder for sewing business entrepreneurs to make it in this world. So nary a word about any of that!

Instead, noting that our business is not otherwise breaking any records, I am pleased to report that we had more online orders in January that for any previous month in our history.

So I think it appropriate to point out one of the best pages on our site to all you web surfing sew-ers: the page called "Sewing Business Resources". It is easily ignored or overlooked , but you can click to it right from the top of any page of our site.

Frankly our web editing software isn't the best, so the page is not very attractive, but it does have a lot to offer you. Right at the top of the left hand side is a list of items on the page which you can click on to get right to them.

For example, let's say you need a part for your sewing machine but you don't know the number. You will get much better and faster service from us if you call here knowing the number. Just click on "Parts Diagrams, Sewing Machines" and you'll be moved down the page to a list of sewing machine manufacturers that links to the site pages on which they have parts diagrams available for downloading.

There are also listings of trade shows, magazines, and other web sites and companies that can help you get the information you need to run your business better, not to mention our "Made in U.S.A. Showcase" where you can have your web site listed free gratis.

The pages change frequently, so don't think once you've seen it, that's all there is. And if you have suggestions for improving it, please speak up.

And thank you thank you thank you for your business!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


The dominant thought as I sit to write this in the last week of 2009 is Thank God It’s A New Year! Just about any new year will do and 2010 sounds just fine.

It’s a relief to have the challenges of 2009 behind us. But then I think, better to deal with the devil you know than the one you don’t. What does 2010 hold for us? Inflation? Higher taxes? More jobs lost? Less freedom and more government dictates?

No doubt, all of the above. If the powers that be don’t get their worst instincts under control, this time next year we may actually be nostalgic for 2009.

Yet there are, of course, blessings to be found even in the worst situations:
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Virtually all businesses, SouthStar included, have survived this downturn by finding ways to do more with less. That puts us in a much better position when the market does improve.

Will that be this year or do we have to wait for 2012? We’ll see. But we know we can get by in the meantime. At least as long as things don’t get too much worse.

Another blessing in disguise is the opportunity that a hard change like this forces. Some who’ve lost their jobs this past year will find a rebirth from it professionally or otherwise. And according to the Wall Street Journal, many new graduates who can’t find a job are starting their own small businesses and no doubt learning in the process lessons far beyond what they got in school or would get taking a paycheck from someone else.

Finally, there’s ingenuity. Necessity is the mother of invention, and many individuals and companies are finding new markets and new ways of serving old markets.

It might be hard in a year like 2009, and maybe 2010, too, but indeed we should count our blessings. Here at SouthStar, they are many-numbered and you, our customers, make up most of them.

Happy New Year!