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Sulky of America, committed to quality for 24 years!

For the last 24 years, the Drexlers have been insistent about maintaining the very highest quality in all of the products that bear the Sulky label. A good example of this is their continued commitment to only use raw rayon fibers made by ENKA in Obernburg, Germany, which have been tested and proven to be the very highest quality raw goods produced anywhere in the world. (Visit www.sulky.com to see the detailed proof.) While most other thread companies are now using lesser quality raw goods from Asia, Sulky steadfastly refuses to use anything but the very best raw goods from ENKA.

Fred's favorite story is about the thread manufacturer from Mexico who was trying to get Sulky to market his thread several years ago. After a careful study and analysis of both his thread and Sulky thread, he told Fred, "You have too much quality in your thread. You don't need that much quality". This only reconfirmed Fred's belief that he would always strive to have "Too Much Quality".

Since the inception and marketing of Speed Stitch in 1979, the Drexlers have been a strong influence in the home sewing industry, both in the U.S. and in Canada.

Fred and Joyce are Education Innovators. From their earliest consumer classes in their retail store in the 70's to Joyce's National "Success Seminars" and "SMART” events in the 80"s and early 90's, to “Sew Exciting” Seminars in the mid-90's through today, to “Certification Trainings” beginning in 2004.

Educating consumers has always been a top priority. As Fred explains, “our extremely strong focus on education through the years has caused Sulky of America to become the most recognized and asked-for name in decorative threads.”

The demand for Sulky threads is due to its high quality and exceptional array of over 2,500 sku’s, but the “Sew Exciting” seminars that the Drexlers currently market have also been a deciding factor.

Recognition first came with the “Success Seminars” that Joyce taught using Speed Stitch techniques to demonstrate to Sewing Store Owners and Consumers how sewing can be fun, interesting and creative.

The seeds for this educational program were sewn in 1976 when Joyce started teaching free-motion embroidery in their independent Singer sewing store, using top-of-the-line machines. As customers learned that sewing was fun when using Joyce’s methods and a good quality sewing machine, they purchased the top model machines, and all of the kits that Joyce produced.

These marketing tools led to a sharp increase in sales of top model sewing machines, even though the market itself was in a decline. The Drexler’s success captured the attention of Singer Sewing Company’s Vice President, Jack McCrae, who encouraged Joyce and Fred to teach other dealers their winning techniques.

In 1979, the Drexlers opened a second store, and Joyce taught her first “Speed Stitch Success Seminar” to a group of independent Florida dealers. Because of its huge success, they decided to market Joyce’s kits and seminars on a national level.

In March 1980, Speed Stitch’s first full-page, full-color ad appeared in a trade publication called Sew Business, proclaiming, “At Last, Crafty Kits for 80 Million Neglected People.” The title referred to the number of households that already owned a basic zig-zag sewing machine and therefore could complete any of the six Speed Stitch Kits. In that same year, in an advertising brochure for Speed Stitch, the Drexlers promoted the importance of capturing the limited leisure time of working women.

In the following year, and then annually thereafter for 5 years, Fred scheduled and Joyce taught 20-25, three-day, “Success Seminars” all over the U.S. and Canada and promoted them at trade shows, in trade publications, and by direct mailings.

During those five years, Joyce reached well over 1,000 independent dealers and educators with her seminars. She also created over 200 additional Speed Stitch products including a book entitled, Thread Painting; a 500 page instructor’s manual; six monogram kits, patterns, and artwork for numerous other techniques.

The Success Seminars grew to six days in length and, according to Fred, “Our acceptance and growth was so strong that it almost exceeded our ability to finance it. At one point, we had used up our savings, secured a second mortgage, borrowed against our life insurance policies and cashed in our IRA’s.”
In 1985, the Drexlers organized their first S.M.A.R.T. event – Speed Stitch Machine Artists RetreaT, to teach other techniques currently on the market to Store Owners and Educators. “Fortunately, the acronym police never caught up with us,” Fred says jokingly. S.M.A.R.T. was discontinued eight years later because, by then, most of the sewing machine companies had instituted similar events.

Also in 1985, Speed Stitch secured the U.S. marketing rights to a highquality industrial rayon thread called Sulky. In 1987, Speed Stitch entered into a joint-venture partnership with the German manufacturer of Sulky Thread, and Sulky of America began marketing Sulky 40 wt. Rayon Thread on the world’s first snap-end spool.

In 1994, the Drexlers focused their educational energies on conducting Sulky “Sew Exciting” consumer seminars. Currently, Sulky has 10 National Educators teaching four different “Sew Exciting” seminars, which are annually conducted in retail stores throughout the country. Each year, Sulky educators also teach at more than 25 consumer shows, and Sulky recently introduced a Guild Program.

With the success of the Sulky “Sew Exciting” Seminars and the continuing demand for more education, in 2004 Sulky introduced the Sulky “Certified Teacher Training Program”. This program offers a platform to those creative individuals who have a desire to share their skills and knowledge with others. The Certification Programs are formatted to train aspiring teachers how to present sit-and-sew classes either in retail stores, guilds or independently.

This year we anticipate more than 450 attendees across the U.S. and Canada helping existing teachers and budding teachers to “Follow Their Dream”. The success of this program has been beyond our wildest imaginings. Every year a unique, new curriculum is presented and students/teachers are encouraged to take each subsequent training to enhance their portfolio. The 2011 Certified Teacher Training events are scheduled throughout the country in 23 different locations and now in Canada.

As more and more outstanding creations surfaced using Sulky products, the “Everyone Loves Sulky Challenge” was born in 1995. For ten years consumers and designers entered and won incredible prizes totaling up to $75,000 annually. Many sponsors from the sewing industry joined Sulky in contributing these prizes. Many of these Challenge winners have gone on to successful sewing careers and as eminent designers.

Carol Ingram, the First Prize Winner in the Wearable Arts Division of the second annual Sulky Challenge in 1996 (with her beautiful raw silk vest and skirt entitled “Tigers”) is a shining example. (This outfit is shown stepby- step in the book, Sulky Secrets to Successful Stabilizing.) Although Carol had been an accomplished sewer and artist all her life, the Sulky Challenge served as a springboard for her “later-in-life” career.

Subsequent to her Challenge win, Carol co-authored a book with Joyce, Dimensional Concepts in Sulky, and began designing garments, wallhangings and other projects for Sulky. She has appeared on numerous Sulky sponsored PBS-TV shows, including “America Sews with Sue Hausmann”, “America Quilts Creatively”, “Quilting Arts”, “Sewing with Martha”, “Kaye Wood’s Quilting Friends” and more. She has also had great success in designing embroidery cards for Cactus Punch, Viking Sewing Machine Company and Inspira Designs.

Joyce also makes frequent guest appearances on eight popular PBS-TV sewing shows which Sulky co-sponsors. She has produced 18 educational Sulky publications that have sold close to 600,000 copies. Her best-selling Quilting book, Quick and Easy Weekend Quilting with Sulky, was published in 2006. Her last book was the Sew, Craft, Quilt and Embroider Confidently with Sulky Stabilizers in 2010. She has another book in the works that is due to be published mid-year 2011. She has also had great success in designing embroidery cards for Cactus Punch and Great Notions. In 2000, Joyce received the prestigious Schmetz Golden Needle Award in acknowledgment of her significant contributions toward enhancing the future of the sewing industry. In 2007, Joyce and Fred Drexler were inducted into the prestigious American Sewing Guild Hall of Fame, an honor that has only been bestowed on 7 other people in the Sewing Industry.

A strong dedication to education, community involvement, and superior products are all ingredients that sew up Sulky’s success. Joyce and Fred Drexler have consistently maintained these qualities, and in doing so, have propelled Sulky of America into the 21st century as an industry leader. 5 In 2004, Hurricane Charley hit the west coast of Florida and passed directly over the Florida warehouse of Speed Stitch and marketing offices of Sulky. Because of the damage and lack of available warehouse and office space, Joyce and Fred decided to sell Speed Stitch to an out-of-state entity so that it could continue to be operational. They made offices for the 9 Sulky marketing employees in their Florida home.
Fred is proud and honored to have had a 40-year involvement with Rotary International, for many years sharing his time between Port Charlotte, FL, Rotary and Franklin, NC, Rotary. He has been involved in literally hundreds of local community projects. He is particularly proud of the 10-month "Operation Mend" project that he spearheaded in 1992 and 1993, and carried out with the help of 60 Port Charlotte Rotarians and their families.

This invited sewers all over America to "Share their Stash" with Hurricane Andrew victims, and thousands of people did, which netted two full semi-trailer loads of sewing machines, fabric, patterns and every other imaginable sewing tool and supplies. As they celebrate their 24th Sulky anniversary and almost 35 married years, Joyce and Fred continue to maintain their excitement and sense of adventure. Their 5,000-mile motorcycle trip across the country, and more recently a European tour, attests to their spirit, vitality and sense of adventure.

Left: Joyce and Fred knee-deep in snow after sledding at their North Carolina home.

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