About - The Rest of the Story
An 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, (Click here to see the detailed proof.) While some 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".
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 “Teacher Certification Trainings” beginning in 2004.
The demand for Sulky threads is due to its high quality and exceptional array of over 4,000 sku’s, but the “Sew Exciting” Seminars, the “Embroidery Zen” Programs and the “Certified Teacher Training” Programs that the Drexler’s 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 Drexler’s 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 zigzag 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 Drexler’s 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 while promoting 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 Drexler’s 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 high quality 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 Drexler’s focused their educational energies on conducting Sulky “Sew Exciting” consumer seminars. Currently, Sulky has 8 National Educators teaching five different “Sew Exciting” seminars, which are conducted in retail stores throughout the country. Each year, Sulky educators also teach at more than 25 consumer shows, and Sulky has a very active program that it presents to Sewing Guilds and Quilting Guilds all across the country.
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. While the Certification Programs are formatted to train aspiring teachers how to present sit-and-sew classes either in retail stores, guilds or independently, many consumers take this program just for the fun of it.
In order to help even more people all over the world to “Follow Their Dream” of being a Sulky Certified Teacher, in 2014, Sulky began offering this outstanding course online.
During the mid-90’s as more and more eye-popping 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 (her beautiful raw silk vest and skirt entitled “Tigers”) is a shining example. (This outfit is shown step-by- 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 has also made frequent guest appearances on eight popular PBS-TV sewing shows which Sulky co-sponsored. She has produced 21 educational Sulky publications that have sold close to 800,000 copies. She has had numerous best-selling books like “Quick and Easy Weekend Quilting with Sulky”, “Sew, Craft, Quilt and Embroider Confidently with Sulky Stabilizers”, “Fun With Sulky Blendables”, and most recently, “Embellish Your Life With Sulky”.
She has also had great success in designing embroidery cards for Cactus Punch and Great Notions. In 2010, Joyce launched the online Sulky Embroidery Club, sulkyembclub.com, which features hers and Carol’s designs. 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 had only been bestowed on 7 other people in the Sewing Industry. In 2013, they were inducted into the Sewing Dealers Hall of Fame.
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.
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 to the building 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 44-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 28th Sulky anniversary and 39 married years, Joyce and Fred continue to maintain their excitement and sense of adventure. Their 10,000-mile 46-day motorcycle trip across the USA in 2012 and 8,500-mile 40-day trip through the USA and into Western Canada in 2014 attests to their spirit, vitality and sense of adventure.