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Inside the Life of a CEO

The School of Chainstitching was Created

(12/21/2010) Alan Spetner
The School of Chain Stitching-1986

By the middle of the 80’s decade, we found ourselves busier than we ever could have imagined. Our screen printing business was running at capacity and our embroidery was in high demand. Helene was able to teach people how to run and guide the chain stitch machines. We felt altruistic and that if the methodology of using this embroidery was not spread it would soon die out. We know this won’t happen in the Spetner family, as our daughter Amy is an expert with the machine and I’m sure it won’t be too many more years when our 3 year old granddaughter Lilly will learn to carry on a family skill and tradition.

In the meantime, Helene and I saw opportunity. We were able to make a deal through the Singer Sewing Machine distributor (Thanks to Bob Berger at A & B Sewing) to sell these chain stitch machines, and we laid out a business plan to open the “School of Chain Stitching” right here in St. Louis. The embroidery industry was getting organized and the first computerized machines were being introduced into the market. The cost of the new computerized machines was over $10,000 back in 1984 and we could sell a chain stitch machine and a week’s worth of instruction for under $4500.00. We felt we could not only keep the skill alive, but could create our own network of skilled sewing operators all over the country. These people could become suppliers for us.

We decided to start going to the IMPRESSIONS and STITCHES magazine trade shows and have our own booth where we would show what could be made and how it could be learned. Helene and I produced a VHS video tape that was also available for sale, or free if you enrolled in our class. We couldn’t believe that after participating in a few trade shows, people began to enroll. They flew to St. Louis and we gave them a 4 day lesson. We were also invited to give seminars at the trade shows about our school and about the Art and Skill of Chain Stitch Embroidery

In 1988, while at a trade show, the editor of STITCHES Magazine (still being published today) came by our booth and was mesmerized watching Helene guiding her machine as she demonstrated her skills. It was much more fascinating than watching a computerized machine and Helene was able to sew on many items that could not be “hooped” to be sewn by a computer machine.

In April of 1988, this experience led to Helene and the School of Chain Stitching being featured on the front page of  STITCHES magazine. Following is the front cover of the magazine. Helene was able to sew on a floppy straw beach hat, while no one else could. It was a lot of fun

stitches magazine


After a few years, the computerized machines improved dramatically. Aided 10 years later by the onslaught of personal desktop PC’s this method of embroidery on garments took over and became the mainstream method for garment embroidery.  Now in 2010, we own computerized machines but also own and use daily our old reliable chain stitch machines. The School of Chain Stitching was a worthy endeavor. We met lots of great people and had over 30 students. It wasn’t our greatest business idea, but we’re glad we did it.