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Shoemaking Techniques and Traditions--"...these foolish things..." - Page 108

post #1606 of 1709
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by vmss View Post

great question. I have the same trouble with the leather that the maker uses. I have a wholecuts from the same maker that has veins and prominent creases after just trying them on.

There was a time when vein shadows and fat wrinkles wouldn't have been acceptable esp. in the grain. There was a time when a prime calfskin would have been less than 8 square feet. All that has changed what with feed lots and growth hormones and the demand for leather.

I don't know why a shoe purporting to be made from prime calf would have vein shadows so close to the surface. I was always taught that vein shadows indicated good leather simply because they occur where the blood supply is greatest. But I've seldom seen them in the grain of a leather unless some portion of that top layer had been buffed off.

I actually like to see vein shadows in the butt of a soling bend--that's where they most frequently appear--but in the flesh only, never in the grain. If there are vein shadows in the butt, that's where I would cut the best of the best.

Fat wrinkles used to be indicative of marginal leather where the animal flexed most--such as in the neck and shoulder. Nowadays I think it is as much about growth hormones and the acceleration of weight gain and size, as it is about movement.

Nowadays a "prime" calfskin may be 20 or more (30) square feet.

--
Edited by DWFII - 9/5/16 at 8:11am
post #1607 of 1709
Quote:
Originally Posted by DWFII View Post

Tin the grain. There was a time when a prime calfskin would have been less than 8 square feet. All that has changed what with feed lots and growth hormones and the demand for leather.

I don't know why a shoe purporting to be made from prime calf would have vein shadows so close to the surface. I was always taught that vein shadows indicated good leather simply because they occur where the blood supply is greatest. But I've seldom seen them in the grain of a leather unless some portion of that top layer had been buffed off.

I actually like to see vein shadows in the butt of a soling bend--that's where they most frequently appear--but in the flesh only, never in the grain. If there are vein shadows in the butt, that's where I would cut the best of the best.

Fat wrinkles used to be indicative of marginal leather where the animal flexed most--such as in the neck and shoulder. Nowadays I think it is as much about growth hormones and the acceleration of weight gain and size, as it is about movement.

Nowadays a "prime" calfskin may be 20 or more (30) square feet.

--

Thanks for your reply. Why veins not in the grain? Does that mean that part of the hide where the veins are visible has been buffed off? Is It acceptable for a maker to use that portion of the hide on the surface of the shoe?
Edited by vmss - 9/5/16 at 8:44am
post #1608 of 1709
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by vmss View Post

Thanks for your reply. Why veins not in the grain? Is It acceptable for a maker to use that portion of the hide on the surface of the shoe?

Well, simply because the nature of skin...and leather. The tissue and the fibers in the grain are so dense and fine that there is only room for capillaries. It's also worth noting that if the living skin is cut, capillaries...even though they are far more numerous...will bleed less than veins or arteries. So, it is not exactly a survival strategy to have veins right at the skin level.

Beyond that, vein shadows are basically areas of flesh and corium that have been somewhat displaced to make room for a hollow tube--the vein itself. The shadows are not (or shouldn't be) tubes themselves...or even echos of tubes...just a change in the lie of the surrounding fibers and tissue that occurred because the vein was nearby.

As for a maker using portions of the hide with vein shadows...I wouldn't do it, myself, although as I say, if the vein shadows were in the flesh, and only in the flesh, I wouldn't be bothered. I wouldn't cut around them...in fact I might, as in the case of outsoles, cut for them.
post #1609 of 1709
"So, it is not exactly a survival strategy to have veins right at the skin level."
Does that means that part has been buffed off?
post #1610 of 1709
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by vmss View Post

"So, it is not exactly a survival strategy to have veins right at the skin level."
Does that means that part has been buffed off?

It might...I don't know all the reasons a vein shadow would occur at or visibly near the grain surface. But that's one of them. Steroids might do it too...as they thin the skin. (Seriously--some portion of growth hormones is, AFAIK, steroidal. )

But again, I think the better part of wisdom is to not use leather with vein shadows in the grain.
post #1611 of 1709
Thanks for your input. Truly appreciate it for taking your time to answer my questions.
post #1612 of 1709
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by vmss View Post

Thanks for your input. Truly appreciate it for taking your time to answer my questions.

Yr. Hmb. Svt.

fing02[1].gif
post #1613 of 1709

Today's question relates to stitching.

 

Is there an optimum SPI for both form and function? I'm sure there is a different answer for every kind of leather and between the stitching of uppers and the actual welting but I would be interested in the actual workings and any shortcomings of higher SPI work.

 

I know certain maker's work has been regarded as being "coarse" in the past for the relatively low SPI on their uppers but is this purely an aesthetic preference or is there an actual benefit to a higher SPI?

 

Thanks in advance.

post #1614 of 1709
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven Cash View Post

Today's question relates to stitching.

Is there an optimum SPI for both form and function? I'm sure there is a different answer for every kind of leather and between the stitching of uppers and the actual welting but I would be interested in the actual workings and any shortcomings of higher SPI work.

I know certain maker's work has been regarded as being "coarse" in the past for the relatively low SPI on their uppers but is this purely an aesthetic preference or is there an actual benefit to a higher SPI?

Thanks in advance.

Of course, there are multiple places stitching is used in a shoe, so the answer will perhaps vary. Furthermore, some stitching is functional, some is purely decorative. So, that will affect the answer as well.

And yes, leather varies, both in thickness and in strength, so the 'optimal' stitching would vary depending on that.

There are also different needle sizes (with corresponding thread weights) and shapes, which will affect how many stitches can be crowded into a given distance: ~~~~~ vs. ||||| vs. /////. These will affect the stitches' strength and will also give a different look to the line of sewing.

For uppers, have you ever seen an upper fail because the stitching failed? If not, that would indicate that the stitch density is not really a crucial factor.

For inseaming, it is absolutely important, because it can affect the shoe's performance. For outsole stitching, probably not really a crucial factor.
post #1615 of 1709
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven Cash View Post

Today's question relates to stitching.

Is there an optimum SPI for both form and function? I'm sure there is a different answer for every kind of leather and between the stitching of uppers and the actual welting but I would be interested in the actual workings and any shortcomings of higher SPI work.

I know certain maker's work has been regarded as being "coarse" in the past for the relatively low SPI on their uppers but is this purely an aesthetic preference or is there an actual benefit to a higher SPI?

Thanks in advance.

This is a hard question to answer...there is a functionality in tighter work...up to a point. Inseaming done much below 3spi for instance is not as water resistant and much more likely to gape. Such coarse work doesn't "show" well and that in and of itself is an indication that the connection itself is loose. As such, and worse, it will admit dirt and that dirt...that grit...will abrade and weaken the seam. Such coarse work also puts a greater stress on the materials it is supposed to be holding together.

I try to inseam at about 4spi, sometimes flexing to a tighter frequency and sometime to a looser (3spi) in areas where tighter stitches are difficult to produce...such as around narrow toes.

Much of the same considerations apply to upper work. But you are correct in thinking that the temper and substance of the leather has much to do with it. I generally sew at 15 -18 spi on uppers but if I am making a rugged boot, I will often "open up" a little simply because it looks more balanced on heavy leathers---I will also choose a heavier thread in such circumstances. But again, if opening up is done simply for appearances sake, it risks weakening the connections and jeopardizing the potential lifespan of the shoe.

At a certain point, especially with machine work the frequency of the stitching as well as the substance of the needle can combine to "postage stamp" the leather--perforate it so relentlessly that the leather is irreparably damaged and weakened. Much beyond 20spi except on dense, strong leathers such as kangaroo is starting to be counterproductive, IMO. (Although I have seen really, really fine machine work on some vintage shoes).

Where is the "sweet spot?" It depends on the leather and undoubtedly on the eventual use. At one point in time shoemakers hand stitched both the uppers and the welt at frequencies in excess of 50 stitches per inch (up to 64 spi has been recorded)...and all by eye. No living shoemaker that I know of has the skills to do that anymore. But the leather is markedly different, as well.

June Swann, long time keeper / curator of the Shoe Collection at the Northampton Shoe Museum, and maybe the foremost shoe historian in the world, has pointed out that with growth hormones and feed supplements as well as the genetic and financial emphasis of raising beef primarily for meat rather than the hides, the raw hides themselves are not of the quality or temper of what was being produced 150 years ago. So high frequency work is near-as-nevermind impossible...even if we had someone who knew how to do it.

But most or all of that work was for show--for World's Fairs and International Exhibitions and not intended for actual use. 20-30spi by hand and by eye is another matter. Some women's work was done at those kinds of frequencies as a regular thing.

All that said, much of it is aesthetic preferences--the eye of the creator, so to speak. Coarse is often seen as "bold" but bold is all too often objectively coarse.

And the real problem with "fine"...beyond the time and skill it takes to do it, of course...is that it tends to recede into the background. As all things "finessed and elegant" do. It is not "in your face." Nor ostentatious....and ostentatious ("esp. at these prices") is what all too many people seem to prefer these days.

You have to look closely...and be somewhat knowledgeable...to really appreciate high frequency, high quality work. And that's just too much trouble.

--
Edited by DWFII - 9/20/16 at 6:42am
post #1616 of 1709
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by shoefan View Post

Of course, there are multiple places stitching is used in a shoe, so the answer will perhaps vary. Furthermore, some stitching is functional, some is purely decorative. So, that will affect the answer as well.

And yes, leather varies, both in thickness and in strength, so the 'optimal' stitching would vary depending on that.

There are also different needle sizes (with corresponding thread weights) and shapes, which will affect how many stitches can be crowded into a given distance: ~~~~~ vs. ||||| vs. /////. These will affect the stitches' strength and will also give a different look to the line of sewing.

For uppers, have you ever seen an upper fail because the stitching failed? If not, that would indicate that the stitch density is not really a crucial factor.

For inseaming, it is absolutely important, because it can affect the shoe's performance. For outsole stitching, probably not really a crucial factor.

Really good point...and a whole 'nuther can of worms.
post #1617 of 1709
Thread tension is probably just as important, if not more so.
post #1618 of 1709
Quote:
Originally Posted by DWFII View Post


This is a hard question to answer...there is a functionality in tighter work...up to a point. Inseaming done much below 3spi for instance is not as water resistant and much more likely to gape. Such coarse work doesn't "show" well and that in and of itself is an indication that the connection itself is loose. As such, and worse, it will admit dirt and that dirt...that grit...will abrade and weaken the seam. Such coarse work also puts a greater stress on the materials it is supposed to be holding together.

I try to inseam at about 4spi, sometimes flexing to a tighter frequency and sometime to a looser (3spi) in areas where tighter stitches are difficult to produce...such as around narrow toes.

Much of the same considerations apply to upper work. But you are correct in thinking that the temper and substance of the leather has much to do with it. I generally sew at 15 -18 spi on uppers but if I am making a rugged boot, I will often "open up" a little simply because it looks more balanced on heavy leathers---I will also choose a heavier thread in such circumstances. But again, if opening up is done simply for appearances sake, it risks weakening the connections and jeopardizing the potential lifespan of the shoe.

At a certain point, especially with machine work the frequency of the stitching as well as the substance of the needle can combine to "postage stamp" the leather--perforate it so relentlessly that the leather is irreparably damaged and weakened. Much beyond 20spi except on dense, strong leathers such as kangaroo is starting to be counterproductive, IMO. (Although I have seen really, really fine machine work on some vintage shoes).

Where is the "sweet spot?" It depends on the leather and undoubtedly on the eventual use. At one point in time shoemakers hand stitched both the uppers and the welt at frequencies in excess of 50 stitches per inch (up to 64 spi has been recorded)...and all by eye. No living shoemaker that I know of has the skills to do that anymore. But the leather is markedly different, as well.

June Swann, long time keeper / curator of the Shoe Collection at the Northampton Shoe Museum, and maybe the foremost shoe historian in the world, has pointed out that with growth hormones and feed supplements as well as the genetic and financial emphasis of raising beef primarily for meat rather than the hides, the raw hides themselves are not of the quality or temper of what was being produced 150 years ago. So high frequency work is near-as-nevermind impossible...even if we had someone who knew how to do it.

But most or all of that work was for show--for World's Fairs and International Exhibitions and not intended for actual use. 20-30spi by hand and by eye is another matter. Some women's work was done at those kinds of frequencies as a regular thing.

All that said, much of it is aesthetic preferences--the eye of the creator, so to speak. Coarse is often seen as "bold" but bold is all too often objectively coarse.

And the real problem with "fine"...beyond the time and skill it takes to do it, of course...is that it tends to recede into the background. As all things "finessed and elegant" do. It is not "in your face." Nor ostentatious....and ostentatious ("esp. at these prices") is what all too many people seem to prefer these days.

You have to look closely...and be somewhat knowledgeable...to really appreciate high frequency, high quality work. And that's just too much trouble.

--


​Wow. Thanks for the detailed response as always - I am very grateful.

 

 

Hugely informative.

post #1619 of 1709
Quote:
Originally Posted by shoefan View Post


Of course, there are multiple places stitching is used in a shoe, so the answer will perhaps vary. Furthermore, some stitching is functional, some is purely decorative. So, that will affect the answer as well.

And yes, leather varies, both in thickness and in strength, so the 'optimal' stitching would vary depending on that.

There are also different needle sizes (with corresponding thread weights) and shapes, which will affect how many stitches can be crowded into a given distance: ~~~~~ vs. ||||| vs. /////. These will affect the stitches' strength and will also give a different look to the line of sewing.

For uppers, have you ever seen an upper fail because the stitching failed? If not, that would indicate that the stitch density is not really a crucial factor.

For inseaming, it is absolutely important, because it can affect the shoe's performance. For outsole stitching, probably not really a crucial factor.


Again, thank you for your response. Another informative response from a different but equally valid viewpoint.

post #1620 of 1709

I have a question about lining. 

I had recently come across a shoe maker who had given me an option of lining the vamp area with the same leather used in the uppers, instead of the conventional lining that's normally used for most other cases.

I was wondering what the reason for this might be, and if there are any pros / cons (if any) in doing so?

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