Foot Wares

Chukka boots, Desert boots, leather high-tops, earth-wares, platypus (feet).

These foot-wears were completed about three months ago, and have been sitting idly by waiting to have some notes written down. They have been worn about & around, inside, and outside, on a bike, off the bike, etc. The wears have shown their strengths and weaknesses, defections due to craftsmanship, and small perfections averaging out those weaknesses simultaneously. They are made of; stitches – polyester, waxed-linen, and cotton-core polyester, uppers – vegetable tanned leather, rawhide, chrome tanned leather, and felt, sole-ing – custom cut liners for shock absorption, various layers of vegetable tanned leather and rawhide, glue, and Vibram rubber soles.

As always the first step was to begin the pattern. The design is based on your basic Chukka boot parameters. It was to be high enough to cover the ankle, and otherwise simple throughout the foot and over the toe, with the upper to consist of only two pieces. The shoes would naturally reference a Desert boot also because of the way the upper is stitched to the sole pieces: the upper has a flange that turns out and flat against the soles most outer edge, as opposed to the upper turning in and under the insole (between the insole and the upper most layer of exposed sole) of the shoe like a Chukka boot. The main thing to consider is that both Desert boots and Chukka boots are based on having a heel cup, and a toe cup – in both cases the heel cup comes around the outside of the toe cup with no visible space or gaps between the two. Often, other than the way the upper is stitched to the sole (mentioned above), the only other difference between the two is use of materials: Chukka boots often being smooth vegetable tanned leather, and Desert boots usually being suede or some other sort of lighter, rougher leather. As you can see though, after working through the pattern making process and refining the height of the heel cup, and cut of the tongue, the aesthetic of having the toe cup wrap around the heel was decidedly more favorable in this instance – unlike the usual Chukka/Desert boot design format. However, this decision was mainly based on function. As is, the leather would not be pliable enough, or so it was thought, to both make the toe shape (forming over the toe) and then easily transition into the opposite position of the tongues shape. This is for many reasons, but the main culprit was that these shoes were made without any last to form them on. Of course without a proper set of shoe lasts to build shoes on, the process becomes much more experimental, and, temperamental. Extra steps had to be taken in forming the pattern, to ease some of the trial and error. Namely, with the tongue cut more narrowly, this would reduce the amount of material, which would have to bend in the opposite direction to the bending which forms the toe. Imagine having to bend half of a cylindrical tube, into a “U” shape resulting with the half moon opening facing out, instead of into itself: there is a certain amount of material there that either needs to be cut away, or extremely pliant to result in a smooth transition. Although, with a shoe last, this would all be taken care of because instead of bending leather you would be simply (not really simple at all) shaping and stretching it over a form, which when everything was dry, it will have become the new shape. But the narrow tongue by itself would not be enough, and this is why there are the two openings where the heel and toe cups meet. That extra bit of shaping (or lack of shaping) is what makes the shoe fit on the first try. This too is something of a result based on how well things work against themselves, without making these notches, the leather would not shape itself up as it needed to. This section of the shoe would be very tight across the top of the foot if it were not for this trimming. Of course this specialized cut could be negated for the common shape we are used to seeing which would call for simple patience and a long break-in time because now your foot would become the last (and breaking in dry leather is much more time consuming than stretching wet leather, assuming you could even get your foot into the shoes if they were built like that). Finally the completed comp of the shoe would provide our basic pattern, which consists of a simple looking sole (roughly the shape of any other generic shoe), the heel cup (a long rectangular piece with both ends sloping in towards each other at the top of the cup), and the toe piece (which when flat looks somewhat like a spade [spade], or even a bit like a stingray).

After devising the shape and dimensions of the shoe it was time to take a trip to I. Sachs Sons and look at materials. Well, actually, first a good look through what was laying around the Brother DB2-B791-015 took place, to curtail the grocery list. Even after making the deck-mocs, there was still a bit of the chrome tanned dark blue leather, which could be used for the liners on the heel cups: there was plenty of grey felt that would serve well as a little lining on the tongues: and also plenty of the Vibram rubber sole-ing material. Two different types of threads would be needed: the first was the same (brown’ish) waxed linen thread used on the deck-mocs, it would be for a small amount of hand sewing that was done to make a more complete bond between the heel cup and toe piece around the middle of the foot, where (due to this process) the Brother DB2-B791-015 would not be able to reach*. The other thread would be the Coats&Clark “button & carpet” thread. The Coats&Clark would be used to stitch everything else (done on the Brother), from sewing the lining into place, stitching the heel cups reinforcement, sewing the felt lining on the backs of the tongues, and stitching the upper pieces to the midsole. This thread was chosen for obvious reasons, it’s strong, has a good density to it, and ideally would not stretch under most circumstances. The strength of the thread brings us into the leather chosen, which called for this hefty thread. Considering this is an initial foray into shoe making/production, choosing leather was an arbitrary process. Of course some leathers clearly designate themselves for certain tasks, like the soft chrome tanned leather used as lining, but choosing others would prove a bit more challenging. Also, with price as a consideration, not all leathers were immediately available. Lastly, because there was no shoe form used to stretch the leather over (which after the leather had dried and set becomes the shape used), it seemed logical that a very stiff leather would be needed to both maintain a shape, and to keep the shape after use. What it came down to was rawhide, which is not even considered leather. Apparently the difference is that rawhide is a very simply processed hide (skin), with almost no alterations done to it in terms of chemical or implemented treatments (vegetable tanned, chrome tanned, etc.). Whereas leather is hide that has gone through many stages of processing to make it a certain texture, elasticity, color, and structure. Treating the leather alters the hide’s structure so much that it becomes virtually a different material (thus leather is very different from a dried piece of rawhide, it is almost a synthetic form of hide no longer at all related to it’s initial chemical property). How this benefits us, is that leather will perform tasks of stretching, shaping, and shrinking very differently than rawhide, so choosing between the two is very important in regards to your product. In the end, rawhide was chosen for use on the uppers, and the midsole (which in all honesty was primarily an economic decision). Also a layer of vegetable tanned leather would be laminated to the rawhide midsole, to improve the bond of the rubber Vibram sole (gut instinct forewarned that the Vibram sole would stick better to vegetable tanned leather than rawhide). Lastly some vegetable tanned laces were picked out to provide some structural support after the shaping.

With materials at hand, it was time to make the plunge into shoe making (or at least something similar to shoe making). Much of the process has been highlighted already, but let’s go over a few basics to weed things out. The first step was to inspect the rawhide and find which parts of the hide seemed to have the most consistent grain. It can be very easy to match up the pattern and begin cutting away, but with leather or hide, you have to consider that this is an organic material with imperfections that may have unforeseen stretching in them, or places where creasing can easily happen, etc. (this process is much like picking out lumber, you have to inspect the wood you choose to make sure it is straight and without warped areas or bowing). After sizing up the allotted pieces, the pattern was sorted out on the rawhide to make sure there was sufficient material. After tracing and cutting out the pieces of rawhide (cutting was done with a basic box cutter), the chrome tanned leather and felt accompaniments were trimmed out. These were cut after the rawhide to ensure that the sizing of everything was as accurate as possible. With everything done and ready to be stitched, the first pieces to be mated were the heels. Mating the heel liners to the heels was fairly simple, aside from stitching one on the wrong side of the rawhide and having to un-stitch it and start over with new pieces. One thing that did occur which is always a nuisance in sewing, is that the chrome tanned leather lining stretched as it was being sewn in place. There are a few ways to remedy this, or at least reduce this type of reaction from the materials. The first thing to do would be to use a Teflon foot on your machine, Teflon is of course non-stick. The second thing to consider is how you feed the seam through your machine: if the two pieces were stitched together with the chrome tanned leather on the bottom side (against the bed, contacting the feed dog), this would certainly reduce the stretching of the chrome tanned leather because it is not competing with the friction of the presser foot above (the friction from the bed of the machine is negligible because the feed dog is affectively lifting the fabric and pulling it at the same time). The rawhide does not have a problem with this because it is far stiffer and less elastic than the chrome tanned leather. However, having the chrome-tanned leather on the bottom side can be tricky, because then it is difficult to control the folding and alignment that is being done with it. Lastly consider the type of machine you are using, a walking-foot machine would probably be best because there are no parts creating friction like a normal drop-feed machine or needle-feed machine would (in the foot) – a walking-foot machine is going to pick all of it’s feeders and whatnot up, and then press back down while dragging the material through. That said, with the lining in place, two small pieces of rawhide were cut to act as stiffening agents in the heel, these were shaped like a half moon and stitched on center, with the bottom of the reinforcement piece just slightly higher than the heel cup – so that once it was all in place, the stiffener would rest on the in-sole (hopefully holding it’s self up and against any caving that may happen on the heel cup). After the heel cup pieces were ready, it only took a few minutes to stitch the felt liners into place on the backside of the tongues, which were still loose.

At this point the separate top pieces are ready to be stitched into place on the inner most sole (rawhide). This process required some water to dampen the leather for stretching and shaping a small lip along the bottom perimeters of the uppers pieces. After setting up a small tin-can bath, the leather pieces, with liners and all, were soaked for about 30 minutes in the warm water (under running water it would take less time, but we wanted to be sure the leather was saturated to ease the shaping tactics. The inner most sole [cut out of rawhide also] was not soaked {under normal circumstances a shoe’s upper would not be plunged in this manner, but because rawhide is quite a bit thicker and less pliant it requires a longer saturation period}). With the materials soaked, they were blotted dry with an old rag before the machine sewing began. The first part was to attach the heel cups to the back end of the rawhide inner soles. With the parts wet this is not much harder than manipulating a piece of canvas around a curve (the same system has been used for the Zshoes). Also, sewing through the rawhide was much easier on the machine while it was still damp, most likely because the water acts as a natural lubricant. To create the lip, simply use your fingers and bend a little flange up, from the bottom side (stitch side) of the uppers materials. Then stitching can commence, this was surprisingly simple, all that was needed was some attention to position, which even the laziest of eyes should be able to line up. As mentioned earlier, the heel cup was stitched in first, with the bottom edge of the heel cup’s stiffening unit bottoming out on the topside of the inner sole (no tacking back and forth was used to when beginning or ending the seams). Next, the toe pieces were stitched on, these too were simply eyeballed into place, and then carefully stitched. The Brother had no problems with the rawhide, but to make a slightly narrower footprint (from the presser foot) along the top edge of the seam, a zipper foot was used. Using the zipper foot, does two things (in this curious scenario at least), it makes a more narrow path along the top – making it easier to see what you are stitching: and also it makes it possible to place the stitches much closer to the inside of the bend of the flanged material because the zipper foot’s stance is about a third as wide as a regular foot (this helps to leave room for trimming around the edge later on, if there is undesired alignment of the individual layers). Lastly, where the toe piece overlapped the heel cup (about 1-1/2 inches), the stitching could form a strong bond by that minimal, but crucial, amount of stitch-overlap, where earlier there had been no back tacking**.

Construction of the soles began, now that the uppers were mostly complete. This part is more straightforward because there is no stitching taking place, and the pattern is much simpler than the three dimensional forms of the upper. That said, the first pieces to be laminated to the rawhide insoles were shoemakers vegetable tanned mid-sole leather pieces. These pieces were purchased at I. Sachs Sons and are about 3/8 of an inch in thickness, and very stiff. Basically the bottom side of the rawhide insole was scrubbed to clean off any loose hide residue, and the mid-soles were scuffed to create a slightly grittier area for a stronger bond between the two pieces. With the two sides prepped, the glue was very generously applied to both sides. Depending on the glue you choose*** to use, do a few tests to see what works best as they don’t all react the same way – some require that you let the glue dry before pressing the components together, and others ask to press them together while they are still wet or at least a little tacky. After letting the sole set up over night and have a complete 24-hour drying cycle, the excess leather of the lower piece, which stuck out from around the insole was trimmed off. Again, this is done carefully with a sharp knife. Just like the deck-mocs, trimming the excess was accomplished by holding the shoe in the left hand, and cradling it in-between the knees while the knife was being pulled (slowly) toward the body along the in-soles perimeter. After a few touch up spots were addressed by using a carpenter’s file to sand/smooth down any problem areas in the cutting, the sole began to take form, looking evenly cut with nicely adhered layers of rawhide and leather sole. The final step was to glue on the Vibram brand rubber sole. These were executed in the same manner as the mid-soles, scuff leather, glue pieces together, dry 24 hours, and trim excess to match shape.

Here we enter the hour of power. The ensuing step proved to be the most difficult and the most arbitrary in attack. What we are trying to communicate here is the transformation of the shoes from somewhat limp and lifeless pieces of material to full volume ports for feet. We’re still looking at these shoes with un-shaped, un-stretched rawhide/leather and this needed to be remedied****. Without a full-scale wood shop, or adequate rapid prototyping equipment available, a very rudimentary and alternative way of making a shoe form was used. Instead of proper wood, or some kind of resin mold, a series of layered foam pieces were matched up. For those of you familiar with foam core, what was used here was ultra. Ultra is only 1/8 inch thick, while regular foam core is 3/16 of an inch thick, also, ultra is far more stiff, and dense. Layering up many sheets of this would make it possible to make a topographic like form of how the shoe was designated to become in terms of toe shape. Each layer would be trimmed down in certain areas, eventually resembling a shoe shape. The upshot of using ultra, is that it is hard enough that it would not lose it’s shape, even when wet, plus it will not crush under the force of the wet leather while it’s shrinking during the drying process. And even though it is very dense, it can still be shaped with a box cutter without an incessant amount of work. So, multiple layers of ultra foam core are adhered to each other (about five layers equaling just over half an inch), they are loosely shaped like the front of the foot – with sweeping toes, and now they are inserted into the mostly built shoes. This is where things became a test of nature and patience. First of all the forms were wrapped in plastic, and foil, to crudely reduce the amount of water saturation the forms may be challenged to, next the shoes were almost completely submerged in water for an even longer amount of time than normal to make sure everything was totally and completely willing to take on new shape. During this process, there was no truly imaginative way to only soak certain parts (as in, only soaking the toes of the upper, which was the only area being focused on) thus everything sat together soaking – Vibram sole and all. With everything soaked it was time to cram the inserts/forms into the shoes, however, on the first try this step was obviously not going to happen. The forms were outrageously too large and there was no way they were going to fit into these almost shoes. Part of this had to be because the rawhide was simply too thick and stiff (i.e. stubborn), but the other part had to be due to an inaccurate estimate of the size of the form to what the shoe would allow (even though measurements were taken). The forms were unwrapped and quickly taken apart to be re-shaped: this wouldn’t normally have to be done in such a last minute manner, but unfortunately the shoes were already soaked and ready to go. About two of the layers of ultra were taken off, and the form was trimmed down on the sides going towards what would be the instep of the foot. After the frantic shaving and scrambling to make the foam-forms fit they were re-fit into the shoes. This time they fit, although not entirely with ease, but enough to accomplish this very experimental step – ending with the shoes sitting to dry for about 48 hours. Finally with the shoes mostly dry, and the toe cups looking like they could house toes, the forms were taken out to continue on with the finishing touches – hoping they wouldn’t just collapse.

At this point the majority of the shoes are complete. All that needed to be finished were the stitches on the midpoints of the shoes where the heel cups met the toe pieces, and then setting the eyelets for the lacing. The stitching in the middle of the shoes was a small leap further into hand stitching requiring a bit of patience, a couple heavy needles, a few yards of waxed linen thread, and an awl. Basically – using the awl – set little dimples in the leather at the points of your preference along the seams edge (where the two pieces overlapped). There are many ways to decide the pattern, but here we used a basic saddle stitch. The other options change the way the stitching pierces the materials and how it crosses back and forth, whether it spans between the two pieces (across the edges), or only pierces through the leather at certain points (in on the edge, out on a side), etc. Using a saddle stitch coupled with the waxed linen thread creates an extremely strong stitch, that guarantees the two pieces will never separate under force – which suited this application quite well. Unfortunately, because the topic of hand sewing requires such an extraordinary amount of tacit knowing, to write about it anymore is simply futile. Just remember that when you are lacing things together that the depth of the awl’s puncture should be determined by the thickness and stiffness of the leather you have chosen (in this case, after the dimples were marked we went around to each point and thoroughly pierced the overlapping pieces of rawhide making sure the holes were large enough to push both hand-needles through). Also, leather is the type of material, which can essentially heal itself, so no worries should be had if the awl gets a bit out of control. For the lacing/eyelets, it was a matter of a 3/16th inch hollow punch the make the six holes per shoe (three per side) for the 1/4-inch (square) vegetable tanned leather laces. Oh, and of course, after all this hoopla came to an end, a pair of in-soles were cut to slip into the new Foot Wares. These insoles were cut out of a sheet of padding from I. Sachs Sons: it is a large sheet with the name cloud on it (fairly generic), either way this high density foam would create a bit of extra cushion from the ground to the Vibram sole, to the leather and rawhide mid-soles, and then into the quarters of the shoe. Hopefully all of this together will keep the feet comfortable.

As mentioned earlier, it is now some three+ months later, which allows us significant insight into how these shoes, actually fair – as shoes. There are plenty of things to be said about construction quality and the performance of the chosen materials. The thing that stands out the most has to do with the steps involved in wetting the complete shoes and placing the forms within them to make the toe shapes. In hindsight, this step was far too complicated to be done in such a haphazard manner. If this type of process were done again, the issue of forming the toes/shoes shapes would have been much earlier in the making. This is for two reasons, the first being that with all the extra layers of sole, rubber and leather, it impeded the upper’s ability to really stretch out and take form where it needed to: the stiffness of the sole simply out-weighed the ability of the rest of the shoe to grow and move in the directions desired. Also, as it turns out, the bond between the rawhide insole and the vegetable tanned leather mid-sole was not adequate. Although it was glued twice over and thoroughly pressed and clamped it never took hold well, and then when coupled with the soaking from the water (right before the forming) and the ensuing stretching of the top, this took its toll, creating ruptures in the shoe’s foundation. This was a sad moment, but a necessary lesson in making the Foot Wares. Most likely, the biggest problem with the rawhide, is that it shrinks a lot, whereas the vegetable tanned leather is not prone to shrinkage. With the two being bonded together and then wet, it put a tremendous strain on the whole system because the rawhide shrank a fair amount, which whether there was adequate glue or not, was not going to be enough to stop the rawhides shrinking which is what caused it to pull away from the vegetable tanned layer. This is a great example of where and why and how to use leather vs. rawhide – the clear solution would have been to make all of the soles components out of leather, but that simply did not happen. Another issue, which was almost totally un-noticed, is that the Coats&Clark “button & carpet” thread is actually too weak for this application. You can see this when you look very closely around the toes, as you walk. What you will notice is that the upper actually moves (slightly) independently of the sole piece it is sewn to. Fortunately it is not so much that it looks like it may break, but it is interesting, and in the future to remedy this either an addition of glue will be used, or a different system altogether using linen thread and hand sewing will have to take place. When thinking about other shoes, the Zshoes, the reason why this action does not take place (shiftiness) is because the canvas tops/uppers are going to stretch before the thread does, so in this case the stiffness of the rawhide is far stronger than the thread in terms of elasticity, so it becomes the threads job to give as opposed to the rawhide upper of the shoe. Another thought is about the liners used, of course they were used with economy and immediacy in mind, but in the future a better choice would be with something thinner and stiffer at the same time. Aside from the known difficulties of the felt, the dark blue chrome tanned leather used to line the heel cups, as it turns out, is kind of bulky, and because it was so apt to stretch created irregularities that were undesirable. Something thinner and stiffer (still leather) would probably be the best choice because it would be easier to work with, it would mimic the heel cups shape more easily, and gluing the two together would be an incentive not taken advantage of this time. With time too, the lining leather would break in, so there is no need to worry about it not being comfortable. Speaking of which, the heel cups reinforcement piece also needs to be re assessed. From looking around, we see that the more common thing to use is a kind of synthetic, or even cardboard like material, the best part of this would be that these alternative pieces would not be as thick, giving a more complete and refined look. Also, with some friendly persuasion, maybe next time we will omit the rubber Vibram sole, for a more traditional leather sole – this would be easier to cut the excess off (the rubber soleing material doesn’t trim well, or cleanly – at least not as much as we would like). Some of these afterthoughts are more speculative than others, but clearly there was a large learning curve with room to grow further. Next time the focus will be on refining the connections, and more than anything else resolving the sole’s construction, and maybe implementation of the Cordwainers shoe last will take care of strange stretching methods.

*There are two things going against this particular step of the process. The first is that instead of building all of the shoe’s upper, and then stretching it over a form to then tack and sew onto/around/over the insole: we have to sew the heel cup to the mid-sole, and then position the toe piece in relation to that. What that means is that the section where the two layers overlap cannot be stitched by the Brother because the flatbed of it will not allow the materials to get into position under the needle. This is obviously a job for a cylinder-bed machine or post-bed machine, which can reach those tight spots without having to turn too much of the shoe inside out or whatever other contorted way. If, this shoe making process incorporated a proper wood shoe last, then the entire upper would be made at once, completely separate from the soles. This would work because with the upper stretched over the wood form, it can be centered over the sole and then tacked down (if instead the entire upper were sewn together and then stitched to the mid-sole in the fashion that this shoe was made, it would probably shift very slightly in the direction of the feed of the machine, so by the time you had sewn all the way around the circumference, the materials would bunch up – piling into the back end of where the seam started). So, the process is like so – stitch the heel cup in place on the machine, stitch the toe on center in relation to the heel cup, and then by hand stitch the two together where they overlap.

** Back tacking being when you run the machine back and forth three or four times at the beginning or end of a seam to ensure that the stitching does not come loose at the ends.

*** Glue is something of a personal quest. Many kinds are offered in many different degrees of viscosity, strength, and reliance in different weather conditions, etc. You can use water-based glues for some applications, but often more potent glues will be needed (remember to use adequate ventilation when handling such glues). The brand used for these shoes was Power Poxy, but the staple glue of shoemakers and repairers, seems to be Barge glue. Also note, while some glues are meant to contact things after the adhesive is dry, something even more interesting are the glues that are activated by pressure. Pressure sensitive adhesive is a truly mystical beast (which we cannot explain).

**** Bear in mind – no shoe lasts were used in this entire process.

Freestanding Cylinder Arm

It is hard to say exactly what the purpose of this particular machine is, but it is definitely worth speaking about. It is also hard to say what exactly its proper title would be, for sake of this entry, we will call it a freestanding cylinder arm. The first image is from Bega, although it is quite messy in the background it was the best picture for a sense of scale – you should see two, a white one and a green one. In the other two images you can begin to see that it is kind of like a combination of the bad robots in the Terminator, and the good robot Johnnie5. The motor sits on top of the whole apparatus and the belt connects to the head-pulley at the front of the machine (or at least as close to the actual needle bar as you can be). It has two pedals at the bottom, one for the drive, and one for possibly a stop mechanism, or maybe a thread cutting device. It is hard to imagine the second smaller pedal would be for reverse, or that there is reverse at all – as you can see from the diagram, it would probably not work in reverse, or if it did – it would be quite cumbersome and clumsy. Not to mention that because these are probably always used with a folder, there would not be the possibility of moving the fabric back, you can see where the folder is mounted in the lower image. What is also unique about this machine is that it uses a chain stitch instead of a lock stitch. This is for one of two reasons, either it is due to tradition or it is because of how small the cylinder arm is underneath where the stitching occurs, therefor there is no room for a bobbin. Because the chain stitch can be fed like a serger (or overlock) machine, there is no need for a bobbin – not to mention that even if you were using a large bobbin case, you would have to replace it every few minutes of sewing time. This is why there are six thread tension knobs on top, one for each of the three stitch-seams, top and bottom. This particular one in the two lower pictures was set up to lay three stitches, three needles, 3 sets of threads.

But once your set up with your material and have your thread routed and folder in place, you can go ahead and lay down some clean seams with ease. As you can see in the lower image, the material comes from both sides and meets up at the end of the cylinder arm. Why you cannot have the same action/result with a regular machine is a bit of a mystery. Although, what this machine allows you is not to have any struggle with your material fighting for space on the table between the needle bar and the structure of your machine to the immediate right. You could get an extended arm machine with an extra long bed, but this cylinder arm type machine allows your fabric to be completely free on both sides, which prevents unnecessary tugging and pulling of your fabric. When all is said and done, this machine is intended for the heaviest of industry people. To have this in a home environment, or even a small company would be pretty luxurious, consider this a good example of the right tool for the job: but only once you have learned every other way of accomplishing the same types of stitch and seam combinations with more typical machines.

Presser Feet Customization Test.1

So a hundred dollars later and small game of web-phone-word.of.mouth-tag the problem with the Brother’s presser feet, is now in the process of being fixed (or at least slowed down). As it may have been mentioned before the presser feet collection for this machine (the Brother DB2-B791-015) have come from an older Singer 600WI, which is a standard drop feed – straight stitch industrial sewing machine. Therefor the presser feet are not slotted for the motion of the needle feed style mechanism that the Brother uses. The everyday foot (of a needle feed machine) has a longer slot and a wider opening to allow the needle to pass through on it’s down motion, while it is pulling the fabric back (this foot was ordered from a company in Hopkinsville, Kentucky by the name of Dunlap Sunbrand). Some of the old feet had been customized by using a Dremel tool, which can also be done by leaving your old presser feet with a good sewing shop that you trust. However, after grinding down a bunch of material from two of the cheaper feet that the Brother uses, it was clear that although it may get the job done, it is time consuming and slightly, well, maybe, mmm, too inaccurate, for industry quality taste and expectations. This of course brings up the issue of the right tool for the job, which should always be taken advantage of when you can. Thus introducing the milling machine. It was obvious that in order to have the feet correctly modified it would take the expertise of a machinist and their milling machine to precisely cut through the feet from the underside and then widen and elongate the slot for the needle to pass through. Some of the concerns were that the cut would have to be, A) in the correct spot (obviously) in relationship not to the usual “hole” that a presser foot has for the needle to rise and fall through, but in relationship to where the presser foot is mounted to the needle bar, this is because, as close as each foot is to the next in terms of needle to foot, each one is slightly different due to human error, so it is of most importance to consider where the needle bar and receiving end of the presser foot meet because this is going to be the most consistent juncture. Next, B) that it was of the correct dimensions, of course this too is fairly obvious, but the interesting thing is that on the Brother, it consistently places the needle towards the right-inside of the presser foot opening. So no matter how wide the gap is, for somereasont he right side is always too close, the problem of that leads into section C. Here is the largest concern of the customization of the feet, C) in sewing we must consider the materials that are being used, in this particular sense it would primarily consist of cotton, polyester, and nylon, and then any combination of those three and beyond (rayon, silk, wool, vinyl, hemp, leather, solar sheeting, etc. etc.), with the largest issue being abrasion. For sewing – abrasion may be the biggest antibody that exsists. Every time you run a stitch or seam the thread is passed through numerous holes and entry ways, not to mention the fabric which it is mending together. For the Brother and it’s feet the big C has to deal with the fact that the cuts or millwork has to leave it with no burs. It is extremely important that when all is said and done at the end of the day, that the presser feet are completely smooth in any area where the thread or material may come into contact with them. In some tests of the feet which were retro-fitted with the Dremel tool, the thread would sometimes split sue to microscopic burs int he edge of the foot where the thread was rubbing everytime it passed up and down. This is very important, in all areas of the machine, the needle plate, the presser feet, the needles, the bed of the machine, the table which holds all of this, must be as smooth and free of burs, splinters, or anything else that may catch the materials and cause a tear. Just think about things being smooo-th and you should be alright. With the right people and the right tools, all of the cuts should be very very easy to smooth out, unlike the many different ridges and vertexes that result from the Dremel tool bit (which is not always the case, but the right tool for the job won in this situation).

While we wait for the newly composed feet to come back from the machine shop…

H.R. Slater Co. Inc 2050 West 18th Street Chicago, IL 60608 tel. 312/666/1855 c/o Bob

which was recommended by Frank at Ecker-Erhardt Co. 2347 West 18th Street Chicago, IL 60608 tel. 312/226/6030

with Frank being mentioned by John at Mechanical Engineering Products Company Inc. 1319 West Lake Street Chicago, IL 60607 tel. 312/421/3375

…here are two images of four presser feet for a Singer 111 model needle feed machine (that were found at Eddy Sewing Machine in Los Angeles). Unfortunately they have a different way of syncing up to the machines needle bar, so they are of no use to the Brother DB2-B791-015. But they give a clear example of the exaggerated cuts and wider stance that the slot for a needle feed machine presser foot needs. From the left, number 1and 3 are the best example, number 2 and 4 are probably just like Linko 211 and 212 presser feet – for the inside radius of a jean pocket.