[june acknowledgment]

This month was spent furiously working upon four shoe/boots. Leading up to the 27th of June was a simple goal; complete 2 pairs of boots in the likes of Boots [built for berlin]. Unfortunately this timing was not quite executed in the timely fashion it required. The work order these two pairs – {Boots} & (Boots) – was cut short as conflicts arose outside of the needlefeed’s control. There were some notable mentions to their building; the use of a slim toe-lift made by Topy on the very bottom of the heel pieces, and finally creating a smooth and bunched free toe area. The Boots [built for berlin] have a slight bunch in the leather right at the toe on the left hand shoe, and the same thing (somewhat mystically/miraculously) happened on the second set of Boots [built for berlin] (which have yet to be featured on the site as they do live in Berlin and there is no photographic evidence of their whereabouts). Again, small steps for one maker, giant leaps for making. Anyway, this is where June went to, in terms of making.

On another note, June was a month of travel between Chicago, IL. and California (both Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo). Perhaps the most suitable thing to speak of is/was dropping into SLO Sail and Canvas in San Luis Obispo, CA. This is where Karl Deardorff runs a sail shop with great swiftness of production and a mighty intellect for material usage. As we walked through his shop he showed us the many tools and tricks of making sails, and stitching in general. Of course with stitching comes a hefty amount of pattern making, pattern drawing, and pattern cutting, and thus spending time searching high and low for the best solutions to easing this function. For Karl this means employing a plotter/cutter. Essentially this is a CNC machine for cutting fabric. We have mentioned it on the site before, but will recap a little here. The machine itself is a 2 axis mount that carries a blade across your chosen material, which is held tightly against a semi-porous, semi-soft cutting mat (the overall table size here is/was approximately 5’X20′ which for the purpose of needlefeed would be quite liberating, although for Karl’s purposes it is still a bit small, as he has some rolls of fabric which looked to have been 20′ wide, and who knows how long). This mat is semi-soft for the obvious reason that it will be cut upon, and semi-porous because the table uses a vacuum to literally pull air through the fibers of the material thus holding it in place while cutting. So while the plotter/cutter is a marvel of innovation, the most advanced unit of it is the mat itself – due to its pure-materiality. The computer used to drive it is nothing out of the ordinary, and is simply transferring the lines from a jpeg, or pdf document (usually initiated in Adobe Illustrator, but could be acheived in various 3D programs such as AutoCad, Maya, or even Google’s Sketchup) to the driver moving the mount side to side and up & down (x,y axis). What this achieves is not only incredibly accurate cuts, but also the most efficient use of materials. As one sets up the file for telling the machine to cut, it can either take the shapes and arrange them to fit in the best manner, or one could manually set the shapes up to use the space as effectively as possible (and because the cuts are so accurate, you can really move the pattern shapes close to each other). Another added bonus is that the machine can take a marking bit in place of the cutting bit, i.e. you can place a small chalk bit, or a pen-like device within the bit and have the machine plot out certain cuts to be made by hand, which seams come together, or where anchor points are for bits of webbing, eyelets, lash-tabs, etc.. These things all together make an amazing significance in production terms. The objects at hand will achieve a more precise tolerance, you can be assured that the positioning of extraneous pieces are exact, and most of all keep waste to a minimum. Also, the time saved in drawing/mapping and cutting can now be relayed into development. One such thing to put time into is the consideration of the materials we use. As we wrapped up our morning of sewing, plotting, and cutting, Karl generously donated a boat-load of material to needlefeed. The majority of this was various weights of nylon and Cordura, in different colors and varying textures. A few rolls; however, were of Spectra cloth, which – working with – has been a learning experience to say the least. Sewing Spectra is fairly easy, but cutting it is nearly impossible, the only device suitable appears to be a box cutter, no shears in the area could cut through the advanced polyethylene weave. That said, the polyethylene weave is what makes this cloth so special, according to mil-spec statistics, Spectra cloth is pound for pound ten times stronger than steel. The base of the cloth is typically nylon, and has a rip-stop appearance, but the white lines which are so characteristic of Spectra are these wonderfully strong strands of polyethylene. In theory the part of the cloth that is polyethylene is Spectra (more information is needed to go on). See this.

Material Choices – Porous Cutting Mats – Reams