SHOE STITCHING MACHINES
This machine was remodeled so that he was able to use it for stitching shoes. He sold to three Lynn manufacturers, rights to use the machine for stitching leather. Mr. Nichols Bliss asked Mr. Howe for permission to make use of his invention in stitching shoes. Howe replied that Mr. Nichols was the first man who had asked permission to use his invention. Asked why he did not take out a patent for his “invention”, he said: “There was no new principle disclosed in it. It was but an adaptation and rearrangement of known means for accomplishing the purpose”. He did not think it a proper subject for a patent and yet, since that time many hundreds of sewing machine patents have been granted that had but a fraction of the originality that appeared in this design which the modest author thought unworthy of the title of “invention”. There was, however, no occasion for a patent, as his relations with Howe and through Howe with the “Combination”, gave all the protection that any additional patents could have given.
LIVING FATHERS OF THE TRADE by Sewing Machine Times
Lyman Reed Blake & Gordon McKay
In 1856 Lyman Reed Blake built an ingenious, yet not entirely practical, sewing machine that could sew the uppers of shoes to the soles. The painstaking and slow process had previously been done by hand. After hearing of the device, Gordon McKay bought the technology with cash and a share of the future profits. Blake received an initial patent in 1858 (US 20.775) that he then sold to McKay; the two men worked together to further improve the device.
In 1862 Gordon McKay and Robert H. Mathies secured a crucial patent (US 36.163) to the improved ready-for-sale version of the sewing machine. Blake, perhaps more of a tinkerer than a grand thinker, would end up working for McKay for the next 12 years, installing the machines.
Auguste Destouy & Charles Goodyear
In 1862 Auguste Destouy, a New York mechanic, invented a machine with a curved needle for sewing turn shoes (US 34.413). This was later improved by as many as eight different mechanical experts employed by Charles Goodyear. The machine was afterwards adapted to the sewing of the welt in the bottom of the shoe, with patents in 1871 and 1875 and became the famous Goodyear welt machine. This marks the third great period of development in shoe machinery. McKay and Goodyear were not themselves originators; they adapted and promoted the inventions of shoe worker and mechanic. Other inventions no doubt lacked such promoters and were lost to the industry.
SHOE MACHINERY by Frederick J. Allen 1916
Definitions of welt
Noun: a leather rim sewn around the edge of a shoe upper to which the sole is attached.
I. M. Singer
Baer & Rempel
Singer model 29
Singer 29K 2
SHOE CONSTRUCTION TECHNIQUES
Blake Stitch/McKay Method
Another child of the Industrial Revolution, it’s often referred to as a “Blake Stitch” and is less labor-intensive than Goodyear welting.
This is very common on Italian shoes, which rely on the sleekness that this type of construction provides. The process is relatively simple: Upper is wrapped around the insole and these two parts are stitched to the sole. A single stitch attaches everything. No intermediate layers, no double stitches.
Pros: Less expensive than a Goodyear welted shoe but can still be resoled. Also more flexible and lightweight than Goodyear due to that absence of the welt layer. Also great for shoes that require a close-cut sole that’s flush with the upper because there are no exterior stitches.
Cons: Soles are less waterproof because the stitching allows water to seep in and the thinness of the sole wicks water into the shoe. A rubber sole would eliminate this issue, however.
Blake-Rapid construction for shoes is a hybrid of Blake and Goodyear constructions. It adds the mid-layer welt found in Goodyear welt construction but keeps the Blake-stitching technique. This is typically seen on bulkier, more rugged shoes.
Pros: More water-resistant and durable than Blake stitched shoes, less expensive than Goodyear welts
Cons: Less flexible than Blake stitched shoes, not as well-constructed as Goodyear welted shoes.
Goodyear Welt Construction
Goodyear welted shoes are widely considered to be the best constructed around. It’s the oldest and most labor-intensive construction method in existence. It’s constructed in such a way that any cobbler can resole this shoe repeatedly and it’s incredibly durable. Usually made with double soles with outsoles that jut out from the upper, this construction method is widely utilized in British footwear in particular. Like all shoes, these were originally made by hand. Charles Goodyear, Jr. invented the machine to welt these shoes back in 1869. As you probably figured, this is where the name comes from. Though there are multiple steps throughout the whole process, but the main three are as follows:
1. Prepare the insole for stitching. The cordwainer creates a “rib” that runs across the insole. Some makers cut and sculpt the insole, and others use a different material like linen tape. The purpose of the rib is to house thread in a later step.
2. Attach the outsole and insole to the last.
3. Welt: Shoe-specific thread is sewn through the welt, upper, and insole rib. The welt is then attached to the outsole through a second, separate stitch. A lockstitch is used for both of these stitches, which prevents unraveling if it wears out at any point in the shoe.
Pros: The upper is attached to the welt via one stitch, whereas the outsole is attached to the welt via a second separate stitch. Incredibly easy to resole repeatedly as a result, this extends the life of the shoes for years and years. The extra layers help with water resistance and support.
Cons: Some flexibility is lost with all these layers. Also, because the process is labor-intensive, Goodyear welted shoes are often more expensive than other types.