"64 to the inch"

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"64 to the inch"

#1 Post by dw » Sun Nov 15, 2009 8:45 pm

I know this has been said before but June Swann, former Keeper of the Shoe Collection of the Northampton Shoe Museum has collected shoes that are sewn 64 to the inch. And if I recall correctly that was on the tops and on the welts (not sure about that last bit).

But let's also not forget that at one time 12 to the inch on welt/outsole stitching was considered "middling work"--meaning so-so or perhaps "average."

Myself, I'm happy with 10-11spi...and no, I'm not trying to be vague, that's just the spacing that my little hand-made stitch marker makes--it's probably a little closer to 10-3/4 spi. I was trying for 10 but by the time I got done with it and polished it and so forth it was a little tighter than I intended.


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Re: "64 to the inch"

#2 Post by marcell » Sun Nov 15, 2009 11:56 pm

As I heard the 64 spi is a fake - it is around 10-12, just pressed more stitch marks on the thread. And logically: I have never seen a good quality leather which could bear more than 16 - more would just cut the welt and the sole, whatever square awl you have.
I think any customer is quite happy with anything wich is real hand stitched, and I have never seen any who started to count the spi - except if you taught them.

Janne: I have seen your work - that is definitely not what we call rough.

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#3 Post by das » Mon Nov 16, 2009 7:38 am

Marcell,

Not to spoil your convictions here, but 64 stitches per inch is no myth. On the other hand it was only found in "prize work", for showing-off at competitions--never for real wearing. Besides June Swann's example(s) in the UK/Europe from the 1800s, there are USA boots for display at our Centennial celebrations (1876), now at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with close to 64/inch in the welt.

I know the trick, called "fudging" of making more dents in the welt to make it appear there are more per inch, but when we count, we count the actual holes (stitches) and are not fooled by dents. Image

For actual wearing, there are women's shoes from the 1700s with 25-30 stitches per inch in the welt/rand, and down the heel cover. Also, there are magnificent women's boots and shoes by Pinet, hand-stitched around 1900, with plenty of stitches per inch too. You are quite right, there are few leathers made these days that would tolerate 30 s.p.i., much less 64/inch without cutting through, but the leathers in the "Old Days" were much denser and better.

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#4 Post by dw » Mon Nov 16, 2009 7:55 am

Al,

Thank you for posting that...and refreshing my memory.

Marcel,

I don't know from whom you heard that 64spi was a "fake," but people like June Swann and Al Saguto are not as free to make undocumented and unsubstantiated claims as other people. They are historians...and scientists, when you really get down to it.

Their whole careers hang in the balance when they say they have collected shoes stitched at 64 to the inch.

Because to make such claims, they have to actually prove it, they can't just rely on rumours or hearsay. To that end, they are highly skilled in documenting their work and bring the most rigourous scientific techniques to the process in a manner that makes the way you and I count stitches look like we were playing with Sesame Street numbers.

I hope you'll forgive the presumptions of an older member advising you to keep an "open mind" and not dismiss things that seem impossible just because we can't achieve that level of refinement today. Losing your sense of wonder...or even your ability to suspend disbelief...is a recipe for getting old before your time. Getting old comes soon enough and quick enough, no need to hurry it along.

There are stranger things in life than "64 to the inch."


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Re: "64 to the inch"

#5 Post by das » Mon Nov 16, 2009 9:55 am

Here's what June Swann just sent in. It's a little shorthand, but I think most of you can make out what's referred to:

On 64 To The Inch--

64 - 1" I first picked up 1950 from T. Wright p.168, who says Devlin.. sometimes put in, by hand, 60 stitches to an inch. NM no. 337 only reached to 44, so of course I was looking for more.
1851 Great Exhibition, London catalogue 150: Facers, manufacturers, N'ton, 53 to 1" (not yet traced, almost certainly sold to 'America').
St. Crispin IX, 1873 p.181: case of prize-work for Lobb, including jockey with 60 - 1" (this may be Devlin's.)
1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhn: Gray Bros., Syracuse, NY exhibited 'welts' made by Sandy McCarthy, including 1 pr with 64 stitches to 1" round the forepart. Wore 2 pr spectacles to do them. [I think this is too early for the 2 that I saw in LA CMA, see ?1892 below]
?1876 LA CMA Cline Coll. TR. 9025.26 pr woman's 13-button balmorals, 44 - 1".
?1890s LA CMA Cline Coll. TR. 9205.43: top boot with 50 - 1"
?1892/1870s LA CMA Cline Coll. TR. 9205.33 & 34: 2 women's Napoleon boots (one by Laird Schober & Co., Philadelphia) each with 64 - 1". I checked these several times, using 2 magnifying glasses one over the other, before asking Edward Maeder, then curator of dress there, to check; he too checked them twice, and the 50 - 1" ?1890s above. The Cline woman donor was from Philadelphia, but could not be contacted again after I counted the stitches. Laird travelled in Europe inc. Britain quite a bit in the years c1905-10, seemed to be highly respected, but I could find no mention of this superb work.

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#6 Post by dw » Mon Nov 16, 2009 10:35 am

Al,

Are the examples at the LA County Museum of the Arts on active display? I will be in LA next week...if I have time I wouldn't mind stopping in to see and perhaps photograph (if they will allow it) a section of welt.

I presume that the numbers (ie. TR. 9205.33 & 34) are the museum's identity numbers and that one might talk to, or ask for, Edward Maeder?

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#7 Post by dearbone » Mon Nov 16, 2009 11:00 am

Al,

I have all the confidence you can count stitches,but this is really mind-boggling, 64:16=4 that's 4 stitches to 1/16 of an inch, the questions that come to my mind is was it human hair or linen thread used for stitching and how many strands of what number? how thick is the welt/soles? i am afraid to ask how small was the awl?

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#8 Post by das » Mon Nov 16, 2009 12:31 pm

DW,

The accession #s are what to ask for yes, but Edward Maeder is no longer curator there. The current curator I'm sure will be happy to help you. You may have to sign a "permission" in order to photo the boots, and that might preclude "publishing" the photo on-line, but by all means ask. I'd love to see them.

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#9 Post by das » Mon Nov 16, 2009 12:44 pm

Nasser,

It's pretty mind-boggling work, but then it was supposed to be to other shoe and bootmakers in days of old--that was the intent of "prize work", to win the prize for something outstanding.

DW will hopefully get to the 50/inch boots at LACMA, and photos will follow here for all to see, plus details on sole thickness, thread size, etc.. I asked June about photos, but she said all her slides are "packed safely(?) away".

I once took a short length of guitar "B" string (unwound), pointed it on two sides, put it in a pin-vise for a haft and tried my best to come close with silk thread and magnifier glasses on. I gave up.

I'm in 100% agreement with Marcel--we'll never see leathers again that could hold that many stitches per inch without cutting-through. Gone the way of good waxed-calf and "zug leder" or draw-leather, curried to be elastic for making close-fitting boot legs. In fact, at the rate we're headed we'll be making boots out of cardboard and upholstery leather.... opps, we are already using the latter I see here Image

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#10 Post by dw » Mon Nov 16, 2009 1:00 pm

Al, Nasser,

Correct me if I'm wrong, Al, but I thought you told me that Devlin had written that when he did this kind of work he used a hair from his daughters head for a bristle, a length of fine silk thread, and an awl so fine that when he slipped and accidentally pierced the base of his thumb, it neither hurt nor bled.

As for upholstery leather...what's the difference? It's aniline dyed, grain burnished, veg tanned and fairly firm from what I've seen. If someone gave you that description, minus the "upholstery" tag, wouldn't you be interested in it? [real question] Image


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(Message edited by dw on November 16, 2009)

(Message edited by dw on November 16, 2009)

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#11 Post by das » Mon Nov 16, 2009 1:38 pm

DW,

Devlin sure did say that--look it up.

Upholstery leather is a top grain split (weak), split off of a humongous flabby, hormone-fed bovine, square footage up there to like 60 sq. ft., right? Best uppers are whole grain (never splits), slow-growth calf or veals, maximum total sq. footage 12-20. Imagine the fiber density of a 60 sq. ft hide, split off to only 2-3 oz., versus the entire skin structure of a whole-grain 2-3 oz. calf. The fiber density is the thing. If the corium layer has been removed, as in splits, so too has much of the leather's strength. A little is lost in the leveling of the flesh even on the calf and veal, but not the two thirds or better of the entire hide when a top-grain layer is split off at 2-3 oz.

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#12 Post by marcell » Mon Nov 16, 2009 1:55 pm

Well, what should I say? 64 sticth per inch would mean that one stitch is around 0,397 mm (and you almost cut through JR soles - which is quite similar to the old stuff - with one per millimeter) - so almost 2,5 stitch per millimeter. That is a perfect perforation, I can tell you. I agree with Nasser with his questions, and let me share an old shoemaker tradition with you. I just tell you this as a Hungarian maker, who learnt shoemaking from old masters, the very traditional way. Shoemakers loved to tease each other with shoes, which seemed to impossibile to make. This tradition is old and made for proving the excellence of a master, and I can tell you: I have seen thing which seemed to be unpossibile, but finally it was just a good hand, old craftmanship and a little trick. My master also shown us really amazing work. After 2-3 years of intensive learning I couldn't imagine, that that is possibile. In those good old days, shoemakers had to face with a huge competition - they raised up the bar to a bery high level, or they would die, without orders. Hungarian shoemakers did the same with each other and with the Vienese ones - we can thank our quality to that. I have an window-shoe (no real last in it) in my workshop, with tiny little stitches on the upper, what you would never dare to adjust your machine, because you would think that cuts the leather, I have a pair - made 100 years ago - which has a decoration on the heel side, which seems to be just impossibile to make so perfect. They are not fake. So let me keep myself to my opinion, until I see that miracle personally.

I can imagine some solution to make a shoe with 64 spi, but you believe me: a simple cross section would tell you the truth.

marcell

Re: "64 to the inch"

#13 Post by marcell » Mon Nov 16, 2009 2:20 pm

Let mi illustrate my doubts. This picture contains almost 36 lines in one inch (black and white - I hope it will be visible like I made it).

Is there anyone here who can imagine stitch between every line there?
10425.jpg
10425.jpg (31.61 KiB) Viewed 3277 times


So: we are talking about 64 spi. That is around the lenght of a pixel on your monitor. (OK a bit more - use a magnifying glass and check)..

(Message edited by Marcell on November 16, 2009)

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#14 Post by lancepryor » Mon Nov 16, 2009 2:39 pm

Al:

The 'upholstery' leather we have been talking about here is full grain calfskin, about 28 - 30 square feet for a whole hide, 3 oz in weight (plus, as noted by DW, veg tanned, aniline dyed, and agate glazed). It surely isn't of the quality of the best box calf, but it isn't the stuff to which you allude.

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#15 Post by dearbone » Mon Nov 16, 2009 3:21 pm

Lance,

I don't speak for the Man,but noting short of pure veg tan will do for him, i tried to convince him that some of us outside the safe walls of the fort need to make a living which include using non-veg leather,but i am not sure how well that was received.Good luck with your upholstery leather?

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#16 Post by dearbone » Mon Nov 16, 2009 3:59 pm

I remembered an old mistake, using an upholstery leather on a pair of laced ankle boots, the leather sagged away too much during wear,I stayed away from using upholstery leather for footwear ever since.

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#17 Post by dw » Mon Nov 16, 2009 6:22 pm

Sorry, I couldn't get it to display correctly on the monitor. I can lay it out in my graphics software but the resolution of the internet is simply not sufficient to display it correctly.

Whatever...if the experts and scientists are to be believed (and I believe them), it's still almost incomprehensible.

I take some solace in the fact that June said she had to use two magnifying glasses to count them.

Nasser had it right, it's mind-boggling. But if you believe the experts who have seen and counted...and maybe we ought to if only to give us a sense of humility...it sure puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#18 Post by amuckart » Mon Nov 16, 2009 7:14 pm

I'm not sure this can be represented on a computer monitor. I drew up 1/64" lines and they were difficult to see because of the moire effect.

I've attempted to draw this as a PDF, which you can get here:
http://www.else.net.nz/tmp/64totheinch.pdf

View it at actual size rather than allowing your PDF reader to fill the window and it should show some 1" wide representations. At top is a 0.25" x 1" black rectangle with 64 individual 1/64" white round-ended rectangles running through the middle.

Below that are a couple of attempts to represent it with 64 ovals and below that is a 1" wide box with 32 1/64" black and 32 1/64" red lines.

One day I am going to try and sew this. I think I'll have to start working towards 1/16th and go from there though Image

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#19 Post by dw » Mon Nov 16, 2009 7:41 pm

Alasdair,

I don't know...You got closer than I did, but it's still hard to see with the resolution on my monitor. I should have realized--the Internet's native resolution is 72 dots per inch...pixels per inch, as I understand it. So you don't have near enough pixels to represent somewhere in the neighborhood of 126 lines (64 black, 62 white) even if each line was only one pixel wide. So you get that moire effect every time.

Opening your pdf on my monitor didn't help much. When I reduced the magnification to 75% I was displaying close to 1 inch wide but still getting moire even on your 32 red line image. But I will say that I could barely...but definately...see the separations between the 64 ovals and that's impressive.

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#20 Post by marcell » Mon Nov 16, 2009 10:39 pm

Well, that's whatvi mean... Any monitor has 72 dpi resolution, which is enough to show a contious tone or picture, so you don't see 'steps'. 64 spi is teasing. Scientist believed for hundred years that Earth is flat.

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#21 Post by das » Tue Nov 17, 2009 4:45 am

Lance,

Ok, ok... Don't get festered. My point was merely this: the larger the square footage, the thicker the skin starts out before layers are split off it. And, the more that's split off it to achieve the 2-3 oz. thickness, the weaker it becomes. A 2-3 oz. top grain split from a 28-30' hide is "better" than a 2-3oz. top grain split off a 60' hide, absolutely; however, a 2-3 oz. whole grain skin is better still because little if anything has been fleshed off the back IOW. Whole grain calf and veal skins tanned and curried especially for first-class shoe uppers will still be the best strength fiber density.

There are still veg-tanners producing this stuff in Italy, but short of going to the trade fairs there, I have no idea how to go see what's available. When I write for samples I get some nice aniline, not smothered, veg calf, but it's often too thin for my taste--I want a good 4 oz (or 5) for hand-closing, but it might do for machine closing.

Check with Tony Crack in N'ton maybe?

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#22 Post by das » Tue Nov 17, 2009 4:54 am

Marcell,

Hopefully DW will return from Los Angeles with photos of the 50-64 spi boots, so until then we are all in suspense I guess.

Actually, to borrow from your "flat earth" analogy, one could also reverse this: the "flat earthers" did not accept the round earth until it was proven to them--so until then I guess you remain a "round earth denier" or at least a "64 per inch denier". The church tried to do away with the round-earthers, and even today in the USA there is "The Flat Earth Society". Enlightenment and science never has an easy time of things *hahahaha*

BTW, I love Rendenbach sole leather, but it flunks a side-by-side fiber-density comparison test with 200-400 years ago sole leather (thinner and denser from smaller cattle).

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#23 Post by dw » Tue Nov 17, 2009 6:31 am

We wander back and forth with this small diversion...which is OK as far as it goes...but I was reading in Thornton (1953) that the second best calf skins for shoemaking are 7-10 square feet. And the best--milk calf--are 4-6 sq.ft.!

Now which of us has seen any of that recently? Certainly not here in the US.

Additionally, if Skip Horween is to be believed (and my memory serves), all chrome calf is split. Even retans have at least one split reduced.

As for Crack, I don't know what it is with them but I corresponded with them asking specifically for Museum Calf (I described it as a veg and noted that Lobb, among others, uses it) and/or their "best grade of calf for making bespoke shoes" (that was the actual wording I used.) What I got from them by way of samples was a Chrome calf of very nice quality although not struck through, and very little apparent different from the samples of French Calf I received from Hardke at a third the price. Large hides--28-30+ sq/ft.--as well. And a rather terse denial of any knowledge whatsoever of Museum Calf. So go figure...

I'd love to see some Milk calf. I'd love to see some Museum Calf. I'd love to see calfskins in the 7-10 sq. ft. size. I'd just love to see any of these so that I'd have a standard of reference, if nothing else.

"But who ya gonna call?"

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#24 Post by dw » Tue Nov 17, 2009 8:25 am

Marcel,

I am going to try to make it into the LA CMA and get photographs. But I can make no guarantees...first, my time will not be my own and second, they may not let me take a photo.

But even if I can, I suspect that getting a clear shot of what will almost certainly be so fine as to be nearly invisible (without two magnifying glasses Image) will not only be very difficult but still will not convince anyone...and most especially one so committed to doubt.

That said, if my math is correct my monitor displays approximately 85 pixels per inch (15 inch horizontal display, 1280 by 1040 resolution. As I mentioned, when I look at Alasdair's pdf...and particularly the 64 black ovals...at a magnification 0f 75% (which makes his representation one inch wide on my screen) I can clearly see the separation between ovals. That tells me it can be done. If I can see it with 64 year old eyes...a young feller like you ought to be able to do it.

Moreover, I remember reading a story...from June, I believe...that described the making of a pair of shoes at 64-1". The maker, in Philadelphia, if memory serves, wore several pairs of glasses simultaneously to do this work for an Exhibition, it took him the better part a a couple of years to complete and he never made another pair of shoes again.

A word to the wise

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#25 Post by paul » Tue Nov 17, 2009 9:26 am

Alright, excuse me,

But as I rise from the Gobsmaked position of flat on my back in disbelief and wonder, I don't know if you guys are talking about 64 to the inch for the outsole stitch, or the upper stitching?

That would make a difference wouldn't?

Paul

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