Leather Sewing Machines

The civilization of mankind and the evolution of leatherwork are almost intertwined. The earliest source of clothing for mankind has been skin and hides. Skins and hides have been used by mankind for clothing, bedding, shelter and even defense.  As mankind continued to get civilized so did his work on skins and hides evolve to suit his new needs. This evolution has continued over generations to the current elaborate leather work that we do witness today. In this evolution too, the tools used in making and improving skins and hides also evolved to the current leather sewing machines that we do witness today.

Leather sewing machines range in similarity to ordinary sewing machines used for making clothes to the industrial machines found in factories. However, due to the nature and type of fabric used, that is leather, which is much heavier and tougher than ordinary textile, it is made to be stronger, with a big and thicker needle which has a wider eyelet for the thick strands of thread needed to sew leather.

Leather sewing machines were invented in 1790 by Thomas Saint, which was mainly used for light leather work. However, in 1830, Berthelemy Thimonnior invented the first industrial leather sewing machine which was used in making French Army’s military uniform. In 1851, Isaac Singer made the first commercially viable leather sewing machine which was strong enough to sew all types of leather fabrics.

Leather sewing machines come in a variety of types. There are two main factors that determine the types of leather sewing machines-

  1. Power source – leather sewing machines are either powered by electricity or human energy. Those that are powered by electricity are generally referred to as power types while those powered by human energy are referred to as walking foot due to the manner in which they are driven by human foot.  These two types of machines also fall into various categories. These include; double needle, lockstitch, portable and many others.
  2. Nature of work – nature of work is either classified as heavy duty or light work. Heavy duty refers to either the tough kind of work done on tough leather or the industrial mass production. Light work refers to work that is not a lot, either because the kind of leather fabric is light or due to the fact that very few items are produced and the frequency is thus low. Both heavy duty and light work machines also fall into two categories either power types or walking foot, but, nowadays, it is rare to find a heavy duty leather sewing machine being powered by walking foot. Therefore, walking foot has generally been resigned to light work leather sewing machines.

Leather sewing machines play a key part in our day to day life. It would be difficult to wear the kind of modern shoes we have, the kind of leather jackets and handbags that don our wardrobes and the leather upholstery that is a common place in our sitting rooms without the help of leather sewing machines.

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