Handmade Sandals

Sandals in progress…

If you have ever taken a class with me you might know that all the intimidating sewing isn’t as bad as it looks.  The sole is three layers thick but the use of a good, sharp awl makes the double needle sewing go quickly.  A lot more work goes into these than I would have initially thought but I really think they come out great in the end.  It took several pairs to get the pattern just right but research into design and construction led me to this final design.  The sole is three layers thick (or more historically) and have been made this way in Europe and North Africa for more than 2,000 years.

The thickness of additional layers isn’t just to provide safety for the feet but the central layer provides a path for the straps to travel through without lumping under the feet.  The parts consist of an insole (medium weight oak tan leather), mid-sole to allow tunneling the straps through, and an outer sole, in this case, leather.  The straps are 48″ per foot plus the heel yoke.

This is how they looked when I thought I was finished. Shortly after, I added buckles and have since been through a few more soles. Currently they are shod with rubber.

Nine years on and still going strong. The patina that good leather takes on cannot be simulated. They get a coat of dubbin every six months or so but otherwise, need little care. I hope to get back to a time when I can wear them daily again.

Jacob’s Beautiful Leather Backpack

One of the better things about modern communication is the ability to meet and talk to people from nearly all parts of the globe. I have been in communication with Jacob from Botswana for years now and he has shared some photos of the beautiful backpack he made based on my earlier design. That one now resides in Montana and I hope serves some function for its owner. My personal pack has since been replaced by this one and is my new favorite piece of gear. But enough about me.

Right now, according to Google Maps, I am about 13,670 km (8,494 mi) from central Botswana and am unlikely to ever make it there, though not for lack of wanting to.  However, the internet allowed us to connect across a vast distance in space and share ideas with strangers who have common interests.

Anyway, here is Jacob’s very own leather rucksack and the two portmanteaus inspired by this post to carry his gear into the bush of southern Africa. I suspect a backpack like this will outlive us all and become a fine heirloom to pass on to the next generation.     Thank you so much for sharing these Jacob. I hope it serves you well for many years.

Coat of arms of Botswana

Hunter’s Pouch

Kentucky Hunter’s Pouch –

Few words are needed to show this project.  It is a Kentucky Hunter style pouch of a style popular throughout the 17th and 18th centuries in America.  Its antecedents come from Britain and mainland Europe but changed with the times as North America was colonized.

Most of the components cut out and ready for sewing.

In the days before the common man had trouser pockets he still had a fair few things to carry, especially while out foraging in the forest. Men and women have carried some sort of bag to hold their essentials for as long as we have supplemented our inadequate selves with tools. Things such as food, fire making supplies, sewing kit, or ammunition.

After lining with a medium-weight cotton fabric, the interior pocket is sewn in.

The poor man’s hunting pouch is essentially a single pocket bag with one or more internal pockets to separate out the smaller items.

Closing a bullet hole in the hide.

I chose some bark tanned elk from Joe Brandl as it is sturdy but with a very soft feel.

When using real linen, I often soak it overnight in a hot cup of tea before drying and waxing. This gives a nice reddish-brown color.

Pocket complete.

The body is sewn with a welt to create a tight seam and edging is added to stiffen the pocket and flap.

Edge-binding and the reveal of the interior pocket.

The inside pocket makes small items accessible that might otherwise be lost in the bottom of the bag. When shooting black powder, this pocket is a must.

Hand-pinked and pierced binding at the top of the bag.

People have been adding fringe, ruffles, and other decorations to seams and edges for as long as there have been makers.

This type of bag is designed to stay closed without any fastener but it is good to have a way to really secure the flap when traveling. This simple closure is a type that I like for a rustic bag. The toggle is carved from antler and is secured by a simple loop.

Completed bag with strap and buckle.

Finally, a shoulder strap is added. This one is 7 oz. veg tanned cowhide and adjusts by more than 12 inches. This will accommodate most people but more importantly will adjust with the seasons as heavier or lighter clothes are worn. The buckle is solid brass and will never rust.

Typical attire of the early frontiersman. Nearly always armed for hunting and protection, our gentleman here sports three essential items; gun, powder horn, and hunter’s pouch. “Western Hunter.” Illustration credit: Lewis Collins, History of Kentucky, 1850.

This bag and others are available in my Etsy shop linked here:

Sandals

This post came from looking through a few class photos from Rabbitstick several years ago based on an inquiry. This is one of the years I taught my favorite sandal design, an ancient one though still cleverly marketed as a modern style.

I call them saint sandals as they look like something you would see on a medieval depiction of some holy wanderer from Europe or the Middle East.  To me, these are the greatest sandals I have ever owned.

This design is a good introduction to leather working and specifically, making footwear, which can be a bit more complex than most people know.  Shoes really need to fit well in order to not cause pain or damage to the feet so an open design is a good way to start on this craft.

As I make them, the sewing is fairly minimal and can be eliminated entirely with the use Barge Cement.  The sewing makes them a stronger design and I think adds a sense if beauty and craftsmanship to the final product.  It is also a good introduction to double needle saddle stitching.

With a little dedication, these can be made in a long half day and are ready for use immediately.

Thank you to all the patient students who have learned this and taken home to teach others.  I look forward to this class each time I offer it.

Traveler’s Wallet

Once again, I am producing some large, traveler’s wallets.  While some are waiting their finishing touches, here’s the first of six.  They are all of the same general size and design but each has some variation in shape and closure type.

A simple wrap closure. This can accommodate a bulging wallet.

I think my dying is improving.  Having read more on the subject, I’ve been able to create a nice overall finish.  The dye is applied in many diluted layers and hand rubbed to force it into the leather.

The right size for many applications.

The leather is from a 6 – 7 ounce vegetable tanned cowhide that was a real beauty.   The side was just shy of 30 square feet.  To start working the nine foot long hide, I had to move my operation into the kitchen and onto the floor for initial cuts.  Maybe someday I’ll have a shop table big enough to accommodate something this size again.

The interior divider provides four pockets. Big enough to hold a load of cash, passport, and the separated slots are sized for standard identification or credit cards.

This wallet is perfect for keeping everything in one place for log term travel or to be used as a small clutch purse.

Edges are burnished to give a finished look and the body has been waxed with all-natural dubbin.

The thread is heavyweight bookbinder’s linen in dark gray (nearly black) so is absolutely period correct for the reenactors out there.

If you are interested in this or some of our other work, check out our Etsy shop, look at the previous sales, and read the reviews.

Have a great day!

https://www.etsy.com/shop/LostWorldCrafts

Work from the Leather Shop

  • Long, cold nights in the Midwest. 
  • Limited mobility due to injury. 
  • A need to create new things
  • A desire to fund my trips later this year…

This is a recipe for high productivity in the workshop.

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Hot off the workbench.

Fortunately, I have a fairly large stockpile of leather and supplies to see me through my projects as I find inspiration in different projects.  I am leaning toward things that have been popular in the past years but if anyone has ideas or suggestions, I will gladly consider them.

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Sam Browne button in solid brass.

This is my travel wallet design.  It’s a simple clutch-style document case to keep things safely stowed when you want more than a card wallet.

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Simple, rugged design.

No frills but elegant in its own way, this one was left natural color and rubbed with dubbin (a mix of neatsfoot oil and beeswax).  Full-grain veg-tanned leather like this ages beautifully and takes on a golden brown patina.  This wallet should outlive its owner.

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Hand stitching.

As always, the stitching is double-needle saddle-stitch for strength and hard-wearing.  If you are interested in this or similar goods, please check out our new Etsy shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/LostWorldCrafts or just click the banner below.  We hope to have the site fully running and stocked with new goodies in the coming weeks.

lostworldcrafts

 

Action Photos

Just a quick follow-up from yesterday’s post…

The sporran is complete and ready to go so, of course, I had to model it to show the size and wearability.

Here is the Maker in his workshop sporting the new bag.  I didn’t bother to “kilt up” but that is the belt I frequently wear when kilted.  Overall, this design is great and I’ll probably start making a few more right away.  I like this one better than my own day sporran so I guess I’ll need to make one for myself as well.  I should note that a truly traditional sporran would be ornamented with leather or hair tassels.  I pondered this addition, but it isn’t really my style.  Maybe on the next one.

Sporran in Progress

I have been wanting to make a few sporrans based on the classic 18th century style.  This type, often referred to as a Rob Roy style, is a fairly simple, single pocket design that can have a number of variations.  The one I’m making here is from 6 oz full-grain hide and should outlive it’s owner, even under hard use.  A versatile belt pouch like this was originally intended to be worn with kilt or trousers as built-in tailored pockets are a rarity in history.

At 6.5 inches wide by 6 inches tall it can hold a fairly complete fire and survival kit in a handy position on almost any belt.

As with most of my leatherwork, this bag is hand sewn using a double-needle saddle stitch for strength and longevity.

The dye is wet in these photos, looking a bit uneven, so I’ll try to shoot a few more in better light when the weather improves.

The bellows design I chose stays flat but will expand to fit more gear as needed.  Look for a follow-up soon.  It is listed on my Etsy page so it will, hopefully, be finding a new owner in the near future.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/LostWorldCrafts

Bike Trekker – Allen Hastings Fry

Despite how much I like this photo, I have held off posting this image here because I couldn’t find any attribution or further information about this gentleman and his fine bicycle.  I came across it several years ago and stuck it in my image files until I could find out more; alas, I have not.

“Portrait of Allen Hastings Fry, with his photographic equipment strapped to his bicycle. An illustration taken from the magazine ‘The Professional Photographer”, June 1916.” (Thank you Patrick for the information and link).

My first interest was in the excellent baggage he’s carrying; a very modern looking frame bag, a tool roll or similar, nice front and rear bags, and what appears to be a wooden box along the top tube.  His haversack is not visible although the strap is in this image.  Any thoughts on the bike or image itself are welcome.

The rest?  Maybe you can tell me…

Click the card for more information about Allen Hastings Fry.

(UPDATE: Thanks for the corrections sent by Luc and Patrick.  Updates were made to reflect the new information.)

U.S. Army Riding Gloves Pattern – free

In my internet sleuthing I have gathered literally thousands of images, plans, and patterns of things I would like to make or have for reference.  Government documents, like the scans below, are invaluable resources for the maker when they are made public.  Who would know how to better and more efficiently make a pair of riding gloves than the U.S. Cavalry.  This design is the culmination of more than 110 years in the business.

Click the pattern for the full-sized image. Scale to fit the dimensions shown for the standard sizing or scale them to fit your hand, be it a tiny little paw or oversized ham (note the three sizes on the pattern).

Part of the fun is learning the names of the parts; I had no idea there was even such a thing as a quirk in a glove.

I hope to get around to making a pair soon myself but please let me know if you have any success when you try these.  Thanks for reading and please click “Like” or leave a comment if you have one.

The Hardest Part of Learning to Sharpen

Wise words. Learning to really properly sharpen an edge tool by hand is an epiphany and makes wood and leatherworking a real joy.

The Literary Workshop Blog

The other day, I was teaching a friend to sharpen his plane iron, and it got me thinking about sharpening.  Of all the skills I have learned while working wood, sharpening has been the most life-changing. It started with chisels and plane irons, but then I began sharpening my kitchen knives and pocketknives.  I had no idea that steel could get so sharp!  It used to be that dull tools were merely inconvenient, but now I find a dull knife a heartbreaking disappointment.

I say this because I want to share a recent article on sharpening by Chris Schwarz, former editor at Popular Woodworking Magazine and current head of Lost Art Press.  In it, Schwarz reflects (well, more like pontificates) on how few woodworkers actually know how to sharpen an edge tool.  Even the some of the professionals who write for the big-name magazines often lack basic sharpening skills.  He…

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Making a Stitching Pony; Video Tutorial

Stitching Pony, Leather Worker’s Clamp, or Saddler’s Clam…

Whatever you call it, it is a handy device to own if you sew any leather.  These are simple devices that just about anyone can make with little time or money invested.  Although there are many varieties and models, the one shown in this tutorial by Harry Rogers of Bucklehurst Leather is the one I have most commonly seen.  Is there no end to this man’s skill and diversity of talents?

 

The only comments I really have are:

YES, the jaws should be lined with thick, smooth leather and that the gap is necessary to keep the jaws as flat as possible against the work.  It is also nice, but not necessary, to have a compression spring over the bolt to push the jaws apart when loosened.   And finally (terrible way to open a sentence in writing I know), a recent comment from a friend suggested that the tightening nut could be replaced and a better system be devised from a bicycle quick release axle.  Maybe on the next one.

Check out his leather work here:

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Saddle Stitching

When teaching a leather craft or making an item for someone, I am often asked about the machine used to sew such thick leather or through so many layers in tight areas.  People are often astounded when I explain that this is all hand sewn, with an awl and two needles.

Some earlier work. Good, but not great, stitching.

I learned saddle stitching before the internet was a thing and without a book.  I was sewing leather bags, moccasins, and clothing in a relatively poor and untutored way.  As I became more savvy over the years I was able to analyze older pieces and read an article or two about saddle stitching and cordwaining that began to make my work look more professional.

Saddle stitching is the only way to build a large, complex leather project without some ridiculously expensive machinery.

While I have considered making a video to give an introduction to saddle stitching I know there are many master craftsmen out there far more skilled to do this properly.  One of them is Nigel Armitage of Armitage Leather.  He is a member of the Guild of Master Craftsmen of Britain which I understand is nothing to sneeze at (I can hardly imagine the level of dedication most of these men and women have for their crafts).

Image result for Guild of Master Craftsmen

On to the show…

This is probably the best and simplest tutorial I have seen online about learning the basics of saddle stitch.  If you are new to this, remember, the pricking iron is not an absolute necessity for starting out but it will make you seams straight and beautiful.  If you don’t own one, you can still mark and follow a line or even mark the stitches with a ruler and awl (I did this for a very long time).

I hope this answers some question for those getting interested in leather work and saves you some of the headaches I experienced without proper instruction.

 

Art and Craft Fair

I would not have ever thought myself a craft fair kind of guy yet here we are…

A sneaky photo of the maker discovered this afternoon.

Last year, our local community center hosted an arts and craft fair as a way to bring local artisans together and raise money for public programs (art classes, GED education, computer skills, tax assistance, etc.).  Being new to the area we joined in last year and were invited back for a second go around last weekend.  It was a good cause and a way for us to make a little extra spending money for the holiday season.

Stacey’s jewelry, sewing, weaving, and holiday arts.

Times are tough and it seems that most people have little to spare on superfluous items this time of year.  Despite this, it was still a profitable venture and a portion of everyone’s proceeds went to a good cause.

Details…

Two very good outcomes from joining in this effort were:

  1. Forcing us to buckle down and finish a load of projects in a very short period and
  2. Putting us in touch with a lot of local makers we may not have met otherwise.

There are some very talented people out there and it is often difficult for them to show their work. Venues like this allow the small, part-time players like us to showcase some of what we do.  Now, as a primitive tech artist, I steered myself more toward items that were affordable and would appeal to the average person; especially someone looking for gifts appropriate for the holidays.  I even brought a few walnut cutting boards as they are fairly popular gifts.

Painters, printers, writers, jewelers, and even wonderful candy and jam makers were there and we a grateful for the opportunity to participate again this year.

I thought I’d share a few bench photos leading up to the fair.

Possibles Bag

Here is an update on the most recent possibles bag I have been working on:

The buffed leather reflects a lot more than I realized while photographing.

Sorry the photos aren’t so great but here is the description: Made from 7 oz (~3 mm) Hermann-Oak full-grain harness leather top dyed and antiqued Fiebings medium brown with a single patch pocket inside. It still needs a little edge detailing, waxing and buffing before it is truly done but that will happen later today.

The interior is natural but will darken with use and waxing.

Rustic, laced construction, unlined, 18th century “English-style” bag.  The main pocket is 8 x 8 inches (1.5 litre in volume), while the overall body length is about 12 inches. 

The edges are all burnished for a smooth and comfortable feel in hand. The thick oak-tanned will soften with time and use.

The eared shape is to keep the bag from riding around to the front or back of the torso during use. This leather will age nicely and will last longer than any of us with normal rugged use. 

All sewing is double needle free-hand saddle stitch.

1 1/4″-wide strap extends to about 56″ to fit the most well-padded or heavily coated hunter. Going out for trade in the next couple days.

A Leather Purse and Wallet

Here is a shop update on a couple of the many leatherworking projects undertaken lately.   I decided to use up all the leather I have been storing and put it to good use.  I have about 100 projects I’d like to make for myself but the Yule season is coming, gifts are expected in many quarters, and we have an invite to show our wares at a local crafts fair.  So, without further fanfare…

A waxed leather bucket-style purse. I hear these are the rage in certain groups now. I remember seeing many in this style back in the 1980s coming out of Morocco and Spain.

And I decided to make a few bomb-proof wallets of various designs to go with it.

A surprising amount of work can go into even a relatively small project like this.

Temporarily gluing the welt to the bottom.

Sizing the bottom to the side before sewing.

The exposed welt after sewing and turning the bag.

Marking and punching the holes. Tiresome for the hands.

Choosing an appropriate lining; strong and beautiful.

Drawstring added, holding the leather edge biding while sewing.

The ‘ears’ for holding the shoulder strap sewn on, strap attached, and it is done!

The antler toggle helps keep the bag secure and adds a bit of primitive flash.

Difficult to photograph, but the liner gives the bag some class and a feeling of “completeness.”

This is a new traveler’s wallet design. Three pockets, large capacity to hold money, cards, and passport.

This one might be a bit too small to hold a check book but not a lot of us carry those these days.

The button stud is a favorite closure of mine as it is simple and effective without the need for a large hole.

After a quick buffing, the wax shines up nicely. This one should last a lifetime.

Some New Leatherwork

There are some new projects coming off the bench.Here’s a new minimalist traveler’s wallet.  I’m still working through the design and construction process but like it so far. Simple three-pocket design; a vertical a horizontal card pocket  as well as a large one for bills.

A bucket purse made from an oil-tanned leather.  Welted and bound with thin harness-grade bark tanned leather with a heavier leather shoulder strap.

I try to put some sort of bling into projects.  This is a historic heart design was cut freehand and balances the antler toggle on the other side.

Fully lined with a batik print my daughter bought for a skirt.

Welted bottom.

Making a Stitching Pony

I have needed a stitching pony for a long time now…

The two-hour stitching pony.

Like so many other undone projects, this one has been stirring around in my head for several years.  Since my efforts have been so focused on sewing leather lately, the time had come for a new and useful tool in the shop.  I’ve looked at plenty stitching horses and ponies over the years and even used a few n person so I understood the basics of what I needed and began eyeing up the scrap pile for obvious parts.

Not absolutely necessary, but it’s nice to be able to open the jaws fully.

I decided to keep the project simple, small, and portable while making as few purchases as possible.  I was able to gather up the lumber, leather, hinge, screws, glue, and tacks in just a few minutes and get to work.  Power tools make jobs like this easy so the boards were quickly ripped, cut, and clamped up to dry overnight.  A little cleanup in the morning yielded a working model suggesting a few minor changes.  The opening of the throat was widened by 1/2″and I decided a longer bolt would be useful for fat projects.

This meant a trip to the actual hardware store setting the project bill up to $1.07 with a total work time of about two hours.  We’re good to go…

More Wallets

Maybe this is a little mundane but I’ve been using the cold and snowy weather as an excuse to do some cutting and sewing of leather.  I completed a passport wallet and finished up another minimalist wallet design.  I got the pattern for the larger travel wallet from Tony, the owner/designer at DieselpunkRo.  He sells finished goods, patterns, and gives a lot of good advice for makers working from his patterns on his Facebook group page.

My three newest creations.

If you follow his Facebook group, he will occasionally share free, downloadable patterns.  I have two patterns from him so far and they are both great.

 

The large wallet is a handy, four pocket affair that snugly holds a standard passport, cards, and cash.

 

This is another good starter project that easily yields a great product.

We were acting like shut-ins today because of a surprise snow storm so I’ve been able to jump to another leather-related project.  I’ll share some photos soon.

Making a Minimalist Wallet

I try to live by the creed of learning and making something good every day.

The Minimalist Wallet

As we have been pondering the holiday season it seemed a good time to get a jump on some leatherworking projects I’ve had in mind the past few months.  This morning, before getting to work on other chores, I decided to take a little time and work out a slightly modified Minimalist Wallet.  If you have followed this blog for long, you may have seen a couple earlier wallet projects we shared HERE and HERE.  This isn’t a complicated project and might be a good one to start with if you trying your hand at leatherworking for the first time.

The All-Encompassing Symbol of the Age

Making the Pattern –

It would be pretty optimistic to just dive in and start cutting out a wallet without knowing what needs to fit.  I used a debit card for scale as there will inevitably be a couple of these in just about any modern traveler’s pocket.  I didn’t put a lot of time into the pattern as I have made a similar style before and knew the basics of what I wanted; essentially two pockets and very little sewing.

A Bit of Sloppy Origami to Test the Dimensions

To create two pockets, there needs to be three layers; two on the outside and one to divide.  To make the cards more accessible, the outer pocket will be a “reveal” and I chose to do this the simplest way possible, by a diagonal straight line.

Test Fitting and Trimming the Draft Pattern

I ended up tightening the width and lengthening the entirety just a bit from my original estimates for a better fit.  The difficult part is over.

The Draft is Transferred to Stiff Bristol Board for Multiple Uses

After the pattern is transferred to the card stock, it can be used many times without fuss.  It is a good idea to label your patterns before storage as they begin to look alike when you amass a large folder of them (was this a pocket, part of a shoe, some sort of handle cover?).

Getting Down to Business –

The next step is to cut out the pattern on appropriate leather.  I’m using Hermann Oak 1.5 mm tooling side that was leftover from an earlier project.  Neatness in cutting is very important as it will affect the look of the entire piece if the cuts are even a millimeter or two off or wavering in any way.  Since most people seem to prefer dark leathers for this sort of thing I chose to dye it Medium Brown with Fiebings Leather Dye.

Wet with Dye

After the dye sets you’re free to move on.  I started by marking and awling the stitching holes at about a 5 mm increment.  I will admit, this was not my straightest set of stitching lines ever.

Punching the Holes

I almost always use a double needle saddle stitch when sewing leather as it is the best and strongest choice in most cases.  I chose a contrasting thread to give it a fine finished look.

Finishing Up

And finally, the edges were dyed again and burnished to create a smooth, finished look.  Overall, I’m quite satisfied with the outcome.  This one will be the prototype to work from and I’ll be able to take a little more care now that I have learned from this one.  If I ever get around to making enough to sell, I’ll put them on my Etsy Store.

To view this project on Instructables, click the link here: Minimalist Wallet

I have a slightly more complex project laid out for later.  If I take the time to document it, I’ll post it up here.

Tanning Leather: Not a Lost Art

Many years ago, in Morocco, I was able to tour an ancient tannery and see some of the process of creating beautiful leather.  I use leather for many projects and although I do some brain tanning myself, I purchase all of my truly “tanned” leathers from others.

Click the image to visit the Moroccan National Tourist Office on Facebook

Click the image to visit the Moroccan National Tourist Office
on Facebook. If you are interested in a description of the tannery at Fez, have a look at Becca’s post about it over on AlwaysCarryOn.

One very important lesson about tanning I learned in Africa was that I never want to work in a African tannery when it’s 100 degrees in the shade.  The smell makes a feed lot in Texas almost seem habitable and hits one in the face like a dense fog.

Well anyway, Markus at the huarache blog has done it again… forced me to steal his excellent article and link to his great research in Mexico.  The post gets a very close inside look into the tanning process; a somewhat secretive business in my experience.

img_0237img_0646img_0160Great set-up for the beams.  Spacious, indoors with a cleanable floor.

img_0218I think anyone who has tanned hides will appreciate this solid set-up.

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img_0782This is just a picture preview.  For much more in-depth information, have a look at the article on the Huarache Blog by clicking here.

I appreciate this work so much for having done some myself.  Tanning hides is tough, back-breaking labor that goes unappreciated.  It’s good to know that there are still folks out there keeping these important skills alive.  More importantly, to know that there are alternatives to corporate factories producing little more than garbage and waste.  It must be tough on these small family businesses but I hope, for all our sakes, that they find a way to survive.

http://huaracheblog.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/taller-de-curtiduria-gonzalez-making-the-best-vegetable-tanned-huarache-leather/

Hide Tanning 1769

Here are some images from hide tanning workshops from Diderot’s Encyclopedia, 1769 that I found interesting as a leather worker and occasional hide tanner.

Tools for the tanner, the beam, currier knife, slick, tub, and the heater. From the Encyclopedia of Sciences, Arts and Trades, Diderot and D’Alembert.

Chamoiseur, From the Encyclopedia of Sciences, Arts and Trades, Diderot and D’Alembert.

If you have done any hide tanning you’ll recognize the tools of the trade.  Not much changes for the small-time home tanner.

From the Encyclopedia of Sciences, Arts and Trades, Diderot and D’Alembert.

I suspect this is some hot and smelly work and judging by the way they’re dressed it is a hot room.  The only large traditional tannery I have visited was in Morocco and it had an odor on a hot summer day that hit you like a brick wall.  I’m not sure what they’re doing with the fire at this stage but maybe adding some amount of smoke rather than heat.

Any thoughts or insights?

Making the Possibles Bag

Several years ago, I made a shoulder bag that I still often carry today.  It is the perfect size for a small field bag or hunting pouch.  It was a lot fun looking at various designs, mostly from the 18th century to try and come up with something that would fit my needs.

My bag, several years and many miles later.

When I first joined Boy Scouts at about age eleven, I envisioned myself as a mountain man-explorer who was going to learn to live off the land.  The first merit badge book I bought with my little money was Wilderness Survival and it spoke of the possibles bag that  early explorers carried that kept everything they needed to live off the land and cover every emergency.  At least, that’s how I remember it.  Later, as a an actual wilderness explorer, traveler, and archaeologist, I learned to appreciate the “kit” bag on a more realistic level, and how this bag transforms for different purposes and places one travels.  It is the unsealed* survival kit to be used and replenished as needed based on the situation. My current favorites, though too big for general daily wear, are the Mountainsmith Approach pack and my Filson Medium Field Bag.  I can live out of either almost indefinitely and both make handsome weekender bags.

On to the Shoulder Bag

After much deliberation and review of mostly 18th century gear I decided I wanted a small outside pocket, a small inside pocket, a larger, closable outside pocket for important things like a compass, and main compartment large enough to hold a notebook and daily essentials.  I decided to make the main flap in a stitched-down style so that it would keep things in, even if it wasn’t buckled shut.

In the end, I went with a fairly standard English-American shooting bag style as seen above.  It works well for me and after using it for several years now, I don’t believe I would change anything about it.

 

Dimensions: the body of the bag is 9 x 10″ with a gusset exposed at 1″.  Reinforced ears, riveted for strength.  All stitching is two needle saddle stitch, except the body, which is laced.  Three pockets, and a 1 1/4″ shoulder strap, adjustable by about 12″.

All the parts of the body except the main gusset.

When laying out a complex sewing project like this, you need to decide in what order to begin the assembly.  The back wall of the bag has an internal and external pocket that were sewn down first (beginning with the smaller one inside).

Outer pocket attached.

The outer pocket has a gusset that was sewn inside-out before being sewn down to the front wall of the bag.  You’ll probably notice that the edges of the flaps are raw but if I were using thinner leather I would bind them with a soft buckskin or something similar.  The raw edges were smoothed and burnished to create a nicer look than just a sharp cut edge.

The assembled bag.

Finished!  It’s hard to gauge work time but since that is generally the first thing anyone asks I will estimate about eight hours of stitching and assembly for this project.  There is one inside patch pocket, an outside rear pocket, and a gusseted pocket under the flap.  Eleven pieces plus the strap (four pieces).  Hardware includes a one inch bridle buckle, a 5/8″ buckle, and two solid one inch “D” rings.

 

Now, what to keep in it…

*The modern sealed survival kit was developed for conscripted soldiers and airmen to keep them from rifling through and using up the goods and having nothing when they truly need it.  This has carried over into survival-skills-for-morons programs world-wide and creates a product to be sold and consumed by the inept.  If you cannot trust yourself to update, change, use, and modify the contents of your personal survival kit, by all means make or buy one and seal it up, awaiting the day it will come in handy.  If nothing else, you can enjoy all the surprises you will find while you wait for someone to rescue you.  ~GTC

Medieval Turnshoes

I’m re-sharing an older post of some experimental turnshoes I made quite a few years ago.  These were based on some Scandinavian examples from the archaeological record.  They came out pretty good for a first try.  My only modification would be to tighten the width through the arch and lengthen the toe area slightly.  I have since learned that this problem has been well-understood for centuries by shoe makers and is why modern shoe lasts often look long and narrow to the amateur eye.

Finally “finished” enough.  These were rubbed down with a “tea” made from walnut juice, worn dry, and later oiled.

This was my first attempt at a proper turnshoe.  Basically a variation on the shoes worn in Europe and parts of Asia from the Iron Age (ca. 500 B.C.) through the early modern times (ca. 1700s).  This pair is made without a last (form) so construction is similar to other moccasin-type shoes.  There are quite a large number of early shoes found in archaeological contexts in Europe so many designs are known.  This is inspired by, but not slavish to, shoes found in the British Isles and Scandinavia in the early part of the last millennium.

I was sorry to not document the pattern making but, as can be figured, the upper is a single piece side-seam make by wrapping the foot, marking a rough outline of the plane where the upper meets the sole, cutting off the wrapping, and cutting to shape.  Really, I’ll try to make record of this in the future but, for now, I suspect there are other tutorials out there.  Besides sewing, the turning is definitely the toughest job as this was some very thick, tough leather.

Still damp from the turning and shaping.

My slightly sloppy side-seam.

Leatherworking Images from the Middle Ages

Some things never really change…

While looking through my image archive I came upon some leather working illustrations dated to the early 15th century.  All but one of the images below is from the extremely informative Mendel manuscript dated 1425 created at Nuremberg, in what is now Germany.

Nuremberg ca. 1648

Creating leather from animal hides has been an important process for many thousands of years with various types of leather created dependent upon the intended use (e.g., shoes, belts, gloves, parchment, shields, ties, lariats, etc.).  Creating quality leather from a hide not only requires in-depth knowledge of the process, a little chemistry, and a little bit of hard labor.

These illustrations are an invaluable snapshot in time and space of tradesmen plying their skills.  We can learn from these.  I’ve arranged the selected images below in an order that makes sense to me from the processes I have used or seen over many years.  In  my short journey to Morocco many years ago I was lucky to wander through the ancient tannery there and see leather being produced and products made on a remarkable scale in ways that have probably not changed in several millennia.  That is what we see below.

75-Amb-2-317-62-v.tif

Furrier – The furrier is sorting what appear to be “hair on” skins either for sale or for making warm clothing.  This was northern Europe after all.  The tradition of trapping or hunting fur-bearing animals is probably as old as human’s time in cold climates.

75-Amb-2-317-34-r.tif

Soaking the hides –  The first step in making leather often involves soaking the hide to hydrate it, sometimes even promoting a brief spell of bacterial growth to “slip” the hair.  Most leather manufacturers, however, want to prevent any contamination and use other methods to swell the hide by adding caustic lime (a.k.a. slaked lime, slack lime, limewater, or Ca(OH)2). This tub might be a tanning tub containing tannins from plant material (hence the name “tanning”).

Mendel_flesher

De-hair and fleshing (a.k.a. drudgery on a pole) – The man above is de-hairing a sheep skin on a fleshing beam; a fairly dull and not very fun project for me.  My face probably resembles his when I do this task more than a few times in a row.  He will then flip the skin over and clean the membranes, fats, etc. from the flesh side before a second bath in the caustic solution.  For parchment, I understand that there was only a partial rinse after this but for soft and supple leathers, the skin is rinsed thoroughly to neutralize the pH then treated in a low pH (acidic) bath to make true tanned leather.

Mendel_parchement maker

Final Scraping in the Frame – Skins are often stretched on a frame to dry and further scraped for a consistent and smooth surface.  The hide above is destined to be parchment so it must be a perfect as possible.

What does all this become?

Just as today, people need and use leather for its plasticity, strength, and durability.

75-Amb-2-317-96-r.tif

Here we see a cordwainer making shoes.  It looks like he in the midst of attaching a sole while sitting at his workbench.  The simple tools of the trade are laid in front of him and some finished shoes are displayed behind.  Patterns or forms hang on the wall and his pail, probably for water, sits at his feet.

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Our workman above is showing leather hose, a popular bit of clothing in its day.

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The purse maker is doing a bit of fancy work while his scraps lie beneath his feet; a nice detail.

furrier thong cutter

I’m not sure what this guy is actually doing.  If anyone knows for certain, please let me know!

Mendel_I_035a_v

Here we have another shoemaker (cordwainer) hard at work at his bench.  Shoes have always been in demand.  That is a classic shoemaker’s knife on the bench,

1425c - Mendel Housebook I, Fol 27v

The belt maker had an assortment of belts and is in the midst of punching a hole.  Good timing for capturing this image.

Bag maker

Another bag maker creating a classic belt pouch and displaying his wares.

Landauer Twelve Brothers' House manuscript, c. 15th century

Another take on the cordwainer from the same period by a different artist with a couple of other tools in the background (from the Landauer manuscript).

Why are these guys all old?

A little background – an interesting story of the Zwölfbrüderhausstiftungen (the Twelve Brother’s House).

From BiblioOdyssey, a fine, but sadly dormant weblog:  “In 14th century Germany, a wealthy trader by the name of Mendel established a charitable endowment in the city of Nuremberg, known as the Twelve Brothers House Foundation (Zwölfbrüderhausstiftungen). A dozen elderly and unwell (but capable) citizens were (I assume) given a place to live in exchange for their performing work duties.

Although the house life and routine was said to have been inspired by the example of the apostles, there was a fairly anti-clerical or anti-religious tone to the rules and priests were formally excluded from being taken in as one of the ‘brothers’. The house served as a model for the commencement of similar charity foundations in other German cities.

Mendel’s grandson began the practice in the 15th century of having sketches made of each of the brothers engaged in their chosen employment together with detailed notes about the tools and practices relating to their work. The manuscripts were updated until (I think) the beginning of the 19th century, although portraits of craftsmen engaged in their work were only produced in the 15th and 16th centuries.”

I hope you enjoy learning from these images as much as I do.

 

Making a Pack Basket

From one of my new favorite blogs Running With Sheep.  Johan and Sanne are a couple of remarkable outdoors – bushcraft – survival enthusiasts with more than a touch of philosophy thrown in.

bushcraft

Their most recent project shows how to convert a run-of-the-mill thrift store find into a functional pack basket.  From what I can tell, they are adept leather workers so their skill shows in this project.  Re-using found objects is an excellent way to economize both money and time, especially if it is something outside your skill set or craft specialty.

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Pack baskets are light and strong and a perfect choice for hauling anything from food to dirt.  Prehistoric people used them for everything, and the solid structure makes them useful even when not carried on the back (most of the time).

running-with-sheep-sheepbushcraft-basket-pack-how-to-diy-leather-18

If you can cut a few straight lines, do some minimal sewing, and hammer a rivet, this project is for you.  For the complete post, head over to Running With Sheep to learn more.  I suspect you’ll want to stay a while and catch up on their other posts as well.

Enjoy!

DIY Pack Basket:

https://runningwithsheep.com/2018/04/16/diy-pack-basket/

Ghillies (simple shoes) again

Here’s a simple shoe design that was made by our ancestors before there were shoe shops or Zappos.  Much of the Europe population, both male and female wore a variation of this for many millenia, right up into the early 20th century.  They are commonly associated with their Celtic cousins in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland but they are essentially the same as the simplest Roman carbatina.  Essentially, it’s a basic European shoe.

I made a set of these around 1986 with a little instruction from an Eighteenth Century reenactor and loved how simple they were to make.  My experience up that point was with Native American style moccasins the difficulty I had with sewing in those days.  This was a perfect option for me and I find that it is a popular class when I offer it as an introduction to leather working and moccasin making.

While this isn’t exactly a tutorial, it does provide the basic information necessary to get started on a pair for yourself.  I would suggest a pattern to be cut from heavy cloth before diving into cutting valuable leather just to get the fit right.  It’s a forgiving design so,

Don’t Panic.

pattern and finished

pattern and finished

rear view

rear view

sewn heel

sewn heel

lacing the toe

lacing the toe

after wetting and shaping

after wetting and shaping

drying before oiling

drying before oiling

And finally, six years later, they still function well.  The soles are getting thin so it’s almost time to renew them.  Fortunately, a pattern can easily be made and adjusted from the old pair by wetting them, letting them dry flat, and using that as a starting point.

dsc_0130-3 dsc_0127-5Dive on in.

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The Vikings Used Comfortable Shoes

Osberg Ship Viking Shoe

 One of the original boots found in the Oseberg Burial Mound dating back to 834 AD. (Photo: skinnblogg.blogspot.no)

A number of complete Viking Age shoes found in Scandinavia and England have the same characteristics. They are flexible, soft and mostly made of cattle hide, but also other kinds of leather was used.

There are complete shoes found in the Oseberg ship burial mound in Norway, Hedeby trading center in Denmark, and Coppergate (York, Viking Age Jorvik, Editor’s note) in England.

All three of these discoveries show a similar construction and form typical for the Middle Ages.

The shoes found in the Oseberg ship consists of two main parts, soles and uppers, and are so-called “turn shoes”.

(Article continues)

Reconstructed Oseberg Viking Shoes

Reconstructed boots found in the Oseberg burial mound, by Bjørn Henrik Johansen. (Photo: Bjørn Henrik Johansen/ skinnblogg.blogspot.no) 

The shoemaker stitched the shoe together inside out, and then turned right side…

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