Our First Industrial Sewing Machine

Our First Industrial Sewing Machine

We get asked a lot about how we started working in leather and how we learned to make bags. If I'm honest, it was a lot of work and frustration. The end product you see, is just the tip of the iceberg. Behind each item is hours of trial and error with design, production and picking the right suppliers. And of course, time at the sewing machine. We continue to push ourselves to create and to make sure we are always seeking out new knowledge and inspiration. Here is what our journey with our first industrial sewing machine looked like.

We found ourselves with a bunch of leather. Thinking about what would be the quickest way to learn, we looked into leather sewing machines. Machines varied from a couple hundred, to tens of thousands of dollars. Answering a craigslist ad, borrowing a friends truck and driving to New Jersey, we picked up this old Singer Patcher machine. We knew very little about what we were getting into, so we hoped the machine was fully functional and the little scrap of leather, with 5 stitches in it, wasn't just for show. We strapped it into the truck bed and brought it back to Philadelphia.

The internet can be a beautiful thing, we were able to find a digital version of the original owners manual. We quickly learned how to wind the bobbin and thread it properly. We were in awe of the methodical sound it made while punching through leather. Did I mention it is foot powered and the needle turns 360 degrees? It was an experience and it was like stepping back in time. This machine was originally designed, as you might have guessed, to attach patches to jackets, bags, etc...

As much fun as it was to learn on this machine, we found out it's limitations quickly. The bobbin is tiny. You can't use a thicker thread. It sometimes skips stitches and being foot-powered, while nostalgic, makes it difficult to multitask. Also, I definitely broke the belt that attaches your foot's kinetic energy to the business end of the leather needle. Easy enough to fix, but more challenging than a modern machine. 

We still have this machine and we are grateful for the lessons it taught us. We've since moved on to a Cobra Class 26 leather industrial sewing machine. It has a servo motor and fits most of our needs. It is an absolute joy to work with. I often find myself daydreaming about having 3,4 or 9 sewing machines. Maybe one day we will add another machine to our lineup but for now we are just fine with what we have. 

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