Sitting in my office today I spent the morning with my sewing machine mechanic Henry. Henry is a tinkering genius. He immigrated from Poland to South Africa, and then to Canada. Henry is one of the last of of his kind here in Toronto; he can fix a Reece button hole machine!. As Henry puts it “you are very luck to find such a good machine, Dave…a bit older and maybe it will not make nice holes on leather”.
My machine is difficult to operate. I spent the last week practising on scrap leather. I must have made 400 holes, adjusting tension, threading …re-threading. I downloaded a manual for my old machine and decided to learn from my mechanic. Henry told me he learned to fix these machines in South Africa. His first big job was repair and maintenance in a Schmata shop with 1000 sewers. He lied to get the job and when put in front of his first Reece he told the owner to lock him in the factory and he spent the entire night stripping down the machine and rebuilding it till it worked. That is how he learned to fix them. He has the scars to prove it…he is missing one third of a finger. Almost everybody I have met in the leather business is missing some part of a finger. You only have to chop one small bit off once and you never do it again! Oh..back to Henry…I spent the week learning to work the machine. Of course I messed it up in the process. Actually we are not sure if I messed it up or not but it is a very delicate baby. I really really wanted to finish my prototype 1910 jacket “The Tapper” in order to do so I needed to be able to make nice button holes through the thick horsehide and wool. As Henry explained “This machine does not sew button holes…it is very complex, it knits with a pearl stitch. “. So I fired up my knitting machine and finally after a 3 hour lesson in service I have a finely tuned working button holer again. So these are more photos of two of my next 6 jackets. I am changing the Score jacket a little more. I will explain the design principals of these jackets in a later post..for now I want to put up some nice pics of the jackets until I cant make a couple more final versions.