Fil Au Chinois Pocket Calendar

While drafting an earlier post on my favorite historical tools/materials, I came across some articles on the famous French linen thread, Fil Au Chinois, which means Chinese thread, and some of the history behind this seemingly magical company, mainly in calendar form. 

The brand which has been in existence since 1847, each year would give the calendars to shopkeepers to hand out to their clientele. The oldest one here dates back to 1886, but there may be even older ones in existence. 

They stopped making the calendars around 1938. Too bad, they're so beautiful! I would love to know more about the art dept and the people who created these. It is so hard to choose, but I think 1891 might be my favorite.

Fil Au Chinois has been deemed an important part of French history and has since been revived and is currently reproduced by Toulemonde, a French thread company that has been around since 1903.

Top 5 Leather Working Tools

I really love tools. Leather handtools specifically. And if the person or persons that make these handtools has an interesting history, all the better! I'm such a sucker for that. Below are my top five favorite tools that I use in my leather work and a brief history of each of the companies that manufacture the tools. 

1. Vergez Blanchard Pricking Irons

Pricking irons, used to mark your stitches prior to saddle stitching, are a key element in creating the classic and beautiful slanted stitch which is one of the telltale signs of a luxury leather good. Vergez Blanchard has been manufacturing their signature hand tools since 1823 and are known for their high quality tools as a result of traditional hand forging methods that they use. They're at the top of their game when it comes to luxury leather tools, with Louis Vuitton and Hermès among their customer base.

I use the #12, #2 and #1 sizes.

2. Fil Au Chinois Lin Cable

Fil Au Chinois, a brand that has been in existence since 1847, is some of the best French linen thread that you can get. The brand has been revived and reproduced by J Toulemonde, a thread manufacturing company who has been manufacturing yarns and threads since 1903 in Northern France. Fil Au Chinois is known for it's unsurpassed strength and durability in comparison to any other natural or synthetic (duh, obviously) type of thread. 

I like the Noir and Ecru colors in size 632.

3. John James Needles

Yet another European company with origins dating back to the 1840s that has a reputation for being one of the best in their field. John James Needles is the British manufacturer of the straightest and best round tipped needles for leather hand sewing. I've never bled from one of these needles. Another fun fact - the company is based in Redditch, Worcheshire, an area that is known as the Needle Capital of the World! What? I must visit. 

4. Vergez Blanchard Diamond Point Awl

Another tool needed to achieve that beautiful classic slanted stitch recognizable on all luxury hand-stitched leather goods is the diamond point awl. The 4 sided diamond point easily penetrates the leather allowing your needles and thread to follow as they pass by each other and land on opposite sides of your work.

5. Vergez Blanchard Stitching Clam

The last tool, and the third from Vergez Blanchard, is the stitching clam. The stitching clam is a simple tool that holds your work in place, while you sew. Used by placing the leather piece that you're sewing between the jaws and with one leg swung over top of the clam, the pressure from your leg keeps the jaws tight on the work. How simple.

Made by hand by some very skilled woodworkers, it is a beautiful tool in it own right. Check out the video below that shows and tells of what goes into making this tool. 

Breathing New Life Into an Old Leather Handbag - Mexican Braided Strap

I've been happily working in the studio on some new braiding and lacing techniques for the last few weeks that I can apply to handbag straps. Below are a few pics of one of the new straps that came from this study.

The buckle and clasp ends are saddle stitched and the middle braided parts are a Mexican braid stitch. 334" of lace went into the braided parts and I'm really liking the end result.

I think it does a nice job of breathing some new life into a well broken in bag. Maybe i'll try making a fatter strap, about 2" wide for the next one.

A Custom Hand Laced Leather Bag in Blue

Below are some photos of a custom leather tote bag in blue pebble cowhide leather that I made for a friend. I love how this guy turned out. The slouchyness of this leather is perfect! 

The sides are hand laced using a method of braiding that I came across in one of my whip-making books (more posts on that topic to come!) and the straps are attached with a contrasting black theaded saddle stitch. 

Having the January Blues?

A few sunshine-filled Summery pics that I came across recently, that are helping my late-January-cold-dark-days blues.

Still have the January blues? Me neither!

All photos from Tumblr via Parisiansecrets, 15x20 and stoicubermensch
How a Few Years of Sunlight, Handling and Wear Can Change a Leather Handbag

I know I said out with the old and in with the new in an earlier post, but I take it back! There's nothing like the smell and feel of a brand new leather handbag or wallet, until you watch it age overtime and see how cool the leather looks after it breaks in and patinas. Then, there's nothing like that. One of the main reasons why I love working with nude vegetable tanned leather is to see this process and see how different one hide can be from the next, in terms of how it darkens and changes from sunlight and handling.

Below are some oldies, but goodies.

Nude Knocker Tote, before.

Nude Knocker Tote, before.

Nude Knocker Tote, 2 years later. Darker and complete with some water stains, but what a beauty.  

Nude Knocker Tote, 2 years later. Darker and complete with some water stains, but what a beauty.

 

My brothers wallet - A Mary Savel OG.

My brothers wallet - A Mary Savel OG.

Still kickin' after 5+ years of wear with a little help from some duct tape.

Still kickin' after 5+ years of wear with a little help from some duct tape.

SAddle Stitching with Hermès

While some of my bags are plaited or laced using long shoestring like leather laces, I also make handbags that are saddle stitched. Both the Bucky Bag and the Roll bag are hand constructed this way. The saddle stitch is created by using one piece of thread, with 2 needles attached to either end and a diamond point awl to help make the holes along the way. The piece of work is held in a stitching clam or pony. I use a French linen thread and give it a few pulls through a block of bees wax prior to stitching just like in the video below. This helps the stitches to stay in place and discourages thread rot.

Here is one of my favorite videos of an Hermes Artisan doing some saddle stitching in his workshop. This guy knows whats up.

 

I love working in this stitch. It's very tedious, which I love, (throw on my favorite Podcast, plug in my headphones and I could sit and do this for hours) but it also produces a durable item that will last for a very long time. And in the event that the thread does break down the line, it's easier to repair then a machine stitch.