Recently had a lot of fun doing a photo shoot with Adam Kelly trying to highlight some of the interesting tools I use in my everyday hat-making process. I posted the series on Instagram recently but I thought I'd throw it here in it's entirety and show a few more of the pictures he took. Enjoy!
The Workhorse - Pictured above is my Pfaff 463 Industrial straight stitch sewing machine. This was the first industrial machine I ever used and after my 1st stitch about 2 years ago I quickly fell in love. The consistency and power of this machine have allowed me to continue to increase speed and efficiency without sacrificing quality and attention to detail.
My First Love - I went out and bought this Pfaff 1527 ClassicStyle domestic machine back in 2006 after making my first 20 hats on my Mom's machine. I fell in love immediately and the next 3000 or so hats were sewn completely on it. I've only serviced it once and I still use it for at least some part of every hat I sew.
My favourite aspects of this machine are:
-I can thread it in about 5 seconds. I timed it.
-It has a light duty walking foot for even top and bottom feed. Also the walking part of the foot can be disengaged for those time you don't want it.
-The needle can be positioned laterally within a 1 cm range. I use this all the time for varying seem allowances while keeping the same fabric edge guide.
-It's surprisingly powerful. It can sew through the stiff plastic I use for the hat beaks.
-The small removable table that exposes the free arm. "Wrapping" the hat around the free arm is an essential requirement when sewing hats.
I'm most likely going to be phasing this machine out of the Oldhat workflow soon in favour of some new, more powerful and speedy industrial machines. The versatility and control of this machine will be missed but ultimately the comfortability I feel while sitting at it will be the greatest loss.
The Cleaner Upper...Plus - I've only had this Juki MO-2500 Three Thread Industrial Overlocker for about a year but already I can't really remember what sewing was like without it.
I used to use a serger strictly to clean up and finish the raw edge of seams that I had previously straight stitched. With this machine however, it's ease of use has allowed me to use the serged stitch AS the seam AND the seam finisher. This eliminates one whole step from the process and when you're a one-man operation that's pretty swell.
The Hat Sizer - Around ten years ago I realized I needed a tool to help me quickly and accurately measure the size of each finished hat.
When I plan, cut and sew a batch of hats I am shooting for a size range but since my fabrics are secondhand and recycled their properties vary a ton. Some are stretchy some aren't. Some are thick and some are thin. Because of this, once each hat is sewn I need to measure it to actually determine the exact size.
I made this sizer from cereal boxes which would suggest it is fragile, however I've sized nearly 6000 hats with it and only made a few repairs. To use it I just insert it into a hat where a head would go, extend the cardboard band and then read the centimetre measurement.
The Lefty Shears - These 10" Mundial Forged Left-Handed Shears are a real treat to use. As a lefty I'm usually very limited in my selection of scissors, maybe one pair amongst a wall of righties at a store. I found these through my thread supplier and I've basically only used one pair of scissors since I bought them.
These have stuck with me through thick and thin. Though they are on the large side I use them for almost everything.
The Press - When I started making 5-panel hats awhile back I needed a consistent and quick way to set the eyelets in the side panels. After about a year of headaches I found an awesome supplier that was able to provide me with the eyelets, the setting dies and this arbor press. Now it's a perfect set every single time!
The press is technically overkill for eyelets but I've used it for other tasks too, such as embossing leather when I've made branded hats for other companies.
The Cutting Die - The last tool to be featured in this series is the one that has increased my efficiency the most. About 2 years ago I ordered this die and now I have seven more like it but with different shapes.
This type of die works much like a cookie cutter. The die is set on top of the desired material on the bed of a large industrial clicker press. When the press is engaged it pushes the knife through the material. .
The die pictured above is used to cut 2 plastic beaks out of a larger sheet of plastic, prepared from an ice cream pail. I used to cut every beak by hand and so moving to die-cutting the plastic has had massive benefits to speed and accuracy, not to mention saving my wrist and hand. Aside from cutting the different plastic beaks, I use dies to cut fabric for some of my hat styles as well. A huge time saver!
Here are a few more photos from the shoot: