Goodyear Welting and Blake Stitching
In 1869 American Charles Goodyear invented the Goodyear welting sewing machine which would quickly and efficiently stitch together the welt into shoes or boots. Later patented in 1871, the machine would revolutionise shoe and boot production. The welt, a strip of leather, linen or synthetic sewn to the inner edge and upper insole. In addition to the welt, the stitching holds the material together. When the welt strip has formed a cavity, it is then filled with cork. This is a lightweight, insulating, and waterproof material that most importantly lets your feet breathe. A shoe is finished off when the sole is sewn to the upper. This process is done by stitching and sticking using hide glue or contact adhesive.
From the 1500s, until the introduction of the Goodyear welting stitch machine, this process was done by hand. This was very time-consuming and hard work. The introduction of the stitching machine caused a lot of upset and unrest amongst employees at shoe factories in Northampton. The new technology even caused walkouts by some staff who didn’t agree with the new machinery! Things soon became sorted as the factory staff could soon see what a benefit the machine would be and how much easier it made their jobs.
Blake stitching is more popular with Italian shoemakers. The Blake stitch construction, where the outer sole is stitched directly to the insole, provides more flexibility and a lighter weight shoe or boot compared to the Goodyear welt construction. A Blake stitch shoe or boot tends to be sleeker compared welted shoes but doesn’t last as long, mainly due to the fact they are not waterproof, opposed to the Goodyear welted that is more water-resistant. Another advantage of the Goodyear welt construction is it can be repaired many times, being able to re-sole and re-heel.