Rising Sun makes their denim pieces in the small workshop behind their haberdashery in Pasadena, CA. To understand the significance of this we should look at the status quo of jeans production. Generally speaking in today's fashion industry designers "create" on paper and rely on factories to deliver a product that hopefully matches their specifications. To have your own cutting and sewing capability means to be empowered to produce a product that satisfies you 100%.
Talking to the passionate propreitor Mike Hodis you will see he not only holds this uncompromising stance but takes it to the next level. His workshop produces garments to his full specs completely on antique black head sewing machines.
There is a wild excitement to knowing the stitches on your jeans were created on the Singer black head single needle sewing machine. The sleek and minimalist appearance of this industrial strength machine offers stark contrast to the other black head machines with their complex, elegant motions. This black beauty was utilized between the late 20's and 50's. It would have been used for operations on Levi's buckle back garments. This would have been one of the machines that created the uneven, single needle arcuate stitches you see on vintage Levi's.
Singer Single Needle:
Next up is the Singer black head lap seam machine. "Easily from the 30's," boasts a proud Hodis. When you look at certain vintage workwear garments and observe a double needle chainstitched fell seam it was likely done on this machine. Those who study the details of vast amounts of vintage garments will notice that some double needle chainstitches have just a tad smaller width between the two stitches than those found on garments produced with more modern equipment. It is this "perfect gauge" that makes this machine so special. A small tidbit: this machine is fondly referred to by machine operators as Cabillo (horse) for its resemblance to a black stallion (where's your imagination?). It happens to also be a workhorse machine for Rising Sun.
But the rarest machine of them all is surprisingly responsible for one of the most overlooked details on denim garments: the button hole. A beautiful button hole with vintage characteristics is a very tricky thing to create. Rising Sun skips all the modern interpretations and goes straight to holy grail of vintage sewing machines with his black head Singer keyhole machine. By all rights and reason Hodis should really "donate" this majestic creature to a museum to preserve for all time but instead it is in the back of his haberdashery creating keyholes for garments that only the true enthusiast can appreciate. It is nearly impossible to find in operable condition.
The rare black head Singer keyhole machine:
This antique machine is over 70 or 80 years old and creates some of the most graceful keyholes you will see. The stitches are much tighter and does not extend into the garment as much as modern button holes do. After the stitches are put down Rising Sun workers hand cut the holes required for buttons. This is done with an old hand cutting tool.
Hand cutting tool for keyholes, made by Heinisch:
Between listening to Hodis talk about the cams, shafts, and belts of certain sewing machines and studying his garments it became very obvious that it is one thing to design vintage details (hidden rivets, back buckles) into clothes and an entirely different thing to create them using period-correct methods and machines. In the next post we will explore this idea further and look at some of the clothing Rising Sun produces.
Rising Sun Website