A sewing clam is something you use, when you sew leather by hand. The clam sits between your legs and holds the object for you, so you can use both hands freely for sewing.
Working with leather demands the utmost care and attention and the best leather products are often hand made. No industrial scale production techniques can match the quality and durability of handcrafted leather products. As in most artisanal crafts, leather stitching has numerous approaches and techniques, however a vital part of the process is a piece of equipment known as the stitching clam.
When properly utilised it can dramatically speed up the process of saddle stitching leather while maintaining requisite levels of accuracy, by freeing up the hands of the user. Stitching clams also go under the names of sewing clams, stitching clamps, saddler’s clam and saddler’s clamps.
The clam is used in a seating position. In a seated position the clam is placed in the users lap, with its jaws resting on the opposite leg to the users dominant hand (i.e. if you are right handed the jaws will rest on the left leg) The other leg rests on top of the clam, closing the jaws creating a vice which gives the user a better an in which to sew. Alternatively, it can be clamped to a bench to provide better visibility.
The jaws themselves are very long, making it easy to hold bigger items such as bags in place without folding or rolling the leather. These clams also have an angled foot, which helps to stabilise it.
The clam jaws are covered with soft leather to protect the integrity of the leather, and the natural leather strap and stirrup provide additional tension to hold the leather in place as you stitch. Screws at the bottom can adjust the tension and there is an additional footrest for better stability.
Il cuoio di Firenze
There are a wide variety of top quality leathers available in the market, however Italian leather is widely regarded to be the absolute best. The region of Tuscany and particularly Florence are world renowned for their mastery of leather manufacture and leather goods fabrication.
From bags and shoes to wallets and jackets, Tuscany has made itself the heart of the Italian leather industry. The region certain has plenty of credentials, with top Italian brands such as Gucci and Prada among others producing their leather goods here.
Il cuoio di Firenze is highly prized and has its roots in the Italian middle ages. People from the Tuscan area have been working with leather for centuries and over time have perfected and mastered the craft. The industry in Florence sprung up in the artists’ neighbourhood of San Frediano and top Italian fashion retailers have been sourcing their leathers from here since the 1920’s.
So important is the industry to the area, that in the 1950’s the local government set the Sculoa del Cuioio to teach and preserve the industry in the area.
Thanks to the foresight of the regions administrators, the region is full of fantastic craftsmen so if you want to pick up a few leather essentials – a wallet or belt, perhaps or maybe a pair of soft moccasins you are not limited to merely Gucci or Prada. A tour of the city will uncover a slew of unassuming and perfectly delightful artisans selling an array of gorgeous well-crafted leather items.
Boutiques and designer shops can be found a five-minute walk from the Via Tournabuoni, or on the narrow streets of the old city between the cathedral and the Arno River. Here you are guaranteed genuine leather goods in the latest styles. There are also some leatherwork schools like the Piazza Santa Croce that offer one-of-a-kind leather items. Also in Florence, there are leather markets where stalls, shops and factory outlets are concentrated. The most famous is San Lorenzo Market, but better quality may be found at Mercato del Porcellino.
Furthermore, some of the factories that manufacture leather goods also have showrooms attached to them allowing you to get the very best directly from the source. It is very important to note however that to get the best quality you must make sure the source is genuine. Don’t buy from street vendors as currently Florence’s leather industry is being denuded by poor quality imports to appeal to the tourist trade.