From Hemmer to Feller

Bill Mitchell's Tools of the Denim Trade

Founder of Billiam Jeans, Bill Mitchell, gives us a guided tour of his workshop and shares the stories behind the machines used to craft our favourite selvedge denim.


The Hemmer: Union Special 43200g

“Used on the bottom hems of every one of our pair of jeans’ legs, the black Union Special 43200g hemmer dates from the 1940s, when it was the staple machine used on all hems. There was a fault in these machines which caused the hem to be torqued at a 45 degree angle and shows a subtle roping pattern as the denim is worn and faded; we found this finish extremely attractive, and it’s one of many subtle details that denim connoisseurs covet.”
“We spent over 6 years searching and saving for the 43200g, which we amazingly found just in time for the first installment of the Oliver Sweeney x Billiam collaboration. This machine is very special to us because it was the last vintage machine we wanted to buy to make our jeans one of the most detailed products in the denim world.”

Union Special 43200g selvedge denim manufacture

Union Special 35800

The Feller: Union Special 35800

“Used to attach the yokes (above the back pockets) and the seat seam (in between back pockets) of our jeans, the feller is a specialised piece of kit, and ours is one of the best: a vintage Union Special 35800.”
“The machine is interesting because you’re taking two pieces of material, folding them over themselves and hiding the overlap underneath the stitches. This process was very difficult to learn and subsequently master, but has been one of the most fun production stages when we’d got the hang of it.”

The Waistbander: Singer 302u

“The Singer 302u is the staple of all waistband attachment when producing jeans. We recently purchased this machine from a closed down naval sewing plant and restored it to working condition. The goal with the lined waistband on this edition of the OS x Billiam collaboration was to create a waistband that didn’t bleed indigo onto a shirt that was tucked in.”
“We want our customer to be able to wear these jeans to work and dress them up but want to protect any dress shirt that might be worn. You will also notice the beautiful 100% cotton lining when opening the jeans as a welcome change to the standard indigo waistband.”

Singer 302u, selvedige denim jeans manufacture

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SWEENEY TATTOO

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Published September 2016