Shoelaces are simple objects that are very useful. Without them, shoes and sneakers cannot be fastened properly and will fit loosely. But how are shoelaces made?
In a nutshell, shoelaces are made by first winding yarn onto the bobbin. The bobbins produced on the winding machine are pushed and fitted onto the vertical spindles on the braiding machine, which will convert the bobbins into the braid.
A tagging machine then converts the braids into laces.
That being said, creating shoelaces requires three important machines which we will discuss below. In this post, let’s explore how shoelaces are made from start to finish.
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What Are Shoelaces Made Of?
The materials used for shoelaces vary according to the type of lace under construction. So, what materials are shoelaces made of?
While traditional shoelaces were made of leather, hemp, cotton, and other materials used in rope, modern shoelaces are made of synthetic fibers such as nylon, textured polyester, spun polyester, and polypropylene as well as traditional natural materials.
The aglet, or the hard plastic end of the shoelace that pushes through the eyelet in the shoe, is often made of clear plastic.
How Shoelaces Are Made
The oldest shoe archeologists have ever found is a 5,500-year-old leather hide moccasin with leather cord laces. Today, we don’t need to hunt an animal to lace our shoes, since we can buy our shoelaces ready-made in a variety of materials, styles, lengths, and colors.
Most companies produce shoelaces as shoelace-type drawstrings and a wide range of materials, including cotton, rayon, and acrylic. For this explanation, we will explore how shoelaces are made using polyester as the main material.
1. Material Preparation via the Winding Machine
A worker installs cones of fine polyester thread on what’s called a Creole, which feeds the bobbin winding machines. The worker groups the strands from 8 cones and feeds them through one side of one machine, and onto a bobbin.
Then, the worker groups the strands from another 8 cones and feeds them through the other side of the machine, onto a second bobbin.
Each group of eight strands will produce one thicker polyester thread. The worker programs the machine to wind a specific length of it.
Each cone holds enough fine thread to wind a 71-mile long thick thread. For this particular shoelace, the machine is programmed to wind 8,200 feet of thick thread per bobbin.
2. Making the Braids Using a Braiding Machine
Meanwhile, another worker installs 20 of those bobbins on a braiding machine.
For each one, the worker passes the end of the thread through three eyelets, the second of which regulates the tension of the thread. The worker gathers half the threads and ties knots in them so that they will catch when the worker feeds them into the machine.
Once everything is set, the worker starts the braiding machine.
It draws in the braided threads, which pull in the unknotted ones. Then, the machine begins braiding a continuous round shoelace cord. The wheels in the machine apply tension to pull any loose braids tighter so that the cord diameter is uniform.
The finished cord, which is about a mile long, collects in a barrel.
Some shoelaces are made of knitted, rather than braided cord. The cones of threads feed the knitting machine directly. The machine’s latch needles can perform two types of knitting stitches to produce a round cord.
3. Convert the Braids into Laces
Once the knitted or braided cord is ready, a worker adjusts four metal pegs of a winding device to the shoelace length they are making. Then, the worker winds the cord around the pegs up to 250 times, depending on the cord diameter.
The worker then cuts the end and ties the cord together, so that he or she can easily transfer them to what’s called a tipping machine.
The worker runs the center of each cord over an acetone-saturated felt pad, then inserts it in the machine dye. The dye wraps a piece of acetate film tightly around the cord, then cuts it in the middle, producing a shoelace with a stiff tip called an aglet on each end.
Another machine applies a nickel-plated steel tip, a kind used on bag drawstrings. The worker manually positions two tips directly on the cord, with a slight gap in between them. He or she then activates the press to force them on, then cuts the cord in the gap.
Some factories also make rickrack, a flat zigzag trim that is sewn onto clothing. Rickrack braiding machines are old, sometimes over 100 years old. Each one holds from 13 to 73 bobbins of thread. The more bobbins used, the wider the rickrack.
There are two ways to make multicolored rickrack or braided shoelace cords.
One, mount different shades of solid color bobbins on the braiding machine, or second, wind multicolored thread on each bobbin. For multicolored shoelace cords, the worker can mount different shades of solid color thread cones or multicolored threads on each cone.
To produce different shapes and sizes, most manufacturers use different types of braiding and knitting machines, varying the number of bobbins or cones, from 8 to as many as 73. An even number produces a round shoelace, while an odd number produces a flat one.
With so many possibilities, shoelaces can be fashionable as well as functional.
And there you have it, the complete breakdown of how shoelaces are made.
Now you know what goes into the simple, yet supremely useful object that you bring along whenever you walk around in your shoes. Not only do shoelaces keep your feet in place, but they prevent the shoe tongues from sliding to the sides.
Unfortunately, most footwear brands are built to make profits. That is why they need to save production costs whichever way they can.
They need to make sure that each size of shoes can be tied properly, without spending too much money on creating shoelaces of varying lengths. As a result, some popular footwear brands, like Converse, New Balance, and Vans, have shoelaces that are simply too long.
All you need to do now is to learn how to shorten shoelaces.
Or, you can check out the best shoelace alternatives.