Traditionally boar bristle was used as the needle while making shoes. The bristles are about 7-8 inch long, and 0.5-1mm diameter.
Given the difficulty in procuring boar bristles, the main two alternatives are:
(1) saddlery needles. Easy to procure, and what I've primarily used. They are completely historically inaccurate and have very different properties to traditional bristles in their use.
(2) monofilament fishing line. To be specific, 0.5mm thick and the best brand recommended being Maxima Chameleon as it looks much like boar bristle. Thread is attached either by splitting the end of the line and using a 3-strand plait (2 split 'legs' of the line, and the tapered end of the thread). Alternatively, the line is 'roughed' with sand paper for the end 1-1.5 inches, then the thread wound onto it. One method of this is here: http://aands.org/raisedheels/Techniques/bristle.php
Fishing line is more flexible than boar bristle.
(3) Synthetic bristles. These were a reusable synthetic bristle that were an imitation of boar bristle. They are closer in stiffness to boar bristle than fishing line (which is too flexible). I haven't been able to find any of these.
My next cordwaining experiments will involve roughed up fishing line, as I couldn't get a good split in the line I bought.
Research into various aspects of 14th C life.
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