I’ve been lucky enough this week to attend not one, but two, workshops and they couldn’t be more different.
First up was a shoe making workshop with The Shoe Cameraderie, and yes, I made a pair of sandals!
I chose this design as I felt that it would be the most flattering on my foot whilst not being too difficult to make. I wanted the tan coloured leather as this is a colour missing from my summer shoe wardrobe.
A quick overview of the making: We had to take fairly comprehensive measurements of our feet and send these through to Lisa, the teacher and the person behind The Shoe Camaraderie. I found this to be almost the most difficult part of the process as I kept getting different measurements. When we arrived, each of us had a bag with all the bits required to make our chosen shoes – the pattern, leather, inner soles, soles, heels, and randing. I shall explain randing in a moment.
First job was to cut out all the pattern pieces. I had the four slightly shaped pieces that crossed the front of my foot, the four rectangles which would hold the straps, and the very curved strap pieces.
We also had a pair of shoe lasts in our general size sitting at our allocated places at the table, and the next job was to attach our inner soles to the lasts with pieces of masking tape.
Then the pieces that go across the front of the foot were fitted on to the soles and wrapped around. At this point I forgot about taking photos, but the last was slid out from the shoe and we were able to do the first fitting. My feet are quite narrow and once the fitting was done I could no longer get my sandals back on the lasts. This is not ideal, but we managed.
Where pieces of leather are folded over we learned to “skive”, or shave off the inner part of the leather to reduce the bulk where the joins are made. We then punched small holes at the ends and used waxed thread to hand sew the leather. You can just see in the photo above. The wax was melted slightly with a lighter and the knots stomped on with the end of the lighter to make them flat and very secure.
This is what the bottom of the soles look like once the shoes have been individually fitted. Lots of “dart” like wrinkles! Yes, those are my besocked feet at the bottom of the photo!
The wrinkles are sanded completely flat and two or three coats of contact glue are painted on to the soles and left to get touch dry.
This is where we had to open all the doors due to the fumes. It was a wild day weather-wise and I had all my warm clothes on! Thanks to Jenny (IG @Jensonamission) for this photo, it was so nice to have.
Lisa had pre-glued the soles and heels and we used heat guns to warm them up. The soles are enormous so that we had plenty of margin for error, which is just as well as my first attempt at fitting them went a bit awry, but it didn’t matter.
Once the soles are attached to the shoe, they are trimmed down, and then the randing is applied. I have a large number of shoes that have that stitching round the edge of the shoes and I’ve always assumed that the stitching is done by machine when the shoes are finished. Imagine my surprise when I learned that it’s a little strip that is premade and just glued on to the shoes!
These aren’t my shoes – it is much easier to apply randing when the shoe is on a last. Mine weren’t on the last, so it’s a slightly slower process, but this gives the general idea. The soles have to be sanded where the heel is attached, and the heel is glued on. Lisa then took the shoes to a sander where all the edges were smoothed out. The final step is to use an edge beveller to, um, bevel the edges of the shoes.
Then it was time to line up all the shoes, have some wine and cheese and congratulate ourselves!
It was lovely to share the day with five other shoe makers and we are all now following each other on Instagram. Lisa is coming back to Perth in February and I have already decided what shoes I am making!
Here are my shoes in action on a freezing day. I nearly didn’t include this photo because you can see the imprint of my socks on my skin, but then I figured that I needed a warts ‘n’ all photo, and it also made me laugh!
What of the second workshop you ask? Well this post was much longer than I anticipated so it’s coming in another post. Stay tuned!