When a shoemaker completes an English welt they have multiple options about how to attach the heel. It can be glued and nailed, or pegged, or stitched multiple ways without a welt, or welted continuing around the whole shoe. I choose to stitch the heel without a welt and afterwards attach a rand.
The stitch I use on the heel is a different type than what I welt with but the stitch length remains the same. After this is neatly completed I peg the rand therefore completing the welt and helping it look seamless along the sole when finished.
And the finished shoes while polishing…
These boots are double soled English welted with a beveled waist. The uppers are a derby pattern with ostrich leg quarters and Italian calf vamps, finished in a black with blue undertones. I stitched the soles a 10spi which took more time because I have to be careful with a skinny awl through such thick material.
Every shoe that I make is lasted by hand. The process of lasting is when a upper is stretched over a shoe form (last) and attached to the insole and last by nails or any sort of bracing. The following example is for a pair for cemented constructed test fitters that the customer wears for a couple weeks before the lasts may or may not be adjusted for the final shoe. I don’t usually focus too hard on closing and clicking the uppers when doing a test fit nor do I use a high quality leather so the uppers aren’t perfect…
the first pull is at the toe
then checking to see the upper is not crooked
pull at the toe and ball line
then pull the heel, pleat it, and pull the shank. Extra allowance for a very narrow/beveled waist in the final shoe.
heel lasted flat without wrinkles
continue up to the rear of the toe. the first nails at the toe and ball line are removed and re-pulled. The next step is lasting the lining at the toe and attaching a leather stiffener between the upper and lining. This method is called 2 phase lasting…
With the lining lasted and the toe stiffener inserted the upper is lasted at the toe.
Pleat and lasting is finished! The test fitter was a good fit, here is a picture of the final shoes I just lasted today… the next step is to handsew the welt.
I haven’t posted in a while because I have been working on nothing but patterns and fittings which aren’t the most exciting moments of shoemaking (in my opinion). After giving it thought I realized I should explain the birth of a new shoe in my process. There are various ways to approach pattern making for shoes and boots but I mainly use a tape method.
It all starts with taking the last that the shoe will be made on and covering it in tape.
A line is drawn down the middle of the last and down the middle of the heel. It is crucial to get these lines as centered and straight as possible. From here the design is sketched directly on the last:
The above pattern has both the linings and upper design drawn and it can get busy or a little confusing depending on the design and lining patterns created. This particular design above is a re-do of a art deco inspired shoe, after which the customer and I decided to alter the original pattern.
Once every line looks symmetrical and the design looks cohesive it is time to cut on the center lines dividing the last, followed by the removal of the tape design onto paper.
Here I have the outside and inside pattern of the upper and lining. First I cut on the lines and open them up allowing me to use them as stencils to trace the outlines. I trace the outside first then put the inside over the tracing and line them up as best as possible and trace again. The lines won’t coincide perfectly but where they deviate from one another a line is drawn between and the middle line is found. Do this everywhere and you get the pattern key like this:
Every pattern piece is cut from this key. Example below:
^ Pattern key
^ Upper pattern
^ Lining pattern
So that’s about it! It just takes a while to even out and make nice with the design details and even longer for me to decide to go forward with a new design.
…the most common of shoe constructions and my favorite due to design versatility and rugged durability. Below is a image of a freshly welted shoe just before I trimmed the waist & toe areas of the welt to give more pronounced shape.
Welting is the process of sewing a strip of leather to the insole & upper around the shoe. Many people know this as “Goodyear Welted” because in the mid-late 1800’s Charles Goodyear Jr. invented the modern day machine that mimicked this method. There are some major downfalls to the Goodyear machine that make it less desirable to a properly handsewn version. The majority of Goodyear welted shoes use a method called “gemming” where a strip of canvas is sewn to the insole then the welt and upper are sewn to the canvas; not as reliant or durable as the handsewn counterpart. Combine this with the fact that sewing machines have no way of changing needle direction so 2 threads are required ( a top and bobbin thread) which inherently will have tension issues, whereas handsewing is one thread with needles/bristles attached on either ends allowing for tight stitching throughout. Example:
Sorry for the short post but the past couple weeks were plagued with hold-ups and some work had to be thrown to the wind due to quality control so I haven’t anything new to show. Next week will be better!
More often than not products that are marketed as handmade just aren’t. Usually the manufacturers “public relations” (thank you Edward Bernays) team are using the consumers ignorance against him/her/themselves. One of the many characteristics in a handmade shoe that differs from the factory version are the materials used to structure the shoe. Most manufacturers use many different synthetics in the heel and toe stiffeners e.g. thermo-plastic, celastic, and resin coated paper/fibers. These materials are quick and easy to shape with the application of heat. The downside of them is they aren’t breathable and some break down very easily. The material I use for all stiffening is veg tanned leather, usually tanned with oak bark, and a paste based on flour emulsified with a starch. The leather comes thick and must be “skived” (skiving is the process in which leather is beveled and thinned with a blade or knife). This can take a bit of time at first but once the technique is mastered it is rather quick, satisfying, and fun.
This is the original thickness ( I had already began skiving the other side before I grabbed the camera)
Curved knife with a rounded tip for easier access towards the center.
Straight knife with pointed tip for fine detail skive on the edge. Less than 1mm thick on that edge!
Skiving finished. Then attach between lining and upper like so…
This is just a test fit shoe so I skipped corners on making the uppers… And depending on the customers opinion I will adjust the toe shape of the last a bit.
Finally this week saw the finishing of the Norwegian stitched Adelaide Oxford. Here is a final product:
As you can see it was a beautiful spring day in Portland equipped with sun, cotton candy clouds, rainbows, and more colors in the sky than a painters palette. Thanks for reading!
This week I have been working on a shoe that is a less common construction method: the Norwegian stitch. I haven’t had the chance to cut my chops at hand-sewing a Norwegian and was pretty excited to give it a go. There are a few details I would change but overall I am pretty happy with the results, but a main detail I am particularly excited about is the beveled waist I incorporated into the design. It wasn’t an easy task to make the welt and folded out upper a seamless transition…
Here is a close up:
The sole edge has yet to be trimmed out and the heel will be built after.
When I first started making shoes I was infatuated with a sidelace shoe design, and recently I had a client commission such:
This navy and grey spectator sidelace oxford with a U-tip toecap worked out nicely for the customer due to scar tissue on a metatarsal-phalangeal joint. I was able to keep any seams from overlapping the joint while allowing for the appearance of equally proportionate shoes. Here they are on the customers feet with some far out socks!
Here is some older work of a less busy sidelace design:
… and here is mine. I feel there will be plenty of time to “chew the fat” (as they say) so I will just post my latest work to leave the workshop! This first shoe is a wholecut oxford made in a black embossed calf leather. I love when the simplicity of a design makes room for more radical elements.
With red soles to match the shoe trees! Very narrow/beveled fiddleback waist. I was happy that the customer was pleased with the final result… My heart always skips a beat when they slip their foot in and take those first steps. It can be a fine line between good or ill fit.
Next up is a classic full brogue wingtip design. The leather is a beautiful “campari” brown (according to my polish color chart) french box calf leather. Unfortunately there is a slight fit issue with the heel and I am currently correcting it, but I might have to remake the shoe.
Sole stitching by hand. Takes time but the results are more than worth it.
Well that’s a start. Thanks for reading!