Monday, March 18, 2019

I made shoes! Again!

That's right, I had so much fun making the shoes originally that I wanted to try again. And this time they're much more professional looking. Mainly because I had a professional teaching me. I took the Cordwainer Shop shoe course and made these beauties:
It all starts with a pattern. These are the original tin patterns used back in the 1920's by the Cordwainer Shop family. Molly came to the Adirondack Folk School fully equipped with patterns, lots of leather, soles, lasts, and expertise. We picked out our leather, traced the pattern, and got cutting.
Vamp, tongue, and quarters
It's amazing how different the techniques were from my previous shoes. Those were a simple pattern with machine stitching obviously made for soft materials. Add a sole or not. Up to you.

These are real shoes and it shows. The process doesn't use a sewing machine at all. It's all hand-stitched. Or laced. You know.
The quarters and cowhide ling 
Lined and ready to lace
Our hands got a real workout punching all these holes 
Juggling three pieces to lace together quarters, tongue, and vamp
Stitching on the sole
Fitting onto the last
Shoe making art
Proving I made them
Burnishing tools. Used a propane torch to heat them. 
One last down, one to go
Ready for baking
Buffing to a shine

It took us 4 days to make our shoes. And I took everyone's home one night to bake them (I know!). Once the shoe is assembled and put on the last you need to do a slow bake to fit it properly and tighten everything up. I found it interesting that the shoe was actually too tight before baking but fit perfectly after. I would have thought the leather would shrink. But the last is critical to the fit and provides the perfect amount of stretch.

I took great notes and fully intend to make some more shoes. I've already got the leather selected and I've ordered supplies. And even if they're not this specific style, I'll be able to use the techniques I learned to make other shoes. I think sandals and ballet flats are in my future.


  1. That's amazing! What a marvelous skill you've learned.

    1. Thanks! They came out so professional looking, I'm just amazed. The instruction was very good and I want to be sure to make more shoes so that I cement the knowledge.