Here is the design I started with when I made my second pair of shoes:
Several changes would be made due to practicality and time, but the essence of the sketch stayed the same throughout the process of making.
And now I’d like to take you through a very quick run through of my last five days, from that sketch to the actual (nearly) finished shoes. So first we had to make a pattern. Using a last (the wood or plastic foot form), we began by taping them up and drawing on the form. We then carefully cut the patterns off and flattened them before tracing them off, adding and refining and finally creating something that would fit the foot perfectly. (I left a large block of fabric where the heel would be because at the time we weren’t sure the shape of the heel I would be using.)
After much crankiness and confusion over my colors and materials I settled on a deep navy patent leather and found a beautiful warm mustard vegetable tanned leather for details. The project began as a (warning: pretentiousness ahead) “meditation on duality”, so the mix of shiny and craftsmen-style leather suited my concept perfectly.
So now it was time to start making the shoes. First up, the veg tan leather toe caps. Veg tan leather is very stiff and difficult to work with. The trick to making the toe caps was to soak the leather in luke warm water and shape the toes around the lasts to let them dry.
While they were drying I began sewing all my pieces together. Adding stiffeners, shaping tape, and all the bits and bobs required to make the shoe upper and lining. I chose the bright blue suede lining because I thought it would brighten the shoe and make it look luscious and luminescent. Once the little toe caps were dried (aren’t they cute?) I saw the colors and the pieces beginning to take shape and only had to put the whole thing together.
First I lasted the blue suede lining, as you can see below. Then I did a similar lasting technique to the upper (the outside layer), before gluing it all together. Next I had to shave all the edges of leather down to create a flat surface to walk on. As you can see I then filled in the bottom with a cork/acetone mixture that helps to even out the bottom surface of the shoe.
After everything was sewn up, nailed down, glued together, and attached, I began to worry because I hadn’t found a heel. My original design called for a wedge, so I began to carve one out of very dense cork. In the end I realized what I really wanted was a heel and later scrapped the cork, but not before I’d put a fair amount of blood and sweat into hand shaving layers of this very very hard cork.
So the shoes were nearly finished, short of finding or carving a new heel for them. Because of the lack of heel, the big block of leather was still hanging off the back of the shoe when I presented my design to the panel of teachers. They didn’t seem to mind. All in all, I have to say I’m pretty damn pleased with myself. This is only the second pair of shoes I’ve ever made.
Unlike fashion, I found to my surprise that I actually enjoyed the process of making the shoes. I loved the craft and the detail and working with the variety of materials. I loved working with tools and making a mess. Shoes are amazing. I want to do more. And more. And more and more. I learned so much about shoes during this project. I’ve come to see that although I can use some of the skills I picked up in my fashion training, shoes are a different monster. For example, when pattern cutting and planning clothing, you can anticipate and use gravity to your advantage. But in footwear, you don’t have points of the body to hang fabric off of, such as shoulders or hips. You have to work against gravity because the bulk of the shoe is at the bottom. So a shoe designer/pattern cutter has to think upwards instead of downwards.
I also began to appreciate how difficult it is to line things up perfectly. I realize there is a margin for error in shoes- I mean, when’s the last time you stared at the stitching on your mass-produced shoes to see if it was perfectly aligned? But I have noticed that my toe caps are about 2mm different and it annoys me! On top of all of that, I have a new appreciation for working with difficult things like patent leather. That wasn’t an easy choice for a beginner.
There are several more designs that I came up with in the process of arriving at this one. I would like to make them in the near future, so hopefully I will have something new to share with you sooner than later.
3 years ago - read more...