A mixed-technique shoemaking workshop


This weekend I’m having the pleasure of teaching a shoemaking workshop through Laura Glendenning’s “The Handmade Effect” in Portland Maine. I am working with a recently retired law-enforcement and forensics professor (I learned that if you want to get fingerprints from someone, offer them a Coke – the prints will be on the can) his prolifically-crafty wife (I think shoes are the only things she hasn’t made before) and their teen-age daughter.

He aspires to make muk-luks lined with felt – I suggest that they consider felting wool coats in the washing machine and dryer to make the liners. He says that boots that are loose enough for you to slip on are ideal for -30 degree temperatures – your blood vessels don’t get constricted (he knows – he’s led survivalist trainings at this temperature).  So we’re making a pattern that he can use once he has moosehide to make the outside of his dream boots.

This family is considering making footwear as a business, so Diane’s shoes will be stitch-downs. Since the uppers can be machine-stitched to the soles, they can be made much faster than the hand-stitched nomocs, lomoc and fomocs* that we usually make in workshops. Lasts are needed to make stitch-downs, so they are going to make a pair using Peltex and playdough, as described in my “How to Make Lasts” book, to get some experience in using them.

Daughter made a brown pair of nomoc basics, with a piece of turquoise leather inserted at the toe, as seen in the photo. I love patchwork, as it allows the use of smaller scraps.

And, Laura and I are unstitching, then adding a toebox to a pair of red shoes that her son made in a previous workshop, to obtain a smoother look in the toe area. I so appreciate connection – and shoes – that evolve(s).

This is my dream weekend – brain-storming, experimenting, problem-solving and laughing as we make by hand.

*These terms are ones I created to describe three techniques for making shoes entirely by hand, and that don’t require lasts. The directions and patterns for making them are found in my book How to Make the Simplest Shoes.