Primitive Shoes by Margrethe Hald

I am elated with my discovery today – I was thumbing through my precious copy of Primitive Shoes by Margrethe Hald thinking, “wouldn’t it be wonderful if this book were available to everyone.”

I ordered mine from the National Museum of Denmark about twenty years ago and pick it up often to marvel at the brilliance of the minds that figured out so many unique and beautiful ways to cover their feet, and sometimes to attempt to duplicate their creations  – the subtitle is: An Archaeological-Ethnological Study Based upon Shoe Finds from the Jutland Peninsula.

I believe the book was published post- humously.  Thank you, Margrethe Hald, for leaving such a gift behind.

She even left us with this message and poem:

..”there can be no double that it was a hard fate, and evidence of bitter poverty, to have no protection for one’s feet when conditions were bleak. This can be gathered from the medieval vision poems. In these, to give shoes to the shoeless is accounted a good deed of high merit, in return for which the giver is promised relief on the hard road to the other world.”

(quoted after Knut Liestol)

“Gone have I over Gjaller Bridge

with sharp hooks in a row.

Yet worse I thought the stinking marsh

God help those who there must go!”

“Blest is he who in this life

gave shoes to the needy poor.

He will not have to walk barefoot

on the sharp and thorny moor.”

So, I googled for the book – and found the entire book available at no charge at: http://vitezek.io.ua/album213075

Last night I was scrutinizing a pair of shoes a woman was wearing that looked similar to a Roman latticework sandal – she said they were made by Mia, but I couldn’t find a photo of them on the internet.

The shoes in the photo below are somewhat similar to the shoes I saw, it’s a pair that I’d like to work out the pattern for some day.

My new granddaughter

My first grandchild, Millena Tansy Strom, was born on Sunday evening, and I am still in a state of euphoria – even though I listened to a few moans too many from my dear daughter during the day. (she says it was totally worth it). I think she’ll be called Millie, and Lena was the name of my adored Italian grandmother (Nona) who made black velvet houseshoes for us. What a fascinating baby – we all can sit and look at her expressions for hours! It’s like a “Tom and Jerry” cartoon is running in her mind! What a miracle is life, may Millie’s always be filled with love.

 

Otzi’s shoes reconstructed

I received an email from Ecopel, the naturally tanned and dyed leather from Germany, with information on an exhibition described in the following paragraph. One of the shoes on display is that of Otzi, the mummified man found in the Italian alps about twenty years ago, that proved to be about 5000 years old. (check wikipedia for more information, it’s amazing what has been discovered by testing substances found in his intestines, his mitochondrial DNA, and countless other aspects of him.)

I have been most interested in his shoes, in fact I’ll dig up an article about them and post, but in the meantime his shoes have been reproduced for the exhibit. Here’s a photo of them – I’m fascinated by the way the sole is molded upward and held in place by a strip of leather woven through it – now I want a pair!

The Rhineland-State Museum for archeological, art and cultural history in Bonn is currently showing a special exhibition about footwear. ‘From Ötzis’ shoes to high heels’ 400 samples can be seen here. The exhibition demonstrates that for us as humans, shoes have an essential jacketing and protecting meaning and at the same time are a kind of jewelry and serve as a way of self-expression. Shoe loans of famous people from Picasso over Jürgen Klinsmann to Lady Gaga can be seen there as well as women’s shoes of the Rococo or soldier’s boots of the Roman Age. Someone who is interested in shoes will find a rich fund of information and inspiration visiting the exhibition.

Shoemaker’s Wife

At an arts (and garlic) festival this fall, a woman stopped to ask me if I’d read The Shoemaker’s Wife. No I hadn’t, but I wrote down the title. Then she elaborated, telling me that she is Italian and that she especially loved the book because in it the author used the immigration story of her own ancestors from the mountains of Northern Italy to the United States as the basis for it. Well! my ancestors immigrated from the mountains of Northern Italy too! So I couldn’t wait to get the book, and when I did, I had such fun immersed in the glorious story. I even cooked polenta one night to eat while reading it. I recommend this book; one doesn’t learn a lot about shoemaking from it, but a lot about human nature and one family’s journey that represents so many others.

shoemaking wife

Felt slippers

http://www.marthastewart.com/864540/stephanies-sewn-felt-slippers –  is the url for a great slipper pattern based on a Native American moccasin, published in Martha Stewart’s Living magazine recently. It has a lot of versatility, as shown in the photo.

http://vimeo.com/32458552 –  is the url for a video of Stephanie herself showing you how to make these slippers; I think my contribution will be to make a set of women’s patterns for these slippers, and kids as well.

And finally for this post: http://escapefrombk.wordpress.com/2011/11/27/sewn-felt-slippers/ for yet another version. I’ll work on the pattern and hopefully post some templates tomorrow.

And, can you believe it – another version at: http://zipperteeth.blogspot.com/2012/03/sewn-felt-slippers.html

HCC weekend

There is a group of shoe and bootmakers that gathers once a year on the weekend nearest October 25, St. Crispin’s Day (the patron-saint of shoemakers, of course). This year the gathering was in Middlebury Vt, and I have just returned home from it.

I went with specific questions that I wanted answers for, and I am so grateful that my questions were answered. I am in process of creating “soles with an edge” with a leather sole and heel, in addition to the natural rubber sole and heel that I have always made, and needed information on thickness and type of leather, how to make a groove around the bottom edge so the stitches wouldn’t be on the ground, and how to make a nice shiny edge on the leather sole.

So, I’m looking for “5-7 ounce soling strips”, a sanding wheel for my dremel tool for making the stitching groove, and a “bone edger” for burnishing the edge of the sole, after a coat of “Vermont beeswax” has been applied. No doubt I will be doing a lot of experimenting this week!

And there were many fine people to connect and reconnect with; Dan Freeman, the fine shoemaker, was the host at his shop in Middlebury; Larry Waller of www.walrusshoe.com who sells sets of lasts, shoemaking books and shoemaking machinery; Daphne Board of www.diabloshoe.com who is studying to be a pedorthist so the exquisite shoes that she makes will now be built to heal the wearer’s foot problems.

Nancy Benoit – www.soleofvermont.com – is making (sorry, I have to use the word “exquisite” again!) exquisite flip-flops, flats and low-high heels at her shop in Manchester Vt. She serves special dinners in her barn during the summer, so I have already placed a note on my next-year’s calendar reminding me to make reservations – then I’ll also be able to see her very special shoe studio.

There was a “bespoke (custom) shoemaker” who makes full-welted shoes with a shop in Brooklyn, a young mother who is preparing to have her line of shoes made in Eastern Europe, a shoemaker from Montreal who fooled all including myself into thinking that the designs on his shoes were applique, while in fact he stitched around the design, the dyed the leather inside the stitching! There was no applique at all, just very careful stitching and dyeing.

I am enjoying looking back over the weekend and realizing how rich it was for me – perhaps you’ll be there next year!

Fortunate wet-felt bootmakers

wet felt bootmaking

I am making “Soles with an Edge” for students in two workshops right now, here’s a photo of boots made last year by instructor Carin Engen. I love providing this soling, because these beautiful boots were worn outside all last winter! No more little circles of suede as soling!

Of course the felt boots are exceedingly warm, but the natural rubber soling adds to their warmth by being so flexible..when your foot muscles are involved in walking, they stay warm.

Another opportunity to have our own creativity and skills expressed wherever we go..

Update on prada footwear spring 2013 ……

prada sandalsGreetings, since I am the go-to person for the latest in foot fashion (for those of you who don’t know me, this is a joke – but i do like to check out couture footwear for ideas.. So now that i’ve found a good photo of said footwear, it’s a tabi-sock inside a sandal – some at perilous heights, others at ground level. But making a sandal, with a soft leather colorful or metallic tabi sock inside it, to wear in the fall, sounds like an irresistible project. Just make your sandals – they could even be minimalist tumahumara sandals with tabi inserts, with long cords to wrap around tabi at ankle..

Whoa, I just googled “how to make tabi socks”, found that Folkwear patterns sells a pattern (I ordered it), and there is a beautiful pair of tabi socks that you can knit at http://idahostixandstrings.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/tabi-sock-pattern.pdf. Let’s have awesome feet!

It’s official: duct tape shoes are in!

Here’s a shoe from the Prada show at Milan Fashion Week spring 13 – and folks, you can make them yourself! The trick to making shoes from duct tape is to wrap the first layer around your foot with the sticky-side out; then apply a neat second layer with sticky-side in – and you’ve got $500.00 per pair shoes! (and don’t forget the bow.)

“Shoes are boring; wear sneakers”

Converse “design it yourself” ads are all over web pages I go to: I say, “shoes somebody else makes are boring, make your own!” Why be stuck with choosing colors and maybe the location of a rivet or two? Start with my book, How to make the simplest sandals for everyone with your own two hands! And out of recycled materials, no less!

I was talking with a fellow recently who wants to make high end shoes for men. As I reflected on our conversation, the idea came to me that a brilliant business move might be to make the “fisher(man)” sandal, and make the heel section and toe-strap out of a neutral, less-expensive leather, then make the cross-straps out of more interesting colors and textures of leathers; perhaps the customer could select the colors and types of leather that he wants for the cross-straps from strips on display.  His customized sandals could be ready in hours.

The fisher sandal that is featured in “simplest sandals” has an elastic instead of a leather strap; great for women’s and children’s sandals, but not sufficiently “upscale” for the man’s sandal I am imagining. I’ll be working on making patterns for the fitted heel section and strap so it can be available for those who are intrigued by this concept. I did create a children’s pattern such as this one several years ago for an organization in Haiti; you can see the sandals in the young Haitian man’s hands, one pair I sent as a sample, the other pair he made himself.