The story of five shoes

I have been developing a minimalist, flexible shoe for a women’s shoemaking kit for quite a while, and I plan to provide the same kit to participants when I teach group shoemaking workshops. To me this is the simplest first shoe to make, yet it offers – trust me – unlimited design opportunities for making the shoes uniquely your own.

My friend Heather will be teaching a shoemaking workshop to fourteen Waldorf School hand-work teachers next week, so the pressure was on for us to decide what would be the ultimate shoe to make for the kits, and in her workshops and mine. We did it – the center-seam shoe is the winner!

The shoes that Heather and I make and teach others to make are ecological. Why not be part of the solution instead of the problem?! That means no use of toxic shoe cements and if possible, the use of “upcycled” materials. And, if some leather has to be purchased to make the shoes, it needs to be vegetable-tanned.

For soling, we use either “upcycled” tractor inner tube or natural rubber. I made one sample using natural rubber, and the rest using inner tube.

(Upcycling, also known as creative reuse, is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless and/or unwanted products into new materials or products).

I made samples in women’s sizes 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 for her students to try on, which of course is the easiest way to know which size shoe for each to make. If a participant finds that none of these shoes fit, we’ll help the student make a custom center-seam shoe.

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My process evolved as I made each one. I look forward to the feedback from Heather’s workshop, then my simple shoemaking kit will have been rigorously-tested and ready to be offered in my website store!

Here are some notes about the shoes that I made:

DSCN0759size 10. I decided to use upholstery remnants for the uppers of the kit shoes. I expect that workshop participants who want to continue making shoes will create their own shoemaking kits (directions are included), and if they use leather from thrift-store clothing or handbags, that leather is usually about the same thickness and has similar qualities to the upholstery remnants.

Even though I have accumulated a big supply of remnants, I am quite miserly when I think about using any of them for making samples. But I found a grey remnant with a stretched-out belly area that would not be suitable for including in a kit, so I used it to make this shoe. I knew I wanted to line the shoes, as upholstery leather is a little thin, so I thought I would line the shoe with more of the same leather.

Then I had to decide how to connect the tabs. I looked through my ribbon and shoelaces, but finally decided on a piece of elastic.

DSCN0768size 8. I decided that I wouldn’t use upholstery remnants for lining, that it would use them up faster than I would like. So I thought I would experiment with using felt lining. It seems felt is made from recycled plastic bottles these days, so I thought its use would satisfy my ecological requirements. (If you know Waldorf School handwork teachers, you know they would be using beautiful wool felt.)

I wanted to make a shoe that men would be comfortable wearing, so I made this shoe a little higher, with a velcro tab to close it. I also want to try it without the tab, and then with lacing and a tongue – so many possibilities… I lined it with felt, and it seemed to work..

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size 7. With a center-seam, it’s a temptation to make one side one color and the other a different color.. but I’m not too crazy about the look. But I thought with another color added it might look more like a quilt. I lined it with felt again – and this time I knew it was NOT a good choice.. the quality was terrible, it practically shredded, and “felt” awful.

I thought I’d repeat the colors with “couching” strips, that are visible under the seam stitching.

The final experiment on this shoe was to use a single running stitch along the topline, and I liked the way it looked.. the best thing about it is that it can gather in the topline so it’s snug. And, what to do with the ends of the threads once they emerge at the heel, I put some beads on them – the threads could terminate in the front of the shoe also.DSCN0761

size 9. I had an abundance of lavender suede, so I parted with some of it for this sample. I had some turquoise deerskin that was too soft for any other use, so it became the lining. I added a tiny bit of embroidery, to show another embellishment option.

DSCN0764size 6. I also had some rather stiff white suede that I didn’t think I would ever use, and I had a page of my granddaughter’s “writing” that I thought I would embellish the shoe with (she’s three). I tried to copy the “writing” with a permanent marker.

She had sat on my lap at my treadle stitching machine a few days previously, and asked me to stitch a heart, while she “helped” guide the leather under the needle. I wanted a sample of “appliqué” to put on one of the shoes, so I cut out the heart and stitched it on – and named the shoe “Millie’s message”.

I lined this shoe with a piece of a vegetable-tanned split from www.etsy.com/shop/pergamenany, and it was clear that this was the ultimate lining material for the kit shoes. I think this is the last decision we need to make!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been developing a shoemaking kit for women for quite a while, and I plan to provide the same kit to participants when I teach group shoemaking workshops.

 

My friend Heather will be teaching a shoemaking workshop to fourteen Waldorf School hand-work teachers next week, so the pressure was on for us to decide what would be the best shoe to make for the kits, and in her workshops and mine. We did it – the center-seam shoe is the winner!

 

The shoes that Heather and I make and teach others to make are ecological. That means no use of toxic shoe cements and if possible, the use of “upcycled” materials. And, if some leather has to be purchased to make the shoes, it needs to be vegetable-tanned.

 

For soling, we use either “upcycled” tractor inner tube or natural rubber. I made one sample using natural rubber, and the rest using inner tube.

 

(Upcycling, also known as creative reuse, is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless and/or unwanted products into new materials or products).

I made samples in women’s sizes 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 for her students to try on, which of course is the easiest way to know which size shoe for each to make. If a participant finds that none of these shoes fit, we’ll help the student make a custom center-seam shoe.

 

My process evolved as I made each one. I look forward to the feedback from Heather’s workshop, then my simple shoemaking kit will have been rigorously-tested and ready to be offered in my website store!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some notes about the shoes that I made:

size 10. I decided to use upholstery remnants for the uppers of the kit shoes. I expect that workshop participants who want to continue making shoes will create their own shoemaking kits (directions are included), and if they use leather from thrift-store clothing or handbags, that leather is usually about the same thickness and has similar qualities to the upholstery remnants.

 

Even though I have accumulated a big supply of remnants, I am quite miserly when I think about using any of them for making samples. But I found a grey remnant with a stretched-out belly area that would not be suitable for including in a kit, so I used it to make this shoe. I knew I wanted to line the shoes, as upholstery leather is a little thin, so I thought I would line the shoe with more of the same leather.

 

Then I had to decide how to connect the tabs. I looked through my ribbon and shoelaces, but finally decided on a piece of elastic.

 

size 8. I decided that I wouldn’t use upholstery remnants for lining, that it would use them up faster than I would like. So I thought I would experiment with using felt lining. It seems felt is made from recycled plastic bottles these days, so I thought its use would satisfy my ecological requirements. (If you know Waldorf School handwork teachers, you know they would be using beautiful wool felt.)

 

 

I wanted to make a shoe that men would be comfortable wearing, so I made this shoe a little higher, with a velcro tab to close it. I also wanted to try it without the tab, and then with lacing and a tongue… I lined it with felt, and it seemed to work..

 

 

 

 

 

 

size 7. With a center-seam, it’s a temptation to make one side one color and the other a different color.. but I’m not too crazy about the look. But I thought with another color added it might look more like a quilt. I lined it with felt again – and this time I knew it was NOT a good choice.. the quality was terrible, it practically shredded, and “felt” awful.

 

 

I thought I’d repeat the colors with “couching” strips, that are visible under the seam stitching.

 

The final experiment on this shoe was to use a single running stitch along the topline, and I liked the way it looked.. the best thing about it is that it can gather in the topline so it’s snug. And, what to do with the ends of the threads once they emerge at the heel

– the threads could terminate in the front of the shoe also… I put some beads on them..

 

size 9. I had an abundance of lavender suede, so I parted with some of it for this sample. I had some turquoise deerskin that was too soft for any other use, so it became the lining. I added a tiny bit of embroidery, to show another embellishment option.

 

 

 

size 6. I also had some rather stiff white suede that I didn’t think I would ever use, and I had a page of my granddaughter Millie’s “writing” that I thought I would embellish the shoe with (she’s three). I tried to copy the “writing” with a permanent marker.

 

 

She had sat on my lap at my treadle stitching machine a few days previously, and asked me to stitch a heart, while she “helped” guide the leather under the needle. I wanted a sample of “appliqué” to put on one of the shoes, so I cut out the heart and stitched it on – and named the shoe “Millie’s message”.

I lined this shoe with a piece of a vegetable-tanned split from www.etsy.com/shop/pergamenany, and it was clear that this was the ultimate lining material for the kits. Another decision made!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Honorable Cordwainers’ Company 32nd Annual General Meeting

nvcfeelings 2For those of you interested in gathering with other shoemakers, attending this meeting might be what you’re looking for. The “Honorable Cordwainers Company” is an organization that “promotes the study, practice, interpretation and preservation of historical shoemaking and allied trades”.  And, this  year’s meeting will be particularly educational and enjoyable because it will be at the

Bata Shoe Museum

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

October 4-6

The program will explore the theme “Material, Methods, Purpose and the Fourth Leg of Fashion” and will include tours of the fabulous Bata collection as well as hands-on demonstrations. The HCC website, thehcc.org will have the latest updates.

What I learned while teaching a shoemaking workshop

Diane's 1st pair of home made shoesI taught simple shoemaking at Snow Farm – The New England Craft Center – in Williamsburg, MA, recently. I had seven of the most congenial and creative students that could ever be hoped for. I wanted it to be simple and successful for everyone. And, that’s how it was for most participants, like Diane who made this red/brown pair.

DSCN1050I made nomoc variation* soles for everyone before the workshop (note the yellow heel piece on the sole, that says “UnkonvenTional shoes, handmade by emily”).

DSCN0572Five participants fit into standard sizes, but two had wide feet. For their custom upper patterns I asked them to measure their feet at the ball and at the half-way point so we could make the front half (vamps) of the shoes.  Then I taped a standard heel section pattern onto the vamp pattern. Well, the front parts – the vamps – of their shoes fit great, but the heel parts weren’t sufficiently ample.

DSCN0574I have never forgotten a piece of advice I received from a British workshop leader – “don’t call it a mistake, make it a feature”. So, we pieced and stitched, (the purple heel was part of the original plan, but the blue “inserts” were not!) and came up with these heels for one of the pairs of shoes.

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I don’t stop teaching until everyone has what they came for…a pair of shoes that fit, and a pattern they can use to make more shoes on their own. So, after returning home I made a masking tape copy of this colorful shoe, then a  mock-up of it for the maker to try on. If it fits, she’ll have what she needs to continue shoemaking. If it doesn’t, we’ll try again.

 

 

In my next workshop, that will be offered in Maine in August, I”ll teach how to make center-seam shoes. We’ll make a masking tape pattern over one of the maker’s feet, using the process described in my video “how to make custom shoes and lasts”.

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And, we’ll make “nomoc basic**” soles for the shoes in the workshop.

If you’re from Maine or nearby, please consider attending. Here’s a link to the brochure:

http://files.ctctcdn.com/4936d993101/696e618c-6c47-4e43-8978-e9a5119ac1b9.pdf

*nomoc variation soles – soles with bottom sole of natural rubber or thick inner tube, and topsole of leather that is 1/4″ bigger all around than the bottom sole. The topsole has holes punched around its edge, so any upper can be stitched to it.
**nomoc basic soles – soles with the same two layers, but both are the same size, and the upper is stitched to the sole through both layers.

Sometimes you just can’t win..

DSCN0464

I noticed this pair of denim slip-on sandals in my closet recently, and was reminded of the occasion of my making them– I was on vacation with my mother, and wanted to have a project with me. It was a laid-back vacation without much to do.

I decided to enter a contest found in a craft magazine: “Make something unique from denim!” I thought making these sandals would guarantee I would be the winner – what could be more creative and unusual?

I spent many hours making them, then mailed them in time to meet the deadline. I waited for the magazine’s decision, but didn’t hear anything.
Then, the next month’s magazine appeared, and I checked the back page to learn the results of the contest – and there was the winner and it wasn’t me! Someone won who made a pot holder out of a jeans pocket!

At least it allowed me to remain in that meditative stitching state for many hours during my time together with my mother, which was of great benefit to us both.

Results are in from my first shoemaking workshop in years

DSCN0969

The suspense was high for five weeks, as the students in my local adult education class made “nomocs” for themselves. I have only taught one person at a time for years, so making six pairs of shoes that would fit six students all at the same time was challenging for me.
But, I thought that the nomoc process simplifies shoemaking so much that maybe I could pull it off. Now, the verdict is in – the shoes fit! A few were a tiny bit tight, but I think putting them on lasts will stretch them out just right. And, they are beautiful! (I’ll post a group shot next week, at the final class).
I was expecting to make espadrille-type shoes with the participants, but when they saw a little “flat” shoe, a shown in the photo, in my bundle, all wanted to make it instead. So, I’ll offer students in the other workshops I have this summer- Snow Farm, Vestitures in Lowell, Ma and at The Handmade Effect in Portland, Me. – both styles of shoes to choose from. Yay nomocs! (you see that little edge with holes in it rising up from the sole, that the upper is stitched to, that’s what makes it a nomoc) – although lomocs and fomocs are great shoemaking processes too!

Really exciting eco-method for making shoes

Two posts in shoemaking forum’s facebook page this morning might be of interest to you as they were for me…

link to article: http://showtime.arts.ac.uk/nidagonul

Did you see this, Ellen? Ellen is a weaver as well as shoemaker, when she sees this article, she’ll have a pair like this made by sundown.

I have fretted with how to make soles from inner tubes less smooth and potentially slippery – and here’s a technique – I’m imagining the soles made from cotton clothesline wrapped with bike inner tubes. I recently read that having a creative project does wonders for an aging brain – shoemaking provides endless problems needing creative solutions – I’m so happy to have problems to solve every day!

http://www.ecouterre.com/faux-leather-made-from-fermented-tea-could-revolutionize-fashion/

This article describes a technique for making faux leather from fermented tea, and a recent article was posted about making faux leather from pineapple waste.

One problem that needs a creative solution: if biodegradable artificial leather gets manufactured on a scale to eliminate the need for “real” leather, what will happen to all those hides that are a by-product of the meat industry?

How to get your sole straight on your last

Screen shot 2016-03-26 at 5.26.36 PMDSCN0726

While watching an old video showing a shoemaker at work, I saw a solution to one of my biggest stitch-down shoemaking problems. It is very important that the sole has an evenly-distributed  1/4″ lip extending out from the bottom of the last. In other words, there needs to be 1/4″ of sole peeking out all around the edge of the last. One has to have very strong hands to center the sole, then holding the last and sole in place, flip it over without the sole shifting.

The solution to this problem is shown here. Shoemakers use a leather strap that goes under the foot, then around the last and sole, so these two are held together sufficiently tight that they won’t shift. Then the sole can be nailed to the bottom of the last in the correct position.

As you can see, I used a bicycle inner tube instead of a leather strap, cut and tied at the proper length for me. Making stitch-downs just got a whole lot easier!

Take a shoemaking workshop at Snow Farm this June!

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Does having a retreat in the Berkshires of W. Mass. at an exceptional craft and fine art school with a fabulous cafeteria (menu for everyone) appeal to you? Throw in a relaxed shoemaking workshop, and this might be the treat that you have wanted to give yourself for a long time.

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I will be teaching “How to Make Funky Shoes that Fit” at Snow Farm in Williamsburg, Ma., June 18/19.

The shoes will be made using my “nomoc” process, that involves stitching the upper you make to a sole with stitching holes along its edge. This allows for relative “instant shoemaking gratification”.  These shoes provide an opportunity to get creative with surface design using acrylic paint, threads, punches, dyes, beads and thin leather for making appliqués. We will use earth-friendly biodegradable or recycled materials and non-toxic cements.

Snow Farm is a beautiful place, come and immerse yourself in care, inspiration and the practical pursuit of simple shoemaking.

WWW.SNOWFARM.ORG

https://www.facebook.com/groups/shoemakingfun/

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I am excited about this new facebook group, and hope it will be of interest to you, too. There is a Shoemaking Forum facebook page, but most of the members are professional shoemakers, making footwear by the highest standards. The footwear that results is usually a refined men’s oxford shoe, or a women’s elegant high-heel shoe.

Shoemaking fun offers a page where those who make less conventional shoes can ask questions, share resources, etc. So have some shoemaking fun and become a member of the group!