Tonight I scored on Pinterest by finding this website and accompanying facebook page:

Although Martin Moser claims he is not a shoemaker, you will see some of the most extraordinary and beautiful recreations of historical footwear on his pages. I love this shoe (unfortunately he does not take square photos so getting a whole shoe into one of his photos doesn’t happen very often), it’s a half “nomoc”, if you’ve been following my terminology.. Another unfortunate thing is that he does not supply directions for recreating the shoes that he makes, but many of them are sufficiently simple, such as this one, that I could make up a tutorial for it eventually…

I realize this photo is tiny, but if you go to this page on his website you will see large exquisite photos of this – and many other – shoes.

And, the bit of carving or embossing on the vamp is sublime. I have much gratitude for your work, Martin!

dscn0607A friend discovered this hole punch at Michael’s craft store. It punches a tiny hole, smaller than the 00 punch I have been using. I recommend it for punching holes in leather, just put your thumb over the the end with the punch tube on it while pressing to give a little extra “oomph”. First, you need to remove the metal spring inside it with pliers.

Since my simple shoemaking techniques involve punching lots of holes before hand-stitching, this punch really comes in handy. Admittedly the punching tube is quite short, so it’s a little hard to see exactly where you’re punching – but it can be done.

The best part of this punch is that the little round pieces of leather are captured in a compartment on the other end of the punch – no more tiny leather circles all over the workroom!


“I’m on a roll”

I love to look up the etymology of phrases that enter my head such as “I’m on a roll” – I found that it’s basically the notion that “an object in motion tends to stay in motion”. I have indeed been experiencing “a prolonged spell of good fortune” that being “on a roll” implies.

img_0472First I went to the life-changing-Reuse Convention, then had a lovely shoemaking workshop in Maine. This weekend I taught at NewVestures, a new Makers’ Space in Lowell, MA. Makers’ Spaces provide all the equipment needed for people to start small businesses, as well as many other services. NewVestures is focusing on sewing, but it’s easy to see that the Director and Founder Diana Coluntino is open to supporting the making of most anything, that will contribute to the well-being of the community of Lowell.

I was so excited by Diana’s creative energy. img_0483Her in-process canvas pieces were first striped with masking tape, then painted, then the tape came off, then paint was applied with abandon, so much freedom–

I know I was observing freedom because I don’t really have it with paint – but I think she’s going to release me from paint inhibition.. I dream of offering a canvas scuff-making workshop, with her teaching the participants and me what is possible with paint – then we’ll do it! Afterwards, I’ll teach them how to transform their masterpiece into a pair of “bad-ass” scuffs!

Here are First Footsteps shoes made by workshop participants, everyone likes two-tone.


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.

My experience at the Reuse/Conex in Somerville MA 10.17-18

img_20160831_221330521I was second-guessing myself as I journeyed to the Reuse Convention – would this effort and expense pay off – would I learn something or meet up with someone who could help my business thrive?

I re-use upholstery leather scraps and felted wool coats and inner tubes in making my shoemaking kits, so the chances were good that SOMETHING would happen.

The excitement was high among the vendors, presenters and conference attendees – clearly these are Reuse zealots – and, as I was to learn, for good reason. And, I’m more revved up than ever..and convinced that my shoes are needed in this world.

Speaker after speaker talked about the abundance of usable materials that is wasted when it goes into a landfill – wood, fixtures, steel girders from demolished buildings, furniture, food, textiles, electronics, limitless art project materials….. Each material had a champion who was working feverishly to raise the percentage of that material that is reused.

There were multiple vendors representing creative reuse centers – for New England residents there’s  in Somerville. (For those in Western MA there’s Their tables were exploding with beautiful stuff – arty materials and projects made from them. I saw a wood stacking toy about 18″ high with maybe a dozen most beautiful pieces of wood stacked on it, each a different wood and in a different shape…and so much more..

One of my favorite businesses created recycled latex paint. Every time I have tried to mix paint colors, it has ended up being a pink-tan-grey-color that I had to immediately discard. However, “recolor” paints ( are available in beautiful colors – a spokesperson said that they mix reds together, blues together, etc, 55-gallons at a time… They had a supply of chalk paint that they generously gave to inquiring persons like myself, so I accepted a purple chalk paint that I will use to make little chalk boards for guests at my granddaughter’s forthcoming fourth birthday party.

The little boards that will be painted with the chalk paint will come from Extras for Creative Reuse ( – this store in Peabody Ma. has some perfect-sized formica sample pieces, the store owner told me. She said that the store has not only these treasures, but a generous supply of leather samples, some of which she had with her and gave to me. I think this is the MOTHERLODE of shoemaking materials I was hoping to find at this convention! I’ll be stopping by the store on my way to Portland, Me., where I’ll be teaching a shoemaking workshop this weekend.

Then there’s Damon Carson from who accepts BIG things in his warehouses – he has 50 miles of fire hose used for fighting big wildfires in the northwest, giant chunks of concrete satellite dish bases that is now being used to provide ‘ballast” for empty trucks cruising across states like Wyoming with severe wind problems, and so much more. When I mentioned my interest in finding some material that could be used for shoe soling, he said he had just received a huge number of sheets of soling for bowling shoes! He’ll be sending me a sample, along with samples of conveyor belt and any other substance that might conceivably be used for shoe soles.

The epitome of reuse was found in Durham, NC. The reuse store there ( has recently banded together with other local businesses to purchase a vacant shopping mall. Most every kind of maker machine, equipment and instruction will be found in the building – welding shops, wood-working shops, sewing shops –  that everyone can use and learn in.  There will be a “repair cafe” where people can bring their non-functional appliances, lamps, electronics, etc and receive education and help on how to fix them. The Scrap Exchange is a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote creativity, environmental awareness, and community through reuse. Now if we can just duplicate this model everywhere…

I am so grateful for Mary Ellen Etienne and all the volunteers who made this gathering so inspirational. I would bet that each participant is fired up to make REUSE in the “recycle, reuse, reduce” slogan more “sexy” than ever!

(shoes in photo were made from reused materials by Eliza Bigelow)


The joy of scrap-picking


dscn0062A few weeks ago a friend came to my house so we could design a simple scuff that her students could make. While here she mentioned that she had been to a motorcycle jacket-making factory in Fall River, MA, where they gave away their scrap leather. I started salivating, because I am making toddler and adult shoemaking kits using upcycled materials and am always looking for new sources.  So, yesterday I made the journey too.

The motorcycle jackets in the showroom on the first floor of the factory were beautiful – I had expected the leather to be quite soft and thin but it was not – it was maybe 4-ounce Italian leather (I saw an Italian address on a box), black with an amazing sheen.

At first it seemed it wasn’t a good scrap day, as I heard an employee say that they were cutting out a lot of small pieces from the leather. But as we traveled to the various stations, boxes of scraps appeared and I began to feel like I had won the lottery!

I saw scraps being added to a trash bag liner of a big barrel and asked if the bag was available; the person working there said, “You wouldn’t want this bag, it has food and other trash mixed in”. I said, “Oh yes I do”, and grabbed the bag. (The first thing I did when I got home was to clean that bag out, the scraps I got from it were well worth the effort (the leather scraps, not the food).

There was only one problem: since they were careful to use this valuable leather as completely as possible, the scraps were small. If I were in the key chain business this would be no problem, but I wanted to use this leather for my women’s shoemaking kits. On the way home, I remembered a pair of “kit” shoes I had recently made for myself. I had wanted to use up the last of a lavender hide to make my shoes but none of the pieces were sufficiently big – so I added extra seams, and pieced the shoe together.

So that’s what can be made from one of my shoemaking kits – black shoes with an extra couple of seams made from the finest motorcycle jacket scraps!


A workshop with Kathleen

dscn0058-version-2Several years ago I met Kathleen Grevers at a Cordwainer’s Convention in Rutland, VT – she leads a shoe design trip to Italy and the Netherlands for students in the Apparel Department at Rhode Island School of Design, among other teaching responsibilities.

She asked me if I would teach a one-day shoemaking workshop to students after they returned from the trip – they learn about shoe design, but didn’t know how to make a shoe – and making a shoe was a requirement for their final presentation. I agreed to brave January weather in Providence, and had a delightful time teaching the group for several years.

Now she is also teaching at Walnut Hill School for the Arts, and wants to teach simple shoemaking to the Apparel students there. She came out for the day to my home in Western MA, and we had an opportunity for lots of sharing. I most benefited from hearing about a company that has motorcycle jacket scraps, and of an eclectic shoemaking instructor,

We made a custom closed-toe scuff that we thought her students would enjoy making, like the one above. An advantage of making this shoe is the large area it offers – on both upper and sole, for “expression”, as Kathleen describes it.

I’ll be putting the tutorial for making this scuff on my website, and as my first “instructables”, soon. It’s a useful shoe to know how to make since, because it is customized, it can be made to fit a grandmother with swollen feet as well as a child who wants warm toes.

The scuff above was made with an upper of two layers of split leather from, and a sole made from two layers of an eco yoga mat.  I love the color and soft texture of the split, but will have to “test-wear-it” to determine how durable it – and the sole – will be.

The multiple wonders of natural rubber soling

ukatamas, Huaraches, Huarache Sandal, Huarache, Mexican Huarache, ハンドメイド・シューズ, Leather Sandals, Lädersandaler, الجلود والصنادل, 皮凉鞋, Leren Sandalen, Sandales en Cuir, Ledersandalen, चमड़े के सैंडल, Sandali in Pelle, 革のサンダル, Skinn Sandaler, Sandalias de Cuero, Lädersandaler, Huaraches, Guaraches, Mexican Sandals, Sandali Messicani, 멕시코 샌들, मेक्सिको सैंडल, Sandales Mexicains, Meksikanske Sandaler, Mexicaanse Sandalen, メキシコのサンダル, 墨西哥凉鞋, Мексиканские сандалии, Mexikanska Sandaler, Mexikanischen Sandalen, ワラチ, ワラチ, المكسيكي الصنادل, Woven Sandals, Sandali Intrecciati, 编织凉鞋, Gewebten Sandalen, Geweven Sandalen, Sandales Tissées, 不織布サンダル, 짠 샌들, Vevde Sandaler, тканые сандалии, Sandalias Tejidas, Vävda Sandaler, المنسوجة الصنادل, बुना सैंडल, Handmade Sandals, Sandali fatti a mano, 手工凉鞋, Sandales à la main, हस्तनिर्मित सैंडल, 手作りのサンダル, Håndlagde Sandaler, Sandalias Hechas a Mano, Handgjorda Sandaler, Handgefertigte Sandalen, الصنادل المصنوعة يدويا, Crepe Rubber Sole, Natural Rubber Sole

Since I have been using natural crepe soling for years, I was thrilled to read this information on Huarache blog:

úkata+ Oaxaca Supernatural Huaraches – In Stock

Not only is soling from rubber trees natural and ecological, but the article below points out another reason for supporting the growth of rubber trees.

I always stitch on natural rubber soling, so I don’t need to use the toxic contact cement that is required to hold on an un-stitched sole.

The Environmental Science

The environmentally friendly Hevea brasiliensis rubber tree creates not only biodegradable rubber which can be used to make shoe soles, but the tree can also stock large amounts of carbon in its biomass.

Its calculated that annually rubber trees absorb 363 Million Kg of Carbon dioxide, a high carbon sequestration which is calculated to be greater than that of a rainforest (Variation of soil fertility and carbon sequestration by planting Hevea brasiliensis in Hainan Island, China – Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences,Beijing). The increased use of regularly harvested rubber trees in the world could potentially also alleviate the greenhouse effect and global warming (Handbook of Elastomers, Second Edition, by Marcel Dekker Inc 2001) .

By using more natural rubber products, we can essentially return some of the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere back into the soil where it existed in the form of oil and coal. We can contribute towards recreating the sustainable and natural carbon equilibrium that has existed on earth for thousands of years.

Lastly I should mention how cool and sheltered a rubber plantations feel. I don’t think I have ever experienced a similarly peaceful industrial environment.

My very own pair of center-seam shoes

DSCN0001To double-check the directions for my new shoemaking kit, I made a pair of shoes for myself. I had some mauve scraps that weren’t big enough for making all the upper parts, so I cut out and lined the pieces that made up each part, punched stitching holes in them, then stitched them together. For stitching, I used a multi-color thread from (I noticed they have a glow-in-the-dark cord, that opens up some possibilities!)

I opted for the “skidder” (big logging truck) inner tube soles and I really like them – I told my husband, when he makes his next trip to Orange, Ma., to stop at the tire store and pick up all the skidder inner tubes they have! They’re not slippery at all, on the surfaces I have walked on thus far (I haven’t tried ice). I’m a little disappointed as I thought they might be great for spinning while dancing, but they “grab” too much. My shoemaking friend Sarah has said the flexible soles are great for bike-riding – really grips the pedals. So, I’m all in on inner tube soles!

The next time I’m at a really boring gathering, I’m planning to sit and wrap heavy cord around the sole stitches, four on each stitch, to prevent abrading. I plan to check them every once-in-a-while to see if they need re-wrapping.   I don’t expect them to abrade much, because the sole patterns have 1/8″ added to them, so the stitches shouldn’t actually be under your feet.

I also offer a kit with natural rubber soling. You wouldn’t need to wrap the stitches on these soles, because the stitches compress the soling so they are up off of the ground.

I’ll wear them as I walk on my country road in the morning, I greatly enjoy feeling the earth beneath my feet (it’s like having a foot massage) in flexible-soled shoes, but with the protection of brawny skidder inner tubes!


Heather’s shoemaking workshop

Maria's Grey Pergamena Shoe 7.2016

The results are in from Heather’s center-seam shoemaking workshop with fourteen Waldorf School hand-work teachers – and most participants successfully made nice-looking shoes that fit!

Two participants made shoes that were too big. They made their own patterns by taping their feet, and it’s expected that there will be some trial and error-learning – that’s why I encourage the making of “mock-ups” before making the actual shoe so patterns can be “tweeked” – which all of the students in the workshop made so it’s not “fool-proof”.  Perhaps they didn’t slant their pencils in sufficiently when drawing around the sides of their feet.

Another participant’s shoes were loose along the topline. A good thing about center-seam shoes is that the topline of the pattern can be tightened or “sprung”, so this is a reminder to consider doing this for anyone who has a narrow, thin foot.

Marcela's Embossed Navy ShoeHere are photos of two of the pairs of shoes that were made. They are both made of Pergamena vegetable-tanned leather – the grey pair above has the suede-side out. Doesn’t the “bar” stitch down the vamp of the shoe look perfect with the square neckline?! And, they both have natural rubber soles. Eco-shoes for sure.

These two pairs are really beautiful in that the makers pulled the stitches evenly when stitching the uppers to the sole, as there is a nice even line on both shoes. The blue pair is embellished with an embossed pattern, which is a possibility when working with vegetable-tanned leather.

So, I will be selling kits for making these shoes – or if you can pull together your own materials and tools, you can purchase just the directions and standard patterns. I’ll be putting these in my shop over the weekend.