New videos will soon be available, some for free and some for sale

Today I uploaded four videos to youtube, and will then transfer them to this blog; I’ve been visiting my ancient mother, and while she watches television I put my headphones on and edit movies. I made a lot of progress during a recent visit, and have videos on three stitching techniques: how to do the simultaneous running stitch, the X and bar stitch for stitching  “butt seams”, and how to use the stitching awl.

 

I also have five teaching videos to burn, and will be offering them for sale at www.etsy.com/shop/simpleshoemaking. They are: how to make a child’s derby shoe (all processes are the same as those used to making adult footwear); how to make sandals; how to make the chukka moccasin; how to make a stitch-down renaissance-faire boot; and how to make a simple wellington boot. Now I will have more time for blogging which I have been looking forward to for a long time; my folder of shoemaking blogging topics is bursting! (even though it’s digital!)

 

While downloading the videos to Youtube, I caught a glimpse of other shoemaking videos out there; if you watched them all, you’d have quite an eclectic education – and many different opinions on how things are best done. I humbly believe that if you want to make something simple and ecological, mine are a good place to start.

question about vegetable-tanned soling leather

So, I hate to bother you, but I just cannot figure this out:  I wanted to get some veg-tanned leather (as you recommend) for topsoles, but when I went to look for it, there’s a dizzying variety.  There’s bellies, shoulders, double-shoulders, saddle skirting, tooling sides, culatta….

What in the world am I looking for?  I assume they have different properties, based on what part of the beast, but I don’t know what, or if they’re a moot point at this weight/for shoes.  I don’t want to get the wrong thing–leather’s too expensive for that!

answer: well, i don’t have the final word on that – i have purchased veg-tan from hide-house and wickett and craig – hide-house has it in every thickness, which is convenient, but I got the cheaper soling and it has a formaldehyde odor that doesn’t go away – wicket and craig only has thicker soling, it smells fine, which they will thin down but at increased cost. – although they do have “belt leather” that is maybe 4-5 ounce – I get “skirting” from wicket and craig, it’s a cheaper cut for one thing, and works fine… 8 – 10 oz. is what I get – best, sharon

trippen

I am so happy that I have shoemaking students coming to my home to learn – it gives me a great reason to purchase materials – and books! that if they were only for me – well, I have so many design ideas already that I don’t think I have enough years left to experiment with them all. The latest book I purchased – for my students – is a 5″ x 8″ book from Trippen, the German shoemaking company. It shipped from Germany, is printed both in English and in German, has almost 600 pages of – inspiration. There is nothing I love more than taking an advant-garde shoe with all its chunky sole and industrial hardware, and tame it down into a great little “stitch-down”. But early-on in the book, I ran into “meander” – an actual stitch-down, rendered in softest-elk (as most Trippen shoes are) – I would hardly modify it at all. I have an elk hide, will be whipping up myself a “meandering pair” some day. Maybe you will too?

stitch-down from Trippen

 

Now that I look at it — this shoe is a little trickier to make than I had realized – where do all those tabs come from that make up the toe?

must make ishvara sandals!

greetings, I have never been so eager to make a new pair of sandals as I have these: These are “stitch-downs”! Doesn’t it seem that the edges are turned out, then stitched to the sole?! To make the ankle strap, which seems to be about 1/2″ wide, cut a strip of leather 1 3/16″ wide. Cut another piece of leather to act as the “core” of the ankle strap slightly less than !/2″, about 3/8″ wide. Draw a line down the center of one side with a pen. Apply contact cement (Titan DX recommended) to the inside of the strap leather and the core leather. When the cement has dried, adhere the strap leather along the pen line, rotate the strap so you now adhere the strap leather to the outside of the core leather, then finish by turning the strap again and adhering the remaining strap leather. It might be best to make a little sample of the actual leathers you are using, to make sure that the last piece butts up against the pen line.  Press firmly, and your strap is completed. As far as how to anchor the straps, please see my sandalmaking video.

In Hindu philosophy, isIn Hindu philosophy, ishvara is the Sanskrit word for soul. “There must be soul in what you do,” says Jose Marco, the designer of the sandal brand that bears the name. “Whatever it may be — cooking, caring for a plant, choosing a beautiful piece of leather to make sandals — soul is needed.” Having designed and sold Ishvara’s classic tanned-leather Mediterranean sandals from a tiny beach storefront in Formentera, Spain (the brand is based in Ibiza), since 1982, Marco is finally bringing his casual, colorful flats to the states. These python albarcas, modeled after ones commonly worn by fishermen in the Balearic Islands, are a standout. Sole (or should I say soul) searching has never been easier.

Ishvara sandals, $305. At Pamela Robbins, (914) 472-4033

ishvara sandals
make these sandals

www.lunaboots.com

If you’re ever in Tasmania….look up Luna. I had the good fortune to have a 3-day individual workshop with Luna perhaps 15 years ago,when she was in New England visiting her brother. I still find patterns with her name on them that I have not tried to make footwear from – but this one that I just came across will be an exception. I am just finishing up my moccasin-making book, and am adding a design in which the “plug” doesn’t curve up when stitched to the vamp, but instead curves inward. I’ll be making a video to let you know what I’m talking about, but just serendipitously came upon this sketch of hers, that shows how great this look can be.

 

Quotation from Albert Einstein

“If I had known they were going to do this, I would have become a shoemaker”

Albert Einstein, after the US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, 1945

Leather carvers and stampers: make these flip-flops!


I get Footwear New via email, and what fun it is to see all the upscale footwear! There is an inspiration in every edition; in the latest, I saw this pair of flip-flops with a medallion attached, that I imagine a leather-carver or stamper couldn’t resist recreating with a decoration of his or her own making. If you are a leather-worker and don’t know how to make flip-flops, the process is described in my book Slow Sandals.

Flip-flops are especially simple to make if you order pre-cut burgundy straps from Landwerlin Leather (317)636-8300.




Brenden, the last shoemaker in Ireland

Through a mutual friend, I came to know of Brenden, who makes lovely stitch-down shoes that are sold in a craft shop in County Cork. He is perhaps the last shoemaker in Ireland, outside of those who make orthopedic shoes. That’s a pretty sad thought, since I am sure a generation or two ago there was at least one in every village. Perhaps the tide is turning, and local makers will again be sufficiently-valued, so that they will be able to sustain themselves and their families.

Brenden sent a few photos to me of his shoemaking process, and once I had the pleasure of asking him questions on the telephone. I modeled the “Irish Field Boot”, also known in Slow Shoes for Women as the low derby boot, after his boots.

I have scrutinized these photos, especially because I see some machinery that I do not have and wish that I did. One is an “out-stitching machine” that appears to let him stitch the sole t   o the upper very close in around the lasted shoe. The other seems to be a hand-made machine that puts pressure on the newly-adhered-sole, strengthening the bond.

 

A bit of my history – and why make shoes?

 

Why make shoes?

My shoemaking books are complete, and my shoemaking “to do” list has been pared down to a manageable number of projects (transform adult patterns into more patterns for children; make a video of the “Stitch-in” process; get my etsy shop up and running). It’s time to communicate directly with aspiring shoemakers!

There are so many different reasons why people are interested in making shoes: I have recently heard from two grandmothers – one has a teen-age granddaughter with feet so wide and short that she can only wear birkenstocks, and the other has a teen-age granddaughter who wears size 15 shoes! She would like to have some party shoes, which don’t come in the men’s sizes that she wears.

There are many voices now advising people to buy locally-made products, food being the most obvious, but any form of apparel, certainly footwear, benefits from the same consciousness. Richard Heinberg, who sends out a monthly email from the “Post-carbon Institute”, advised a student who asked what he should do to prepare for an uncertain future, to learn to “butcher meat and make shoes”. And tan the hide while you’re at it, I guess. Being a vegetarian I don’t get the butchering part, but I certainly get the “make shoes” part. There are many people who are able to grow their own food, build themselves a house, and sew or knit everything they need to wear – but don’t know how to make their own shoes. My mission is to complete their empowerment by providing them with the knowledge of how to make those shoes.

I started out making simple stitch-down shoes, relying on directions in a book from the 70’s by Christine Lewis-Clark (why is it that I always remember her last name?) entitled “”. This book encourages readers to mold shoes over their feet. Trust me, shoes that duplicate the shape of most people’s feet are far from attractive! I still make simple stitch-down shoes. But I’ve gone over to the other side, and instruct that making shoes over lasts is the only way to go. Using standard lasts – and even those that have been customized, allows the maker to proudly declare, “these shoes? I made them myself!”