How to get your sole straight on your last

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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!


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.


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.



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!

1930s Film of a German shoemaker making boots

There’s a lot to learn from this movie if you are making fully-lasted shoes.. I don’t make fully-lasted shoes, but I still need to nail the sole to the bottom of the last when making “stitch-downs”. And, that has always been challenging. But after watching this video, I took a bicycle inner tube, cut it, then tied it together just long enough to pass under my left foot and then over a last between my knees. The sole was held firmly in place on the bottom of the last as I pounded a couple of temporary nails into the sole to hold it on the last. When I turned the last over, the sole was perfectly centered – voila!

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Walter’s shoes


Walter  taught English in Thailand, and became fascinated by the colorful cloth shoes that many people were wearing there. Upon return to his home in Roxbury, Ma., he googled a bit and found Since it seemed that I made “unconventional shoes” from ecological materials using non-toxic cements, he got in touch and asked about doing an internship.  I thought I’d enjoy having someone to bounce shoemaking ideas off of who was many decades younger than me, so we made a deal; he would help me with photography and marketing ideas and I would help him design a prototype fabric shoe.

Challenges arose: how to make a fabric toebox so there was adequate toeroom and a smooth appearance in the toe area (we made a paste to coat the fabric toeboxes from an old recipe); how to make the shoe adjustable without using ties (there’s a strip of bicycle inner tube under the black and white strip over the instep); how to finish off the top edges of the shoe (he learned about the wonders of a serger); and how to make a nicely-finished stitch-down edge (he learned how to make bias tape from recycled jeans).

Here’s the shoe that has resulted from his many days of hard work! I can see him now with samples in each size at a Farmer’s Market in the Boston area this summer, vending footwear that is unique, ecological and beautiful! And I now have lots of great product photos and some interesting marketing ideas. I love having an intern!


Want to save $2,300.00 on a pair of sandals?!

Dolce & Gabbana Slave Sandals

These Dolce & Gabbana sandals cost $2,395.00. You could make these sandals for less than $95.00, meaning that you could save a lot of money! To make pom-poms in a fast and easy way:, they might cost $1.00 each..There are online instructions on how to make yarn tassels also. The little pom-poms on a band can be purchased at your local fabric store. Perhaps you have a collection of little charms that you can randomly add, or purchase a few.

I sell vegetable-tanned soles, so they could be purchased, or make them yourself. You would need very thin leather to fold over and make the ankle strap, Hide House sells a thin leather – Plonge 22-32 sqft 1.5-2oz but of course you would have to buy a whole hide – not a wise purchase for a couple of straps unless you are wanting to make your version of these sandals to sell..I have some that might be useful if you want to inquire..

You can also get some design ideas from the Masai sandal sold on the brothervellies site – if you know how to make bead strips on a loom, there are lots of ways they could be used in making bands for sandals.

Beaded Maasai Sandal

Punch patterns

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An interesting way to embellish footwear is with punch patterns – here’s a selection that might give you some inspiration. You might also be inspired by the way Emily Ruth Davies uses punch patterns on her beautiful shoes – All you need is a punch (00), a mallet, a pounding board underneath, and a pattern. and a steady hand.

Ultimate fully-lasted shoemaking video – treat yourself to a look at the shoes Jacob Blaise Ferrato is making in Cleveland. Even though they might be the “most complicated shoes you can possibly think of making” (made possible by that dandy sneaker sole that he happens to have, and the fabulous machine for stitching those soles to the shoes), there is much for the simple shoemaker to learn and enjoy on his site and in this video.

A personal post

Introducing my grandson Solomon Oak Strom, born 12/28/15, with his sister, Millie