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.

DSCN0757

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..

DSCN0771

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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