Update on “warm hands, warm hearts, warm feet” project

In answer to several inquiries, this project is very important to me. My goal is to design a boot that can be made from felted recycled wool coats, and to put the pattern on this site without charge. My request is that the first pair that is made goes to a small child who needs it, either in the maker’s local area or on a northern reservation.

But now that I have a little granddaughter I try boots on her, and so far it’s been “back to the drawing board” with each model. I thought I had a perfected pair today, I had so much fun serging the edges in four bright threads. Of course the shoe can have a zig-zag edge, or be entirely stitched by hand.

But, the new boots came right off her feet as she was crawling around on the floor. Velcro just isn’t enough, it seems. So now I am redesigning them with a tie to cinch nice and tight. It doesn’t help that my granddaughter’s calves are shaped like cones so everything seems to slide right off – but I imagine she’s a typical child in that respect. So, hopefully within a week or so I’ll be putting the pattern and instructions online. Please check back!

Here’s a photo of the model with a velcro closure


Previously, I had designed another boot, with a little velcro tab. I scratched it too, too hard to get on. A real kid makes it really challenging! And it’s a blessing of course, to know what really works and what doesn’t…..and to have a little granddaughter.





Leather objects catch my eye, but none more so that a handbag I saw on the arm of a woman who entered my tent at a craft fair – I had no camera so didn’t record it, but I can still visualize it. Large bag, all seams hand-stitched and couched, meaning that a thin strip of colorful leather was caught under the stitches. There were large red and ochre glass trade beads seemingly epoxied to the ends of various straps, and an adorable little man on a bicycle embroidered front and center in primitive stitching. Now I know these are all features of a Henry Cuir handbag!

I have couched a lot of seams since seeing this bag, and embroidered little creatures on many shoes..no epoxied beads yet… but this process reminds me of the value of utilizing ideas from one object to another, particularly when they are using the same medium.

If you’d like to peruse the world of Henry Cuir handbags, and maybe glean some ideas for your own leatherwork, I recommend you look at used ones on ebay.com. – not to mention buy one some day! Although you’re probably like me and think, “I can make that bag myself” yet never get around to it – and when I think some more about it,  I realize I don’t even need a bag!


I love to look at other articles made of leather for shoemaking inspiration, and one source that I keep going back to are Henry Cuir/Henry Beguelin (there was some sort of split into two companies) handbags. I go on ebay.com to see a serendipitous assortment of their products. But by all means, check out each of their website also. Funny, I love their bags so much, but not their shoes – I don’t understand why they don’t take the same aesthetic used in their bags and carry it over into their footwear.

And, each offers an example of the value of having a little unique feature that identifies your product. They stitch simple little characters somewhere on each “authentic” bag,

I have written elsewhere of the customer with gold-plated toenails who entered my craft fair booth; she had the most fascinating handbag I had seen..all the seams were stitched by hand, with a strip of leather “couched” under the stitches.

Here is an example of a couching stitch that I used at the heel of a children’s shoe, after seeing it on her “Henry” bag.


There were wonderful trade beads epoxied, I guess, to the ends of the couching strips. Here’s a bag that has the most similarities to the one I actually saw:



flat shoe inspiration




prairie walkers


I recently came across this notebook page that I somehow acquired many years ago. As I recall, these shoes were sold in a leather shop in Damariscotta, Maine.  Hopefully the shoemaker is now computer-savvy and will contact me, so I can ask permission to publish this! I hope the stitch-down shoemaker finds inspiration is these lovely drawings.




http://svetakletina.blogspot.co.il/ epoxy putty


shoemaking classes online

Finaly my shoemaking courses online started and now I have very busy daily schedule. I am not technical person and in the first week of courses I had too much unexpected technical issues that just got me off balance. One note to myself for the future, always work with professionals, it will save you a lot of time and health. Don’t worry I finally got on the right track with the help of my wonderful husband and everything working as I planned, in a very fast mode, but important thing is that it is working! In one of the first lessons that I made on the shoemaking platform I talk about one of the most wonderful materials that I found and use for shoemaking purposes and I want to mention it here on my blog as a treasure tip for all you shoemakers.
This wonderful material as epoxy glue. / A very useful update to this post! It called epoxy putty in US and you can find it in Home depot. Thank you Natasha/ It’s soft like clay, and when you mix it well it becomes solid like a rock. Honestly this material is not intended for use in the footwear industry, but I found it very useful when
you have only one type of last and want to work with another last. For example you have round toe last and dream about pointy toe last to make classical pointy shoes. So in this situation the epoxy glue will be a perfect solution for you to change your last with it. The greatest thing that actually drove me to make an entire course about it is, that you can remove it from your last when you don’t want pointy toe last anymore. It is removable, and that is what important. After it, if you want to change your rounded toe last to the square toe last, you can do it as well. Sure there is a method and technique working with this material, and you need to know how to make both lasts (right and left) identical , and I show it in my course.
I personally use the epoxy glue very often in my work when I want to experiment with
shapes of my existing lasts and change them. That’s why the first lesson in advanced level of my shoemaking courses I dedicated to this so useful and great ,in my opinion , theme. This method of changing you last’s design will open your mind about the possibilities that you have with your existing last and you will have the appetite to create sometimes even bizarre forms of last ,as it happened to me. For example, I want to show you some of them, that I made first with epoxy glue and then copied them in plastic for bigger scale manufacturing.

Huaracheblog.wordpress.com etc


If you haven’t ventured to this site before, now is a good time for the journey because there is a fascinating video –

Handmade Huaraches – A video By VULTURE COMPANY

to watch. There is so much ingenuity and beauty to marvel at on this site, enjoy!

I like these sandals because they are one of the few that are simple enough so I can figure out how they are made!  I’ve got to make a pair, it looks like the straps are made with one loooong thong, starting with the three straps across the ball of the foot – the widest one first – so these straps could be adjustable – than crossing back around the heel (where are the two ends tied together?) after first making a quick trip down into two holes alongside the heel to secure it there…lovely!


Here’s another pair I’d like to duplicate:

rubber tiresandal

Of course “barefoot sandals” originated in Mexico, so there’s lots of photos of these really sexy sandals on the site (why do cords that go around and around the ankle look so sensuous? I guess I can imagine the answer…how did I lose a book I had years ago, The Erotic Life of the Shoe, I don’t see it anywhere on google – darn, I could come up with lots of blog posts using that book!) Anyhow, I love the way the sandal straps are tied in this video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFsLeTtdoKc   I just ordered a pair of these hemp laces so I will soon know how they feel.


I have had this calendar photo on my wall for years, intrigued by the sandals because I couldn’t figure out how they were tied with just one thong..after the sandals of the Tumuhumara became popular I realized they were similar, but the pair on my guy had a leather heel piece. These are also highlighted on huaracheblog, I am so grateful for such an informative site.


Finally, last spring I gasped upon seeing these huaraches (in a photo of course) coming down a Dolce e Gabbana runway!


And, there is a reference to these on huarache blog, and an opportunity to look more closely at the variety of weaving patterns in them. Do any of you want to drop everything and dedicate your life to learning to make these?!


Leather patcher stitching machine refound!

Over a decade ago I saw a stitching machine for sale in Mother Earth News; it was offered for sale by a fellow who imported non-electric tools and machines from China. I spoke with him, he described this machine as one that shoe-repairmen would strap on their backs and carry from village to village, setting up shop wherever there was a place to clamp it down.

I ordered one and really liked the hand-crank. I used 138 thread, I believe it could handle thicker. I eventually stopped using it because it didn’t have enough space under the presser foot for me to stitch on soles as I liked to do – I got the electric Cowboy Stitcher as a replacement and continue to love this machine. But, if you’d like to use the thicker thread that is needed to make stitch-down shoes and want a low-cost machine, this might be what you are looking for. I believe you’d have to use shoe cement to attach the sole, unless your soling is thin.


You can order this machine from: http://www.leatherpatcher.com/


Shoemaking schools for learning how to make fully-lasted shoes

I got this email several days ago, and was reminded that making simple “stitch-downs”, the type of shoes that I teach the construction of, doesn’t create the type of refined shoe that many people want to make. So, for those of you in this category, here is the email, and also a comment on www.shoecollege.com.


Sharon, I saw you mentioned shoe schools that make lasted shoes.

I just hand sewed welts onto my classic shoes (Classic Men’s Shoe Class) at Bonney & Wills in Ashland, Oregon.  Bill Shanor is an excellent teacher.

My soon to be wearable new shoes are in black cherry goat. I will burnish them after the sole is cemented on tomorrow.

It’s a six day class – 8 hour days. It’s really a wonderful experience. This school would be another option to add to your list of other shoe schools.

Bill also teaches a ladies fashion shoe course, an unlasted shoe course, a boot course, too. He also has a longer western boot course for someone interested in pursuing it further. The classes start at 7 days and some are 13 days. I think the western boot course is 3 weeks.

The classes are small for individual attention.

Thanks for offering shoe making supplies. The stuff can be hard to find for individuals.

Bill Shanor is a really generous teacher. Patterns are individual, designed by the student with direction from Bill.

He teaches the process the way he makes custom boots – a step at a time. No short cuts. There is a lot of psychology in what makes a shoe ‘fit’ to the wearer.

He really helps to steer students when help is needed. If a student is grooving, he steps back to let it happen.

The class is intense and well paced. Of course, Ashland, Oregon is a nice back drop. I lasted my shoes. I sewed the welts and insoles on.

It was well worth the time and money. I’ve taken two day professional workshops in which I gained significantly less. I’m glad I stumbled onto Bonney and Wills.

Are my first shoes perfect? Nope. And I’ve worn them to work every single day since I returned from class.

I’m excited every time I put them on and notice them. 😉

Here are my self-designed lady-like Oxford shoes in black topped, red dyed goat that reads burgundy:



Someone wrote to me recently asking where they could learn to make “German stormtrooper boots”. Well, that’s not something he could learn from me! But I thought of the fabulous boots made by Tamera Lyndsey in the gallery section of the book I wrote with Lark Publishers, Crafting Handmade Shoes. I checked out her shoemaking site, www.shoecollege.com, and was delighted to read that she is “big time” into teaching shoemaking in Jerome, AZ.

So if I had extra money and time – and wasn’t so continually enamored with making simple shoes –  that’s where I would head – and then I’d make a stop in Ashland for a workshop with Bill Shanor!

Shoe photo from Sierra Leone

shoessierraleoneThis photo sent from the top of a hill in Sierra Leone shows the well-worn shoes of a young man who made them when he was a shoemaking student of mine.  He wrote that the shoes had served him well on his journey there, where he was volunteering with an aid organization.

When you make footwear from 4-5-ounce leather as he did, and use no more than three pieces to make a shoe – the vamp, heel quarters and sole – they are rugged and last a long time. There is minimal stitching to come undone, and if soles are stitched on there is no cement to come un-cemented. If stitching wears, the shoes can be re-stitched. A repairable shoe seems like a good type to wear in such a remote location.