There is a group of shoe and bootmakers that gathers once a year on the weekend nearest October 25, St. Crispin’s Day (the patron-saint of shoemakers, of course). This year the gathering was in Middlebury Vt, and I have just returned home from it.

I went with specific questions that I wanted answers for, and I am so grateful that my questions were answered. I am in process of creating “soles with an edge” with a leather sole and heel, in addition to the natural rubber sole and heel that I have always made, and needed information on thickness and type of leather, how to make a groove around the bottom edge so the stitches wouldn’t be on the ground, and how to make a nice shiny edge on the leather sole.

So, I’m looking for “5-7 ounce soling strips”, a sanding wheel for my dremel tool for making the stitching groove, and a “bone edger” for burnishing the edge of the sole, after a coat of “Vermont beeswax” has been applied. No doubt I will be doing a lot of experimenting this week!

And there were many fine people to connect and reconnect with; Dan Freeman, the fine shoemaker, was the host at his shop in Middlebury; Larry Waller of www.walrusshoe.com who sells sets of lasts, shoemaking books and shoemaking machinery; Daphne Board of www.diabloshoe.com who is studying to be a pedorthist so the exquisite shoes that she makes will now be built to heal the wearer’s foot problems.

Nancy Benoit – www.soleofvermont.com – is making (sorry, I have to use the word “exquisite” again!) exquisite flip-flops, flats and low-high heels at her shop in Manchester Vt. She serves special dinners in her barn during the summer, so I have already placed a note on my next-year’s calendar reminding me to make reservations – then I’ll also be able to see her very special shoe studio.

There was a “bespoke (custom) shoemaker” who makes full-welted shoes with a shop in Brooklyn, a young mother who is preparing to have her line of shoes made in Eastern Europe, a shoemaker from Montreal who fooled all including myself into thinking that the designs on his shoes were applique, while in fact he stitched around the design, the dyed the leather inside the stitching! There was no applique at all, just very careful stitching and dyeing.

I am enjoying looking back over the weekend and realizing how rich it was for me – perhaps you’ll be there next year!

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