My shoemaking manuals 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 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!” While writing and creating patterns for my children’s shoemaking book, I was stumped because the only children’s lasts that I have or could find only could be used for making shoes for children with feet 5 1/2″ long or longer. I got the idea of extrapolating a bit from the lasts that I have, and making little lasts out of felt stuffed with wool fleece. They were so useful during the process of adhering the upper to the sole that I experimented with using them to make shoes ever larger, all the way up to the size 8 1/2-size shoes that I wear. So, I now advise people to stitch their own lasts, using the center-seam shoe pattern found in both the women’s and the children’s shoemaking books. I do sell resin-casts of the lasts that I have used to make all my women’s patterns, but if you do not want to purchase them as a beginning shoemaker, felt lasts can provide a serviceable alternative. Felt lasts won’t provide two other functions that resin lasts provide; they can be used to make patterns over, and, when jammed in to a completed, then moistened, shoe, they make the shape come to its complete form. And boy, does that look good! Especially with leather shoes, letting them dry over the lasts help them “memorize” and keep that nice shape. If you are using felt lasts, you can stuff the moistened shoe with crumbled-up paper bag to get a good shape, but it won’t be as perfect as a shoe stretched over a solid last. My goal is to make the pursuit of shoemaking an affordable venture, as well as one that is earth-friendly, while providing unlimited creative possibilities. I think I have recently happened upon the missing link in my sustainable shoemaking process – Avoiding the toxic cements used in commercial and most independent shoemaking ventures has been essential; I have achieved that by using my beloved non-toxic contact cement, Titan DX, for all shoemaking processes – except adhering the sole to the upper part of the shoe. I very happily cement the sole in place with Titan DX, but proceed to then stitch the sole to the upper, as the cement alone will not hold it on permanently. I advise aspiring shoemakers to stitch the heels on to their shoes as well, but I’m not too crazy about the look of a stitched-on heel..of course, eliminating the heel all-together might be the healthiest thing to do, why on earth did we come up with the idea that a little – or a lot – of elevation in the heel is a good idea? (I know the answer regarding a lot of elevation, as in stiletto high-heel – it produces a sexy body posture, which many aspire to have, but what’s the point in wearing a shoe with 1/2″ heel? And what about those shoes that advertise their negative-heel advantages? So, whatever, if you decide you want a heel on your shoe, you now may be able to ecologically-reach your goal through the use of awesome glue! I serendipitously-happened upon it on youtube, and a sample is now being sent to me. Apparently all you need to do to make the cement function is to provide high heat during the fusion process, which can be provided by the use of a heat gun or boiling water. I’ll let you know soon which approach works best for me, and how secure the heel feels. Today my thoughts turn to moccasins. There are quite a few “how to make moccasins” sources, reflecting a variety of native people’s styles, so I don’t think I’ll be writing a moccasin-making book. (yet, for the many of you who have a copy of “how to make moccasins”, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have actual patterns for making the styles in that book? Have you ever tried to blow them up on a copy machine, to get something you could actually use? I have, and it doesn’t work. So maybe I will at some point accomplish this mission. or maybe you will..) December 18 I’ve been visiting my mom in indiana and a friend in santa fe, a trip that has provided me with lots of time (especially while visiting my 90-year-old mom) to work on editing my shoemaking dvds. I’ll have two for sale: “How to Hand-Make a Children’s Derby Shoe” (the process is the same when making an adult derby shoe, and most other shoes as well) and “How to Make Strap Sandals”. Other dvds will be posted on my wordpress site, offering visual directions for

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1 Comment

  1. Sharon, what a lot of work to put together your books and videos! I am very interested in your sandal-making video, the patterns and book I purchased from you have been so helpful. I am very curious about the adhesive you mentioned, please do keep us posted on it’s efficacy.

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