$3.00 lasting post


Lasting post: Standard lasts have a hinge so they can be “cracked”, which makes the distance between the toe and heel shorter; the last needs to be “cracked” at the hinge so you can get the last out of a shoe without tearing up the top of the heel seam. This means that each last has a hole in the top of it that fits exactly into the top of the lasting post. Once the last is on the post, a sharp tug will cause it to crack and the shoe can be safely removed from the last.

Re: making a lasting post, I appreciate this idea, posted on the Shoemaking Forum facebook page by Bill Shanor, along with this comment: “I grind the threads for about two inches from the top, round the top so that I can rub and open seams, and have more than one length of bolt. Oh, and if you use the bolt to remove “pesky” lasts, a hardened one is in order. I’ve bent several unhardened bolts over the years”.

Hunkered down

It seems I have been hunkered down for a long time – literally, as I’ve been draped over our wood stove for the last week, here in frigid Massachusetts. However, my stiff fingers could still type, so it gave me the perfect opportunity to complete the compilation of five of my books – How to Make Simple Shoes for Women, How to Make Cinch Tops, How to make Center-Seam Shoes, How to Make Stitch-down Shoes, and How to Make lasts –  into one, named “The Simple Shoemaking Handbook”.  All of the upper patterns will fit with a “universal” sole pattern, so there is an amazing variety of shoes you can make, using a range of simple processes, by using the directions and patterns from this one book. I’ll have it finished in a few days.

I plan to send the pdf out to anyone who has ordered any of these books from me in the past, who contacts me to let me know that you’d like to receive it.

I guess winter is good for something!

it’s the era of eco and destructivo – perfect for simple shoemakers

I just ran across these “shoes” in an article at: http://www.itfashion.com/en/culture/new-blood-en/ximon-lee-in-10-questions/. Granted, his styles for men are “off the charts outlandish”, and Ximon Lee put these “shoes” on the feet of all his runway models.

Creations like these give me such license for making things with a similar spirit. I recall reading a book written by Natalie Chanin, of “alabama chanin” fame. In it, she recommended that surface embellishers leave their knots on the outside of t-shirts they were transforming with applique. I’ve not hid a knot since. (not totally true.)

Especially when using heavy fabrics in shoemaking, such as denim or canvass, just leave those edges raw! Put any interesting material over your foot, and go for a walk – the paparazzi might start following you, as an arbiter of high fashion!


Maker Faires rock!

Last Sunday was a glorious-weather day at the Children’s Museum on the Boston waterfront, a perfect day for my first-time vending at a Maker Faire that was held there. Having my five-year-old granddaughter with my husband and me added to our joy – at seeing so many diverse, curious, imaginative, and inventive people of all ages having such a wonder-full time.

I brought samples of shoes that can be made in the shoemaking workshops that I offer, sandals like those that will be made in a workshop at Snow Farm Craft Center next summer, and pieces of First Footsteps shoemaking kits for toddlers, so customers could select the colors of leather pieces that they wanted in their kits.

There were computer-designed cotton socks from www.stringandloop.com – I bought a purple pair with pink loops. And, Tertill: the solar-powered robot that weeds your garden was there —

Maker spaces in the Boston area were well represented, which I found inspirational, because I would love to offer shoemaking in a “launch space” being created at the Orange Innovation Center near me – and then at other maker’s spaces around the country.

There were marble run workshops, how to make a 3-D prosthetic arm, maker spaces for children, giant stamp rollers, D. Works Electrical fiddle-faddle – definitely not what is usually seen at your average craft fair!

Might your craft lend itself to a maker faire near you?!



Mountains of pain – and joy

I just received a facebook post from an extraordinary woman who lives near me, who has been selling cloth shoes for babies and young children in her etsy shop. She found that refugees living in camps on the Greek Island of Lesvos have vast quantities of deflated rafts and unusable life preservers, and that the children needed footwear.
She heard that it can get quite “mucky” in the camps, so she added motorcycle inner tube soling so the soles and stitched the inner tube up the shoes a few inches, creating “muck shoes”. (She says that they have now become the best sellers in her shop). She and volunteers made many pairs of muck shoes for the children, then her family (five-year-old twin daughters, 7-year-old daughter, and husband) decided to go there, deliver shoes, bring a stitching machine (which I don’t think worked) and help the refugees make footwear to wear and perhaps to sell. They left on July 4, and are still there.
I did my best to supplement her with sandal patterns and children shoe patterns in other styles, but I am gathering from posts on her facebook page that it became apparent that other items might be best to make from the materials at hand. I’m gathering that one of the best items she helped people make were soccer balls! The raft material was cut into soccer-ball components and were stitched (I’m not sure if this was done by hand or by machine), then stuffed with the layers of plastic foam from inside the life preservers. They are beautiful, and will never deflate – from what I hear about the popularity of soccer world-wide, these balls will be in demand!
Somehow Andrea found a functioning sewing machine, and once she got it running, the lines of people bringing items that needed to be repaired or re-made were stretched out the door of her tent all day.
You would think we in the USA could drop one less bomb over somewhere in the Middle East and use the savings to buy a few more sewing machines for these refugee camps.

She has found that mountains of donated clothing cannot be worn because the sleeves need to be long for Muslim women and it was hard to find something that fit. Andrea began teaching the refugees to make cotton dresses for the little girls, you can imagine how popular they are. Clothes were cut up and stitched to add to the length of the sleeves for the women.
Then she started helping the refugees cut the t-shirts into long lengths of “yarn”, must have made some big “crochet hooks” and got people crocheting bags, little rugs, and other items that could be made from crocheted t-shirts. I sent her a long list of projects that can be made from this yarn, can you imagine people in camps sitting around crocheting useful items from t-shirt yarn – everything from sleeping mats to poufs to sit upon?!
Following is the latest post from Andrea – if you’d like to read all of her posts, her facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/Bula-Jeans-Boutique-183782958307742/

Friends, this is a very difficult post, so please don’t read further if you are very sensitive. This afternoon has left me feeling totally unqualified to be doing this work. My little workshop tent has been flooded with tears from me and some of my new refugee friends. Since 4 o’clock this morning, the Greek riot police has been raiding the Moria refugee camp and neighbouring community centres, making sweeping and arbitrary arrests of migrants whose asylum cases have been rejected on appeal. 60 people have been detained pending “immediate deportation”. The general climate in Mytilini is one of terror and uncertainty.

Also, I need to tell you more about the young man I introduced you to the other day. Remember the one who carried the fabric from his mother across 8 countries until he reached safety in Lesvos? Well, he has come back here every day to learn new skills and we have bonded over needles and thread. Today he felt comfortable enough to share more of his incredible story, and it cut me to the core. He has asked me to share it with you in hopes someone can help him.

Gabrielle is a member of a certain ethnic group from the country of Congo. This group is a minority and have been subjected to ethnic cleansing for many years. One night this spring my friend went to the toilet around 9 at night. As is common in Congo, the bathroom was separate from the house many yards away. He heard a noise and peeked out from behind the curtain. He saw men with machetes and machine guns enter his home and pull out his sleeping family members. While crouched down inside the bathroom he witnessed his sister and mother being raped and then killed, he also saw his father and brother violently killed. After sitting in shock on the bathroom floor for some time after the men left, he gathered up the surviving family members (his niece aged 3, his nephew aged 9, and Gabrielle’s own daughter age 4), then ran to town to get his other sister who was working at the family’s shop at the time. The 5 of them set off on their journey to safety. Their goal was to reach Europe. There was some chaos crossing the border into Burundi and Gabriel was separated from his sister and the children. He has no idea how to find them, but to do so would begin the healing of his shattered heart. He is suffering from severe guilt, has flashbacks, and feels completely alone in the world. If any of you know someone who could help begin the process to reunite this family, please message me privately. I have other specific details that could help in the search too.

I am sorry I have to pass a along such a horrific story to you. It is not an easy one to hear. I hope I can get back to spreading more smiles tomorrow
– I’m afraid I wasn’t very successful with that today.

Would you like to make some “magic” sandals?

I’m on a sandal-making journey, preparing for offering workshops at craft centers and “maker spaces” throughout the country. They usually require the instructor to accept up to ten students, so sandal-making is more manageable for me with this size group than shoe-making.  Proposing to teach at Snow Farm in Williamsburg, Ma., near my home, inspired me to create a workshop description. I’ll be teaching there June, 2018.

When I first sent my proposal to Snow Farm, I sent a photo of a solitary sandal – they asked if I could create a more appealing photo, so here it is, along with my workshop description:

In the seventies there were sandalmakers standing on Boston street corners, ready to draw around your foot and provide you with a custom pair of sandals in a few hours. Now you can’t find any sandalmakers in Boston, or most anywhere else.

This workshop is being offered to generate some new sandalmakers. We’ll make the “ultimate magic flip-flop” – I call it “magic” because when you look at the strap pattern it is puzzling as to how it could be transformed into a 3-D shape. I call it “ultimate” because of the way the strap cradles the foot.

And, it’s ultimate because the straps offer a prime site for embellishment – you don’t have to cover much area with it, yet it makes a great visual impact.

These sandals are stitched together so no toxic cements are needed to make them. Since the leather used is either vegetable-tanned or recycled, and the soling is made from a reycled material, these sandals are as ecological as you can get – next to going barefoot!








I was (beyond) thrilled recently when a little device I had asked a machinist to make for me actually worked: I screwed it into a drill, bolted the drill to a table, placed the sole and coaxed in around, and it cut a 1/8″ deep groove 1/4″ from the edge of my soles!

Ever since I stopped using toxic shoe cements, I have had the dilemma of how to attach bottom soles without it. My solution is to stitch soles on, but the stitches need to be recessed so they aren’t worn away. Stitches become recessed in natural rubber soles, since this material compresses when stitched. But natural rubber has drawbacks as it gets gooey on hot sidewalks, plus it’s expensive, and I have been reading articles about the horrors of the rubber industry. Fair trade natural rubber is available, but the minimum orders are beyond my reach.

The soling I am putting grooves in is ecological: I ordered it from http://repurposedmaterialsinc.com/. I asked the company if they had anything that could serve as shoe soling, and they had sheets of – shoe soling! So, I ordered the sheets they had. I would not buy new petroleum-based soling, but once it exists and has no other apparent uses, I believe it is best to use it instead of sending it straight to the landfill.

I love this soling – it’s black, 1/4″ thick, flexible, and soft enough that my little “device” could cut into it. I’m now selling the soles in my website store, both with and without stitching holes punched into the groove.

If you order soling with stitching holes punched into the groove, the holes have the same placement as the stitching holes marked on the sole patterns in my books, How to Make the Simplest Shoes, How to Make Center-Seam Shoes, and How to Make Cinch-top Shoes for the Whole Family. Any upper in these books can be stitched to these “soles with a groove”, and the stitching holes will line up. Over the next year, I’ll be putting new patterns in my store (the first will be a “renfaire” boot, and all will have stitch holes marked on them that line up with the holes in the soles.

Since the upper turns out to be stitched, it’s best if the upper leather is 4 or 5 ounce in weight. Thinner leather will make a “wispy” edge. If you want to use thinner leather, it’s best to make nomocs, lomocs or fomocs.

Soling can be ordered in standard medium-width sizes women’s 5 – 10 1/2, including half-sizes, or they can be custom-made to the shape of your foot.

Shoemaking has never been simpler than this!


rock artist


While looking on pinterest for art projects to make with my granddaughter, I went to a “rock art” page. It led me to this remarkable example of rock artistry. There’s not a thing on this site that has anything to do with shoes, but I want to do what I can to spread the word about this artist’s work: http://www.oumzaza.fr/080216-sculptures-jabal-safoon-nizar-ali-badr-syrien/

The site is in French, I used google translate to get an understanding of the Syrian artist’s situation, which apparently is not known..

First Footsteps toddler shoes made at Mothering Magazine office!

I am so appreciative of Agata at Mothering magazine for writing about my shoemaking kits on the Mothering facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/mothering.magazine, also pasted below.

My goal has been to create a simple pattern for children’s shoes that makers could use to make footwear for family, friends and, if desired, as a small local business.

There are toddlers everywhere who need footwear, why not make them from thrift shop scraps and bike inner tubes – they’ll be ecological as well as healthy – and fun. If we want to make decisions based on how they will affect seven generations, I don’t think there’s a better way to begin than by making ecological footwear for the next generation.

Here’s the Mothering post: “Having fun in the office with this AWESOME “First Footsteps” shoemaking kit. I just made my first pair of baby shoes and am so proud!!!! We love supporting small businesses here at Mothering! Thanks @simpleshoemaking <3 You can get yours at: www.simpleshoemaking.com”