Learning how to make shoes is a mind bending process, especially if you’ve never made them before. It took me three months to figure out everything I needed to, acquire all the tools needed and etc. Actually gathering the materials and tools took up half the time. The other half was the execution.
Also, I’ve been getting so many comments about showing the process of how I make things, well today I am responding to all of you who are so curious about “behind the scenes” and what it looks like in my studio when I’m stressed out. The pictures presented today are less pre-determined, no drama, no setting up (though I will revert back to my anal tendencies soon). Today the pictures are about presenting a struggle between not knowing anything about a process, and trying to learn it.
Shoe lasts. There are so many different kinds of shapes. This is where your shoe design really starts, because you’re going to sculpt the design around the shape of the last. I wish I could collect more, but for now I’ve collected about 7-8 different shoe lasts.
Different heels. I didn’t use a heel for my design (I used a wedge) but I acquired some for future reference.
Shoe tools, a knife, shaver, and a shoe shank. The shank is that curved metal device, it goes in the middle of the sole to give support to the sole.
Here I’m tracing the shoe pattern which was drafted off the 3 dimensional last.
I used suede for my final prototype.
This white piece (forgot the name sorry!) is heated onto the leather pattern (in the “Toe Box” section of the shoe) after its been dunked in leather stretcher. It gives the front toe box portion of the shoe some extra strength. You actually don’t have to use this though, you can use multiple layers of muslin glued on for the top portion. This gives it extra support, otherwise it would be too soft to mold it over the last.
This is the back portion of the shoe, most often referred to as the “Counter” the part that covers right below your ankle…. This area of the shoe also needs extra support so this pink piece dunked in leather stretcher is also heated onto the counter. One usually uses an iron to heat this piece onto the pattern. To know more about shoe anatomy, go here!
When I’m working my table turns into a mess. This is what my mind feels like. Times three. This is the point where I make more coffee or eat a bag of chips to alleviate my mind state.
This is when you pull your shoe pattern over the last. And then you nail it down.
You can see the shoe starting to come together. Its been molded over the last. Also, this shoe design is extremely minimal for a reason. There was no way I was going to construct a gratuitous design with endless straps buckles and studs. I was tempted to, but I’ve had way too many “biting off more than you can chew” experiences so I was going to remain calm about the design. I was determined, determined to the point where I was having shoe nightmares, to learn the process from scratch, so I knew the design had to be within my means. Now that I know the process, I can have more freedom with future shoe designs. I have to admit something, making shoes is a lot more fun than making clothes. Its also easier and takes less time.
Here I introduce to you my monstrous wedge. How was this made? I bought planks of 1” thick foam crepe and stacked them. The shapes were cut to fit the shoe sole, and then after they were all stacked I sanded it all down to get a more sculpted and lean effect. I could not find huge platforms so I had to build the platform wedge from scratch.
To give the platform extra support, its necessary to screw holes and fill them in with long metal nails. You saw the nails in the previous pics.
After the wedge is ready, the suede is glued onto the platform with special cement.
And its important to leave extra suede that goes above the actual wedge so you can fold it over and place the insole over it.
This ones’ a failed attempt! You notice, this one is made out of leather, not suede. My successful prototype was the suede one, but this was the shoe I made BEFORE the suede ankle boot. You notice how the leather is NOT molded properly over the last and its creating all these stretched out lines. Thats a horrible shoe. But with this failed attempt I figured out the most difficult part of making the shoe. Without it I would have never finished.
Anyway, back to the shoe that will become my final prototype..the insole is ready to be attached to the wedge. I will post about this process later, I have way too many pictures in this one. You can see its getting dark in my studio!
My two favorite shoes right now in my closet. You might think its egotistical to like your own design. Truth be told I usually hate most of what I make, but this shoe is so simple, basic, comfortable..and has an insanely tall wedge heel. It also has gel pads incorporated into the insole for extra comfort. It was exactly what I needed, what I was looking for.
The easiest way to draft a shoe last pattern is with a center seam. If you make a seamless shoe, it gets harder when you sculpt it over the last. This is why the design looks this way because it was executable for my first shoe.
Every cobbler has a distinct way of leaving their mark. Mine was a bright green lambskin lining.
The design of this shoe was inspired by these boots I wear often. But I stripped away all of the excess lacing and belting details…and jacked up the platform.
After months of mind bending torture, I get to wear them.