Friday, 18 April 2014

New Shoes

As it is Easter this weekend, today and Monday are national holidays in the UK, so we are going with the flow and both taking a break from shoemaking!

But rather than leave you with nothing to look at, we have posted some of our favourite recent shoes. Hope you like them

First up is a pair of our classic Half -Cut shoes in espresso box calf with a royal blue flash in glace kid. With matching lining. These were made on bespoke lasts and were the customer's second pair. A great choice.

 We added the little tab at the top at the back for strength.

Next up is a pair of Brogue Oxfords in burgundy calf with canary yellow glace kid lining. The customer's third pair, he wanted something a little dressier, so we made the toe a little pointier. The black finish is an unusual touch (burgundy shoes are usually finished brown) and the customer's initials are the medallion on the toe - TW. This is the sort of touch bespoke shoes can offer.

 Our signature punch detail on the counter.

The monogram is very subtle, but the customer knows it's there, and that is what counts!

Last up is a pair of derby boots in weasel Auctioneer Reverse Suede and parchment St Crispins Baby Calf. The suede is the good stuff which has the skin side in the other side, not a lesser quality split. And the calf is a veg tanned baby calf which is super soft and burnishes really nicely. It also ages well and develops a beautiful patina over time.
With three piece boot trees and espresso kid lining, these are a handsome pair of boots.

We particularly like the binding on the top line and double stitching.

And that is that, dear readers. We will be eating chocolate and having a well earned break. 2014 is proving to be a good year - long may it continue for all of us.

Happy Easter and happy shoemaking!

Friday, 11 April 2014

German Seat On Riding Boots

After the rigours of mingling with the public; explaining our craft; talking about bespoke shoes and generally pressing the flesh last week at the Royal Academy, this week saw a return to the more mundane but equally exciting world of making shoes.

We have an Ghanaian customer who came to the shop last week to pick up a couple of pairs of boots. He had ordered four pairs, three of which were identical styles in three different leathers - we love customers who know what they want! We had two pairs finished and a third under way. His fourth order was a pair of calf length field boots which require a fitting because he has not had long boots before.

He also said that he would be back in London this Sunday for one day, so we have had to get our skates on to get his third pair finished and a mock upper made to do the fitting on his long boots. We like to make a mock upper on certain styles so that there is more room to adjust, change and manipulate the pattern. If you use the final leather straight away, there is the danger of needing to do so many changes that you have to make a second upper anyway. And it is easier to manipulate the mock upper during the fitting itself.

Luckily we had three sets of trees made all at the same time so there will be no delay in delivering the boots to him on Sunday.

And so to shoemaking. I'm sure most of you who have read our recent posts remember our new riding boot samples.

Riding boots are a mysterious and complicated beast because they are long boots (always a little tricky to fit on the leg); they have no fastenings (so they must fit tight on the leg but have enough room to get your foot into the foot section); and they can only be put on and, most importantly, taken off with brute strength.

To put them on we put in tape loops to which you can attach boot hooks and pull (hard!)

The problem with taking them off is that all that force needed is usually focused around the heel. In the past, when folk who rode in such boots were the elite and had other folk who could help tug the boots off, things were relatively simple. These days most people use a boot jack.

You can see the forces used to get them off. This requires a special reinforcement when you come to build the heels - the German seat.

And here is how we do it. You start with an extra thick insole and prepare your feather/holdfast as for a welted seat. Welt the boots as normal and stop at the heel marks.

Here is when you start the German seat. You have to stitch on an very strong, rigid rand or split lift. We use the same hide as for the heel lifts. Make sure it is a bit wider than your normal split lift. Make five notches and hammer it into a semi circle (the hide does not want to do this!).

You also need to make double thick thread. We use 5 cords of hemp for welting so use 10 for a German seat. Bevel off the end and splice it onto the welt and start stitching.

For added strength, when you get to the start of the curve, do the knots you would do at the toe to stop the stitches pulling through.

Stitch all the way round and splice the other end of the split lift onto the welt. Hammer the stitches as normal.

Most often you will stitch the sole on round the seat but on this pair we didn't because they are a show pair and we wanted them to look more elegant.

Here we have peened in the split lift. But leave a wide seat so that the boot jack has something to grip.

You can then build the heels as normal.

There are two schools of thought on German seats. One is that you use a large awl with not much of a curve. This throws the stitches out a lot and when you come to stitch the sole on, you stitch on the inside of the German seat stitches.

The other is that you use a very large but highly curved awl which brings the stitches close to the heel. Then you stitch the sole on on the outside of these German seat stitches. This is my preferred method as it fits in more with my normal practice if I do a welted seat.

On this occasion I did the former because I did not have the right awl. I didn't like it much because it was a bit unfamiliar. It did work however.

This is the kind of awl I would normally use, but it would have to be about an inch longer. This an adapted Barnsley 3 1/4" welting awl. We are going to ask our tool maker to make one exactly like this, but slightly thicker and 4 1/2" long

If you are doing a normal welted seat, it is really helpful to have a longer than normal awl because of the thickness of the layers and the angle you have to welt at. Welted seats are hard work!

And that, as they say, is that.

Until next week, happy shoemaking!

Friday, 4 April 2014

Crafted - Makers of the Exceptional at the Royal Academy of Arts

This week has been a hectic rush to get samples finished and our stand set up in the Royal Academy. Fortunately we achieved both goals on time.

Monday saw us setting out our wares and organising last minute props, additions and tweaks to the original plan.

Our new classic English riding boots are the centre piece of our dispaly. Made from Bakers reverse calf (also known as wax calf) and with handmade bespoke four piece trees, they really are impressive.

The reverse calf is an interesting material. Tanned by Bakers of Colyton, Devon, it is the suede side of the skin which has been treated with wax to give the appearance of regular calf. The advantage of doing it this way is that after you ride through the brush and vegetation and your boots get scratched, you can sleek away the scratches with a bone to return the boots to their pristine state. If you used the skin side of the leather, the scratches would be permanent.
It is also very thick which gives it durability and strength - these boots will outlive their owner!

The trees are also an amazing thing. Made from tulip wood by Crispinians last makers, they comprise four pieces - the foot block which is like the last but it has a ledge and a dove tail joint onto which you slide the second piece of the tree. Part three goes in at the back and the fourth part is a wedge with two runners and a handle which forces parts two and three apart to create the leg shape of the shaft of the boot. This mimics the leg of the wearer and keeps the boots in shape, even if they get wet (which they inevitably will). In fact, the tree maker has to wet the leg of the boot to block the boots after he has made the trees so that the boots take on the correct shape.

The handle was a design we found in a vintage pair of guardsman's boots in the Gieves and Hawkes military archive

Quite amazing really and fit for a prince. And with over 80 hours work they can be yours for a princely sum!

The rest of our display consisted of a burgundy jodhpur boot in oiled nubuck; a pair of laked derby shoes in Scotch grain; a pair of stone desert boots; and a pair of teeny tiny toddler shoes designed for Prince George. They are very cute and all the ladies say "aah" when they see them.

We also put out a last, patterns, uppers and half made stage of a pair of bottle green stalking boots in oiled nubuck to tell the story of how we make the shoes.

Next to the table we have set up a work space where we are demonstrating welting throughout the three days

The show is fantastic and has been very well attended so far with a packed private view on Wednesday evening and a good crowd yesterday.

Please come along if you are in town today until 9 pm or tomorrow from 10 till 6 pm

Until next week, happy shoemaking!

Friday, 28 March 2014

Crafted, Makers of the Exceptional

Crafted: Makers of the Exceptional

We are delighted to be showing at the Royal Academy as part of the Vicheron Constantin Walpole Crafted Makers of the Exceptional exhibition. 

We would like to extend a warm invitation to you all to visit the Royal Academy, to come in to say hello and to see the work of so many talented craftsmen ...including old friends Ndidi Ekubia, Wayne Meeten, Ptolemy Mann, Mr. Smith, Jacqui Cullen and Helen Amy Murray.  

Any talk of shoe making this week? Well yes. We are frantically busy making a new capsule collection for the show. (There will be pictures, but after the two of us spent a couple of hours wrestling lasts from a pair of riding boots, I'm afraid it won't be today!) The new showpieces are designed for a gentleman who enjoys country pursuits - a riding boot, jodhpur boot, stalking boot and Derby shoe - and we're really excited!!! 

Anyway, the exhibition is free, so do please pass on the details

The Royal Academy's Burlington Gardens entrance is also just across the way from Gieves & Hawkes at No.1 Savile Row, so it's an opportunity not to be missed to pop in to see the store's ongoing transformation. Below is our understated showcase in the new bespoke rooms which have a very masculine, elegant feel.   

Much, much more news of shoe making next week, but until then happy shoe making!

Friday, 21 March 2014

The Parachute Collective


If you found it difficult or expensive to get your hands on the right machinery, tools and equipment when you first started shoemaking then a new arrival in London's East End could be the answer. 

The Parachute Collective under the railway arches in Bethnal Green, aims to provide aspiring shoemakers with access to machinery and know-how. The Collective was founded by Thomas Rowe, and, as well as being a studio space and showcase for the four young shoe designers based on its lower floor, it offers a number of work stations with a variety of closing and footwear making machines for hire on the upper floor. 

As the website says; 
"The Parachute Collective is a London based community of shoemakers and leather artisans. It is set out to support independent creative artisans and offers a retail platform for Cordwainers from around the world. The workshop is fully fitted to support all your shoe making needs and a retail area is available to members who wish to display their creative works".
Space for clicking and pattern making
Displays 1
Displays 2
Shoemakers unite at the launch party

If you are interested in using this resource please email 

Until next week, when we will be blogging from the Royal Academy, Crafted Makers of the Exceptional, happy shoemaking!