Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 21 September 2018

Norwegian Welt Masterclass

A warm and sunny welcome to one and all. This really feels like the end of the summer. The sun is shining and the sky is blue, but the air feels cold

But never mind, the shoemaking must go on

Carreducker offers masterclasses in a variety of specific techniques which are aimed at more experienced shoemakers. This can include most things like a bevelled waist, fiddle waist, stacked leather heel, anything really

Over the last couple of weeks, we have had two students who had previously done the 12-Day Shoemaking Course come back to learn a new technique technique - the Norwegian welt. This is also known as stitchdown or veldtschoen and is where the upper is turned out to become the welt. It is more weather resistant and is often used in boots.

So Natasha and Mathilde set about it with enthusiasm and commitment.

The first day saw them preparing the insole, stiffeners and toe puffs. As well as the inevitable knife sharpening

The insole is prepared differently, so it was new material from day one which is what they wanted.

Lasting follows pretty much the same rules with a few tweaks here and there

Lasting - a picture of concentration

And then came the interesting part, the welting. This differs markedly from a regular hand welt and was where the new skills really kicked in.

We were originally taught to welt from the inside to the outside, but over time our method has changed and we now make the holes from the outside in. You get a more level row of stitches and it is easier to control the stitch length as we mark them with a pair of dividers. It works really well.

This method can lead to the inside of the holdfast looking slightly ragged, but this is all internal, nobody will see it, and as long as the stitches go through the insole/holdfast, the boot will be strong. It also means that the external and thus visible stitches are perfect.

Notice how we don't trim the excess leather off - this will be the welt so we leave it full

We trimmed the lining and the stiffeners and glued on a midsole.

The stitching was really good, on a level and evenly sized, excellent work.

Notice the midsoles, essential in a Norwegian welt

They then stitched on a sole in the usual way and got onto finishing, rasping, glassing, sanding - very important to make your shoes look amazing.


They are on the final straight and we will show you the finished shoes next week

We are going on a road trip to Northampton on Monday to visit A&A Crack, a leather merchant and Springline who make lasts and then it will back to the grindstone to get the shoes finished. Looking forward to it.

Until next week, when we start our Evening Classes again, happy shoemaking!

Friday, 14 September 2018

Norwegian Masterclass and Savile Row Window Display

Welcome back good shoe folk we hope that it's been a good week. We've jumped right back into it, after the summer, with two alumni joining us for a Norwegian welt masterclass (more on that next week); our 15 seconds of fame on BBC London talking about Make More Festival and the BBC's Inside Out programme talking about making and manufacturing in the East End; a party to help Purdey launch the shooting season; and a return to the window at Savile Row to help Gieves and Hawkes celebrate it's new Autumn/Winter season launch!

Thanks to Andy and the in-house merchandising team we're sitting in style overlooking Vigo Street, 

 where we're demonstrating handsewn welting and military shine.

We're there today, Friday, from 2 - 4pm and 5 - 7pm; and tomorrow from 2 - 4pm. Do come by, wave, take a photo and have a chat if you are passing!

Whilst Savile Row celebrated its new Civic Road Scheme last night, we nipped up the road to South Audley Street where Purdey was celebrating the start of the season. Audley House was packed, but we managed to squeeze in around the grand table in the historic Long Room for a presentation by Creative Director, Corinne Metcalf on the new performance fabrics being brought into the clothing collection and their benefits. Lightweight, waterproof and warm were the watchwords. 

The Long Room

It was also an honour to meet Richard Purdey, a great gentleman and to hear from CEO James Horne standing at the head of the long table that takes pride of place in the Long Room. (It was introduced in 1938 to cover the 'well' which had originally given a view down into the workshops below).

The new Ladies' shooting jacket with signature pocket design, shaped sleeves and belted waist for a more fitted silhouette

Apres-shoot and for the weekend a sumptuous cashmere coat with a tulip hem  saw Purdey step out of its tweedy comfort zone and embrace the luxurious - and a change of colour  -  in GREY! 
That's it for this week. To our shoe friends in the Carolinas, stay safe, and until next week happy shoemaking. 

Friday, 31 August 2018

Shoe Polishing, Key Fob Making and Handsewn Shoemaking at MakeMore Festival

Welcome back good shoe enthusiasts of the world and here we are at the end of a busy summer with two shoe making classes, one pattern class and one Festival under our belts; refreshed and ready to do more! 

We had such lovely visitors over the five days of the Festival...and enthusiastic participants! 

Thursday and Friday night we demonstrated shoe making and ran shoe care and polishing classes, serving a glass or two of wonderful Teeling whiskey in the cosy Yodomo dome.

We set up  our trestle tables with horsehair brushes, Saphir cream and polish, water spritzers and a load of old rags

Some of the polishing got a little competitive....who could buff to the highest shine! 

And it wasn't all work and no play, there was whiskey to be drunk and fun to be had chatting with everyone

Saturday and Sunday were saddle stitch taster classes with small groups braving what turned out to be a slightly wet weekend to make key fobs under Frankey's watchful eye and careful guidance.

Brogue pattern punched

Sorting out hands and needles

Threading the needles

Stitching under way

Some great, straight lines of stitching
And feeling rightfully proud of the finished results...

James and I both had a second go at saddle stitch with much better results this time, we just need a bit more practise! Let's just say, it was good to get back to the familiar ground of shoemaking for our demonstrations.

So until next week, a cheeky "Cheers!" and happy shoe making.

Friday, 24 August 2018

The Makemore Festival - Demonstrations, Classes and the BBC

Hello again, lovely shoe people, and welcome to this week's exciting post, we know you have been waiting all week.

Well, we started the Makemore Festival yesterday and it was a thoroughly enjoyable and productive day.

This is our home for the next four days, until Monday the 27th, the Yodomo Tent. So if you feel inspired, come and see us, it's a great day out.

And these are our talented neighbours

After a short and smooth set up, we opened to the public in the afternoon, kicking off with a three hour shoe making demonstration which included skiving toe puffs and stiffeners; making the holdfast; and lasting.

People always love to see craft in action and our punters were no different

And come the evening, we did our Buff and Bevvy session where people came and learned the basics of shoe care and polishing, accompanied by a glass of extremely delicious single malt Irish whisky. We had some alumni of the school and some people who signed up on the day.

Before and After

It was relaxed, informative and, for those of you not acquainted with the pleasures of polishing, a lot of fun. We are doing another one this evening, Friday 24th, if you fancy coming along.

A highlight for us was being filmed and interviewed for the BBc London News which aired last night at 6.30 if you want to see it on catch up. Well done Deborah, all key messages given in a couple of pithy sentences - perfect.

Our host for the festival is Yodomo which is an online learning platform covering many crafts and creative activities where we will be posting learning video packages in the non too distant future.
They have just done a successful crowd funding campaign on Seedrs, so expect a lot from them in the next few months

So a big thank you to Sophie Rochester, our host who has set up a great learning and making space for the duration of the festival

Sophie Rochester

Over the weekend, we will be teaching two saddle stitch key fob classes (Saturday and Sunday, 2 till 4pm) and another shoe making demo on Monday, 12 till 2.
Please come along, we would love to see you there

Until next week, happy shoemaking!

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Summer - time for Festivals and new crafts

Welcome back good shoe fans and, what's this, not a shoe in sight on this post? Well, in anticipation of the fabulous Make More Festival starting next Thursday,  - when you can join us to saddle stitch, watch shoe making or bring your shoes for a good polish alongside a host of other craftspeople - I thought that it would be fun to have a go at a new craft myself. 

On a rare rainy day on our recent Norfolk holiday, my friend Nicola pointed out that there was a glass blower's near our holiday cottage. We couldn't resist the temptation! So off we went in convoy to Langham Glass...and what a wonderful experience it proved to be. 

From what I have read, the workshop was set up as a tourist experience, with a cafe and very well stocked glass shop adjoining. What a fantastic way of showcasing a craft! The demonstration was pitched just right, with plenty of information, humour, action and 'Madonna' headset's so we didn't miss a word. 

Whilst one of the glass makers skilfully produced cure animals and goldfish for the audience the others helped us to create our own glass article from a tea light holder to a vase or whiskey glass. I chose a simple Christmas bauble. 


A tea light mould

First the molten glass is dipped in coloured glass - you can choose one colour or a mix of colours.

The glass is rolled and heated some more and then a small bit of air is gently blown into it, to 'get it started'. Then it was our turn. 

The hollow rod holding the molten glass was supported on a metal frame and we were instructed to blow gently through the opposite end, as the glass maker gently rolled the rod.. Gradually wonderful things began to happen and the glass inflated...

The specialist tools for shaping and squeezing the molten glass

Here the glass maker is squeezing the neck of the bauble with tongs
so that the bauble can be carefully knocked off the rod

Then he sits it on what looks like a nest of string (presumably heatproof)
and adds a blob of clear glass at the top over the hole from the rod

Then he carefully shapes the glass into a simple loop 

And here's my finished bauble

And the family's beautiful creations

The end product is really great quality, especially the whiskey glass. Maybe I'll try one of those on the next trip?


In between our own shoe polishing and saddle stitch workshops and shoe making demos I'm determined to try some other new crafts at Make More next week. But which to do? I rather fancy the following:

Print making with East London Printmakers
Candle Making with The London Refinery
Paper Marbling with Paperwilds
Bowl Making with Goldfinger Factory
Spoon Carving with Barn the Spoon

Hmmm, might need to whittle down that little lot....until next week, when we'll be live at MakeMore have a great week and happy shoe making!

Buy a ticket to our Key Fob class and you'll get your Make More Festival ticket for half price! Copy this link into your browser and you're off: