Into The Groove

Believe me when I say that taking time off any craft or trade is a dangerous beast. In the week since I since I last posted, I have struggled so much with getting back into the rhythm of making our beloved bespoke shoes. And it really is a question of rhythm.

I was talking to my good friend Paul in New York, who trained me in shoemaking at Lobb, but who is now working in the shop there, and does no making. He wants to get back to it, but we agreed that it would take a few months to recover his speed and accuracy. I was off for 3 weeks and it has taken me nearly 2 to get back up to speed. The first pair I made took me nearly a week, and then the next pair I ruined. I lasted the wrong uppers onto the wrong lasts, resulting in us having to remake the uppers. Oh dear! The Other One was not pleased. What a chump I am.

But it would never have happened if I had been in the groove. So much of any skilled manual work is repetition and regularity. It is really true about muscle memory. Half the skill of making bespoke shoes is switching off your mind and letting your hands do the work. It is a strange, disconnected space. The Zone.

On the making front, that lengthy first pair was a tricky little 1/8" sole with a dress welt. Now this requires about 18 to 20 stitches to the inch on the welt. If you actually stitch this, the welt and sole is weakened by the density of the threads so close together. The options are to channel the welt, exactly as you would the sole; stitch at 4 to the inch; close down the welt; and then run a fudge wheel around the welt, thus creating the apperance of stitching.

I tried an alternative with this pair, which involved stitching 4 to the inch over the welt (no channel) and then simply fudging over the top to give the appearance of tiny stitches. It worked fairly well but does not result in such a clean line as the previos method. Sorry there are no pictures, but the client wanted his shoes. Hope you like the fudge wheel though.

One last thing. Any of you who live in London, we have Open Studios here at Cockpit Arts. This is an opportunity to see our and another 90 designer/makers' studios. Not only that, there is the chance to buy work or commission pieces. It is a very interesting visit, so come along, all welcome.

The times are Saturday 13/Sunday 14 from 11am till 6pm
Address Cockpit Arts, cockpit Yard, Northington St, London WC1N 2NP

Follow this link for more information

Thinking about another photo essay on some aspect of bespoke shoemaking. Any suggestions or requests? Bevelled waists? Skiving (always popular)? Let me know.