Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 6 March 2009

What We Do

What do we do?

I received a question about the level of the craft we use to make our handmade shoes. I also recently saw another shoemaker's blog on which he criticised some shoemaking courses around the world. So maybe this is the occasion to talk a little about what we do in a general sense.

All the bespoke shoes we make are 100% handmade from start to finish. We use a variety of hand held tools and no machines. Our ethos is totally based in the tradition of this trade. The skills we use have not changed for centuries and we learned them by doing an apprenticeship. This is really the only way, not only to gain the skills, but also to reach the speed needed to make a living. It gives you the time your hands need to learn without your head getting too involved. Other craftspeople will understand what I mean.

Here are 3 shots from what I have been doing today to show the nature of what we do. The first is a heel mid build.

Next a welt being sewn.

Last a sole being glassed in preparation for dyeing and finishing.

As for the carréducker shoemaking school, I believe we are the only school offering a complete shoemaking process. With us you get lasts, uppers and all the rough stuff you need for making a pair of hand welted shoes. This is over 200 processes, from hand lasting to welting; stitching the sole to heel building; twisting threads to finishing. It's 90 hours in 3 modules of 1 week each and is very intensive. I think the main thing that the course gives the student is a comprehensive knowledge of the traditional bespoke shoemaking process and the ability to decide if they really want to pursue this path.
We are doing it in New York in April and masy and then again in August in London. Very exciting, and it is the real deal.

Today has been good. We had a photographer in to take some process shots in the studio. They will look great. He has finished the product shots and here is a preview, not the final version though. Nice huh?

Monday, 2 March 2009

Toe Plates

Good morning, what a glorious one it is too. Clear blue skies and sunshine pouring into my workshop. Maybe I will do a giddy flip like a Spring lamb (before I am put into the pot of course)

Friday slipped me by in a whirl of activity, hence the Monday post.

Saturday at Blaqua went very well. Lots of interested clients and a good demo.

Shoemaking. I have currently got 3 pairs on the go because we have photographer coming in on Friday to do some process shots of making for the website, so I need to have things at certain points in the process to shoot.

I have nearly finished a pair of pretty normal loafers, which only stand out because the client wants toe plates.

Do you ever have shoes which wear out on the sole right on the toe end? It is fairly common and is to do with how we walk (technical description there). The solution is toe plates, which can be rubber or metal. The metal ones last longer but you get a click, which I like but annoys some people.
Before stitching the sole, you cut away a small section at the toe and leave it with no channel. Then when the edges have been set, you glue the plate on using ultra strong contact cement. It's a good solution and shows the advantages of getting bespoke shoes made. You can include the solution to any problem you might have with your feet.

The second pair has an example of an occasional problem with hand lasting. Box calf is a marvellous material, extremely hard-wearing, and very supple. This means that at the point of lasting the upper, it usually takes the shape of the last easily. Sometimes, however, for reasons hard to fathom, it is just impossible to get flat and has small creases/wrinkles. These are unsightly and can ruin the attractive smoothness of the vamp.

As ever, though, with bespoke shoes, there is a trick which saves the day. When the shoe is finished, you wet the offending area with water and get it well soaked. Then with a warm, not hot, heel iron you iron the creases. When the leather dries, it shrinks and pulls out the last tiny creases which may be left after ironing. Ingenious!