Friday, 24 July 2009

It All Went Wrong

Hubris. Pride before the fall. The shame!

Let me take you back to the post of 3rd July. Those lovely tan loafers with the cork platform and raised heel.



Having struggled manfully with the first pair and having had to make a new last; endless fittings; numerous adjustments; further adjustments after making the shoes. A litany of trouble. The kind of shoes where you make no profit. But you think to yourself, the next pair will be easier and it will be worth it. Well, the tan loafers are the second pair.

So, I finish making the loafers on a new last, having done a try-on just in case. I was worried that the new last would not be perfect. The try-on was great. I call the client who is keen to get the shoes for his holiday, so I come to the workshop on a Saturday morning, full of confidence and the pleasure of delivering a pair of lovely new bespoke shoes. Happy client tries the shoes on and.... they don't fit. Exactly the same problem as the first time. His heel lifts out. It is utterly inexplicable. It is something about the change from a soft try-on shoe to a rigid finished shoe. Nightmare. I try a few little tricks but it won't work. Client leaves without shoes and it is back to the drawing board.

One of the adjustments we made with the first pair was to split the last in to 3 so we could get it back into the shoe in order to shrink the shoe down. Usually, it is fairly easy to get the last back into a shoe. With these, the shape of the heel was unusually bulbous which made it impossible to get back in. So, we decided to make a new last so that we could cut the old one into 3 , much like a 3 piece boot last. You put the toe piece in first, then the heel piece and then you force the middle section in.



Adjustments to finished shoes are not desirable. Making them larger is easier. Shrinking them is tough. I rasped a whole lot off the heel of the last.



The next part will make you squeamish but be brave. To shrink the shoes you have to get them wet. Usually leather and water are not friends, but needs must. I stood the heel section in warm water and left it for 20 minutes till it was sopping wet (not good!); filled the shoe with French chalk; and forced the 3 piece last back in. To close the gap, I put 2 big sections of tyre inner tube (like wide elastic bands) over the heel to squeeze the leather back onto the last. As the leather dries, it shrinks back to the new shape.

I have let the shoe dry for 5 days and taken out the last. I am left with a shoe full of chalk. Not pretty.



Hopefully this will be enough. I have my doubts. If necessary, I will have to unpick the stitches on the top edge; separate the lining; insert some leather as a filler to shrink the fit even more; and restitch the top edge.

Fingers crossed, dear readers. I will let you know what happens.