Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 11 December 2009

The Best Of Welts, The Worst Of Welts...

Another week, another week closer to Christmas. Yikes! Am I alone in having done no shopping yet? Am I alone in feeling a tad anxious about it? Pull your finger out, Ducker!

The Winkers stride on. They are now in Pickett (32-33 & 41 Burlington Arcade, Piccadilly, W1J 0PZ), makers of handmade leather goods, made in England. From leather luggage to wallets, jewellery to cashmere, Pickett epitomises the qualities of English artisanal tradition - elegance, attention to detail, and craftsmanship. So where better to place the Winkers?
We visited the shop yesterday to find the charming Mr Trevor Pickett in the midst of a Christmas shopping frenzy at his invitation event. The tills were ringing; the sherry flowing; and the cashmere gloves flying out of the door. Bloomin marvelous!

And talking of retail, we have a very exciting new venture starting in February next year in Notting Hill. But more of that later (I am sworn to secrecy).

Now, welts. Very important little strips of leather in the sole of a bespoke shoe. Surprisingly important. You have 2 choices - the nasty bought stuff you buy by the metre, which saves you time and effort; or the skillfully crafted handmade variety favoured by the English bespoke shoe making traditon. Any guesses as to which one I prefer?
Pros and cons. The bought welt is quick and easy, but of an inferior quality, plus, it is glued together to make huge reels, with an inherent weakness. The handmade welt is stronger and of better quality materials, but takes a little longer to make. The other advantage is that if you know how to make a welt, you will always be able to make a shoe and not be reliant on a manufacturer making a product (or not, as the case may be).

This is an example of the bought welt.

So, on to the handmade welt, you soak it and mark it in half lengthways with a pair of dividers.

Then cut it in half along that line.

Place the welt on your cutting board or glass. Next with your dividers set at 5mm, mark a line along the edge on the flesh side.

With the very tip of the knife, score along this line. No more than 1mm deep.

Open this up with a screwdriver. Then do the same with the other welt.

Turn it over and mark the line again with the dividers on the skin side (again set at 5mm).

This time skive to the edge at an angle of 45 degrees, so you end up with a bevelled edge.

Do the same with the other welt and you are ready to roll. It does not take too long, once you have mastered it. Good luck.