Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 17 September 2010

A Trip To Northampton

It's true fellow shoemakers, sometimes I am not hunched over my table all day, messing up my back. Occasionally I leave the workshop and see the sky, the countryside, other people! Well, today was one of those days.

I took a trip up to Northampton, home of English shoemaking. Accompanied by my trusty apprentice of the last two weeks Seiji, we visited our last maker and leather merchant.

We are currently in the middle of a design project, so we need three new lasts to make the samples on. This requires a visit to Springline, the last remaining last manufacturers in England (I think, however, I would love to be proved wrong). Derek in the Model Room is very helpful and we spent a couple of hours looking through the archive. This is a thing to behold - hundreds of lasts on shelves gathering dust, lots of dust (more than used to that though).
Now, this may not sound very interesting, but to a shoe nerd like me, it is heaven. It really inspires the imagination. Lasts are objects of beauty. Seriously.

It can be a bit dazzling, and after a while, you stop seeing the lasts properly. Fortunately, you are allowed to photograph prospective lasts and make your final choice at your leisure. One thing to bear in mind when choosing lasts is that the finished shoe will look much softer because of the leather, toe puff etc. But it is really interesting and a lot of fun.

Springline makes lasts for the industry and also bespoke lasts by hand. They have four and a half skilled craftsmen working on the handmade side of things. They also make bespoke trees. I saw Derek in the middle of making some 3 piece boot trees for a client of ours. He showed me the rough turned obeche wood model and a finished boot tree he uses to help get it right. Our client's last is on the right.

Last maker at his bench.

The Model Room at Springline.

By the way, we found some amazing lasts, including some beautiful vintage ones. You have no idea how exciting this all is.

The other place we visited was A&A Crack and Sons where I bought some tan Scotch grain and some glace kid for linings. They have more leather than you could look at in one day, including most of the box calf we use on our shoes. It is a family run business and they are very patient.

All in a very successful trip.

Now, here's the thing. The Other One is, as we speak, on the South Downs at the Goodwood Revival selling Winkers, Limited Editions and measuring up bespoke clients. If yo're lucky, we may get a post with some pics of the event.

So, that is all from me. Until next week, happy shoemaking.

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