Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 14 May 2010

You Only Need To Ask

Here is a picture of the course. Everyone looks happy and busy. Looking forward to meeting them.

Mad Dash

Well, I am off to New York tomorrow to teach week two of our course. The Other One is there now, just about to start day five. She says things are going well and that the students are progressing. You never know, we might even get some pictures! A request has been sent.

I went to a party at Wolf and Badger last night where our ready to wear shoes are selling well. It was good to see lots of new designers and meet a few of them. I was particularly pleased to meet Jay Kos, who has a menswear shop on 5th Avenue in New York. His clothes are really wonderful. Classic pieces of the gent's wardrobe, beautifully tailored, but with a very contemporary feel, whether it be the colour, the material or the detailing. Or all three. We agreed to meet in New York, so I am looking forward to seeing his store (great address!)

I have been tying up loose ends and finishing things off this week. Yesterday I had two clients in to try on shoes. Fittings are really important in the bespoke shoe process. It is one of the things that marks them out from factory made shoes. They have to fit you correctly, so we spend as much time as necessary.
I say to clients that there will always be one fitting, usually two and sometimes three. This covers about ninety percent of cases. Some, however take more visits, but that is all part of the service. It is what you are paying for.

After the last and the uppers have been made, we get the shoes to a state where they can be tried on. This involves lasting the upper with toe puff, stiffener and side linings onto an unprepared insole, which has been blocked, dried and trimmed. Notice that you do not trim the upper leather, just leave it full and nail towards the middle of the insole so that if you need to adjust the upper, you do not have holes in the it.

The upper is then brace stitched onto the insole using either welting or stitching threads with bristles attached. Some people glue the upper down, but bracing is stronger. When brace stitching, put your welting awl through the upper and then into and out of the insole. You can then pass the bristle through the hole and carry on right round the shoe.

You then remove the last and, using rubber solution, you glue on a temporary sole made from a flexible thin soling leather. The last thing to do is to nail on a temporary heel which you can make or buy. The shoe is now ready for a fitting.

When the client tries on the shoe, you discuss the fit and mark any changes you need to make with a silver pen on the upper. I also make written notes on each foot. This is a very important stage which I have simplified. But if you both communicate well, you should be able to manage it. This process involves a lot of feeling the shoe with the foot inside it. It is quite an intuitive process, which improves with experience.

If you need to make the shoe bigger, you glue pieces of leather to the last. If you need to make it smaller, you rasp the last and remove wood from it. If you look at the picture, this client has needed both procedures. You will find that some feet are just harder to fit than others. But you can always get there in the end.