Things are going very well at Gieves and Hawkes. The workshop looks great, I hope you will agree.
We have been very busy bedding in there, meeting all the staff, setting up our systems and procedures. And taking all the new orders of course!
We are doing a trunk show tomorrow at Wolf and Badger. This is at 46 Ledbury Road in Notting Hill, London, from 12 till 6, so if any of you are in the vicinity, then pop in, weather permitting. This is where we retail the Winkers Resort Shoes, but we are also showcasing the bespoke shoes there tomorrow. We also have some new stock of Winkers, particularly the new Harris Tweeds which are slightly heavier than the Dashing Tweeds, but lovely in every way. Pop in for a mince pie and a whiskey if you are in the vicinity. We would love to see you.
This week I am going to look at an aspect of making bespoke shoes which is extremely important. It can make or break the final look of the shoe. Previously I stressed how important the finish is on a shoe, but this week it is going to be lasting, which happens right at the start. However, the results will be seen clear as day on the final shoe. If you get it wrong - if it's twisted; if it's uneven; or if they are not a pair - then the final shoe will look all wrong. So spend time on it!
You start with your stiffener and toe puff, all skived and glassed and ready to go. Plus side linings if you are going to use them.
On your glueing board, paste the skin side of the stiffener lightly and insert the stiffener between the lining and the upper, glue side out. Once in place, paste the flesh side, so that you have paste on both surfaces.
Now you are ready to begin lasting. Put some French chalk or talcum powder on the last. This helps to take the last out when you have finished the shoes. Place the upper on the last. Push the upper up at the back so that it sticks over the top of the last by about 1cm.
You can put a nail into the lasting allowance at the bottom of the back seam. This stops the upper moving and keeps the back seam straight. However, you must be prepared to take it out if the upper is not sitting properly on the last at the front. This can cause the back seam to move one way or the other, but it is more important to have the front straight.
Once the back is positioned, you can concentrate on the fore part. Pull the upper down at the front in the middle with your lasting pliers. If you have a cap measure or a vamp measure, you must pull until it is in the right place. Remember though that once you have the toe puff in place, the measure will increase by 2 or 3mm. Put one nail at the centre in the front. Put the nail in the centre of the holdfast/feather.
Once you have one nail in the centre at the front, you continue to last around the toe In general, when you have pulled the upper to the right place, push the pliers down to hold the upper in place. With your other hand, grab a nail and push the point of the nail into the spot on the upper where your lasting pliers are holding the upper in place. Now you have to make a transfer of pressure from the pliers to the nail so that the upper doesn't slip. Once in place, bang the nail in with the foot of the pliers. If the upper slips and you lose the lasting pressure, you must start again.
At this stage, you just want to get the fore part of the shoe in place, so that you can last the heel part properly. We put 5 nails in in total to hold the upper in place. The next one goes at the side roughly where a toe cap would be. Follow the same procedure as before. Don't pull it too tight as you will make the upper crooked. Make sure that you keep checking the other side of the upper to make sure that it is straight. This is the real art of lasting, making sure the upper is in the right place. And then making sure the other one is the same.
The front is right now, so you can concentrate on lasting the back. Take the nail out of the lasting allowance at the heel and with the pliers, pull the upper down to your back height which you have marked on the last. This is usually 2 and 3/8" (7cm I think but check it!). When it is in place, put a nail in the back seam between 2 stitches so that you don't break the thread.
At the bottom in the middle, pull gently and put in a nail. Now you must begin to work your way round the heel. Start on one side and put in one nail about 7mm from the first. Each time you do this, the action is this - pull the lining separately first, then the upper and then both together. Put the nail in. You have to pull the lining first to make sure you get rid of all the creases.
Try to make sure the back seam is vertical and centred.
Put two nails next on the other side. Don't pull really hard, but be firm. Each time you need to make little fold of leather between the nails. Continue like this till you get to your heel marks. At this point you must measure the height. Between 2" and 2 1/4" on the outside and between 2 1/4" and 2 1/2" on the inside. If this is correct, continue with the nails to just behind the joint. The nails go in the middle of the holdfast at this point, like at the front.
Now you must go back and last between the nails to get rid of the little creases so that you end up with a flat feather edge. You can use the French shape hammer to help achieve this.
Once this is done, trim off the excess lasting allowance and bang your nails flat. This gets them out of the way and tightens the upper on the last.
You must get this done before the glue dries.
I am going to break here and continue with the toe puff next week. So, until then, happy shoemaking!