Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 4 March 2011

Independent Shoemakers Conference

Welcome back shoemakers of the world. I am filled this week with a sense of community and togetherness. And what has inspired such warm and wooly feelings? Well, I will tell you. Last Saturday, the Other One and I went to the 11th(?) Annual Independent Shoemakers Conference

This is a gathering of shoemakers from around the country (and some from Sweden and Ireland). It is a weekend event, but we only went for the day. There were 4 seminars on various aspects of shoemaking, some more relevant than others, but the point is that you learn at every one. Seminars included websites, design, the biomechanics of gait, a new way to make mock uppers for fittings. Lots of interesting stuff.

What makes it stand out is that it is very friendly and relaxed. They welcome anyone, even if you are only a student of shoemaking or just starting out. And people are very willing to share resources, contacts etc. We found some new suppliers which is great.

One highlight was an explanation of these boots from Peter Schweiger owner of James Taylor And Son. As orthopaedic as they look, they were actually made for a client with perfectly functional legs but who had a fetish for this type of boots. The story goes that he went to the shop to pick up the boots and was trying them on in the changing room. He got so excited that he had a heart attack and they had to call an ambulance and rush him to hospital. Fortunately he survived, but he decided that his particular fetish was maybe not the most healthy and he decided to leave the boots with the makers. An expensive lesson I reckon, £5000 and a heart attack. Funny story though.

Next came an interesting method to create a try on upper very quickly from EVA foam. This was from Phil Taylor aka The Cordwainer who organised the event (a big thank you to him). Basically you roughly cut the pieces to size, glue them with contact adhesive and put them in an oven at about 170 degrees for a few minutes. Once it is hot, you simply lay the pieces on the last and smooth it on. As the foam cools, it shrinks onto the last and stays there. You then glue the next piece on and you end up with an upper which you can cut and shape and use to test the fit of your last. It is amazing really. Phil says that he sees a client and spends half a day with them and in that time, he will have a last fitted up and a try on done. Fantastic really.

Demonstrating is his son James.

The last snippet is a quick method to get an accurate leg measure if you are making long boots. Demonstrated by Phil Taylor on Bill Bird. Simply place a plastic bag around the leg and then tape it up with packing tape. Then cut the bag down the front of the shin. You then have a very accurate template for the leg. The average allowance for the upper is to add 20mm to your measures.
One thing to remember is not to cut the customer's sock when you cut off the bag as Phil does here. Luckily Bill saw the funny side because we all thought it was hilarious.

Did you know that you don't have kneecaps till you are about 6 years old? Or that your inner ear tells you which way is up? Or that toddlers don't walk like us? And neither do 6 year olds for that matter. Well all the more reason to go to the conference. Bill Bird gave us a fascinating seminar on the biology of walking and gait. The foot is an amazing piece of kit and it is in our interest to know about it.

Lastly, back to fittings from last week. Here is the final point in getting the uppers ready for the fitting stage. The fake sole is glued on and the fake heel nailed into place. It does not look much, but is perfectly functional and gives you a perfect way to adapt the last correctly.

Let me know if you have a go.

So people, that is it. Have a great week and, until next week, happy shoemaking!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Spring Cleaning on a Grand Scale – Musings from the ‘Goldfish bowl’ - Savile Row Tailors - Gieves and Hawkes

Take a look at our regular Gieves & Hawkes blog posts and find out why things are a ch-ch-changing around our new studio and why, come April, Gieves will have a whole new look and be the go-to place for all your sartorial needs!

Monday, 28 February 2011

Cop combo blog

We love the comparison to an 80s cop combo on this blog - but who is Cagney and who is Lacey? And the comparison to a species on the verge of extinction is no exaggeration. That's partly why we do our courses to encourage people to take up shoemaking, whether as a hobby, vocation or career-change. Don't forget the next course is in New York in May and there are just a few places remaining!