Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 1 February 2019

Leatherwork class - key fobbing

Photographer: Alex Natt

Welcome back good shoe folk and here we are with bespoke shoes flying through snow and wind to Spring Line in Northampton for trees to be made; Marcus and James back in the driving seat of the shoe making evening classes; and our leatherwork and shoe polish classes calendar getting under way.

But before we go any further, we promised a glimpse of Rachel's finished shoes, and here they are, being worn by a very proud Mike. Looking good!

Photographer: Rachel Brown

We also wanted to share the creative portraits that Rachel took of us, which we love, and which she will hopefully enter for her photography course (if she thinks we were good enough models); as you can see, it's all about the making!

Photographer: Rachel Brown

Photographer: Rachel Brown

We kicked off 2019's leatherwork classes with an Introduction to Leatherwork : Key Fob class last week and were delighted to welcome Permanent Style's, Simon Crompton as a guest. It was his first visit to Chocolate Studios, but not his first saddle stitching he admitted (he'd attended a leather work class at Hermes previously, so no pressure then!) 

We don't usually have a photographer in class...but we were delighted to have Alex
capture the class in action.
Thanks to the really helpful feedback from students last year, we've invested in handy spotlights which clamp onto the stitching pony or table and can be directed whichever way you choose.  Great for leather work and shoe making.

New spotlights helping to keep those stitches lines straight

First up was burnishing the strap edges working with gum tragacanth and cotton webbing. The texture of the webbing helps with the most important ingredient, friction. With a bit of practise, adjusting the speed and pressure of the rubbing, the friction sets the edges and give them a beautiful shine.

Next up was the edge creaser, a favourite tool as it smartens edges and creates a handsome, straight line parallel to them...just don't let it get too hot!

Everyone cemented their hardware on, ready for stitching...

Discussing stitches to the inch 
then it was stitch marking for half the class, stitching 7 to the inch

The stitch marker is only for marking not for cutting through the leather so it just needs a gentle tap with the hammer...

with enthusiasm, it's something that is easily forgotten!

And threading needles for the other half of the class...

It's tricky to thread the needles, but squashing the thread so it is flat helps and once you have the hang of threading the needle back through the thread and winching it up to lock it, it's very satisfying

Then it was time to get stitching, using a diamond awl and waxed thread

The two needles pass each other in the awl hole, a little like sole stitching, so it is very secure 

The end results were great, both plain and brogued straps, and looked very smart in their gift boxes. We hope you loved your key fob if you were lucky enough to be given one after class! 

Once you've got a little saddle stitch under your belt, then there's a world of stitching that awaits, whether it's making belts, bags and other leather accessories; taking a much-loved family bag and renovating it; or giving a treasure from a charity shop a new lease of life.  We'll be adding making kits shortly, so keep an eye out.

If you want to try your hand at leatherwork, our next class is in a fortnight, on Valentine's Day, February 14th. (Yes, we know, a brave bit of scheduling). We're hoping some of you will ditch the dinner, grab a friend and come making instead. £110 for two or £69 each, with chocolates and fizz to celebrate!

Once you have your saddle stitch mojo, then you can tackle bigger items and this beautiful folio / I-pad case in Italian Tempesti leather awaits on Saturday 23rd March. 

Lined with 100% felted wool to protect its contents, with three sides of stitching

...and a simple Sam Browne fastening'll look rather handsome tucked under your arm.

Until next week, happy shoe making!

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