Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 16 August 2019

Summer School

Welcome back fellow shoemaking enthusiasts and we hope that you are having a good summer wherever you are ...or a good winter, if you're on the other side of the hemisphere!

We've had a packed summer of teaching with students from the UK, the USA, Norway and Italy. It's been great fun, we've met some lovely people and some beautiful shoes have been made.

Most recently we were joined by Synne Kaasin, Head of Product Development for the original penny loafer company, Aurlands in Norway; classic loafers being made in a beautiful place...take a look here... (we weren't jealous at all!)   

Synne made a chic pair of black Derby shoes with a straight toecap. She had a great time, despite the London heat wave...

Synne's shoes, finished and polished; great work!

Maybe we'll get an invitation out to Norway one day :) ...

And now we're enjoying shoemaking with Lorenzo from Lugano, another beautiful region of clean air, clear waters and blue skies! It's his first time making, but he's proving very capable.


He's proving a very able shoemaker and is flying through the process, already building heels and with four days still to go. 

That's all for this week. We'll have news of the autumn classes, London Design Week and the 2020 Shoemakers Conference next week. Until then happy shoemaking!

Friday, 2 August 2019

Real Bespoke

Hello again to one and all. We hope that you have had a good week and that life is treating you well

One of the things we love about what we do is making shoes that are really personal and just what the customer wants. This is what real bespoke is - something bespoken between the customer and the artisan. Something collaborative which leads to a unique design each time

So the next pair of shoes is an example of that

The customer came to us with a pretty clear idea of what he wanted, a simple pair of black Oxfords but during our discussion it seemed that he also wanted to make them special and personal. This was not something he said directly but it was more oblique than that.

This is part of what we do during the initial consultation - listen. Because it is not always what a customer says. it is sometimes what they imply. Sometimes their ideas are not fully formed so we have to interpret what they say.

So it seemed he wanted customisation so we suggested a toe medallion with his initials which he really liked the sound of.

The next step was to design a few options and let him choose.

With monograms in a medallion we try to make it subtle so the the customer knows, but it is not always immediately obvious to other people

This is the option he chose.

The other thing we had to do was play with the size to get the proportions right.

And here is the finished shoe without the trees at this stage as he wanted them to wear to a wedding. We will make the trees once we get them back.

We added in a cranberry red lining for a touch of luxury.

We like how you get a glimpse of the red lining on the facings.

Then other thing we had to do was give the toes a high shine to stand out at the wedding and to make the medallion even more handsome.

So one thing we always say to people going into the trade is listen to the customer. It might seem obvious, but it really makes for a better product and a happier customer which is, after all, the aim of the game.

And that is it for this week. Until next time, happy shoemaking!

Friday, 26 July 2019

Carreducker's London - Cornelissen

Greetings, greetings, dear shoe people, once more unto the breach. We hope you have had a great week and, if you are in Europe, are not suffering too much with the heat. We reached 38 C yesterday which was pretty extraordinary, not in a good way.

This week's post is part of our occasional series of places in London which we love. And on this occasion it is an art supply shop called Cornelissen in Bloomsbury. It was founded in 1855 by a Belgian lithographer called Louis Cornelissen and supplied pigments, paints and stretched canvases to local artists until the present day. Famous customers include Walter Sickert, Rex Whistler, Francis Bacon and Anish Kapoor.

It is a beautiful shop both inside and out.

As you enter, you immediately notice that this is not your run of the mill shop. The dark wood fittings are original and full of character, including the stairs to the basement

The counter is backed by three walls of shelves and draws with this clock a particular favoutite

Mysterious numbered draws - what do they house?

Another unique feature of the shop is the floorboards which are very creaky so it is impossible to wander round unnoticed.

We buy beeswax, colophony and tallow from here which we use in our home made thread wax, available from our online supply shop.

When you buy these dry materials, they are housed in floor standing wooden cupboards and the staff magically know where to find everything.

The packaging is simple but really lovely.

The higher shelves are filled with jars of pigments, carefully arranged into a rainbow of colours.

Cornelissen is on Great Russell St very near the British Museum, in Bloomsbury. So if you are visiting London and want to do something different, or even buy your own ingredients for making thread wax, you could do a lot worse that visit this hidden London gem.

And that is it for now. We hope you have a good week and look forward to seeing you back next time. Until then, happy shoemaking!

Monday, 22 July 2019

Summer Intensive Shoemaking

Hello again, dear readers, we hope you have had a wonderful week and have been enjoying the good weather as much as we have

We have been joined in the workshop for the last two weeks by two medical doctors from the UK who wanted a working holiday where they learned to make something. And what better than a pair of shoes?

And here they are, Clare and Ling at the start of their shoemaking journey.

We had a great two weeks, teaching the whole process from blocking the insoles to preparing the feather/holdfast.

We had a leftie this time which always keeps us on our toes with the demonstrations as you have to reverse the usual way you do things.

During the two weeks we tackled all aspects of making shoes by hand, including skiving toe puffs and stiffeners; hand lasting; and hand welting with a little thread making and bristle attaching sprinkled in

They were both very capable (which you hope for in a doctor!) and took to the shoemaking very well. We also had a great time discussing medical issues and hospital stories which were quite shocking as you can imagine.

After stitching the soles by hand, and drinking lots of tea, came the heel building, one of our favourite stages because of the technical precision need to get the heels balanced; the same height as each other; and sitting flat.

Measuring out the heels
It was a thoroughly enjoyable two weeks and both of them made a pair of lovely looking shoes. It is quite an achievement and a very big well done to both of them.

As you will see below, the sense of achievement on the final day is amazing.

If you want to make a pair of shoes with us, please take a look at our website for a list of the kind of courses we run, along with dates, times and prices

We have a wide variety of learning options from group classes to one to one tuition and we can teach complete beginners to more experienced shoemakers.

So get in touch ( and book a course. We look forward to hearing from you

Until next week, happy shoemaking!

Monday, 8 July 2019

All things bespoke

Hello once more, dear readers, new and old. We hope you have had a great week.

This week we are going to share a pair of shoes which we made for a couple of very good customers who both wanted to own a pair of black crocodile shoes.

First up is this pair of beauties.

The part we enjoyed most about the making was the stacked leather heel - always a challenge.

This shot really shows the beauty of the heel. We don't make women's shoes very often so it is nice to have the variety.

We really enjoyed designing this pair as the design was so cool and simple - a plain oxford but with no laces. This posed a few problems as we had to put an elastic gusset under the tongue. The fitting was a challenge but we got there in the end.
They also had a cranberry red lining which was a subtle touch of luxury.


We ordered 4 skins as each pair needs 2 skins so that you can match the scales on the left and right shoes.

The gloss finish is really beautiful and shows off the beauty of the scales of the skin.

The other pair was a pair of simple loafers without a band. Because there was no band, the apron was a challenge to stitch, but the result was excellent.

With crocodile, we always suggest that the style be very simple because the scales of the skin can do all the work and a complicated shoe style would make the whole effect too busy.

We think both these pairs of shoes follow that principle.

And last up is a monogrammed toe medallion. These are quite popular with our customers as they really personalise the shoes.

This was a PH monogram. When we do this, we try to make the design slightly abstract so that the medallion is not too obvious.

Getting the size right is key with a toe medallion.

We will post images of the finished shoes as soon as we can.

And that is about it for this week. We hope you enjoyed the post and that you also have a great week. Until next time, happy shoemaking!