Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 26 August 2011

1 New Shoe

After the madness of blogging every day for 12 days between us during the course, I have been taking stock of the blog and how it is going. I must say that we are delighted with it. When we started it in 2008, it was a real step in the dark, we had no idea what to expect. We wanted to share our passion for handsewn shoemaking, but  did not know how to do it particularly.
And when I read the first posts now, I can see how little direction we had, but soon enough a pattern emerged and the format of doing mini photo essays on very detailed aspects of making bespoke shoes became the norm.

And I think we have had a great response. The validation of our readers is what makes it worth it. Blogging is a very democratic format - people vote with their mouses (mice?). If nobody reads it, then it's just a vanity project. But we are just about to pass 100,000 hits, which feels like a milestone, I mean wow! That is a lot of hits for such a niche subject.
And we get a lot of contact from aspiring shoemakers around the world, both comments and emails, so we know that people are being inspired to pursue our wonderful trade - it's really fantastic.

So, a great big thank you to all of you who are reading this.

As it happens, we had a very satisfying thread started on Style Forum this week, which gave us some very positive feedback. Check it out.

I especially like the quote from the eminent bootmaker D W Frommer II, "the blog is the best one devoted to shoemaking on the Internet". How fantastic is that? We will certainly be quoting that from now on.

I am not trying to blow my own trumpet (well, just a little), as much as emphasize that blogging can be a bit of a lonely activity, so all the feedback you get spurs you on to continue.

This week has been a case of back to the grindstone. Catching up on all the stuff we didn't do while we were teaching.

I finished a rather elegant pair of shoes which are for a wedding. I really like shoes which combine colours and textures, so the navy suede and black calf combo really works for me. And I like the slight twist on a classic design. Being critical, I wish we had blacked the edge of the calf on the vamp and the quarters. This is usually done at the end when you polish the shoes. It would have improved the look. But you always learn something new.

The other thing we did this week was some repairs to shoes we made way back in 2005. It is always good to see how your work stands up to wear, and I was pretty pleased with these shoes. We replaced the top pieces, put on toe plates and gave them a thorough clean and polish. The results are good and the shoes have a lot of life left in them.
It was interesting to see designs we had done years ago. I still like them, it must be said.

The patent shoes had glitter all over them which was very difficult to get off as it sticks to the surface. I had to take it off piece by tiny piece.
And you can see from the last photo that he has unusually curved feet. Some people really need bespoke shoes!

Well, dear readers, that is all for this week. have a great week and, until next Friday, happy shoemaking.

PS I have rectified the little white edge on the vamp and quarters with a pen and a steady hand - nerve wracking!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Final Day (12) - Shoemaking Course

One thing I did not mention in the Day 11 post was our afternoon visits. First we went to see our good friends at John Lobb Ltd, where we saw all the processes in the making of bespoke shoes. Last makers, clickers, closers and makers. It was a fascinating visit, much appreciated by all the students.
We then went to Gieves and Hawkes where we saw the carréducker concession, the 'Goldfish Bowl'. Again a very interesting visit and the chance for the students to see our handiwork.

And so the end came. The final day, a mad rush to finish everyone's shoes.

We started with setting the edges. This involves getting rid of the lips formed by the sanding, re-fudging the stitches and passing over a hot edge iron. This gives the edges a smooth finished look.

Then we had to finish the soles and top pieces - glassing followed by 3 grades of sandpaper.

Next came inking - black all over for a black shoe

Then came a layer of polish which we burnished with a cool heel iron to set it in place. This stops the polish marking carpets!
Two more layers of polish and a lot of elbow grease to give a lovely high shine.

The final furlong is wax on the heels and edges. Three layers on the heels put on cold and ironed in. One layer on the edges put on hot and ironed in.
Take it all off with a cloth to give a shiny surface.

Seat wheel round the seat to give those characteristic little lines.

Single lipped iron on the heel edges to set them hard (can you feel the rush?)

Then a quick (or slow if they had the time) clean and polish and that is a wrap.

We pulled the lasts, put in the laces and tried them on. Fantastic! The work this year was of a very high standard, as you can see. So a very big congratulations to all the students. Nice job!

High Shine Polish

The Happy Group

And the rewards of their labours were not only a wonderful pair of handmade shoes to keep, a tool kit of shoemaking tools and the knowledge to continue making shoes, but a delicious cup cake washed down with a glass of champagne. What more could you ask for?

So well done lads (yes, all men this year, come on women of the world, you too can make shoes). A thoroughly excellent twelve days work.
In fact, there was a little sadness at the end of the day that the course was over, which meant that they all had to go back to normal life and work.

It makes me think - I love my job! How lucky Deborah and I are. The jolly shoemakers, ho ho.

If you feel you would like to do one of our courses, the ones for 2012 are advertised on our website

So take a look and sign yourself up. You won't regret it.

Until next Friday, happy shoemaking!