Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Day 5 New York Shoemaking Course

It's been another great day on the course (hope you agree guys) and we are only hours away from the first channels being cut and the soles going on. I am looking forward to a good day of sole stitching tomorrow so that next week there will be plenty of time for questions and answers with Mr Ducker as sole stitching is finished and heels are built. 

 Hopefully there will also be plenty of time for finishing - getting a really good edge on the soles and heels. I'm expecting to see great results in the final group photo next Saturday! Tomorrow, a last post from me before Mr Ducker takes the reins on Monday, so happy shoemaking until then.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Day 4 NY shoemaking course

The day started with a lovely line up of shoes - and we can call them that now - all lasted, stiffeners and toe puffs in and ready to welt.

 Then with threads made the welting was under way. We've had a day of bristle slippage for some of the students which meant much careful unwinding, re-keying and tarring of the bristle and re-winding. Frustrating, but VERY good practise. James will be teaching them all another way to attach bristles next week which might work better for them.

And the day ended with one shoe welted and 5 others almost everyone has gone home with some welting homework! We shall see how they fared in the morning!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

And Then There Were Six - Day 3 NY Shoemaking Course

The enthusiasm and energy is still high even though bodies and minds are stretched having learned so many new skills (and words) in such a short space of time. We now have six pairs of lasted shoes all set to welt in the morning and how proud I feel about the hard work that has been done today.   

 If you are following closely you may be wondering what happened to our seventh student? Well unfortunately, a recent operation meant that he just wasn't fit enough to undertake the course despite some impressive determination. We are instead looking forward to welcoming him back next year, fully recovered and fighting fit. It is disappointing all around, but emphasises just how physical this course is, working your legs, arms, hands and entire upper body all at once.

 Talking of which, we're welting tomorrow, so our students will get to do their first stitching. Fingers crossed for some easy awl action!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Day 2 New York Shoemaking Course 2012

Today we ploughed on with yet more skiving toe puffs, stiffeners and preparing insoles. Most of the group have also got their welts prepared, threads are under way and once all these bits and pieces ready, we'll be ready for a day of lasting and welting tomorrow.
Wright had a major breakthrough today. As the only 'leftie' in the class he has been struggling to get his knife under control and sharp. It's been tricky for me to show him too, as I am right handed, but finally we have a sharp knife that is doing what it needs to and with a little more practise he will be ready for the next knife challenge!

With four guys and three girls in the class, there has been some amusing leg pulling about the girls vs guys approach to work. Whilst the girls have been quietly getting on with things the guys have needed a lot of attention and then are surprised when the girls are on to the next step! Needless to say it's made a fun and lively class!
But the flip side of such a sociable group is that sometimes concentration can wander, so there have been a couple of slip ups today. Not the end of the world and with all things that go wrong, good learning!
 So after a good night's rest, we'll have seven pairs of shoes taking shape tomorrow - all lasted and a few at least partly welted. I can't wait. Good work guys!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Day 1 New York 2012 Handsewn Shoemaking Course

 It's day one of our handsewn shoemaking course in New York and we've got a full house - 7 students - and it's been a great first day...buzzy, sociable but with lots of work getting done and new skills being learnt! The perfect combination!
 For most of the students this is a totally new skill set which can be quite intimidating...but by the end of today knives were being wielded confidently (sometimes too confidently!) the insoles are on and drying and puffs and stiffeners are well on the way to completion.

Tomorrow things get more exciting as the insoles are prepared, the holdfast is made and uppers are lasted. My favourite day as the students see their bits of leather take on the shape of real shoes!