Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 28 February 2014

Blocking and Boot Patterns - 2014 Independent Shoemakers Conference

We had a great time last weekend catching up with friends old and new at the Independent Shoemakers' Conference at the DeVere Horsley Park... including Carina Eneroth, Bill and Mrs Bird, Sebastian Tarek, Phil Taylor and Dominic Casey - and we finally got to meet Janne Melkersson after all these years! The conference was bigger and better than ever (well done Marsha Hall) and there were some fascinating lectures and demonstrations. 

One in particular caught my attention - blocking and boot patterns. Now the world at carreducker is a very harmonious one, but there is one fundamental thing that divides us...the ankle. I favour footwear over the ankle i.e. boots and James prefers footwear below the ankle i.e. shoes. So I was all ears for Dominic Casey's boot-centric lecture !

Rather than having several blocking boards, Dominic showed us one that he has had for over 20 years (it sadly decided to split the day before the Conference), but which has provided the ideal curvature for him, for most boot vamps and heels (it has a second surface ideal for blocking boot counters). He generously shared the template for this board and so we plan to make a pair of our own shortly. Watch this space for the results!  

Then came the ultimate boot pattern template (above) to create core pattern pieces and to take / calculate the necessary measurements. Along with boot pattern templates for a...

Wellington Boot...

Zipped fabric boot...

Zipped leather boot...

Zipped fabric and leather boot... 

And a pull-on boot.

Now it's a long time since I studied pattern making, so it was interesting to see how Dominic makes a caster pattern. This is the template used to cut out the leather for blocking the vamp. The more accurate it is the less waste there is and , although it's not the method I was originally taught, it certainly made good sense.

The gist of it is to position the standard vamp pattern against a horizontal line with as much of its volume as possible below the line(see above).

The vamp is then flattened off by rotating it forward from the mid point until the toe lies on the horizontal line. This lengthens the top line and shortens the lower line  in equal measures.

The same process is repeated at the quarters seam, but here it is important not to distort the shape or change the it is pivoted from the last point where the pattern sits on the line.  

This makes the castor pattern which is cut out on the fold and used to cut the leather for the vamp for blocking.

Sensibly Dominic used soft pigskin for the demonstration pieces, but it is easy to see how satisfying blocking sturdier boot vamps will be in the future. We'll keep you updated. 

Until next week and part two of our coverage from the Conference, happy shoemaking!