Thursday, December 4, 2014

Shoemaking: Figuring out how to start



Shoemaking: Figuring out how to start

When I first got into sewing about 4 years ago I got really curious about making my own shoes as well. Surely if you can make your own clothes from scratch with the help of the internet you could fumble your way through making your own shoes right?


I guess I was a little more intimidated by starting because there’s not a lot of information about shoemaking at home. While there are hundreds & thousands of sewing bloggers worldwide with even more people sewing without blogging there just aren’t that many people shoemaking. Or maybe there are and they haven’t got blogs? Or maybe they blog and I just haven’t found them yet? Whatever the case, shoemaking seems to be a lot rarer than sewing.


I’ve come across a number of shoe making courses both in Australia and worldwide which I don’t doubt is probably the best way to learn. However I don’t learn as well in classes as I do when I teach myself things. There’s something about the very public nature of learning and making mistakes in front of other people that just doesn’t work for me. I’d much rather learn and make mistakes by myself where I can take my time to reflect and research and retry things at my own pace.


So where to begin? 


Making shoes from a kit vs making shoes by following a book


Shoe Making Kit


The reason I took the plunge and committed to start making my own shoes is because I stumbled across a link on Pinterest that lead me to this site icanmakeshoes.com.


It’s a place in London that teaches classes on basic shoemaking and sells kits, lasts and booklets online. This place really seems to understand what it means to teach people a whole new skill from scratch. They’ve got all the materials for sale, you can buy yourself a kit which includes every single thing you need to put together a pair of shoes (except the lasts) and they have booklets with really clear instructions which are accompanied by colour photographs outlining each step. The look of their website, their products and their booklets is very fresh and modern. The kits and the booklets are clearly aimed at someone who has never ventured into shoemaking and could either be there in their studio learning or doing the same thing from home. I bought the kit, the booklet on making ballet flats and the booklet on making sandals. I would have bought my lasts from the same place but the shipping was going to cost more than the actual lasts so I didn’t.


After reading the booklet you can tell this is the absolute simplest way to make a pair of shoes and takes away all the fear of beginning. The perfect start! It has you making shoes from leather so you can simply cut away the edges and they won’t fray. It only asks you to sew one seam on the lining and one seam on the outer fabric so this can be done without a sewing machine if necessary which makes this kit even more accessible.





Following a book

This website was not the initial inspiration for making my own shoes though. Four years ago when I started researching this idea I happened across this book Make Your Own Shoes by Mary Wales Loomis at marywalesloomis.com and bought it. Mary wanted to make her own shoes at home and since she had very little information on the subject she researched shoemaking the best way she knew how - from shoes. She cut up some of her older shoes and inspected each part. She sourced materials wherever she could and she spoke to her local cobbler whenever she couldn’t find what she was looking for. She also didn’t stop at flat shoes. She was keen to make heels or high heels (read: pumps if you’re not Australian?) as well so she cut them open and sourced materials for making her own heels.

What I loved most about this book is that it’s all done with what she can find. She sacrificed a pair of shoes so she could make a plaster of paris shoe last and experimented with different fabrics and stiffeners on the shoe upper until she had the process down pat. As a result this book is much more detailed. It requires you to stitch and understitch your layers, it has you hand stitching the layers under the shoes together really tightly before gluing and it talks about different fabrics to use and what linings and stiffeners might be appropriate for each choice.




Figuring out how to start

I love the idea of both of these methods. I bought the kit because I wanted a little hand holding on my first pair and now that I know they’re made with leather I don’t have to worry about much sewing. I can dive straight in and have a custom made pair of shoes in no time. Instant-ish gratification!

So my first pair will be made solely from the materials from the kit and following the booklet  on making ballet pumps to the letter. I think it will be a fun and easy way to ease myself into shoe making.


For my second pair I’m going to put all that aside and go with the book. I’ll choose a fabric instead of a leather, I’ll use appropriate linings and stiffeners as per the book’s suggestions and I’ll be sewing some of it on my machine and some of it by hand as suggested.

I’m interested to see which process is better for me. I suspect I’m going to like the one with all the sewing better because I feel like its going to produce a more professional shoe but on the other hand all the materials come with the kit so it’s going to end up looking and feeling pretty professional too. Time will tell!

Also I'll be trying out making my own sandals. And somewhere along the line I will customise my shoe lasts so I can make shoes that really fit my feet.

What materials have I got so far and where did I source them?

icanmakeshoes.com
Shoe Making Kit - £39.95 
Ballet Flats Booklet - £12.50 
Simple Sandals Booklet -  £8.50 
Extra shoe glue x 2 - £
£10 postage
Total Australian = $148

Kadabros
Shoe lasts - $45 American + $22 American postage
Total Australian = $80

marywalesloomis.com

Make Your Own Shoes - $39.95 American
Total Australian = $45





I haven’t yet bought leather for my first pair of shoes and I also don’t have all the materials for my second pair of shoes yet but I’ll be including an expenses list for each pair of shoes I make. I suspect making shoes from the book will result in a cheaper pair of shoes but I’m yet to really test that theory.

I’ll be making my first pair of shoes in the next couple of weeks so I’ll report back on the process in a detailed post or you can watch the process on instagram.

37 comments:

  1. Wow. Can't wait to see how you get on! I was going to say that Joost is doing the same thing but see he has commented above!

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  2. Oh my god! This looks great! Can you explain to me what's happening in this pic? Have you got it stretched over a last? Is that leather? And have you made a full on pattern before stretching it over?

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  3. I think it's going to be a lot of fun!

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  4. Well, where do I start... It is leather. It is stretched over the last, and nail in place at the bottom.
    It is not yet attached to the inner in this picture. I stretched both of them over the last, and then glued bits and pieces together so I would know how they should fit, as lining and upper are a different pattern.
    I took them off next, sewed them together, and put them on again for a new stretch.
    This is also when I put in the toe cap and heel puff (I think those are the names, I'm mostly just improvising).

    I need to slowly work towards attaching the sole. Not sure yet on how I'm going to do this. This is the first pair of shoes I ever made, so I'm afraid I have at least as many questions as you do ;)

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  5. Oh, as for the pattern, I drew it myself. It's easier than patterns for clothing actually :)

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  6. Well so far you seem to be following the steps in the book I've got so that's got to be good! It starts with covering an insole in leather, they use masking tape to stick it to the bottom of the last. They stretch the lining over the last and glue it to the insole, add toe puff and counter, stretch the outer fabric over the last and glue it down, then mark out the exact shape of the sole, apply glue liberally and stick the sole on. Voila - you have a shoe!
    Also I agree on the patternmaking thing - I'm excited to play around with shapes because it uses such little fabric and the ideas for individualising them are endless!

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  7. I'm going to sew the sole on. Glueing it won't do. I'm not making ballerinas ;)

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  8. Even better! I'd love to hear how it all goes. Will you be blogging about it?

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  9. I'll post the end results. As this is my first pair, I'll keep details blog posts for when I get a bit better at it ;)

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  10. This is so awesome!! Making my own shoes is such a dream of mine, and i'm so so excited to see that someone is finding a way to make this approachable! I can't wait to see how yours turn out! Thanks for linking to all of your supplies and adding costings etc, that's always so relevant for us Aussies hey ;)
    XOXO

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  11. I am so excited by this and cant wAit to see your progress on IG. May the force be with you!!

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  12. I think there are a lot of us that have the same dream! I'm glad this kit exists so that it can be a bit more accessible and I'm hoping to be able to break things down on my posts so that some more brave souls (soles - ha!) take the leap. I'd love to have a shoe-along at some point - maybe we could all start with sandals seeing as they're easier? Can't wait to get started and share it all. And yes to pricings for materials + shipping all the way across the world. Ugh. I'm hoping to keep it real here.

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  13. Thanks! First step source leather, second step (step - ha!) make shoes. Soon I will be making ALL the shoe jokes too.

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  14. This is great, I've been thinking about shoes for a while. I'm totally following you in this.

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  15. Oh. My. Friggin. Goodness. I have said countless times that I *wish* I could make my own shoes because I have feet that are incredibly difficult to fit in RTW. I have not followed up on shoe making before because I assumed it was expensive and so far out of reach for me. Thank you so much for sharing this info. This info is very useful!

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  16. I'm excited to see your progress! I'm going to go check out those kits because I'd really love to try making my own shoes as well, but had no idea where to start.

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  17. This is so great, Jodie! I've been thinking about learning shoemaking for a while, so I'll be eagerly following your progress! Thank you so much for all the information!

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  18. Also I just was looking at the Kadabros etsy site and it says she ships from Lithuania, so it would be $22 to ship to me in America as well. (I was hoping for cheap postage, lol)

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  19. So exciting! I've been experimenting with shoe-making, but haven't had much luck so far (great fit, but terrible durability), so I'm really interested to follow your progress.

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  20. Awesome! Can I ask what's letting the durability down? What materials are you using?

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  21. The main problem is that the soles don't stay glued to the uppers. Also, I used three layers of heavy cotton twill for the uppers, but holes started to form around the lower heel after just a few wears.

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  22. Melanie Y (Miss Piggy)December 5, 2014 at 9:17 AM

    How exciting! I cannot wait to see how these turn out. I remember watching some chick flick years ago where Jennifer Garner has some dramatic drama happening and in the end of the movie she learns to make shoes (they're ugly, but that's not the point) and opens up a super successful shoe store. Ever since then I've been obsessed with the idea of shoe making...ugly ones or not!

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  23. Ha! I'll have to watch that one. I have my fingers crossed that I can make wearable and good looking shoes.

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  24. Oh no, that does sound problematic. You know my biggest concern in trying to make shoes for myself has been figuring out which glue to use. I'll try out the one that comes with the kit but after that I think you're meant to use Barge? There are a lot of people smack talking Barge in Internet forums though so it might require more research.
    As for the holes developing that sounds awful! Thanks for the heads up though, it's something I'll keep and eye out for during my learning process.

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  25. So crazy excited for you, I bemoan having to buy flats that wear out so quickly. If I could make my own to replace them that would be amazing. Can't wait to hear how it goes. Fingers (or should that be toes?) crossed it's all going to be amazing.

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  26. I'm now googling that film as it sounds awesome and I have an afternoon of sewing to fill up with movies.

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  27. Let me know what it's called if you find it!

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  28. Me TOO! I'm also going to experiment with leather soles and rubber soles to see what lasts longer.

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  29. I, too, had trouble finding any bloggers who wrote about shoe-making, but I do see a few sewing bloggers now giving it a try. I've seen both of these resources but haven't dived in yet, so I can't wait to see what you make!

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  30. Well I'm officially diving in! Let's hope it's more fun than frightening.

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  31. Oh, this is so interesting! I would love to make my own shoes for the very practical reason that I have tiny feet and find it so hard to get shoes that fit. Good luck with your shoe making, and I shall look forward to seeing the results. Now I'm off to follow you on instagram, and click on the link to the book! Lynne

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  32. Great! It would be so satisfying to have the freedom to wear your own handmade shoes made in your exact size with no limitations on fabrics. Thanks for following along.

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  33. Cool! That's a bit how I feel about knitting. It looks amazing but it's just not something I've really got my head around and sewing always trumps it. Fingers crossed my shoes turn out how they look in my head!

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  34. Wow! Making shoes seems like a very intriguing but slightly intimidating process. I can't wait to see how you go.

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  35. I am so watching this carefully as the idea of making my own flats is crazy appealing! Lead on, MacDuff!

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  36. Oh my! What a reference! I shall fight these shoes to the death! Love a bit of casual Shakespeare dropped here and there.

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  37. You're absolutely right! Intriguing and intimidating explains exactly how I'm feeling!

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