You may remember I have been dying to do a shoe making course for ages. And lots of readers have been cheering for the shoe making, especially Aida who has made some super shoes herself. But I had not found a suitable opportunity. Then I discovered a short course to make a pair of boots over six Sundays, and Nick and I signed up. This takes place at the London College of Fashion.
The first class involved designing our boots and making a pattern.
We were told that we could make black, brown or tan boots, for men (flat) or for women (high heel boots), with elastic or zips. A little bit limited but for a first attempt at footwear I guess it is best to focus on techniques without too much freedom.
I must admit when I realised that we would be making high heeled boots I was a bit fed up as I hardly ever wear high heels. But then I thought – if it is all about the learning then learning how to make heeled boots is quite an exciting prospect, even if I rarely wear them. During our lunch hour I found a roughly acceptable design on the internet and while I started with an unusual shape for the elastic insert I changed this later on in my design. Also my boots will be dark brown rather than black. Nick is of course making men’s boots and is quite happy with the limitations imposed (although he had lace ups in mind before we arrived). I could have had knee (or even over the knee) boots, and had a flat version been possible I should have gone for that. But with the heels I thought a shorter boot to wear with trousers was more suitable.
The first thing we did was use masking tape to cover a last in our size. This is then marked up in various ways and removed carefully after cutitng along the centre front and back lines.
Once the sticky tape was carefully cut off and stuck down onto paper we had to press it down firmly, given it was quite contoured. As a relatively experienced patten cutter I was interested in this technique, one I have seen in Pattern Magic. When we made our bodices with cling film Pia showed us how to use the darts to flatten the pattern. In this case there were no darts – just squishing the 3D masking tape onto a 2D surface. Once the masking tape pattern is complete we drew around the inside and outside pattern and made a new line between the two – the mean of the two lines effectively. There is an extra piece of pattern at the instep (on the inside) and this is left but the shorter outline is also indicated for the outside. You can just see this on the base of my basic “block” pattern, known in shoe making as the Mean Forme. You may be able to see what look like balance marks or notches – at the Vamp Point (where a court shoe would dip down to), the instep (where our lacing would start), a back height mark and also marks for the widest part of the shoe.
Finally we turned the mean forme (block) into a pattern for our boots. The Standard Last Length is determined by your shoe size, and we used aliquot parts to determine some of the dimensions. We also took lots of measurements including of the foot and leg itself. In the photograph you can see Nick creating his pattern. Can you see the toe cap? And the side zip?
Finally we separated the pattern pieces, added seam allowances (although there is a different terminology required which I may recall after six weeks, but cannot at the moment). The leather will be joined in various ways as it is not really possible to get the shoes out of one huge piece of leather. Half a cow’s worth of leather will only make four pairs of boots so it fairly demanding on the raw materials.
Next week we will cut out our leather and start sewing it up.
So far so good. It is such an exciting process – closely related to what I already know but also totally foreign. I am finding a bit easier than the complete beginners (although I have never made shoes of any description before), but there are only four students so we are getting lots of advice and support.