Bootmaking Part 2

Thank you for all your interest in our boot making course at the London College of Fashion. I am attending this course with my husband Nick every Sunday for six weeks. In week one we made the pattern for our boots. (I wore my crochet skirt for the class – I will write this up very soon)

Week two was about choosing and cutting out the leather, the stitching. And gluing! I had no idea how much glueing was involved.

But first off we had to make the pattern for the lining of our boots. You can see the lining pattern below. There were only two pieces which are joined down the CF of the foot and with half a seam across the instep. You can see from the photos how nicely the pattern works. This was cut out in soft, natural pig skin – in the picture I am getting to grips with cutting with a knife. If you want to know more about buying leather, see this review.

Then we selected our boot leather. The leather, like all the materials needed, is provided by the college. However there was a limited range available. On offer was black or brown, also navy and white. No one went for the white. I had intended to make brown boots, but I didn’t like the shade of brown. It wasn’t “black” enough, a bit too reddish for me. Nick really wanted a tan leather, but chose the brown for his shoes and stitched with a black thread. I went with the navy. In my photos of the day the colour came out  as bright blue and as grey! Imagine it, please, as a mid navy. It’s a nice, ordinary colour. I stuck with the brown elastic as I feel it is more interesting than black. I also used dark brown thread. Of course we used our patterns on the leather as economically as possible – which is pretty easy as leather has no woven grain – and drew around them with a silver pen that rubs off with a rag before stitching.

Now we had the leather and the linings we went to the sewing room to learn how to use the machines. These are like an ordinary industrial sewing machine but there is a large well underneath so that it is possible to manipulate a shoe or boot.  We practised for an hour or so first – with paper – making straight lines and lots of curves. And then with small pieces of leather off cuts. Finally we sewed in our zips or elastic, which are glued first with rubber glue (which thankfully rubs off when you get it all over the place) and then the front and back seams. Finally the toe area is stuck on and sewn to the vamp. As the leather is quite thick the lower edge of the vamp (where the toe cap is joined) is run through a machine which thins it down a little bit, and then the shine is scraped off the leather with the knife so that the other piece of leather can be first glued and then sewn to it.

When putting in a zip (plastic, YKK) or elastic into the side of the shoe we stitch close to edge in as even way as we can. The depth of the seam is slightly optional, and obviously decorative. The seams joining the top cap to the rest of the boot are overlaid on each other. On his toe cap Nick has two layers of sewing.

Conversely when joining the pieces of the leather together (like a regular seam) to make the shape of the boot, we have left 2mm seam allowances on the joins. So it is important to sew these carefully and evenly. The main issue is to try to get them to lie flat and not rub the foot. Once they are flattened we taped the seams, again to try to keep them flat and to ensure that they don’t irritate. Obviously the lining is important too.

Bootmaking step by step
A sense of victory!

We used a machine to press flatten the seams, and then followed up with a gentle hammering. Nick has the hammering tool in his hand below.

Once the boots were sewn up we completed the linings and put them into the boots, ready for next week.

Nick with six boots and a little pounder

Overall, another marvellous class.

I was fairly comfortable with the pattern cutting. The cutting out is usually done with a knife, but I prefer scissors. Unfortunately the shears are not very good. The sewing was OK for me too. Nick found it a bit more challenging as he has less sewing experience.

Our teacher told us to get an early night next Saturday and stay off the alcohol (easy for me!). I think the course is going to move away from the pattern cutting and sewing and get more challenging. Stay tuned ladies and gentlemen!

20 Responses

  1. Outstanding! This is exciting and I’m thankful you are sharing with us. There are some step (such as flattening) that are left out of directions I’ve read.

  2. That’s so cool! Can’t wait to see more next week.

    Also: adorable skirt! Looks terrific on you.

  3. We are all vicariously enjoying your boot making course. So far so very good. Personally I’m a great fan of glueing tricky seams but I know others shy away from it but given you can’t baste and you’ve got one shot at the seam without leaving holes then it’s the way to go.

    Btw love the skirt and outfit. Very you.

  4. These are going to look lovely!

  5. Brilliant, you’re whopping on, it looks like Nick has tackled a zip too.

    Love your whole outfit Kate, great colours.

    • Thank you Annie. Nick did conquer a zip yes! His first ever and no complaints. It’s funny as the instructor chose a machine for him with a bigger “man-stitch”, whereas my machine had a smaller, neater stitch. I guess that is OK as the stitch length is part of the design.

  6. Sounds like a fantastic course! What a great experience. The skirt is looking brilliant btw!

  7. Thanks for an inside look at shoe making. It is fascinating to watch the process. You must have solved the issues with your granny square skirt as it fits quite nicely. I also love the sweater you’ve chosen to wear with it. I can’t compete with your knitting speed but did manage to complete the same sweater and adore the pattern. I’m looking forward to seeing how the boots are formed over the last and soles/heels attached.

    • Well I will write up how I made the skirt fitted. As ever it was a bit of a bodge. I just charge in there Mary. I am sure you would have known the best way and made a great job of it. If I do another one I will build the shape into the design.

      And as for the heels and soles – I have no idea what to expect really, beyond heavier work! It is just as exciting for me waiting for the experience!

  8. This course sounds wonderful, but the “get a good nights sleep” is a bit ominous. The silver marking pen is intriguing….silver color like a Sharpie or actual silver metal I wonder? And of course the Matriarch Square skirt is terrific.

    ceci

  9. This looks like such fun! Will you be able to do this at home, or is this a one off experience? Looking forward to seeing the next episode.

    • Well that is the key question Sue. I am not sure it will be possible to make shoes at home without lots of equipment. Up to now, yes. But I think it is about to get more “industrial”. He also does a ballet flat, a court shoe and a sandal class….

  10. Lucky you to have such a wonderful course in the vicinity

  11. So interesting to learn about the steps to making footwear. I’m guessing there will be metal nails and hammering next Sunday?

  12. Your boots will look great but your skirt already does!

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