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.
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.
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!