Boots made – the last post

posted in: Finished projects | 13

Last week we had almost completed our footwear and the final week was spent creating the sock – the little piece of slightly padded leather that goes inside your shoes. Then we took pictures, collected email addresses and went home.

Neither of us will wear our boots. But it was a great experience, nevertheless.

Did you notice the nice double row of top stitching on Nick’s toe caps? Or my unique pink tabs?

What I loved about the course

  • Fabulous opportunity to learn a new skill from a skilled shoewear designer and craftsman
  • Modern, state of the art equipment in a beautiful setting
  • Convenient
  • Good value for money (ie about £100 for a day of tuition), plus absolutely all materials supplied such as leather, zips etc.
  • Very small class (only four on our course, although up to 12 are allowed)
  • Starts from the very beginning with designing and pattern making to the final polish. You get a very good understanding of the process  of bespoke shoe making
  • All four achieved a high standard of design and making
  • The students and teacher were nice and friendly
    We are the bootmakers

Less good

  • The styles of the boots were very limited and not what we wanted to make
    • For me I ended up with heels which I find very uncomfortable
    • Nick didn’t care for the shape of his shoes and disliked the “cementing” process. He would like to stitch his own welted, leather soled shoes
  • The style of teaching was idiosyncratic. Our teacher was a craftsperson rather than a teacher. I would have prefered, say, 30 mins of explanation/lecture each session to help clarify what we were going to do and why
  • The pace wasn’t quite right. There were literally hours spent waiting for glue to dry. This time could have been used for a subsidiary project, eg creating a second design, and pattern.

I don’t really have a major problem with having unwearable shoes. I seem to remember my first dress-making classes being forced to make an apron, and later a blouse in a boring style. Certainly with pattern cutting we often made patterns for items I would never make up, or wear (cowl trousers in my case). But I do think the course should take current styles and choices into account. I would have been very happy with almost any version of a flat boot. I think Nick’s requirement was rather more specialist and not realisable in this setting. However if the tutor had asked people about their learning objectives I feel he would have been able to explain/demonstrate the welting process, or perhaps over Nick leather soles.

At the end of the course we both felt we would like to learn more. The London College of Fashion runs other short courses at weekends or for one week, covering ballet flats, court shoes and sandals, all taught by Nafi. I would certainly consider the ballet flats or sandals course (or boots if I had feet size 40 or above). The course Nick wants doesn’t really exist at the LCF. Here are some other classes I have researched.

Nick would enjoy a 12 day handsewn shoe workshop, like this one. But it is very expensive (about £2000).

We might consider another five day course to make Derby shoes in a small studio in East London. Again costs around £700, so quite a commitment.

But I may just have a go at home.

My mother’s family were in the shoe trade and my cousin Hamilton very kindly found me a pair of old lasts in his garage.

Vintage wooden shoe lasts
Vintage wooden shoe lasts

I have started the process of making a pair of shoes from these at home, but I don’t know if I can.

I took off the metal footplate as this is suitable for making shoes that are nailed on. I acquired the correct size and shape of lasting insoles which include a metal shank (they are a bit old too!).

Removing the metal

I covered the lasts with tape and cut them off and I am now ready to create the pattern.

Making shoes at home
Ready to go – maybe?

Whether I go ahead with this new project, sign up for a class, or start to learn something new only time will tell. If you want to see some really great work – both in terms of design and making – have a look at my friend Aida’s website.

I may not make any further progress. But I know so much more about the process, my leather stitching has improved, and I have a very pretty pair of shoes in my cabinet.

13 Responses

  1. Jenny l

    I have found this style of teaching quite a lot in adult ed and I would describe the tutors as facilitators rather than teachers. When I was teaching myself to quilt I spent four weeks at the local FE college but there was no formal teaching at all and I felt It was more like a workshop where everybody had been going for years to work on their projects with input where necessary from the teacher. It was the same at a silversmithing course and as a person who relishes learning I was frustrated, although I did complete one term there and made some napkin rings. Last year I attended a residential course at Denman College, run by the WI and haven’t enjoyed myself so much for years. The teaching was good, the surroundings and accommodation excellent and the camaraderie amongst the students took me back to my youth.

    • fabrickated

      Good point! You never really know how it is going to be until you get there. The classes that are badged as beginner really should cover the basics so that you get a proper induction. I like workshops, but I find if the tutor sets projects and tasks there is usually more learning than just pursuing your own ideas with a bit of guidance and use of the equipment.

  2. Summerflies

    It’s been a lovely ride watching your boots get made. I am so disappointed for you that you could not get a pair of flat boots or that they could not accomodate this preference. Surely it couldn’t be that hard with only 4 people in the class. Never the less, a great job. First thing I noticed was the pink tabs.

    • fabrickated

      Yes, I think they should invest in some flat shoe/boot lasts for smaller sizes. I complained to the college who said they will make it clear in the advertising material that the ladies sizes are for a high heeled boot.

      • Summerflies

        How infuriating.. you take the time to complain that there is no ability to make flat heeled boots and instead of adding the making of flat heeled boots, they’ll just make sure people know they can’t make what they’d like to make. Have they never heard of responding to the customer’s needs.

  3. Ellen Miller

    There’s a lovely quote about throwing a pebble into a pond and not knowing how far the ripple will go. I think teaching and learning are like that: you never know what the outcome of the class will be- only that something will be changed. For example, you might fall in love with boot making, you might make a new friend, you might realize that just because you are a good boot maker doesn’t make you a good teacher of boot making, you might learn about a new restaurant near the class and so on…

    Also- through your blog posts about the boot making class; I learned a lot about boot making and have a new appreciation of boot makers, boots and, more importantly, about taking classes as an adult. Getting out of my routine would be a good thing (most nights are spent watching telly with my husband) –and we could be out learning something new!

    • fabrickated

      Thank you for this lovely, thoughtful comment Ellen. One of the joys for me has been to get to know my husband better. He is better with his hands than me, and a great designer, but in the sewing crafts I obviously have more experience. With the shoe making he didn’t really follow the pattern making which I especially enjoyed. Going out to do something together once a week really is uplifting.

  4. Sue

    I have so enjoyed going on this journey with you and am disappointed that you both have boots you won’t wear, although both pairs look really stylish. Objective setting is an important part of any learning experience and there should be mandatory tutor training for anyone teaching these courses to give them some insights into the learning process. Most people teach the way that they were taught which isn’t usually a good thing! Your thoughts on future classes look interesting and I look forward to vicariously attending!

  5. ceci

    I find that I am a hard to please student and ESPECIALLY unhappy about things that waste my time (like waiting for glue to dry…..). Even when I’m actually learning, I get so fretted by poor or nonexistent teaching skills that the whole experience is miserable. So I’m impressed that you managed to think of as many positive points as you did!

    It will be interesting to see what you choose next.


  6. Aida

    both booots look fantastic and I’m sure you learned a lot during the process, sad to hear that you won’t wear them. as ceci, I’m also a hard to please student , i’ve taken 3 different classes on different subjects the last years and I really feel that most of the part was just a lost of time, I did learn but what I learned was not equal to the time spent in the class. I have been thinking a lot about that and beeing a selft tought seamstress that my first ever sewing project was a difficult dress made me belive that as I get bored very easily I need to be tempted and challenged by what I make and most of the people that are more patient and don’t feel bored in a second like I do need to start by taking a class on making a tote bag or pillow case so I think maby tuitors adress their classes to those people giving more general and less demanding knowledge just to get them starting. My english is not good so hope I passed my point correctly 🙂

  7. Brenda

    Thank you for showing us the end result! Both pair look very professional, and I’m glad you enjoyed the experience.

    You probably know about this organization- . I’ve ordered a kit from them, but I had to buy additional supplies. There’s also this recourse – – which takes a much more home sewing point of view.

    I had to search for the cowl pant. Really? Who would want a saddle bag look? Lol

  8. Alli

    I think both of your shoes are gorgeous! It’s too bad you won’t wear them, but I totally understand — I’m forever sighing over other people’s pretty shoes, but I realize that it’s pointless for me to buy nice ones since I like wearing rubber slippers the best. :}

    Goodness though, that’s pretty bad about waiting hours for glue to dry. Your idea to work on a second project at those times is perfect!

  9. Mary Funt

    Thanks for the inside look at the boot/shoemaking process. It was fascinating to watch the steps required and the design and production. I’m totally with you about being limited to high heeled boots. How frustrating to have invested time and money into a project you will never use. At least you have the knowledge to give it a go on your own. It would be interesting to follow the process of completely hand sewn custom shoes but it sounds like the course fees are for those wanting to go into business.

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