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