Here they are – the finished pair of shoes! I should be posting photos of these babies on my feet while walking the streets of NYC, but I can’t do that. Why? Because I haven’t actually worn them. There’s no excuse for this behavior. I’m going to blame it on the hot weather and my lack of creativity when it comes to finding an outfit to dress them around. The cool gray leather and overall scale make them tough to complement, so I think I’m going to have to really push the boundaries of my personal style to pull them off.
The final pair isn’t perfect. There are a few things from my original design sketches that didn’t make their way into the shoes – the back loop, for example. The leather was too thick on the heel seam to sew in another two layers of material. I used really difficult leather for the outer; I’m still cursing at it. It was too thin and stretchy, and I didn’t have the right settings on my sewing machine to deal with its finickiness. I also wasn’t happy with the way the leather wraps underneath the hidden wedge and between the sole, it’s a little bumpy. But come on. I made a pair of shoes. My own pair of shoes, from my design, and with my own hands! It was fun and I learned a ton. I could do this again. Maybe a pair of summer sandals?
Check out my previous posts to see the whole process: part one, part two, and part three. Again, a huge thanks to Keiko for being an amazing inspiration and teacher. When I wear these shoes out for the first time, I’ll be sure to share!
Last week in shoemaking part one, I showed you my sketches, taped up last, patterns, and wedges. Now it’s time for sewing and lasting!
I bought three skins of leather from Leather, Suede, and Skins in the NYC garment district. There were hundreds of shades of leather to pick from – I was a serious kid in a candy store. The color scheme planned in my sketches evolved when I selected my leather. I have a weakness for purple and it usually sneaks its way into my projects; I really have no control over this obsession.
I used my patterns to trace onto the leather and cut the pieces. The next step was the hardest part: sewing! I’ve been sewing forever but this was my first time working with leather. I made two mistakes that caused a some frustration (and maybe a few tears!). The leather I bought was too stretchy, thin, and difficult to control. The pieces distorted easily and I had problems aligning the seams just right. The second mistake was that I didn’t sew a test mockup (like a muslin) before sewing the leather. I didn’t get the order of operations correct on the first try, and it turns out I needed to sew the zipper in first, not last. After several iterations and a few pieces of wasted leather later, I finally had the inner (pink) and outer (gray and purple) constructed. I could place the leather overtop the lasts and they started to resemble shoes!
Next was cutting the black fiberboard to create the midsole, which is nailed onto the bottom of the last in two layers. A metal shank was sandwiched in between the two pieces of fiberboard. The shank helps give the shoe its structure. From there, I stretched the pink lining overtop the last while being careful to smooth out any wrinkles, and nailed it into the fiberboard. After the leather stretching solution dried, I glued the bottom edge of the inside lining to the midsole and formed the toe box and counters overtop. Between every step I sanded the midsole on the belt sander to make sure everything fit together flush and smoothly. Yes, it looks messy. It was. I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty!
From there I attached the wedge to the bottom of the midsole. This was another tough part because the wedges didn’t fit perfectly to the lasts. I sandwiched in a few extra layers of cork to fill the gaps and strategically applied pressure to make them fit together.
You might be thinking, “Hmm, are these going to turn out looking like real shoes?” or “They’re so frumpy!” and “What’s up with the inside-out leather and funny striped wedges?” Do not fear my friends. It will turn out okay. Stay tuned for part three, where I attach the soles and we see the end result!
Shoemaking might be my new favorite hobby. I’ve been interested in shoe design since college, but had no idea that a normal person like me could actually make a pair of shoes until I stumbled across Keiko’s class on Skillshare in January. Keiko is the designer and owner of k*star shoes in Brooklyn and has a tremendous amount of energy and passion for sharing her craft. Her shoes are adorable – check out this pair of polka dot booties!
The first class was an introduction to shoe construction and discussion about places to buy shoemaking supplies in NYC. By the second class we were taping up our lasts and creating patterns from our designs. I decided to design a pair of wedge ankle boots…wedges are the only type of heels I can bother to stand and walk in. Constructing the wedges was tough because I had to match them perfectly to the lasts and make sure they were symmetrical (they’re not!). The wedge materials are laminated foam and cork. The cork keeps the foam from compressing, and yes, they look like tasty ice cream sandwiches.
Update! See the progress – check out shoemaking part two and three! And the finished pair: part four.