Friday, January 6, 2017

On shoemaking

Well, here we are. I am OBSESSED, and frankly, it is just an endless, bottomless, chasm.  Having said that, I can't really form this particular dispatch into one neat, cohesive post, so, please, my fellow mad creatives... please appreciate this weird romp along with me.  Where the heck do I begin?

Well, I found a book at the library on shoemaking.  Let me not forget to say, for the record, that I asked the woman at the information desk in the creative/art section of the library if they had any books on shoemaking, and she literally ROLLED HER EYES, as if that would be a ridiculous pursuit for ANYONE to embark upon.  She referred me to a section, not a BOOK, and I was eventually able to find, after diligent internet searching (on my own!), a book that they needed to retrieve from their basement!


click photo for Amazon link

And I have now studied almost every single word of it. I would like to own it, but, as you can see, if you click on the above link, it has a ridiculously high price on Amazon.  Truth be told, I'd spend less by pretending to lose it, and pay the library for it... hmmm...  I won't do that, though.  It would be dishonest. Darn it.

So... my fascination begins at the point that I really love unique shoes, have very few pairs (by choice!), but there are a million ideas in my head, so I want to experiment and explore.  After about two months of research and supply sourcing, I must say that one can learn the technical challenges and common techniques, but the rest, much like clothing making, is unique, sculptural and magical.

What I love the most, is that while watching a professional make a shoe using factory equipment and tools, finding creative ways to construct something like a carpenter would, using your hands, and carefully planned pieces, calling on your local shoemaker to do the soling part for you (toxic glue fumes, professional equipment) if you want to do something truly special, you discover that you can indeed create something lovely and lasting for yourself!

This video would be wildly ambitious for anyone who has never tried to sew sneakers before, but it is a great education in what all of the shaping and sewing entails.


I like to assemble failing things, toss them all, and replace them all at one time.  More practical than crazy, I would argue.

And here's another thing.  If you're anything like me, you long for some favorite pair of shoes that you had long ago, or are no longer made.  You can't duplicate them exactly without the tools and materials, but you can absolutely use them as inspiration!

Now, explaining how to make a pair of shoes is as complicated as trying  to tell someone how to make a dress.  There are endless levels of quality, complications, etc.

So, let's say you just want to do the sculpting and artistic side of things... you can leave the soling up to your local knowledgeable cobbler or shoe repair person!  If you want to do the soling yourself, you can buy soling sheets and cut them (try Manhattan Wardrobe Supply or Amazon), and/or you can buy pre-made soles, ready to glue.  You can also buy insoles, rather than make your own.  There are many options for comfort. Explore the options online, and you will find some great supplies to help get you to a beautiful result.

I was happy to learn about a great shoe supply resource (in Brooklyn), named Brooklyn Shoe Supply, and will visit once I have completed my first pair/several pairs, so that I will be able to proceed with a bit more confidence.

As for the drooling/shoe eye candy aspect of things, I made a Pinterest Page with ideas and inspiration, and I have watched some wonderful You Tube videos for ideas and thoughts. 

Wrap shoe.  Food for thought:




About ballet shoes (not because I dance, but informs my shoe thinking):






The video below begins the process of making a very basic ballet flat, but if you read the book I mentioned at the beginning of this post, you'll see what advice is given there, and you can improve on/deviate from the suggested methods given here, if you like.  No matter what you choose, it seems some trial and error/discovery will be necessary to your development.


Over the past few weeks, I have explored and learned a lot about fabric choices, leathers, dyes, closures, leather stackable heels, looked at shoes in museum exhibits...  I have DEVOURED every bit of information I have found inspiring, and cannot wait to use my hands to sculpt some shoes.  I will share results when appropriate!

Note: Now there is a shoemaking map on my maps page, if you'd like to know where to go!

1 comment:

  1. You have me intrigued. I just bought the pattern from Etsy and probably will buy th book. I'd love to see your attempts.

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