Friday, November 28, 2008

Velvet Pumps 1

Friday evening, 8.30.

It's the end of a long day engaging with all the visitors to the Cockpit Open Studios. This is where the building where we have our studio is opened up to the public. We do this twice a year and it's a chance to let people see what we do and hopefully buy our wares.

Cockpit is a fascinating visit. Run as a charity, it rents studios to designer/makers, and so is full of jewellers, ceramicists, rug makers, printers, weavers, etc. There are over 90 businesses here. It is a great place to work as it is full of creative energy.

I usually do some making during the day because people really like to see the artisans at work. So today I was fitting up a last after a fitting and got those velvet pumps to a stage where I can attach the sole using the pump stitch. This construction is not as robust as a welted shoe but a skilled artisan can make them strong enough to wear at home and even to dance in. Not recommended for a walk on the farm.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Black Wholecuts

Just finished those black wholecuts I posted about last time and they are gorgeous. I really love them. I was a bit uncertain about the toe shape but it really works with this style. It is really exciting finishing shoes and seeing the final look. I am never sure how they will end up, so this is probably the best moment as a shoemaker.

I did a spade welt to accentuate the elongated last and the silhouette is great. I would wear them myelf. If only I could afford my own shoes. Hey ho.

Just about to start some velvet pumps (that's slippers to you and me).
Pumps can be made from patent leather too and are worn at very formal dress functions. But most of the time they are indoor slippers, usually with a monogram. Nice!

It is a completely different construction. Will elaborate later.

PS sorry for terrible pics, but you get the idea

Friday, November 21, 2008

Black Wholecuts

Friday! Already.

We are excited. Lots happened this week. All very embryonic, but you will be the first to know as soon as we have concrete news.

My favourite bespoke shoe, the wholecut. Just about to make one and it's always a pleasure. One piece of leather; one seam. How is it possible? It's the closest the shoemaker gets to alchemy. I think it is the simplest yet most elegant shoe, the quintessence of Englishness.

This model is black with a red lining and made on a very pointed last. It's going to be beautiful handmade bespoke shoe and is destined to be one of our new bespoke samples, so you may see it in our publicity material.

The insole is prepared and it's ready for lasting. The stitches are bigger than normal because it is not going to be worn and does not have to have the usual strength. On a normal shoe, it is 4 stitches to the inch. Or just under. Any smaller and you weaken the insole, which is the core strength of the shoe. If that fails, the shoe will fall apart.

More later.

If you have any shoemaking questions, then please just ask!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Stiffeners and Toe Puffs

Oops. Sorry everyone, been bogged down by the minutiae of life.

The intricacies of lasting.

The first thing to do is prepare your stiffeners (no sniggering at the back there) and toe-puffs (oh, grow up!). We start with a piece of oak bark tanned belly and cut them out, followed by careful skiving with my extremely sharp knife. The edges must be skived to nothing and the centres must be strong so that the heel area and toe areas do not collapse. In factory shoes these components are plastic and ready made.

There is a third extra piece of strengthening left to prepare. The side-lining, a piece of thin calf or glace kid which gives support to the line from the counter to the toe puff. It must be skived to nothing on the top edge so that it is not visible through the upper on the finished shoe.
There is a debate as to whether to put them in or not. I used to omit them, as I thought they were superfluous, but I now tend to put them in, especially with a foot with a wide joint. In these cases, the shoe can bulge where the toes are and look unsightly.
I started to learn to make shoes in Spain and there side-linings are not used because of the hot climate. The fewer layers of leather the better. But here in England, this is not an issue.
Every shoemaker I've met has an opinion on this and who knows what the definitive answer is?

Thanks, and happy shoemaking.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Christmas Show

Goodness me, the vagueries of IT. After starting our blog in mid October and then not being able to find it on any search engines, we kind of gave it up as a bad lot, but lo and behold! This morning I receive a Google alert about it and it seems to be live . So we are back on the case. Great!

Yesterday was a good day. We secured a venue and time for a Christmas selling event at a wonderful venue called Paradise By Way of Kensal Green, a gastopub in Kensal Green (funny that). It's beautifully decorated and very starry. We are talking Kate Moss and Lily Allen; a smattering of media editors; music industry shakers; fashionisti; a DJ; great food; and a buzzing bar. Fierce! We are doing it with Lady Double You, aka the lovely Michaela, ladies shoe designer and manufacturer. So we will be offering fab shoes for him and her in the Reading Room. Can't wait

If you are intersted, it is on December 4th at said pub. Come along and enjoy a great evening out.

Also delivered a pair of slippers to a client with demanding feet and he seemed pleased- phew! There is always a frisson of tension when delivering a pair of bespoke shoes, after all, they have to fit and both the client and ourselves have invested heavily in them.

And we got a new client, so more days like that please.

So now the weekend to relax and enjoy.

More next week