Friday, November 27, 2009

Back In Blighty

Back home, safe and sound. I am sat here in the studio feeling slightly disconcerted because it is spotless, dust free and beautifully tidy. Good enough to present to the public, in fact. And that, funnily enough, is what we are about to do. It's the Cockpit Open Studios today, tomorrow and Sunday here in Holborn. And again next weekend in Deptford (we are doing both).
It is a great visit, with an array of designer/makers in most craft disciplines - highly recommended.

Now, a few things to catch up on. Firstly those shots of the Mr Fox model in Bergdorf Goodman. We went and it is there, which is quite exciting (the only way we will ever get in, you cry? I don't think so). Please forgive my lack of layout skills. I can welt in a straight line, but laying out 3 photos similarly is beyond me.

You can just about see the lasts and our boxes. It's very cute.

Staying in New York, a couple of shots of the Leffot trunk show. The table looked lovely with the Winkers in pride of place, and the womens bespoke shoes shown for the first time Stateside. It really is a beautiful shop and the interior shows the shoes off in their best light.
Now that the Winkers are stocked there, it was a good chance for fans to see the other colourways. The McDougal Check was, again, a favourite.

I only got a chance to shoot those Norwegian welted Half-cut boots with the client in them, but you get an idea of how they look. He was really pleased and so were we. I think they look great and the Other One says they are her favourite thing we make. But then she has a boot fetish. I think the style does work very well as a boot and we have discussed making a Limited Edition from it. My worry is that men don't tend to wear boots. Am I wrong? Do you guys wear boots? And what percentage of the time?

And finally, some shots of the Hepburn being modelled. This is a lovely bespoke shoe and looks great on, I think you will agree. The model this time is not Mother Ducker (who is coming to visit today with friends and taking me out for lunch), but our lovely friend Jesse (the cheque is in the post). That scooped down top edge is a real success and we will be using it more in our women's collection.

Friday, November 20, 2009


It's now confirmed, we are in Bergdorf Goodman. In the window. You can just about see the Cobblers Shop, obscured by a huge dummy. But it's there. And you can see our boxes in the window. It's cute. I have photos which I will post when we get home.

My feet are now officially throbbing after a day of pounding the hard streets of new York.

I also have shots of those finished Norwegian welted boots. Delivered them on Tuesday and the client was delighted. They looked amazing, it must be said. Again will post on Monday.

New York City

Here we are then! The day after our trunk show at Leffot. I am exhausted.

After an unwanted run in with officialdom, we managed to get there and set up by the skin of our teeth. Steven and Hiroko were as welcoming as usual, and helped in every way.

It was a grey wet day, which did not help, but the atmosphere in the shop was great. The Winkers took pride of place, sitting happily along with the 2 colourways Leffot already carry. The McDougal check was a particular favourite.
We also had some conversations about our carreducker shoemaking course in May, which is very promising seeing as it is so far away (I say that but it will be upon us before we know it). The new Special tweed boot was also a popular style. It is beautiful and seems to be the way forward for our bespoke shoes. Leather and tweed, gorgeous!

We met some old faces and some new, so all in it was a successful day.

Today we are visiting some retailers to hawk our wares from a trunk. Should be good. This will include a trip to Bergdorf Goodman to see the fabled Fantastic Mr Fox window display. Pics when we get home (muppet boy here forgot the cables for the camera).The sun has just come out, so bring it on.

My family is driving down from Maine this afternoon, with my brother arriving from Utah tomorrow, so I am really looking forward to seeing them. It's been over a year.

So that is a little taster of what we have been doing. More later.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Bit More Norwegian

So here we are again. News this week? Well, after some abortive trips by friends to Bergdorf Goodman, my friend Nelson has confirmed that the Fantastic Mr Fox models are in their windows till New Year. We will go next week and take pics ourselves. But thank you Paul and Dan's mate for trying.

Happy birthday to Lodger. We went to their party last night, which was fun. Met a fellow shoe man, the exceptional Mr Hare, of blog fame. We talked design, wear and manufacturing. It was great to meet him after reading his blog for so long. His shoes are great in the flesh too. So thanks Nathan for a great party.

Back to Norwegian welts. We left it with the upper lasted and ready to welt. Welt as normal, but the awl will come out on the upper which will fell a bit freaky but don't worry. Just make sure it comes out at the same level to create a straight line of stitches. Also, make sure the stitch length is even. This is why I prefer to make the holes in the holdfast as I go rather than before you start. Begin at the heel point and go round to the other heel point.

At this point, fold back the upper to create a 90 degree angle to the upper and run the sleeking bone round to secure this fold. Hammer the stitches and the fold. It all looks a bit unusual, but bear with me, it will all turn out ok.

Put in a shank and cork as usual.

Because this is a sturdy construction, the sole is generally thicker, so normally I put a midsole on. This is a piece of leather, similar to the shank material. It needs to be stiff enough to be hard and easy to finish. The midsole also makes the welt stiffer and easier to trim. Put rubber solution or neoprene glue on both surfaces, leave for 15 minutes and glue it on. Start at the toe and lay it on backwards, making sure the welt stays flat, with no lumps or creases.

You might need to skive the midsole to flatten the sole area or the waist. It should not be too curved. You can now trim the welt to the required width. Again this is a sturdy shoe so a wider welt is better. Also, the Norwegian welt tends to shrink a bit when you stitch the sole. So wide is better.
Attach the sole with rubber solution, having skived as usual to the desired thickness. Trim round the heel and nail in as usual. Trim to the welt and cut your channel. Fudge the welt to mark the stitches and you are ready to stitch. Make the holes nearer than normal to the upper, because the stitches tend to pull the upper/welt inwards and you can end up with it narrower than the sole you have trimmed. And don't pull the stitches too tight for the same reason. Go all the way round and hey presto! You have a finished Norwegian welt. Build heel and finish as normal. Good luck and let me know how you get on.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fancy A Bit Of Norwegian?

So, another week over. And a good week it has been.

The QEST Craft fair at GTC in Sloane Square was very good. We met a lot of new clients in a fantastic location. I was strangely tickled by a crocodile of local school children in bergundy corduroy britches; yellow wooly jerkins; and green overalls which passed the window. It was like a scene from Dickens, and I thought how odd. But then I remembered we were in Chelsea. West London is another world.

We also had our first group meeting with the Crafted programme and met the other people involved. It was really interesting to see how other designer/makers deal with common problems. We also met some craftspeople we could collaborate with. More to come with that one. It's a very exciting opportunity for us and we are hoping to meet the Amex people who are funding it when we are in New York in a couple of weeks.

On my way in this morning I was also thinking about what to blog about in terms of shoemaking. I sat down at my table, picked up the next shoe to start lacking inspiration, and out of nowhere comes a Norwegian welt to save the day. A curious thing the Norwegian welt. I have never really understood it's purpose, but the theory is that it is more robust and slightly more waterproof. I have my doubts, but it does look great and really shows off the handsewn nature of bespoke shoes.

Normally the welt is a separate strip of leather which you sew on, to be used later to attach the sole. I n the Norwegian version, the welt is the upper which is folded out and then used to stitch through to attach the sole. It's easier to demonstrate than describe, as with most things shoe.

First you prepare the insole. Trim like a normal one, but instead of the normal holdfast, you ignore the outside part and just do the second cut, the inside part.

This looks a bit half-baked, but it will be fine. Most people prepare the holes at this point like a normal insole. In this case, I prefer to make the holes when I am stitching on the sole as I go along, because I find it easier to make sure the stitches are an even size and in a straight line. You'll see.
Because this is a boot, I put a fitting on the last, so that the upper does not bend and crease when it is being made. Use a straight piece of leather and make a cut near the bottom on both sides. Nail it on as in the picture.

Next last the upper as per normal. The only thing you need to watch is leaving more of the lasting allowance when you trim, because you will be using it as the welt.

That is as far as I got with it today, so more next week. Have a good one