Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mid-summer Midsoles

So here we are, Friday morning, my last day of freedom, ha ha. Tomorrow is the big day, and what better way to distract myself than doing a blog post. Indeed.

We have announced another course date for January 2011. We had a rush of people who wanted to do the summer course and we had to turn a lot away, so, being kindly old shoemakers, we did not want to let them down. Call or email for more details.

00 44 (0)20 78130093

We are also in the middle of pricing up the shoe making packs for people to make at home (this will include, a pair of lasts, uppers and all the leather you need). So watch this space.

This week I made a pair of bespoke shoes with a feature not often included, a light square waist. This is where the waist gets thinner from the joint back to the heels. There are two ways to do it. Most common is to skive the sole thinner. With very thick sloes, it is more common to put in a midsole. And this is how you do it.

Once you have trimmed the welt, mark a point just behind the joint.

Then mark a second line 5/8" behind, towards the heel. Do both shoes.

The midsole is a piece of second grade soling or insoling leather. Soak it and let it go mellow (about 85% dry). Lay the shoe on the midsole and draw round it making sure you mark the two joint points.

Then draw a rough margin around giving yourself about 1/4" to play with. Cut out the midsoles.

On the flesh side, mark the second joint point as a straight line across the midsole. This where you have to skive it to the edge to nothing. This edge gives you the area where the transition from full thickness to half thickness soles happens.

Glass the skin side to avoid cracks and squeaks.

Glue the skin side of the midsole and the corresponding side of the shoe with contact adhesive. Leave it for ten minutes and glue them together.

Using a sleeking bone or similar tool, flatten down the welt to ensure a good bond.

Hammer gently all the way round. Gently!

Trim off the excess with a sharp knife. Make sure the cut is straight down, not angled outwards or under the shoe.

Now you prepare the sole as normal, glue it on and stitch it.

These two shots show the finished sole. You can see the transition at the joint. I like the look. It softens a square waist and makes it look a little more elegant.

And that, as they say, is that. Next week I am on holiday in Venice, so back in two. Until then, happy shoemaking.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Adieu to Crafted!

The Master is rather busy catching up with shoemaking work after our New York course so it's my turn to share a little, none-making related news. (Sorry makers, back to the leather and knives next week!)

Yesterday was a momentous day in some ways as we bade adieu to our friends at Walpole and Arts & Business, our fellow Crafted colleagues and our magnificent mentors and advisors. (But it was adieu and not farewell as the generosity of the mentors and advisors with their time continues!)

As pioneers of the Crafted programme it has been an interesting experience. We have benefited enormously as a business from the exposure to luxury brand and business experts - not necessarily in immediate sales, but in making contacts and getting the business ship-shape! We now understand better the business side of things and the one critical thing that we will sink without - profitability!

Any craftspeople out there looking for a little business help should definitely apply to Crafted. Get cracking though, because the deadline is the end of the month!

Anyway, yesterday was all about feedback and it was revealing to discover that not only have we all taken away something very different for each of our businesses, but that it has been a two-way thing and many of our mentors have also learned from the experience.

It is great to share success stories - Helen Beard's work with Fortnum; and discover Crafted collaborations such as our Winkers in Eloise Grey's tweeds. In fact, we are loving the whole tweed thing so much, that we are showing our new bespoke tweed boots and Harris Tweed Winkers alongside Eloise at the Goodwood Revival in September.

Looking ahead, I can't believe that it is June and we are already gearing up for the next shoemaking course. New York still seems just a few weeks ago. With eight students under our watchful eye this August it is going to be quite a time. We now have a waiting list for future courses, so we are currently discussing if and when to do an autumn course, and dates for our New York and London courses in 2011. It is great to hear from so many people keen to have a go and find out whether shoemaking is for them.

So not only do we have Goodwood to look forward to, but we have also been accepted for Origin which has relocated to Old Spitalfields Market for September. We hope that the new venue will be as big a draw as Somerset House was and that some of those uber cool Hoxton and Shoreditch trendies will venture into the world of craft to discover us there!

That's it for this week - oh, except to say that the Wolf & Badger sale starts next week and our Limited Edition Half Cuts will be on sale (not often a word associated with carreducker we know) so get down there if you want to snap up a pair!

Have a great weekend and happy shoemaking!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Long Stiffeners

Now, the full phrase is long stiffeners in and out, but I thought that would be too much for the puerile among you and I did not want to encourage too much sniggering at the back.

So what am i talking about? Well, it's the length of stiffeners used in different styles of shoes. More of that later.

We have been madly cleaning the studio in time for the Open Studios which start this evening at 6pm and go on till Sunday at 6pm. So much work! You would not believe how much dust accumulates in six months. Do not believe what Quentin Crisp said. Dust just piles up and gets progressively worse. At least in a busy bespoke shoe workshop.

Still the worst is over, so I can get on with some making today.

Now, back to those stiffeners. These are very important in a shoe. They keep the heel in shape and that shape keeps the shoe on the foot. If your heel lifts in a shoe it is very bad for the health of the foot. Your heel lifts and to compensate, your toes curl downwards to grip the sole and you end up with painful, misshapen feet. So make sure your stiffeners are strong.

In a lace-up shoe, the stiffeners should reach the counter point of the shoe, because the laces are what keep the shoe on the foot.
In a casual shoe, a slip-on, loafer etc, there are no fastenings and so the shoe itself must perform the holding function. This is why a casual must have long stiffeners which reach up to just behind the joint. This has the effect of keeping the sides of the shoe in shape. Without the long stiffeners, the sides will bellow out and cause heel lifting - not good!

So here is how to do it. The leather you need is a stiffener belly. You can use a toe puff belly too which is thinner and thus saves you a bit of skiving. I use toe puff leather and it works just fine. A stiffener should be strong but not too thick, as this makes the shoe heavy and inflexible.

So, cut the stiffener out roughly and soak it for about ten minutes.

You should measure the length you need from the upper. Remember, about half an inch behind the joint on both sides. You are now ready to skive the stiffener.

Then using your template, mark and cut the stiffeners out.

On the skin side, glass the surface off. This avoids cracking and squeaking in the future.

The edges of the stiffener should be skived down to nothing to avoid it being seen on the outside of the shoe.

I start at the two ends and then do the top edge, which should bevel from about three quarters an inch down to nothing.

Follow with the bottom edge. I do this a bit less as you only need to skive enough to last under the insole (about half inch).

Here you have all the edges skived.

Depending on the thickness of the leather, you should skive the rest at an equal thickness. Don't worry about lumps and bumps at the moment. When you have finished the general skiving, feel the leather and touch up uneven areas with your knife.

When it is generally clean and even, glass the surface to finish the process. The surface should be even and free of all lumps and bumps.

Your stiffeners are now ready to use. And remember you need two!

That is it for this week. Wish us luck for the Opens. Until next time, happy shoemaking.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Hotting Up

Dare I say it, but has summer arrived? Cue thunder clouds and biting north wind (again). I am sitting here, all the windows open, the fan on 3, with not a cloud in the sky. It is lovely. And it was like this yesterday. Miraculous!

Bits of news.
We have Cockpit Arts Open Studios next weekend (11-13 June). Starts Friday evening, 6pm till 9pm. Then it is Saturday and Sunday 11am till 6pm, and this time it's FREE. I am doing Friday and Saturday and The Other One is doing Sunday.
Your chance to see London's premier community of designer craftspeople in their workshops and buy some of the finest handmade one-off pieces direct from the maker.
All sorts of lovely things to see, jewellery, ceramics, millinery, glass, weaving, couture fashion, furniture, homewares and, of course, our gorgeous bespoke shoes and boots.
It is a fun and fascinating visit, and free this year, so no excuses.

I have just sent 3 shoes to the Northampton Shoe Museum, as we are taking part in a new exhibition running all summer, called Best Of British. This is very exciting and we are delighted to be included in such an illustrious list of participants. Can't wait.

Best of British at Northampton Museum, Guildhall Road, Northampton NN1 2PH

Saturday 26 June to Sunday 19 September 2010

Britain and in particular Northampton has always been known for the quality of its shoes. Discover the very best in British shoe design with our summer showcase exhibition. From classic English shoemakers to top British shoe designers, this exhibition is a celebration of British style and design.

Not only will the exhibition include many examples of British shoes from the Designated Shoe Collection, it will also showcase a number of special loans and donations from local shoe companies to the elite of British Designers. By their kind generosity though either a loan or a new donation we are delighted to be able to showcase shoes by the following:

Vivienne Westwood

Alexander McQueen

Rupert Sanderson

Oliver Sweeney

Edward Green

Paul Smith

Georgina Goodman

James Taylor & Sons

Beatrix Ong

Caroline Groves


Lodger Shoes

Manolo Blahnik





Rushton Ablett – JuJu Wellies and Jellies

Haynes & Cann – Mk 1 Aircrew Boot

Hotter Footwear


The exhibition will also make the visitor think about what exactly is a British shoe. Is it a shoe that is traditional in style, a Derby or Oxford brogue? Is it a shoe that is quirky, with a sense of humour that makes you laugh? Is it a shoe that is designed by a British based designer? Is it a shoe designed by a British based designer yet made abroad? Is it a shoe that has MADE IN ENGLAND stamped on its sole?

We hope that are our visitors to the exhibition will take the time to tell us what a British shoe means to them.

Back to bespoke shoes. Those ladies brogues from last week are ready to try on and the client is coming in on Monday. I have lasted them onto an unprepared insole and braced them on with a welt thread. Because they have a two inch heel, I have glued in a wooden shank so that they do not collapse and so that the heel does not flip out backwards.

Our men's shoes have a leather shank as the heels are not high enough to warrent a stronger one. As the heel gets higher, you need to put in a stronger shank, wood and then steel.

I then glued on a temporary sole and nailed on a temporary heel.
We shall see what happens.

Will let you know how they fit next week. So until then, happy shoemaking.