Monday, May 30, 2011

Schools out

Before we close the page on this year's course in New York we just wanted to show you the high standard of work that the students achieved. Now this is unusual, but we think that it is because each of the students on this year's course not only had some previous experience of shoemaking but a natural aptitude for working with their hands.

The results were impressive, as I am sure you will agree:

Lauren finishing her heels

Phillip's sole pattern

Tom's sole pattern and single iron waist detail

Natural heel edge - polish and a warm iron


Nearly there...

Tired but happy!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Velvet Slippers 2

Right, so here we are back in London after our interlude in New York. The class was a great success and the lovely Lauren said something really fantastic. She said,

"I learned more in 2 weeks with you than I did in a year at LCF"

Praise indeed. It must also be said that while in America we discussed available shoemaking classes on the market and it seems that they are generally short, expensive and cemented.
Our ethos here at carreducker is to promote the craft of handsewn shoemaking which is why we do the course in the first place. And while we want to make a profit, we also try to make the courses as affordable as possible, so that the maximum number of people can do them.
If you think about it, £1650 for 96 hours in the classroom, plus £150 tool kit, the shoes you make, and top quality materials is a very reasonable price. Plus you are learning with genuine master craftsmen who have learned the craft the traditional way as apprentices.
What are you waiting for?

Nice bit of press for us. One for all you castellanoparlantes out there. Article in El Pais Semanal.

But back to all things shoemaking and bespoke shoes. Remember a few weeks ago I started a post about the story of a bespoke pair of shoes from start to finish and I had chosen a pair of velvet slippers? I had left them all lasted over, ready to put the sole on.
Remember also that this construction is unusual and not one I have done very often. So when I do do it, I find it a bit nerve wracking and I have to concentrate. I imagine it is how a lot of you feel when you are making shoes and it is good for me to remind myself of how it feels.

After the upper is lasted over, don't trim any excess off. Glue it down with contact cement and then brace stitch it on. This is where you use one thread and just stitch over the upper and through the insole. The result is in a pic below and I have done a post about it - the one about preparing for fittings/try-ons.
I also put on covers as they are velvet (see post archive)

Remember we had taken a paper outline of the sole? Well, put this on a piece of paper and draw round it. Mark your heel points. Give yourself lots of extra round the heel.

Next give yourself a 6mm margin around the line. This is to account for the insole and upper that is now on the last. You want to make sure the sole is too big rather than too small for the slippers.

Draw the sole outline on your chosen sole material. This should be thin and mellow so you can work it (soaked and 75% dry).

Cut it out and skive it to 1/8" by drawing a line around the edge with a pen. This is from heel point to heel point.

Skive it carefully making sure the skive is not too abrupt. Blend it in from a good inch from the edge. Glass it to get rid of perfections.
At this point it is a good idea to test the size on the slipper. It needs to look like the sole is too big for the shoe, like it will turn up slightly beyond the feather edge.

Draw a line 3/16" in from the edge. This is where you are going to stitch the sole on.

Wet the line with water.

Now here is the fun part. With a welting awl (it helps if you have a very curvy one, I keep one specially for this purpose), you have to make a series of holes on the line by going in and out with your awl. Let the awl do the work as the curve will bring it up again. And don't try to go too deep. This construction is for house shoes and dress pumps and is not supposed to be a rugged construction for walking up mountains in.
Take you time and practice on a bit of scrap first.
Make the holes close together.

It should look like this.

Glue both surfaces with contact cement and let it dry for 15 minutes. You only get one go with this glue so get it right when you put them together.
Hammer the sole gently to make sure it is well glued.
Hammer the edges hard to make them fold up against the upper.
This is how the brace stitch looks.

Nail around the heel as normal - nails half way in; clip them; and punch them. Pegs if you prefer.

Now the fun bit. Wherever you have a stitch hole on the sole, you need to make one into the upper. Do it as you stitch, one at a time.
On the first stitch put your thread into the first holes in the sole and the upper. You are ready to start.

Make your upper hole and reopen the sole hole.

Put your sole thread through the upper hole and pull it leaving a loop. Twist this forwards one turn. Then put the upper thread through the loop from the sole side towards the upper side.

Then put it through the sole hole. Pull tight. It forms a little holding knot. Pull both threads tight and either with the handle of your awl or with a hammer, hammer the sole to flatten the stitches, all the time pulling the threads tight.

Keep going till you finish. Remember to hammer as you go.

When you have finished, skive the sole edge to 3/16".

Wet the edge and peen it in with the French shape hammer. Try to get it as tight as you can. Hammer out the marks with a flat hammer.

Then draw a line to 1/8" and cut it with your very sharp knife. You can use a thin piece of plastic under the leather to protect the upper.

This leaves an ugly edge. Yuck!

Trim it off with the tip of your knife.

And finally peen it right up against the upper as tightly as you can. It should look neat and straight and tight to the upper.

More pics of the finished sole next time. And I will build the heels and finish them.

I am going on holiday next week to Spain, so the Other One will be on blogging duties.

So until then, happy shoemaking

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Week Two of the Brooklyn Shoemaking Course 2011

Well here I am nearly at the end of week two and what a pleasant change it has been teaching the second week of the course. In the past I have been the one to get the courses underway, which is definitely more physically demanding - especially when we have had larger groups to teach - so it is lovely to concentrate on the finishing stages this time.

I arrived on Saturday afternoon, but my working week actually started on Sunday seeing a new client for a fitting. And it was not a fitting lacking in some glamour despite New York's attempts to dampen things with heavy fog and rain! It was my first fitting where a client arrived by helicopter (and hopefully not my last)! I tried very hard to be English about it all and to remain unimpressed, but I failed totally. I am sorry, but arriving at a meeting in your own helicopter is right up there on the super cool list. Anyway, after making such a dramatic entrance the client was actually charming, thankfully the fitting went well and we are now making the first pair for delivery.

When I had arrived on Saturday the students were just putting on their soles so Monday started with some concentration-demanding 'cutting the channel'. James has told me how well they had done in week one and how capable they all are. He is not joking!

Regular blog followers will remember what an important stage this is - cut too deep a channel and the shoe's strength is undermined, cut too shallow and the stitches show through the sole. It's funny, but even after all of these years making it is the one point when I have to take a deep breath before I put my knife into action. Anyway, James is right, our group of students here in Williamsburg have proven themselves very capable and channeling gave them no such qualms. We were soon stitching with few thread dramas and by Tuesday afternoon I was wondering what I would be doing with them for the rest of the week.

The beauty of being so far ahead in the second week however is that we can slow the pace of work right down and really, really concentrate on getting the best possible finish on each student's shoes.

Gia ,by accident or design I am not sure which, is making cuban heels and so we are working to make sure that the slopes of her heels match and are smooth;
Lauren has found her forte in heel building and rasping - so she is now working hard to keep the heel edges straight as she finishes them;

Tom, who has powered ahead throughout the course is focusing his attentions on perfecting his finishing - and he has learned that even the smallest variations in stitch depth etc. will impact on the finish of his sole edges;

and Phillip had a hard lesson today when he used too hot an edge iron/no soap to set his edges and singed them. A little extra sanding will put things right in the morning…but it just shows how the intensity of the past 10 days has effected levels of concentration and stamina. Week two may not be as physically demanding but it is demanding in other ways!

We are looking forward to taking a 'field trip' tomorrow to visit some of New York's leather and shoemaking material suppliers - a welcome opportunity to discuss design ideas and which leathers are more appropriate for hand sewn work - before back to the workbenches in the afternoon.

Once the lasts are out on Saturday we'll settle down to some good old polishing - I plan to show the students how to get a military shine - then it'll be celebrations, bubbly, dancing and doughnuts from the best doughnut shop in NY.

Back to good old blighty for me on Sunday after a short, but very sweet trip.
Jesse has been a great host as always and been very generous in sharing both her studio space and her experiences with the students. I hope that her enthusiasm and their experiences over the past two weeks will encourage this lovely group to take their shoemaking studies even further. Good luck guys!

Friday, May 13, 2011

carreducker Shoemaking Class, New York 2011

Apologies to one and all. There are two very good reasons why I am blogging so late.

The first is that the Blogger server has been out of action for the last 24 hours and only came back online this morning. Conspiracy theory anyone?

The second is that I am in New York and when Blogger came back to us (finally), I was already teaching the carreducker handsewn shoemaking class and had to wait till the end of the day to write today's post.

So here we are, in very sunny, warm Williamsburg, Brooklyn, hosted by the lovely Jesse Moore, bespoke shoemaker.
I have taught five days of the course already and I have to say that this group is probably the most capable one we have ever had.

There are four students this year, so there is plenty of time for individual tuition, as always, and all of them have had some shoemaking experience before. The class caters for complete beginners, but when everyone knows one end of a shoe from the other, it helps move things along at a jaunty pace.

We have sharpened our knives; prepared our insoles; skived toe puffs and stiffeners; lasted by hand; made threads; and welted by hand. We are about to start attaching the sole.
The most difficult processes are behind us and the second week should be a pleasure for the Other One, who arrives tomorrow to do her stint.

We have a student from New Zealand, one from Florida, one from Detroit and one who walks across the Williamsburg Bridge every morning from the Lower East Side.

A really nice group and it's really great to have a week of teaching. I genuinely enjoy it.  A combination of motivated students and the pleasure of sharing my skills make this a week I look forward to every year.

Here are a selection of images from the week.

Phillip lasting

Tom getting ready to put his stiffener in

Gia measuring up

Lauren lasting

Brooklyn industry


Our lovely studio

Jesse closing

Welting up close

So there you are. Hope you enjoyed the post. I go home Sunday and will spend next week at Gieves and Hawkes.

Until next time, happy shoemaking!