Friday, June 29, 2012

Square Waist Masterclass

Wow! We have reached a milestone which I would like to share with you. We have reached 200,000 hits on the hit counter. Now I think that is amazing for a niche blog like this one. We have over 200 followers (please become one if you read regularly); 258 posts and 424 comments - unbelievable stats!
A massive thank you to all of you who read the blog regularly or those who are less frequent visitors. We value each and every one of you

I am so pleased and proud, to be honest,  because we love this craft and it is our dedicated aim to promote it. And we think that sharing our knowledge is the best way to do that. Too often, skilled crafters hoard their accumulated skills and are very unwilling to share or encourage, under the mistaken idea that if they do, somehow they will lose business. We think that if you encourage and share, the trade will survive and flourish which is what we all want, after all.

Nothing is sadder to me than when an incredible craftsperson dies without passing on their skills and knowledge to the next generation. And believe me, I have seen this happen again and again. Craft is not like literature or history, it cannot be written down. It has to be shown, practised and fine tuned.

So there you go. Share it guys!

And so to making. This week I am going to give a masterclass on the finer points of a square waist. This is the construction which most of you will do most often.
It is pretty straightforward, apart from the section where the welt meets the heel. This can look bulky and ugly.

A few points to bear in mind. When you welt the shoe, make sure you bevel the end of the welt in a long tapering bevel. This allows a good transition to the sole.

Second, when you make the feather/holdfast, give the outside waist a curve inwards. This allows for a nicer heel shape. Too often, the heel can become triangular and ugly if the waist is too wide.

Ok, you have welted; stitched on the sole; and built the heel. The transition can look beautiful like this

Or ugly as all hell, like this.

But don't worry, this is usually because you have not trimmed the sole well around the heel and it is too full. There is a solution.

When the heel is built, I like to trim the seat before I cut the heel breast. Mark the heel points and make sure they are still the same on the left and right shoe.

Before I trim the seat though, take a look at the transition area. Very often it sticks out a lot from the upper and this continues into the heel/seat area and makes the heel bulky. The solution is to leave the welt quite full when you trim it before welting, but to put the stitches close to the upper. This leaves a section of welt which can be trimmed in when you are building your heels. Cut away the excess and blend the welt into the heel, taking away the bulk. This way, you can achieve a lighter, more elegant heel shape, especially combined with the curved holdfast trick.

To cut the seat, I use a tape measure and lay it evenly round the seat, making sure it is even and level.

Draw a line along the top of the tape measure. Again, check it and adjust if necessary. Pay attention to the way the line meets the welt. You are looking for a continuous, smooth transition.

Wet the seat and cut it with a sharp knife, paying particular attention to not cutting the upper. Use a plastic widget to avoid this if you are worried.

It should look like this.

You will most likely notice that the seat is not of an even width. Using a knife and a plastic widget to protect the upper, trim the seat even.

Wet it and peen it with the French shape hammer.

Now the seat is cut, you can mark the heel and cut the breast. Make sure they are a pair.

Rasp, glass and sand as normal. This transition is still a little uneven, but when you fudge the welt again, this will level out well.

Ink and wax the heel and edges as normal and you end up with beautiful square waist.

That is the theory anyway. Go away and practise.

Until next week, happy shoemaking!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Keeping it clean!

Adrian at Open Studios in white patent half-cuts
- a picture of sartorial summer perfection!
With summer upon us - yes of course I jest, but yesterday was officially Midsummer's Day - I've spent many a weekend exploring the wonderful National Trust properties near London. On a visit to The Vyne in Hampshire last weekend I bought a book - "How to clean absolutely everything" - at a second hand book sale. 

Why you may wonder? Well, amongst the very many home-related things it covers is shoe how could a practical girl like me resist? 

Between us, James and I have heard many, many different theories and pieces of advice on cleaning leathers over the years. But there were still some surprises in this book and of course, some great common sense too!

This being a typical English summer i.e. WET, this week's blog is all about caring for suedes and nubucks....just in case you get caught in a deluge.

  • As soon as you get your suede shoes, use a waterproofing spray to protect them - we spray the uppers on all of the suede and nubuck shoes we make - even before we start making them or have put the shoe covers on them.
  • Keep suede looking good by wiping it over with a piece of velvet - excellent at picking up dust and fluff. 
  • Be gentle with suede - too much brushing can do more harm than good and you will end up with a bald spot!
  • Wipe stubborn marks carefully with a barely damp cloth wrung out in soapy water. Allow to dry and then gently brush with a rubber brush in a circular motion. 
  • To remove persistent marks, put a few drops of lemon juice on a cloth and gently wipe the suede; steam in front of a boiling kettle for a few minutes; allow to dry and then gently brush up with a rubber brush in a circular motion.
  • Worn suede shoes can be revived with a burst of steam from the kettle; allow to dry and then gently brush up with a rubber brush in a circular motion.

A few useful nuggets I hope? Using velvet was certainly a new one to me. 

Canvas and fabric shoe care next week - in the hope that we can get our Winkers on for the summer - until then happy shoemaking (and I'm off to make a velvet cushion for cleaning suede)!

With thanks to authors Yvonne Worth, Amanda Blinkorn and The Good Housekeeping Research Institute (GHRI)! (A British treasure, the GHRI was founded in 1900 to improve the lives of consumers. Its scientists in the test laboratories have evaluated all things household related ever since!)  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

London Collections: Men - Designers

London Collections: Men - Designers

I know, exciting isn't it!

We're working on a project with the very beautiful and talented tattoo artist Saira Hunjan - yes, she is the gorgeous one in the photo - and decided that the brand new London Collections: Men was a great opportunity to 'launch' the concept. The whole project is about our shared love of craft and the bespoke approach and goes under the working title, "The Tattoo Trilogy".

This is very much a work in progress and there is still some refining to be done on the designs, but we're very excited to be working with Saira. Her work is feminine, but extremely strong so it works exceptionally well with our footwear. Saira has taken traditional icons - the griffin, stag's head and thistle - and worked her magic on them to give them a new aesthetic as a tattoo 'flash'. In turn, we designed three pieces to showcase her work - a pair of rugged boots, gaiters and velvet slippers. The boots were tattooed by her fair hand, as was the canvas in the gaiters, whilst the slipper motif is being hand worked in gold thread. The longer term aim is to refine the gaiter and to translate the designs into a number of different medium - possibly broguing, laser cutting and printing - to offer a truly unique custom service.

We'll keep you posted on what the visiting press think on Friday - hopefully some of them will find their way to the goldfish bowl - and on updates as we refine the work.

(As an aside, whilst I am busy keeping the carreducker world turning and the studio running, Mr Ducker has taken a well-earned holiday to celebrate his brother's birthday in Maine. In case I wasn't jealous enough before, we're talking sunshine,chilled wine, kayaking, lobster and a hammock! I know!!!!!!).

Friday, June 8, 2012

US Trunk Shows June 2012

Greetings, fellow shoe buffs, from sunny New York. On the last day of our June trunk show in the States. I arrived last Sunday in Chicago and we started seeing clients on Monday. We were at the Waldorf Astoria which is very grand. The suite was large and stylish.

The display looked good and we saw a combination of old customers for fittings and new customers for orders. Everyone seemed happy and we all left satisfied with our two days work.

While we were there, there were a bunch of crazy Pink Floyd fans outside the hotel, so I assume that one of  the members (or all of them) were staying there - very rock n roll.

Sunday was a beautiful summer's day. I landed early in the morning so went straight to the hotel and went for a bike ride up the lake in Lincoln Park. It was glorious. I ended up in the zoo which was free (never seen that before) and loved the old silver back having an afternoon nap and holding his own hand. Very cute.

The other thing I loved was the urban beach thing. Sandy beaches, fresh water "sea" and skyscrapers. Very odd. I was the only person on the beach in a suit when I took this picture and got some funny looks. But I'm used to that.

Then on Wednesday, we came to New York to the Pierre. Again, very grand, but in a different style (I'm trying to be polite). We have saw customers yesterday and today have more appointments, so all is good.

This is John and Lee from Gieves and Hawkes on Wednesday afternoon after we had set up the room - the quiet before the storm.

And so the last day arrives. Wish us luck.

Tomorrow I am flying up to Portland, Maine to stay for a week with my brother and family. It is his 50th birthday and he is having a big party tomorrow, hog roast I imagine. Just hope the weather is ok.

A week of holiday, what a treat. Can't wait.

Until next time, happy shoemaking!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Hunting, Fishing, Shooting. The Call Of The Wild

This week saw the realisation of months of preparations in the form of an event at the Gieves and Hawkes flagship store at Number 1 Savile Row. It was organised for Amex Centurion platinum card holders with the theme of Hunting, Fishing, Shooting, The Call Of The Wild.

The participating brands were Gieves and Hawkes bespoke who had an active cutting table where one of their expert cutters was on hand to cut patterns and give advice.

carr├ęducker was also there showcasing our new collection of boots and gaitors made in collaboration with tattoo artist extrordinaire Saira Hunjan, the so-called Girl With The Golden Needle. This is just a taster for this because it deserves a whole post to itself. Suffice to say that they both look fantastic.

There were also several pieces from London Taxidermy, including our lovely eagle owl below. Isn't he beautiful? I wanted to take him home, but at £1500 he was a little beyond my budget.

Our space was decked out with new TV monitor showing the making of the tattoo boots (on here soon) and a selection of long boots.

Other participants were The Balvenie, producers of handcrafted single malt whiskies and sponsors of the Balvenie Masters Of Craft awards which Deborah won last year.

Holland and Holland were here with a selection of their guns, rifles and hunting equipment, along with Ruth Anthony, hand engraver who specialises in guns. Her work is incredible, intricate and beautiful

Farlows fly fishing experts were also there along with a smoked salmon specialist and display of flies.
Bill Amberg was showcasing its range of gun cases,hunting bags and accessories. Bentleys transformed their space into a hunting lodge for the night and drinks were provided by Dorsia, a new private members club in South Kensington

Finally there was a collection of hand tinted prints of game birds by Edward Lear from Sotheran's - very desirable!

As you can see, the event was well attended and we were delighted with the turn out. I must say a very big thank you and pat on the back to Deborah who worked her socks off to make this event such a success.

This was the piece de resistance in my eyes. A stuffed polar bear. Look at the size of it! You wouldn't stand a chance.

Love the zebra too. I am really smitten with the taxidermy. Is there a new career beckoning?

And there we are. Another week over. I am flying to Chicago (Waldorf Astoria Monday and Tuesday) on Sunday for trunk shows there and in New York (The Pierre, Thursday and Friday), so wish me luck.

Until next week, happy shoemaking!