Friday, November 30, 2012

Pattern Making Course - New!

Welcome back once again, dear readers. Another week passes in the varied and exciting world of carréducker.

Today (Friday) from 11am till 9pm and then Saturday and Sunday from 11am till 6pm is our Open Studios at our Cockpit Arts workshop (Cockpit Yard, Northington St, London WC1N 2NP). So, for those of you who live in or around London, we would be delighted to meet you and show you our work.
It is also a great opportunity to see over 80 designer/maker businesses and their amazing crafts. 

And so to all things shoemaking. This week we want to talk about our courses. We have been running our intensive handsewn shoemaking courses very successfully now for 6 years and this year we added a new weekly course on a Monday night which has proved both popular and good fun. The January term is fully booked and we have a long waiting list for the summer term - looks like the people of London have got into the shoemaking groove.

One thing that we often get asked is whether we teach pattern making. Until now, we have always had to say no becuase, while both Deborah and I know some basics, we are certainly not qualified to teach it.

So, with this in mind, we have teamed up with expert pattern maker, Fiona Campbell MA, to create the first carréducker Pattern Making Course. This week long intensive course will teach the basics of pattern making for shoes. It will cover 3 basic styles - the Oxford, the Derby and the ladies' court shoe.

Fiona is a couture consultant to the industry; lecturer at the London College of Fashion, the Victoria and Albert Museum; and has a lifetime of practical experience in the "West End" tradition of English shoemaking.

The course is a week long and dovetails with our intensive course in August, so you can learn both handsewn shoemaking and pattern making in a three week period. Ideal for both UK based students and those from overseas, the course is suitable for complete beginners. The exact dates are on our website along with prices.

During the course you will cover the following areas

  • Familiarisation with the last
  • Taping and designing onto the last
  • Making a paper mean form
  • Drawing the style onto the last
  • Making a standard from the last
  • Creating the pattern pieces from the standard

By the end of the course you will have gained sufficient knowledge to practise and improve your pattern making skills on your own. You will also have three sets of sample paper patterns (including linings) like the ones below.

If you are interested in finding out more, please email us at or call us on +44 (0)20 7813 0093. We will happily send you a detailed course outline and a booking form.

We are really excited about the course and are confident that it will be a fantastic opportunity for anyone keen to make shoes to learn how to make an accurate and well fitting pattern - the starting point for any good shoe.

And that is about it for this week.Wish us luck for the Open Studios and we look forward to receiving your enquiries about the Patter Making Course.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Whichever way you measure's still a foot!

Since we started shoemaking we have seen and heard about measures being taken in many different ways...depending on the shoemakers and the last makers involved. Some call for the client to be standing and others for the client to be seated but crucially, always in the socks they will be wearing with the shoes.

Below is an example of how we measure for one of our last makers. The measures are taken with the client standing - drawing around the foot and then sweeping the pencil in at the arch; measuring around the widest part at the joint, at the instep (on the bone) and at a point midway between the two...always keeping the tape measure as straight as possible.

Whichever method you use, the critical element is to use a standard, sharp HB pencil and to keep it perpendicular as you draw the outline of the foot.

To simplify taking measurements this way, we made a 'measuring stand' enabling drawing around the foot and capturing the side profile, as well as taking the measures whilst the customer is standing on the board. 

With our new last makers however, we are using a different system. This time the customer is seated when we take the measures with their knees straight above their ankles and their thighs parallel to the floor i.e making a square.

We have simplified the above 'measuring board' to one single, leather covered board. The paper is slotted into this to draw the profile of the foot and to mark any oddities, but the measurements themselves are taken with the foot resting on our thighs.
This felt strange at first and is much more intimate for the customer, but it does give us the opportunity to really feel the foot and, in particular, the underside. It is also more comfortable for the customer, particularly our older or less flexible customers, whilst we take measurements across the widest point, from big toe to little toe joint, on the instep bone and at the crook of the ankle.

We have had the first few fittings with this new method and I have to say that the results so far have been very promising. The fit around the quarters has been particularly good, so fingers crossed we can reduce the number of fittings to just one or two.

That's all for this week news of a new Crafts Award in the UK and us demonstrating at the launch at The Royal Society of Arts. It is the beginning of a shift in funding and focus that could be very exciting for youngsters wanting to get into crafts in the future.

So until next week, happy shoemaking!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Shoe Snob: Carreducker Spat Boots - Lovely!!

The Shoe Snob: Carreducker Spat Boots - Lovely!!

We're not the only ones to love our spat boots...if you are shoe fans and don't already, follow The Shoe Snob...a must for a sartorial view on shoes!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Spat Boots and Heel Finishing

Welcome back, once again, dear shoe folk of the world. We are always thrilled by the reach our blog has around the planet. It seems we have readers from all over the place which is fantastic and the spur we need to carry on.

Our philosophy with the blog has always been to promote interest in our beloved craft by sharing our knowledge and skill. Too often, skilled craftspeople spend years gaining the knowledge and then guard it ferociously. This means that they don't pass it on to the next generation and their skills die with them. This, to me, is a tragedy and if we can encourage just a handful of you to pursue your dream of becoming a shoemaker, then we are happy. Equally, we want to widen and deepen awareness of what we do to those who are interested and who do not aspire to making shoes.

But anyway, onwards and upwards. This week we delivered these spat boots to a client and we both really love them. Based on a 30s style, they are made of shrunken calf (which is boiled to give it a natural graining) and suede. The lining is a dark grape colour and they have a military ribbon tug. The buttons are vintage resin from the 30s and are very beautiful.

The client was delighted, so we are too. We hope you agree that they are very handsome.

One thing occurred to me when I was finishing he heels on a pair of shoes last week. When you are rasping the heels and the quarter rubber, the two materials rasp at different rates which means that the rubber sits proud of the leather. This makes for a little step which prevents you from glassing and sanding effectively.

It's hard to see from these photographs, but there is a little lip.

At the point of sanding, get the knife and trim off the lip. It leaves a mark but this comes off with the rough sandpaper. The result is a smooth transition between the rubber and the leather of the heel. So it looks and it feels better.

This is also true if you use contact adhesive for your heels. You get a little line of glue between the lifts because the leather rasps away quicker than the glue. So always use a water based craft paste for heel building.

And that, I'm afraid, is that for this week. We hope you have a good one and, until, next Friday, happy shoemaking!

Friday, November 9, 2012

New Bespoke Shoes

Welcome back, dear readers old and new. Another week flies past and a large proportion of it was spent (by me at least) in Brussels, which was lovely. The absolute highlight was the van Buuren Museum a house built and decorated entirely in the Art Deco style - it is an absolute gem with all the original windows, light fittings, furniture and rugs, all of which were commissioned specially for the house. If you are ever in Brussels, you must go - and have lunch at the Brasserie Georges down the road.

But back to shoes. This week we are going to show you some recent bespoke shoes we have delivered to customers.

The first pair is our classic Saddle Boot but with Madeira blue quarters. The black and blue box calf combination really works and adds a very contemporary edge to the boots. These are now living happily in Illinois with their owner.

Love the blue laces.

Military shine on the toes.

Now, these cause comment, both good and bad. But whatever way you swing, they are striking. Pink nubuck and cream kid. Pink slip beading and laces. Carreducker crow's foot stay stitches on the quarters. I have grown to love them after a shaky start (I admit it). These will be a delicate pair of shoes and I would like to see how they look in a few years' time

These are now causing a stir in the coffee shop of a small island on the west coast of the USA - hell yeah!

Fiddle waist and natural finish all over.

Blue Chelsea boots. Madeira blue box calf; red glacé kid lining; military shine on the toes; and a military ribbon tug. I love these boots and would happily wear them. They are bespoke and so have an 'idiosyncratic' shape - but this is the nature of bespoke shoes, they have to fit the feet that are inside them.

Split front seam is a nice detail. It also means that the uppers do not need to be blocked (crimped) which is an advantage.

The elastic gusset was inspired by a military uniform in the Gieves and Hawkes archive.

This is the second pair for this client. His first pair were a brogue Derby which he wanted to be flexible and wearable in most situations. For his second pair, he wanted something a little more casual, so we rounded the toes and used a Longchamp tan box calf to give a more weekend feel. We also antiqued the leather both before and after the making. Beforehand we deglazed it and used some dye washes to mottle it and darken it slightly, and afterwards we used polish to darken the toes and counters.

The toe medallion pattern is a very disguised monogram - TW. You would only really know if  someone tells you. But that is another thing about bespoke shoes which gives real pleasure to the owner - only he knows about these details, but every time he puts them on, he gets that little feeling of satisfaction.

We particularly like the brogue pattern around the  heel.

And there you go, a selection of recent shoes we have made. Hope you liked them. Please, as ever, feel free to ask questions and comment.

Until next week, happy shoemaking!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Tricks Of The Trade - Split Toe Leather

Greetings once again, dear readers, and welcome back. This is becoming a habit!

This week has seen me add another year to my age which is now looking and feeling considerable. I'm just starting to get that "so much to do, so little time to do it" feeling.

And with that in mind, let's get straight on to all matters shoemaking.

Has this ever happened to you? You are lasting the toes over a toe puff which you have lovingly and painstakingly shaped, smoothed and generally cosseted.

You pull with the lasting pliers and put a few nails in around the toe (as usual) when a sudden and sickening tear appears in the upper, right on the most visible part of the toe. It is just on the skin surface and a little white shows through. Disaster! The upper is ruined and you will need to make a new one (there follows a vile series of curses in the carréducker workshop).

But is it ruined? Perhaps not. Here is what you need to do. Get a piece of thin lining leather, like the kid below.

Cut it to the shape of the upper at the toe with a little overlap on the lasting allowance. Skive it well and down to nothing along the straight edge.

Peel back the upper and put some contact adhesive on both surfaces and let it dry for 10 minutes.

Glue the kid in place so it looks like this.

It should overlap a little like this.

Cover the inside and outside of the upper leather and kid insert with leather stretch (various brands are available, ours is called Gozin). Be very generous with some long lusty squirts as you will need a long stretch here.

Let it soak in completely.

Now, gently start to last the toe again. Pull slowly and add the stretch to the leather slowly and gradually. Pull until the cracks are below the feather edge.

Last as normal all the way to the joint and trim the leather.

Knock down the nails.

Turn the shoe over and make sure that there are no more splits and that you cannot see the line of the kid insert. If you have not skived it well, you will be able to see it.

And there you have it. A perfect looking upper which half an hour ago you had assigned to the spare uppers box. Pretty good, huh?

And that, as they say, is a wrap. Have a wonderful week and, until next time, happy shoemaking.