Friday, June 28, 2013

Dyeing Leather And A Visitor

A few weeks ago saw us show you a pair of boots which we were particularly proud of. This week saw their owner, Mr Nick Scott, editor of The Rake, come in and collect them.

He was genuinely delighted and commented that he had never had a pair of boots fit him like these. It was an immediate effect and very noticeable the "whoosh" as his feet slipped effortlessly into their new housing.

He also thanked us for our input in the design process. This is important to us as we very much see the bespoke process as a collaboration between the customer and ourselves. While the ultimate decision is the customer's, we think it our role to advise and suggest as the design process moves forward. Initially, we were going to antique the tan quarters, but when we received the uppers back from the closer, we thought it would get too busy with the navy and the sky blue. Nick agreed with us and the result is a really crisp, contemporary boot, just like Mr Scott himself.

The dark natural finish was also a collaborative decision, having toyed with the idea of a solid brown finish. Again it results in lighter, sleeker look. The fiddle waist is, as ever, a thing of beauty.

The other fun thing we started this week is a dyeing process for a very good customer or ours. He loves his bespoke projects and has set us a very nice one. He has given us a buffalo skin which has been tanned to a very light grey. He wants a pair of boots but is not happy with the colour, so has tasked us with dyeing it.

So with latex gloves on (very important as the dyes are toxic), we set about adding some colours. The first attempts were a bit crude, but we will refine the process.

We started with some bright base colours.

And added some darker washes to see what the results were.

You have two choices with this process. You can either paint on colours as you go to see how it turns out, or you can mix the dyes in a pot until you get the colour you want. Either way, you must remember what you have done if want to replicate it. This is really important and learned from bitter experience. So make a note of what you have done. But enjoy it too, it's fun!

By the way, we are a way off from finishing this process. So far, we are thinking a dark blue or a burgundy. But who knows? Watch this space.

Until next week, happy shoemaking!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Boot Lasts Vs Shoe Lasts With Fittings

Once more we welcome you all to our humble little blog. I personally have had a very short week having had a long weekend in Barcelona where, amongst other peasures, I had a beer with Norman Vilalta, fellow bespoke shoemaker. It's always a pleasure to see other makers and see how they work. He has a very nice shop in a swanky part of town and I like his passion for innovating, experimenting and pushing the trade forward.

Yesterday saw an Australian shoemaker come to us to do a master class of four days. She wants to learn hand welting techniques, so, starting with a blocked insole, a pair of uppers and a pair of lasts she is preparing the insole; skiving the stiffeners; hand lasting; hand welting; and hopefully the soles.

Our master classes are aimed at shoemakers with some experience and are completely tailored to the student's needs. We enjoy them and we hope that the students do too.

It's nice to have a 1 to 1 class with someone and makes a nice change from the intensity of the group classes.

We have been asked every now and then about the differences between shoe and boot lasts. We sometimes make bespoke lasts for students to use in class and they ask this question on occasion.

It is possible to have a specific boot last which has its own specifications, a higher instep and ankle area like the one below.

It helps when making boots, but is not much good for making shoes because the profile along the quarters is different. It is especially unsuitable for slip on shoes.

So what we suggest is that they have a shoe last and that if they want to make a pair of boots, they put some fittings on the shoe last. The most important place is on the throat of the boot above the instep. This is particularly essential because when you are putting on boots (specially those with no fastenings, laces, buckles etc) you need to be able to get your foot into the bed of the boot, but they must be snug enough to hold the foot. This is why this fitting is so important.

The best way to do it is to soak a thin piece of insole shoulder or heel lift and cut it like the image above. You also need to skive it flat where it meets the instep of the last.

Use small tacks to attach it to the last and shape it . Then let it dry and it goes surprisingly hard and rigid creating the necessary shape for the boots.

Depending on the lasts, make sure the fitting doesn't cover the split where the two parts of the last meet. Or if it is a sprung last, doesn't stop the last from breaking. Otherwise you won't be able to get the lasts out when the boots are finished.

So here are the two alternatives side by side, a boot last on the left and a shoe last with a fitting on the right.

The one thing you get with a boot last is the shaping round the ankle. A shoe last doesn't have this, but you can make a similar fitting as the throat on the heel, but we have never found this to be necessary with our customers. As long as you measure the ankles well and the upper pattern is good, you should be fine with just the fittng at the front.

The other thing about fittings is that you can adjust their size according to the type of boot you are making. The ones we made on these lasts were a low bootee, so the fittings are low.

And that is it for this week. We hope you found it interesting and look forward to hearing any comments you may have. Our knowledge is by no means exhaustive and we welcome any additions from our readers around the world.

Until next week, happy shoemaking.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Alice in Wonderland

Inspired by the fantastic work of Slinkachu we have come over all Alice in Wonderland this week... and everything has suddenly become really, really small!

Image courtesy of Claymoor's List

A shoemaker's workshop

Traditionally shoemakers would display tiny versions of their work on their carts, outside their workshops and in their shop windows. These miniatures showcased their exceptional skills and attracted in passing trade.

You might think making smaller shoes is easier, but don't be fooled. Yes there are fewer stitches, less material to last and a smaller sole and heel area to finish. But making in miniature presents its own challenges. You can't hold the shoe in your lap, a smaller area means that any marks look enormous and your awls suddenly look gargantuan!

Our lasting post came in handy for the stitching and a sturdy thigh worked fine as a work surface. So these little cuties were lasted with narrow nosed pliers, welted as normal with a light four-core thread and lightweight welt and filled with cork (rather than a leather shank). Next we will be glueing on a quarter inch sole (skived thinner at the edges) and stitching, before building a light heel and finishing with a natural finish.

More pictures of how they work out next week. Until then happy shoemaking!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Three days of Open studios, two pattern making courses and one Billionaire!

Hello shoe fans around the world, it's been a busy week here at the carreducker studios. We are gearing up for Cockpit Arts' Open Studios this weekend where our visitors will get their first glimpse of 'The Cray Twins' - the perfect summer shoe. 

Most importantly the sun is shining; we're very excited to be making something small and beautiful to help to celebrate the Coronation Centenary next month (all very hush hush); and we've welcomed some lovely new bespoke customers to the fold, who promise us colourful creations in the future. 

Worldwide, there seems to be a growing enthusiasm for making things, including shoes, which is why you'll have seen last week that we've added two extra courses for 2013-14. 

To complement those courses we are extending our pattern making courses. 

We're delighted that Fiona Campbell will continue to offer our students her pattern making expertise. Fiona has extensive experience in all aspects of British bespoke shoemaking, has taught at Cordwainers College (now the London College of Fashion), is a lecturer at the Victoria & Albert Museum and has worked with members of the exclusive West End Master Boot Makers Society . 

We have two places remaining for her pattern making course this August and there will be additional pattern making courses in January 20 - 24th and 28th July - 1st August next year, (timed to coincide with the intensive courses). 

We also look forward to welcoming Jesse Moore to the fold as our pattern making lecturer in New York, 28th April - 2 May. Jesse has long been our generous host in New York where she runs her own bespoke shoemaking business. With a  broad skill set, informed by her fine arts background, she does all of the phases of bespoke handsewn shoemaking herself including designing, pattern making, closing and shoe making. 

 We finish this week's post with a rather timely and altogether fantastic piece on
Glorious Goodwood
 A massive thank you to Josh and Piers for making 'intensive' sound such fun and look so great!

Until next week, happy shoemaking!