Thursday, July 28

Quality leather is what a shoemaker needs

A few weeks ago I contacted a finnish leather factory and provider: Ahlskog leathers. They provide almost individually reindeer leather, with the exception of some articles made of lamb. I asked via email that is it possible to get samples of their stock colors and some particular articles I was interested in. I was not only surprised of their quick reply with email, but of the thick envelope that waited for me in my kitchen table: two days after my email. Not only did it have the sample sheets I wanted, but also a pricelist and a handwritten letter with very relevant info. Now that's customer service! I don't know how it's usually done abroad, but here in Finland... this is something that all companies should strive to. So thank you Ahlskog!

Factory made reindeer leather isn't very familiar to me, as I've only dealt with completely traditionally handmade reindeer leather called in lapland as sisna. But the vibrant colors and the high quality of the samples makes me definitely want to try out Ahlskog's products. Most of the leathers were about 0,5mm thick which means they're mainly suitable for linings, but luckily few of the categories proved thick enough for uppers.
Can't wait to make a pair out of their leathers!

Just showing the catalog's front with two extra sheets for other articles.

And here's the whole set: four pages filled with beautiful colors and leather.

Instant love with the red suede <3

The extra surprise: a hand written letter! I'm not dealing with a robot! \o/
I know it's a small touch, but it just gives that something to remember :)

Yeah, I know this subject might have been aaaabit booOOooring, but I just wanted to share it. Coz it made-my-day! Period.

Monday, July 25

Ladies and gentlemen!

This was my first lottery, and a good number of 6 participants are now excited to know how it went:

I used's true random number generator, to make it absolutely... random :D Anyways, to the left you can see the participants with their one or two tickets and by pressing generate a random number shows the ticket winner.

And here's the results:

  • Henaja
  • Ploppen
  • Anonymous
  • Marek

Congratulations my dear readers! Without you this whole bloggin enterprise wouldn't make any sense!
Please, send your address information to: maensivushoes(ä)

Thursday, July 21


The lottery is still on, and will finish on the 24th. So you'll still have some time to participate! Please, read the rules in the previous post.

Meanwhile, I'm on a four week summer vacation and enjoying life. But we cannot let the wheels rust now can we? So what I'd like to know is, what are your favourite autumn shoes and why?
Here's some of mine:

Ok, I know it's not an autumn shoe,
but just look at that bootie! My love
for contrast colours is obvious.
Newton, by Gucci
Cést Moi Bootie, by Christian Louboutin.
The buttons remind us of late 19th century,
but make it an elegant bootie.

Maybe the most fitting to Finland's weather, a Gloria booty by Christian Louboutin.
Not really a fan of the square-ish tip, but all in all a very classic and great shoes that
surprise me with their apparent practicality.

Sunday, July 17

A lottery for readers

I'd like to thank everyone for their interest in my blog by doing a lottery. Since it's my first one, the prices are small and modest. There will be four leather pieces with the imprint logo "Mäensivu" on them, which I made and polished by hand. The leather is about 3mm thick high quality oak tanned leather which I use for the outer soles. They're basically meant for your key chain. This way you'll have a small piece of a bespoke shoe with you!
With the logo stamped on, cut to shape and a hole drilled to it, I smoothed the edges with a rotating brush.

After dyeing, I puffed them with a bone.
Little bit of leather oil, and we're ready to hang with your keys!

Rules of lottery:
  1. All members of my reader's board will get 1 ticket. This applies to new readers as well.
  2. An extra ticket will be given to those whole like the blog's facebook page.
  3. Those who aren't in my readers board will not get any tickets. So if you only like the facebook page and aren't a reader in blogger you won't get any tickets.
  4. Comment to this post, stating that with how many tickets you'll participate.
  5. Lottery time: 17.7.2011 - 24.7.2011.
Good luck and thank you all again for your encouraging support!

Wednesday, July 13

The Paubellarinas

Inspiration can happen anytime. Whether sitting in a bus, doing work or watching opera, anywhere. This time my inspiration was a blog, maybe the first fashion blog I've ever gone to: Paubellas. I wanted to dedicate these shoes for her and her blog with their name: The Paubellarinas. My first comment in history was about some ballerinas she wore, and I started to ramble about how I couldn't understand them for the sheer reason on non-aesthetics that I thought flat shoes in general possess. Well, I got her sympathy for not understanding women in this issue, but a moment later some designs for ballerinas started whirling in my mind. So I drew them down, and decided to start a project in making a pair. And here they are ready. Such is inspiration.

These were done bespoke for my wife, who also keeps a lovely and successful children's clothing blog called Unikuun terapiahuone, with lots of elaborate applications and tailoring, check it out! She was very pleased, which was a relief since I didn't let her affect the design. Except in one thing, as you'll see in a moment:

The main ingredients: Calf leather and alcantara (synthetic) uppers. Full Goat leather lining. Colored red leather sole with rubber inserts.

And there's the wish my client had: to have a heart shaped something in the soles.

The signatured red soles. I know it's a rip-off from Christian Louboutin, but they just look sooo good :D

Thank you all so much for following this project! What should I do next? High heels? What would YOU like to see made?

Monday, July 11

Making Ballerinas - Part 9 The outer sole

Making the outer soles can be sometimes frustrating: You're so close to completion of the shoes and then you start to get anxious and impatient, especially when all the time you have is basically the late evening/night, so you want to finish them quickly. Well, they turned out ok after all. But I still feel I could've done them better: lots of little details were left ugly and proper tools are missing. Making outer soles is alot about finishing, and when you're dealing with leather one has to pay great attention to details, unless you're just gonna paint it all black.
Enough blabbing my mouth, let's cut to the chase:

Here it all begins: I removed the nails and cut the excess leather out  from the undergoing uppers and lining. Then I cut two shanks out of carbon-fibre plate, and cork fillings.

Everything grinded and ready to take on the outer sole.

On the left is a glued, compressed and shaped outer sole with two shaping chisels. The left shoe has it's glued and skived outer sole waiting to be pressed.

A close up of the pressed on logo

I've fallen in love with the red soles, so I'm at it again.

Coloured. Still a bit wet though.

The formed half soles and heel rubbers with the grinded outer soles ready to be glued.

I want to reveal the outcome of the soles later, so next up was pulling the nails out from the lining.

I removed the lasts and made insole linings with the logo print.
And it was time to spread some polish, spray some care products, polish and oil the outer sole.

Sorry all this hidden mystery in the post, but I wanted to save up the details and everything to the actual reveal. Which is tomorrow! See you then!

Friday, July 8

Making Ballerinas - Part 8 Lasting

Lasting is the actualization of the shoe: the lasts and the insole merge with the uppers to create a three dimensional object: the shoe. It's done by placing the uppers on the last and pulling them tightly under the insole where they are attached to with contact glue. There's something magical and rewarding when you've lasted a pair of beautiful shoes. The previous phases of taking measures, designing, shaping the lasts, making the patterns, fixing the last and the patterns, cutting the leathers, sewing the uppers and making the insole come into completion in this phase. The shoe comes alive! Let's see how:

The uppers are placed on the last.

The side stiffeners receive some carpenters glue.

The first pull after checking that the back strap is at the correct height and the uppers are straight.

The uppers are attached to the insole from three key points, this is called the front pull.

At this point it's good to check out the upper side. If the uppers are straight then we can proceed. With this kind of design I thought it would be easier to nail the excess lining to the last so that they won't drop too low when pulling them.

Then the back part of the uppers and lining are glued and nailed. The front is left open so we can glue only the lining to the insole.

The uppers are lifted so that a toe stiffener made of leather can  be glued on the toe part.

After attaching and some grinding the toe stiffener is covered with carpenters glue.

And the upper is again turned on everything and some contact glue is applied. After this the uppers are attached and nailed to the insole systemically.

And voilá! It's a pair of shoes!

A side view.
And the ever lovely toe part with the bow.

Next up: building the outer sole! Almost finished!

Thursday, July 7

Making Ballerinas - Part 7 The insole

I'll make a mini post of this because the picture volume would've again been too much with lasting attached. Insole is a very important piece in a shoe, and you can find it basically from any shoe that's been lasted. The insole makes it possible to attach the uppers and lining beneath it, so this way it's possible to stretch them tightly on the last. This might not make any sense now, but it'll open to you soon.

Here's the lasts to the left, in the middle and right you can see the leathers and the  synthetic stiffeners. Below is a pair of strong leather scissors for cutting, since the leather and the stiffeners are about 3mm thick. Both the leather and the stiffeners are cut from bigger sheets.

The stiffeners are glued to the leather and the insole is attached to the bottom of the last.  The insole is then cut to the precise shape of the last, and final shapes are grinded as seen in this picture. The upmost picture has the insole attached to it before grinding, and the lower shows how I shaped the edges to be about 1mm thick at most. This way, when the uppers are pulled over the last, the shoes appearance seems a lot slimmer. I left the backside thick, so it's look better when finished.

And here's how they look from down up.
Strips of alcantara are glued to the whole back part of the insole. This way we'll have a neat look to them when they're ready. The lower insole is what comes next to the last. Then they're attached to the lasts and we're ready for some lasting.

Next up, some lasting.

Tuesday, July 5

Making Ballerinas - Part 6 Sewing

With sewing, I wanted to take an old fashioned approach: a thin thread (60) and a thin needle (90), and do a extremely short stitch of about 1mm in length. This kind of stitching was common in shoes in the beginning of the 20th century, and if you ever visit a shoe-museum (there's one in Tampere, Finland called Vapriikki) check the stitching in old shoes, for a craftsman they're absolutely marvellous! One might think that "what the hell, it's only stitching, who cares?" But stitching is actually one of the most important aspects when making shoes: not only does it define the whole aesthetics of the shoe but has a strong importance even on the durability: dress shoes tend to have a thin and usually only one row of stitching. The heavy work shoe can have a thick thread with possibly up to four parallel rows.
An example of the change in the history of stitching shoes: left is a men's boot from early 20th century, and on the right a similar article from the 21st century. See the difference?

Ok, lets get back to business:

The leather edges have to be made thin wherever needed, this is called skiving. Skiving is done for different reasons, of which the two most common are; having different kind of seams and edges and to make the edges of the leathers that go under other leather layers to be non-visible to the surface. This is a skiving machine with a rotating blade, and I can make a more detailed post of this if anyone fancies that.

Here's a closeup of a skived piece, where you can see that the flesh side is close to it's normal thickness on the other side of the skive and the edge is almost 0mm thick. This is a folded edge skiving. See below for more info :)

Skiving at it's most traditional: with a curved knife. I skived only a thin line from the edge because it was my first time skiving alcantara and it doesn't work like leather so I had to be careful.

Skiving can also be done with a grinding machine, though only for the things hidden between the lining and uppers. You can see the difference in these side-stiffeners: the left one hasn't been skived.

A non-flexible and incredibly thin folding thread is glued 6mm away from the edge and necessary cuts  are made to make the folding easier as seen on the right piece. The edge is folded with contact glue underneath the leather on the left piece.

I folded the alcantara pieces too, to get as neat a look as possible.
And there you have it, all the pieces folded and ready for sewing! Well, no folding for the lining though ;)

And here's what a shoemakers best friend looks like. It takes alot of sewing before one gets friendly with  basically any kind of machine, and sowing machines are especially quirky.

It has a kind of a pole whereon it's easy to sew shoe uppers, since they're quite small and have
more three dimentional shapes.

Once all the sewing is done, I glue the side-stiffeners to the lining.

The surplus lining is cut away with scissors...

...And here's what you end up looking from the other side. Then the lining edges are painted black so that they won't "jump out".

And the uppers are ready to be lasted!
And a finishing touch is the bows. Here you can see the old fashioned small stitching , and my lack of experience with  both the particular sewing machine and the stitching.

Next up is lasting!