Monday, February 18

Mistress of the Prairie

So these are a pair of bespoke ladies high heels I made a while back in 2012. The wishes of the client were:

  • Western boot theme
  • Shoes
  • No laces
  • Orthopaedic insole inside
  • Black
  • Something red for a deco
I must say it was a great experience as I was eager to test all kinds of new techniques that had been trolololling in my mind for quite some time. Nowadays I would've done a bunch of stuff very differently, like that heel which I think would've required some more feminism in it ;)

Still, I'd really wan't to try and sew a really high heel shoe to a welt.

But this is what I came up with in the end. Enjoy!

Gosh, I really do miss the spring like crazy!

Friday, February 15

It's time to finish these boots!

And right you are! It's about time. I'm always planning on doing a post after a few days, but the time just tends to slip past somewhere. Suddenly it's a week, or two. Or three.

Now for the last thing about these bespoke high heels is the finishing. A nicely finished product is always more desirable to look at, hence the customer will be more pleased. Hence the products price can be a lot higher.
The common price around europe for a pair of bespoke shoes are a bit over 2000€, and as it may seem a ridiculous amount for a pair of shoes for the most of us, I can by heart tell that it's pretty much the lowest you can go for a first pair. Actually, when I heard that fur coats run in a price scale of 20000€ to 40000 €, with quite the same amount of time consumed to work (correct me if I'm wrong!) as in a pair of shoes, it really got me thinking that if the prices are like this... It can't be a problem to ask for a lousy 2000-3000€ for a pair of shoes, can it?
Another stray of thought is that we have the wrong target group. As a middle class dude, it's easy to think what I'd be willing to pay for a pair of bespoke shoes. Maybe around 600-850€.
Well, If the maker spends about 300-400€ to only the materials, he's left with a pay of 300-450€ for atleast a weeks work. Now, if the shoemaker is really effective, he'll make 5 pairs in a month. Now that makes he's income roughly 1500-2250€ per month. Now from that you'd have to pay your workshop rent, electrics, food, home rent etc.
Anyone can see that it's an impossible combination.

Sorry about the rant ;)

My point was that if your clientele are wealthy, the product needs to look wealthy. When the product looks, feels and smells wealthy, you can ask the price you deserve for the product. So the finishing is one of the most important things. I'm actually still learning and experimenting a lot of stuff with which to achieve a great finish. So here's some experimentation:
Some dye for the leather sole.
Some deco with a fudge wheel.

Some brilliant scissor work.

Some red dye.

Some red polish.

Some heel fitting.

Some heel deco.


Some nails.

This is the inside of the shoe. The wooden pegs have penetrated the insole, as they're expected.

It's an ancient peg shave!

Next up the reveal.
Have a great weekend all!

Wednesday, January 23

Handless sewn thoughts

Like I previously mentioned I already finished these shoes quite a while ago, but right now it's actually nice to notice how much I've developed since these and gained more understanding of shoemaking in general. I'm quite a newbie when it comes to the whole shoemaking process. Learning and process is what I'm in it for, and without it it's quite pointless to be a craft orientated person.

The recent six months have been a pause from actual doing, since I've still not got any shop to pursue my shoemaking passions in. Hence, I was joking with my colleagues: "Otso makes shoes only online, not for real". Well, if this blog is an extension of my persona in some weird way, the joke is actually not very far from the truth :)

Less conversation, more action.

Since the waist isn't going to be stitched, I decided to try and see how a pegged waist would look, as they're more or less done in authentic western boots.

I decided to give this special decorative stitchmarker a try. It's called a 'fudge wheel' in London and a 'roulette' in some other place. In the end I flunked the use of this, I really need someone to tell me how it's done properly.

Next on the 'let's try this technique while most propably ruining the shoe' - list was: channel cutting. When the sole is stitched, one way to hide and protect the stitch is to cut a channel like above and have it neatly hidden under the sole leather.

Well, it didn't go all too well. Either I cut too deep or made cuts to the surface. Lucky me for modern contact cements. Lucky me for not doing this a hundred years ago, my master would've made me immobile.

Well, it's something. Not a properly cut channel, but something. Something nasty.
Should I be telling you all this?
Shouldn't I just show myself in the light of a perfect shoemaker and call myself a master?


And let the sewing commense. The fudge wheel was number 12, so that's 12 stitches per inch.
That's 12 stitches per 2,5cm.
That's roughly one stitch in 2mm steps.
Needless to say, it took me ages. And ages.
Anyways, here you can see that for a very tight stitching one needs an curved awl with a vertical profile, in contrast to the horizontal blades with which the welt and more casual shoe soles are sewn with.

That's tight.

Whew! All done.
I decided to dye the stitches black after this. That's how great they looked.

After sewing, I closed the channel with contact cement. My favourite cement right now is Renia's Ortec. Wonderful stuff, if you happen to like such things.

After drying out, I gently skived the soles with a piece of glass to remove any marks made by previous handling.

After sanding the edges, I applied some water with a sponge and some high Ph soap (Ph above 7).

The moist edge pressed with a heated tool, and the nice stitchmarks from the fudgewheel are carelessly removed by using an improper tool for the job. Nice going. Well, I didn't have much to go with at the time.

"Yeah, as long as it shine's we're all good."

Monday, January 7

A lap, an awl and wet leather

Aye! And a merry christmas... er, no it's happy new yerrr....
Ah well, time flies when you're not making shoes ;) My december was pretty much social media free, but right now we might as well get to business as usual: shoemaking. It's a flash from the spring/summer of 2012 with the pair of black western styled heels I made.
The whole project was filled with a lot of experimenting on different techniques and methods. That means I'm not yet very comfortable with them and I would've done a lot of them differently to get a nicer outcome. But it's all for the learning.

So here's where it's all happening: my lap. The shoe is tightly fixed between my knees with a leather belt which in turn can be tightened with my other foot.

Hmh, I didn't take any pictures of the needles. Oh well, the welt, the upper, the lining and the holdfast (?) is penetrated with a special curved awl to create a channel for the threads through the moistened leather.
A lockstitch is made. I can now see from this picture that I didn't do a proper job in waxing these threads.

Removing excess staples.

I had a dilemma for the tip, as it was very pointy, and I had quite an amount of material to push underneath the shoe for sewing.  So I cut most of the toe cap and lining away to allow the upper and welt some space. I managed to damage the holdfast while doing this. I know I'm not very experienced with this, so if you've any tips on how to make it better, I'm all ears :)

It's a handsewn welt. Well, atleast it looks like one. I've only ever seen the steadfast carved into the actual leather insole elsewhere , but my master taught me only this method, so I'll start from what I know the best. After all I've only sewn a few pairs until now.

And the welt looks like this upside down.

Next I decided to stead the rest of the welt with wooden nails. No glue here, just a punch with an awl and a punch with a wooden nail. The trick to wooden nails is to just hit them once, and you'll get the best result. whenever's there's moisture the wood swells and sticks tightly to the surrounding materials. It's a really strong method for fastening thick leather onto another. Surprisingly.

Like so.
And the shoe looks like this now.

Next, the cork fillings are cemented.

And applied.

I wanted to try to make this special kind of ridge for an added visual candy.

On which the actual sole leather is pressed with contact cement.
Next we'll sew the sole, attach the heel, decorate and finish the shoes.