Sunday, 9 October 2016

My first hand made denim shoes!

As mentioned I my previous post, I have started and finished making a pair of shoes! It felt like I just really needed to power through from start to finish even though at times I wasn't confident they were working or if I was going to like them, but this was an important process for me.

First of all, I am totally proud of these shoes. I made the last, the pattern, the heel and all the things! The construction is something I am working on in my own way and I am slowly trying to form a way of making a pair of shoes that do not require glue. There are some really innovative designs out there for no glue shoes, but for now I just want to make fairly standard designs, as I am just getting my head around what shoe design even means and what I want it to look like! I feel like I need to get hands on with a whole process to confidently be able to think about how I can adapt it to my own desires or aesthetic (very much like how I approached bra making).

Enough about that though and more about these shoes. They kind of started out as a very rough mock-up of a shoe idea from some denim scraps. Below is how rough I'm talking here, but I kind of liked where this was going, so back tracked slightly and used this shell to turn into my first real shoe.

As you can see, I literally used the mock-up fabric with raw edges and all which I lined with a thin suede that has been in my stash for a loooong time! I subbed the straps with some leather scraps and topstitched the edges and fixtures of the upper with a jeansy gold topstitch thread.

The heels are stacked leather, which I bought as a massive job lot of scraps. It is suitably thick (5mm), but not what you might immediately select for shoe making. I have no idea what it is, but it has a darker leather central layer, which has a lighter coloured layer on the top and bottom. Almost like it is veneered or like a ply wood looks. You cant really see it in the pictures, but I ike it. It is also has a very soft texture on the cut and sanded edges. I guess this will be a trade mark of any shoes I make for some time as I have 19kg of it!

Everything about this pair of shoes is fairly rustic, even down to the tacked on heels!

The sole and base of the heel is a natural crepe rubber sheet, which I bought from here. I glued the sole on, but nailed the entire heel and base of heel together.

Here they are on! Aren't they cute? How amazing that my fist pair of shoes have gone so well....

Almost, but not quite! They are too long unfortunately. If my foot is rested against the back of the sling back as the picture above then there is quite a lot of room in the toe as per below. This does not make them unwearable, but I expect the toe cap to collapse after a few wears maybe.

If I push my foot to the front of the shoe then there is quite a bit of room behind the ankle. I still haven't worn them out yet, so I need to do that and make a fair assessment, but I have started on another pair of lasts with 0.5cm removed from the front of the foot. I think this is the most logical place to make the adjustment as I like the fit everywhere else. It's hard to know for sure if this is the right thing to do or not.

I have some new old resin lasts to play with now, but I really like using my dodgy homemade ones. I'm keen to make a pair of leather shoes on both and see how I feel about them, but I'm really enjoying analysing my feet in this way.

Now I know some of you want to know more about the construction so rather than do another post about these shoes I'm just going to make this an extra long one!

No pattern making advise here, but check out this site for some ace tutorials!

So I started by gluing my upper to my lining along the top edge and ankle strap using a contact adhesive.

I then cut away the bits of lining that are left in the above picture. I didn't cut them out initially as I felt it would prevent the upper shape from being distorted when I was gluing the two layers together. I then topstitched around all the upper edges with a gold topstitch thread, sewed the loop on my T-bar, sewed up the centre back seam and also attached the leather strap.

Next I positioned the upper on my last and pinned it in place as it is soft enough for pins.

I haven't photographed this part, but I punched holes around my thick leather insole (about 1cm away from the edge) with an awl and handstitched a long running stitch through the holes with a strong linen thread. The theory behind hand stitching the sole is to be able to hand sew the upper to something. Hand sewn uppers I have seen have been sewn to very thick insoles which are carved to reveal a relief channel that can have a thick needle pushed into it. It is a very skilled and labour intensive construction that I'm not sure I can confidently replicate without wanting to throw my shoe out the window, so this is my interpretation of the same concept!

Below is me starting to hand sew the lining to the insole!

Once it was all sewn I trimmed away the excess leather and glued the toe puff to the lining. Again helpfully not photographed, but I used some buckram left over from some hand pleated curtains that I used to make. I think I then glued the upper to the toe puff, but may have only done that on one shoe and not the other, whoops!

I did trim some of the bulkier leather pleats away and then sewed the denim upper to the same linen thread.

The back of the insole has no upper wrapped around it, so I filled this space with a scrap of folded over bias cut denim.

I trimmed my quick fit metal shanks to fit the space and nestle into the denim and glued it onto the insole.

Next up I trimmed three layers of denim to glue onto the front of the insole to make a level-ish surface ready for the outsole.

 I forgot to take a photo of the outsole, but here's a screen grab from a video clip off my Instagram account. I made sure to really hammer it in place once the contact adhesive was ready, as when I tried gluing the crepe sole to a previous pair of sliders, it came unstuck really easily. The mad hammering seems to have done the trick!

The heel is the last bit and was the bit I was most excited about starting and also the most worried about!

I formed an idea of the height and how I would shape it from comparing it to the last and created a block with a slightly stepped top two layers. Traditionally stacked heels are built directly onto the shoe, but I wanted to make mine to attach to the shoe. Now I've done it and kind of understand what I'm aiming for though, I may try building onto the shoe next!

I removed the central core as I could tell the shoe wanted to sit in a hole and then carved away at these top two layers until it fit the back of the shoe in nicely.

I carved away at the sides too, but it is all a bit rough and ready still. I think I need a better blade! (shouldn't really blame my tools ;-)). I could have sworn they looked better than this...

I should add that these leather layers are held together with a few nails at this point, but once I was happy enough, I went to town and hammered loads and loads of nails in to keep it all together!

Finally I attached the heels with some upholstery tacks straight through the insole into the heel. I hammered them in as much as possible to avoid any uncomfortable nubby bits, but if they prove to be annoying I can always glue some leather covered foam there.

Oh, the last bit was actually to position the gold coloured screw in button thing and then they were finished.

Well, that's it in a nutshell! I hope to improve quite substantially with my next pair. I kind of felt like I needed to get a completed pair of shoes under my belt to have some knowledge to build on, but I am excited to move on!

See you shoon! ;-)