Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Shoemaking Experiment

A year or two ago, I would not have had the confidence, or even the desire, to make my own period shoes.  But I have been inspired by the hugely talented shoemakers in the hobby to give the trade a try, especially since Robert Land, the shoemaker who constructed the 19th century boots that I always lusted after, has recently closed up shop.
I based my shoes on several extant pairs from the Met.  I knew I wanted fabric uppers with no toe foxing, so I used red wool gaberdine lined with stiff cotton canvas.  The heel foxing is kid leather, the sole is 10 oz sole/saddle leather from ebay.  I did not use entirely period-correct construction techniques, partially out of laziness and partially because I didn't want to put the work into something that I knew would not turn out particularly stellar.  I used Every Woman Her Own Shoe-Maker as a guide, but my primary instructional source was from The Graceful Lady.  Without her step-by-step instructions I would have been completely and utterly lost, especially when it came to treating the soles!
So here is my first, modest attempt at making shoes.  If nothing else, it's a nice pair to wear at an event when it's muddy and I don't want to ruin my good leather boots.  I have a lot of ideas for how I can improve my next pair, which I intend to be a pair of light pink satin dancing slippers.
 As you can see, the soles need a better dye than I gave them!
The most difficult part of the process was obtaining an appropriately sized straight last, which I found on ebay after some digging.   Also, putting the holes in the sole with an improperly sized awl (thank goodness I found a narrower one.)
Anyways, I'd recommend this shoe as a nice pet project for anyone with some time on their hands (90% of these were constructed on the train to work) and very strong wrists.


  1. Very interesting! I've never seen that tutorial, but I will hang on to it. Have you ever been interested or heard of the Historical Sew Monthly? It's my first year participating, but it's a lot of fun.

    1. I am aware of it, but having a set schedule of projects that I'm obligated to follow isn't much to my style. As with the shoes, I like to spontaneously decide to do something out of left field, apply myself intensely for the duration of the project then leave my supplies where they lay for a few weeks.