Learn to make shoes day #2

so many beautiful leathers to chose from

This morning, I put my big girls pants on, found my brave and started out on the sewing machine. I was feeling a bit daunted about sewing around the stars, and worried about getting the distance between the stitch and the edge of the leather consistent for the whole star. Lou threaded the hand crank machine for me, as this gave me much better control, and I could take it as slow as one stitch at a time. I worked my way carefully around all the stars, six on each shoe, and while they are not perfect, I was pretty happy with the result. They are hand made shoes, so it’s ok for them to look hand made.

sewing stars

I couldn’t use back-stitch to secure the thread around the stars, so all the threads had to be pulled through to the wrong side, tied off, burnt with a lighter to melt the thread and pressed into the leather like a plug.

Getting the stars sewn was a good boost for my confidence and I was ready to use the industrial machine to start stitching the other seams. To make it easier to describe the next few steps, I will explain that the shoe I’m making is effectively three pieces. The vamp is the front part of the shoe, covering the toe and front of the foot, including the tongue, and runs part-way along the side of the foot. The other two parts are called quarters and are sewn together at the heel, then glued and stitched to the vamp in a seam that runs along both sides of the foot.

Sewing the quarters together was next, a seam at the back of the heel for both the upper and the lining, and then it was time for word of the day for day #2 – “smooshing”. This is where you use a smoothly polished hammer to gently tap the seam flat so that it doesn’t dig into the heel of the wearer.

smooshing the heel seam

You can see the heel has taken shape in the photo below.  Next task was to decide whether to add any sort of piping or similar decoration to the quarters. I had found some gorgeous leather, purple background with “snakeskin” like spots of light blue, so I cut a fine strip of this, about 7mm wide, to go “nose-to-nose”. This is the shoemaking term for the line around the now sewn together and smooshed quarters.  The trim and the quarters were spread with contact glue, and I then fitted the strip of spotty leather, carefully clipping around the corners so it fitted perfectly, with about 2mm of the spottiness showing from the outside.

finished trim

The last decoration was a wee tab for the back of the heel. I had found a star-shaped brogue tool (used for punching holes in leather for decoration) and at Lou’s very clever suggestion, made a wee tab to go at the back heel seam, using the brogue tool to cut out a star, backed by the blue shiny star fabric. The leather was skived (yesterdays word of the day) to reduce bulk, glued and sewn in place.  A fiddly detail, but I was very excited about the result – sometimes it’s the smallest things that tip you over the edge!

star tab

Next up was more glueing, attaching the lining to the upper. The glue is vile smelling stuff that looks very much like something you see a lot of when a child has a cold. It sticks like snot too. It’s a contact adhesive, so both sides need to be spread with it using a paintbrush, wait a few minutes for it to go off, then the two sides are placed together and they stick pretty much straight away. You can make small corrections if you are quick, but I have found that the lovely purple finish lifts off the leather quite easily, so it’s not very forgiving. The purpose of the glue is to hold the pieces together so you can sew them without moving. It was back to the machine, and time to sew nose to nose around the trim and lining to hold it all together. I achieved that without too many swear words, although my stitching was a little uneven. This should be hidden by the laces, so I’m not planning to lose sleep over it.  In the photo below I’m trimming away the excess lining after it has been sewn to the upper.  The purple you can see is the back of the spotty trim.

trimming the glued and sewn in lining

The last task for the day was to begin attaching the quarter to the vamp. This is again glued, carefully to avoid catching the lining and stitched, carefully to avoid catching the lining underneath. Of course, that’s what muggins did, got the lining caught underneath and stitched through it by mistake while concentrating fiercely on doing nice even stitches along the edge of the quarter. Sigh. My fears realised, that I would muck up the stitching and leave holes in the leather. But I found once I unpicked, that I could very carefully line the needle up with the existing holes, and while there are a few stitches overlapping, it’s barely noticeable. Tantrum averted. So at the end of day #2, it’s starting to resemble a shoe! Tune in tomorrow for the next instalment.

starting to look like a shoe

Learn to make shoes at Shoe School

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