Lasts and Sizing

To make shoes, you need a last. Getting the right last can be tricky. You can find lasts in second hand stores, eBay and from last manufacturers. Even once you have one, how do you know if it will fit or for what purpose it was originally made? What changes can you make to lasts and how?

This workshop is an introduction to lasts and sizing. This will help you understand relationships between the last and fit, function and style. Learn about different last materials, cut types, suppliers and how to order. You will learn some standard measuring techniques and apply those to your own feet. I will provide an overview of basic last fitting and modification techniques. When you are done, you should be able to understand what it means to get a last “in your size.” Some lasts will be available for purchase and you are welcome to participate in a bulk order when class is done.

Date: Saturday, April 21, 2018
Time: 10am – 4pm
Price: $275

Blue Court Shoes

Blue pumpHere is a blue court shoe, otherwise known as a pump. This pair was made with blue Italian vegetable tanned leather with a “waxy pull-up” finish. It gives the lighter accent to the blue in this case. The lining is vegetable tanned calf and the heel is Padouk wood capped with a Vibram heel cap. They were assembled primarily using cement construction (glued), though the heels are set with two stainless screws each drilled through the spring steel shank.

For some time I’ve wanted to make wooden heels. This is the first pair to feature wooden heels of my own making and also with a natural finish. The wood was given to me by my friend Ken who often incorporates Padouk in the hardwood bicycles his company Renovo makes.

Often I am asked if I make “women’s” shoes. This is a loaded question. I believe there is not such a hard and fast definition of shoes that can only be worn by women and shoes that can only be worn by men. Some might say these blue court shoes are unmistakeably for a lady. This pair is in fact for a lady, yet it’s important to know that there are still places and occasions for which men are expected to wear pumps (Oxford, for example).

The styles of shoes my lients request often cross over between “men’s” and “women’s” styles. This has nothing to do with “cross dressing” and more to do with the social construction of style. Styles have changed over time and continue to change. What is considered appropriate for men and women to wear on their feet is not fixed and unchanging. The ability to feel comfortable in any style of shoe only opens up more possibilities.

The limitation of “standard” sizes can keep people out of the shoes they want to wear. Despite making up the bulk of the shoe buying public, women are often excluded from buying the shoes they want. For example women are sometimes forced to buy a “men’s” style when they want a “women’s” style or vice versa. Common examples are no size large enough of the women’s style for some women to wear so they are forced into the men’s section and no size small enough of the men’s style for many women to wear, even though they would like to.

For now, I’ll direct you to a nice review of the history of the men’s opera pump, but hopefully before too long you will see one here.

Casual Derby Boot

Brown derby bootThis deep brown derby boot was made for a client who wanted a hard wearing all weather boot with a very low heel. The upper leather is a German chrome free synthetic tan, with vegetable tanned lining, components, insole and midsole. Brass eyelets. Welted construction and Vibram Oxford Gumlite outsole.

Reddish Brown Full Brogue

These oxfords were made for a young woman who wanted a no-compromise scholarly classic shoe for all seasons. No hothouse flower, she wanted all the benefits of a full thickness leather sole, but didn’t want to expose it to the elements without some protection. Covering the sole of the forefoot is some thin but tough Vibram composite material. It has good grip and will minimize absorption of water from the street when there’s rain on the pavement. She’s tough on shoes, so I secured the Vibram under the heel to protect it since she is as likely wear loose with the pedals of her bike as scrape it off stepping on a shovel.

There is very little welt extending beyond the profile of the shoe as seen from above and yet it is full welt sewn construction. One small benefit of sewing the welt to the outsole by hand is the ability to place the stitches very close to the upper. Most machines need more clearance, thus the welt tends to be a bit wider when it is actually sewn.

I’m calling this a full brogue even though there are more opportunities to brogue this upper — like along the quarters and the top line. I thought it was enough brogueing already.

T-Strap Nouveau

sandal-nouveauThe client who requested this design also designs fabric herself. The footbed liner is covered with a fabric that she designed. The design itself came from a model she chose from a book I have called “Women’s Shoes in America, 1795-1930.”  Women’s Shoes in America is really an outstanding resource. I have found it very useful. From the publisher:

In an engaging narrative history, the beautifully illustrated Women’s Shoes in America investigates an aspect of American material culture not previously examined and provides a detailed reference for dating women’s footwear.

In style from 1923-25, the design she chose was a T-Strap from autumn 1923. She was unable to wear a heel as high as the original design featured, so I made this low heel version just for her. The closure uses a button post. There was no hole in the strap yet when I took this picture because punching the hole is really a one shot deal. Using a button, there is no adjustment like you have with laces, or a buckle. To make a prefect fit, it needs to be marked while she is wearing them. With the strap on the post, it looks like this.


Last year while I was studying last making, orthopedic shoemaking and pattern techniques at the DHTA, I also had the good fortune to learn René van den Berg’s new shoemaking technique for the shoes he calls Makerszoon.makerszoon lateral top view

At first glance these shoes might seem kind of rough. After 30 years of precision work, however, there’s nothing rough about the design and workmanship of Rene van den Berg. The upper is very precisely drawn, punched and aligned. The embossing on the toe must be done to his exacting standards. The only thing rough about it is the cavalier cutting of the turned upper and sole edge with a knife by hand to give it a “hand finished” look.

The upper is hand sewn and the leather is all vegetable tanned. There is very little waste and hardly any trimmings. The lining is all one piece and the extra is left both for visual appeal and to soften the feel of the shoe around the ankles.

Please see René’s site for details on this fantastic new approach to making shoes.

Part of my travel to study in the Netherlands was made possible by a grant from the Oregon Arts Commission.

Black Derby

Black Pebble DerbyThis derby shoe was made for instructional purposes. Plain old black upper leather with a pebble grain, basic lines with English quarters. The construction is welted and hand sewn to a vegetable tanned leather outsole. Natural finish leather heels. Straight outsole stitch on the welt. Depending on what you wear it with and your mood, I think it could be considered casual or formal.

Blue Black Oxford

all the pieces blue black oxford

The upper is hand dyed top finished vegetable tanned Italian leather. Blue quarters and tongue, black toe caps, vamps, and backstraps. This pair was built using cement construction. These shoes are unlined with sewn in heel counters and toe boxes. Leather sole and heels, Virbram rubber heel cap. I used this pair for my “All the Pieces” infographic.

All the pieces

wehrli_cover_0I received a copy Kunst, Aufräumen, or “The Art of Cleanup” for my birthday some time ago. Check it out if you haven’t already. It featured all sorts of things “cleaned up” or deconstructed from their otherwise “messy” natural state. For example, organizing from a bowl of alphabet soup a an alphabetized and sorted grid of all the letters and carrot pieces. I really enjoyed the book and all of Ursus Wehrli’s clever images. When I made this pair of oxfords, I wanted to try something similar.

all the pieces 3

It wasn’t until I tried to make an organized image that I understood how much systematic thinking it takes to be as organized as Wehrli. I’ve got a long way to go. The image I made includes all all the parts that went into these shoes. There are at least two of everything. This pair was built using cement construction. These shoes are unlined, so they do not include the quarter, tongue and vamp liners. If they were welted, there would be a few more parts still. The upper is hand dyed top finished vegetable tanned Italian leather. Here’s the parts list from left to right:

  • Wooden pegs (10)
  • Thread
  • Tongue (2)
  • Laces (2)
  • Spring steel shank (2)
  • Vamp (2)
  • Toe cap (2), Toe box (2)
  • Inside Quarter (2), Outside Quarter (2)
  • Backstrap (2), Heel counters (2)
  • Vibram rubber heel cap (2)
  • Heel lifts (4, 2 per shoe)
  • Leather Insole (2), Leather Sole (2)

Clicking and Closing

It takes nice uppers to make nice shoes. Learn how to cut, trim, finish, assemble and sew uppers. This has traditionally been referred to as “clicking and closing.” Come learn how on May 23-24. Details on the Workshops page.