T-Strap Nouveau Revisited

I don’t usually take clients with a deadline because so many things can happen to delay the making of the final shoes. I don’t feel comfortable putting work out there that I can’t feel proud of, so I’d rather be late than not meet my basic standards for the look and the quality. Nonetheless, I took this job for a client who had a special event because she knew exactly what she wanted and she said she wanted the shoes whether or not I made them in time for her event. I still put a lot of pressure on myself to get them done in time. I encountered an unprecedented number of technical difficulties. Shoemaking is a process of on-going problem solving, but to figure it all out in time was very difficult. I started over completely 3 times. In the end, this pair was a new speed record for me. From first meeting to final shoes in 2 months! (Don’t get any big ideas out there…)

This t-strap features a single seam on the upper which is done with a “feather stitch.” The design itself is a modification of a model I previously made from a design in a book I have called “Women’s Shoes in America, 1795-1930.” The client who requested this design collects embroidery. Since I first tried this stitch, I’ve wanted to find more ways to use this beautiful embroidery stitch on a structural seam. It seems that machine embroidery these days is almost always ornamental, and good luck finding an industrial machine that will do an structural embroidery stitch with three needle positions on leather!

I tested this out before going sewing on the final leather. When it came time, however, my Bernina would not sew this consistently at all. I tried small test pieces which would go ok, only to have it totally stall, error out and bind up when sewing on the uppers proper. When I first gave up on trying to make this embroidered seam happen, I sewed the whole thing on my straight-stich postbed, but I was really haunted by the fact that these were for an event dedicated to embroidery. (Maybe it would have been better if she had not told me the details of her event.)

In the end, I switched to a slightly lighter weight tumbled Italian leather that I’d never used before. It was the only leather that behaved halfway decently with the embroidered stitching. The tumbling made it wrinkly and kind of matte in appearance, which I did not like for this purpose, but this was before lasting. I knew it would smooth out after lasting, but honestly didn’t know exactly how it would come out. You can still see a bit of the tumbling effect, especially in the cut out sections which were not pulled so significantly.

Like my previous client, 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 (aka a “mini Sam Brown button”). 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, you can’t make adjustments like you would be able to with laces, or a buckle. To make a perfect fit, you have to check the stretch of the strap and mark it while the client is wearing the shoes.

The upper is Italian vegetable tanned calf, the liner is a combination of rose colored vegetable tanned goat and undyed vegetable tanned cow. The sole is Rendenbach with Vibram heel cap.

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.

Kingfisher Oxford

Kingfisher oxfordUpper is blue and brown vegetable tanned leather with an iridescent finish. Welted construction, leather midsole and Vibram Gumlite sole. My client wanted a design reminiscent of the Eurasian Kingfisher, a bird with dominant blue coloring and accents of orange brown on the chest and tail. In addition to the kingfisher colors, this design features a sweeping wing of blue as the vamp approaches the back strap.