Shoe Making 101: A shoe is born

Louis soles cover the sole and heel.

This week we return to my shoe making journey that is coming to an end and my shoe is born. With heels fixed we attached our soles. These are known as Louis soles as they cover the bottom of the shoe and wrap around the inside of the heel. The shoe is then finished with a heel cap.



I’d like to take a short aside here to note that I chose a kitten heel which is about 2″. The heel height is determined by the last, but you can push the height a bit giving you a range of heel options. My last was made for about at 3″ heel. My choice of 2″ heel gives my shoe more toe spring, meaning the toe angles up a bit. I personally like the look and feel of a bit more toe spring so this is a win for me.

shoes complete
A shoe is born

With the lasting complete, we can take a good look at my pumps and see how I fared. You can really see the metallic leather wrinkling. That leather just did not want to become a shoe! This was a great lesson for me about hides and leathers. There are so many places where leather can go wrong. The animal could have had a poor hide. The tanning process could have contributed. The finishing process (adding the metallic) could have contributed. I was too far down the road in a structured class to fix it, so I will wear them proudly. I don’t think anyone will be on the floor checking them out that closely.

So ends this shoe making journey and my time in Ashland, Oregon with Bonney & Wills. I can’t wait to get into my studio and practice.


Shoe Making 101- Lasting

One of the hardest things we learned was lasting. I definitely need some practice with this. Between my carpal tunnel and tools that just didn’t fit my hand, I was flummoxed. I am happy to say that Bill also had a tough time lasting my shoes too, so I didn’t feel defeated. In fact, I came right home and prepared a last for practice. Then life got in the way…Maybe this week!

3 even toe pulls
3 even toe pulls

Lasting is the method of connecting the upper to the insole, sole and heel. In essence, the upper is pulled around the last very tightly and secured to the insole. It is where the shoe takes real form. Bill’s trick to getting the last right is to do 3 big pulls around the toe. You can get most of the excess in these 3 pulls.



One of the first 3 pulls
Toe pull one.

Lasting itself is quite difficult. You have to hold the shoe firmly against your thigh. Then you must pull the leather tightly around the last and hold it with your non-dominant hand. With your dominant hand, you have to insert a tack and then knock it in with your hammer without holding it. It is a foreign and uncomfortable process. I think it will take some real practice to get it and get comfortable doing it.



smoothing the pleats
Smoothing the pleats

As I’ve noted, my leather didn’t want to be shoes, so Bill suggested I use a leather guide strip to help flatten the pleats on the edge. Since you are tacking through the thicker strip, your shoe leather is less susceptible to tack holes that may be too close to the edge.




Leveling cord for the sole
Leveling cork for the sole

After lasting the upper, we prepared our heels. We roughed them up, glued and trimmed the leather. Then they were screwed and/or nailed to the shoe. We removed the lasting tacks and lastly we added some rough cork to the bottom to even it out for the final soling.

Shoe Making 101- The Toe Puff

toe ready for reinforcement
Ready for reinforcement!

Each of our shoe designs needed various reinforcements throughout the making process. Mine needed tape between the liner and upper around the top line and the heel. ALL of our design needed reinforcement in the toe box, so enter the toe puff. The idea is similar to using interfacing in apparel. It is placed around the toe between the liner and upper to provide shape and support in the same way one might add interfacing at a collar, cuff or armhole.



placing and shaping the toe puff
Place and shape the toe puff firmly.
shaping the toe puff tightly
Shaping the toe puff tightly

The toe puff is a basic toe shape that is impregnated with heat activated adhesive. We placed them in a toaster oven to activate the substance and then placed and shaped the reinforcement over the lining. We worked quickly to get them placed and set without wrinkles. The adhesive sets fairly quickly so you have to place it properly the first time and then quickly shape it around the toe.



shaping the toe puff part one
Shaping the toe puff-watch the wrinkles

For those just learning and less adept at the first try, there is a way to remove them and start again. One thing about the entire process is that it is fairly forgiving. Many things are reinforced with glue which can be removed with solvent.




gluing toe puff
Gluing the upper to the toe puff.
trimming the toe puff
Trimming the toe puff
toe glue part 2
Gluing the upper to liner.

Next the puff is trimmed on the underside of the shoe. It is always important to trim to reduce bulk and increase comfort. Finally, the upper is glued to the puff and then stretched around the toe and glued to the liner.

All set and reinforced! The shoe is really taking shape. Next up is my nemesis –  LASTING!



Deconstructing a Pump




I’m preparing for my trip to Ashland Oregon next week where I will participate in a 7 day intensive Fashion Pump making workshop at Bonney & Wills. I can’t wait to do this and really learn how to work with a last. It is my next step toward my next career as shoe designer.

The school sent me a rather large package to review in preparation. One of the suggestions was deconstructing a pump. I love this idea and have used it often in my making career. I am a visual and physical learner so by taking something apart I can see how the pieces fit together.

iComfort Classic Pump Staci – Faux patent leather and heel detail.

Of course I don’t have a pair of pumps I want to deconstruct so I first had to acquire some. I thought about a thrift shop. There is probably a lot to learn from taking apart a quality pair of shoes. On the other hand, there is plenty to learn from a recently manufactured shoe. In the end, I settled on a clearance pair of pumps from Sears.


Insole & Sole removed
Insole & Sole removed




My first step was to pull out the insole of the pump.  This was a relatively simple process as it was lightly glued to the outsole. I was able to pull it out quickly with my fingers. Next, I tried to remove the sole. This was pretty hard. The sole is rubber and well glued to the outsole. This took a lot of work with my utility knife.  The item on the left is the insole and comfort pad. The sole is on the right.





Lastly, I removed the heel which was screwed into the outsole and separated the upper from the outsole.  The outsole houses the metal support that is generally necessary when making a heeled shoe.  (This is what the Mojito removed). In this case, the upper was glued to the outsole so it too took a bit of knife work to remove.

Pump Upper
Pump upper-note stitching
toe box
Toebox and pouf
pump heel
Note the decorative element between the heel and heel cup

Finally, I investigated the toe, heel and upper. The toe and heel have added structure for stability. The upper also included some stitch work. The entire upper had an innerliner as well.

Note the decorative gold above the heel and structure added to the heel. The extra material under the toe box is the pouf.

There are a couple of parts I didn’t take out – the lift on the heel and the aforementioned metal support. It was a wonderful exercise and I look forward to sharing my workshop with you through this blog, my travel blog and Instagram.




The Oxford, Shoes of Prey and Mass Customization

April showers bring May flowers and in my part of the world the weather can fluctuate from Summer hot to Winter cool with all weathers in between. I plan my outfits around my shoes and most often I start with boots or sandals, but this time of year is one of two brief moments (spring and fall) when I consider the “pump”.

For my purposes, I’ll define the pump as a closed-toe, heeled shoe. This year one of the hottest trends for women is the Oxford, an integral part of any complete shoe wardrobe. Incredibly versatile, they work well with dress, work or casual wear.

My design Oxford – Shoes of Prey

Last year I designed my own version of an Oxford using the online  site, Shoes of Prey. I combined a deep charcoal grey and silver leather with a light blue and silver fishskin option to create these beauties. They are so me- all about texture and shine, a neutral with a kick. These are real conversation starters!

Shoes of Prey offers an online option and they have recently launched a “Design Lab” program in select Nordstrom stores in the US and David Jones and Westfield in Australia. The online process is easy. You choose your style and off you go. You can choose from designs others have made, or go through a selection process to make your very own, personalized style. Options included styles, leathers and heel heights. Shoes are made to your size, half sizes included. They are guaranteed in your hot little hands within 5 weeks AND you can return or re-make until you are satisfied! This shoe cost me $199. Quite reasonable for a personalized design with a guaranteed fit. Oh and by the way, they are comfortable.

Shoes of Prey is a mass customization model out of Sydney Australia. They launched in 2009 and with the recent partnership with Nordstrom, I see a bright future.  I’m glad to see it working. The RoxAnneLava label is based on a similar model. I look forward to a similar success, albeit on a smaller scale.