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Sewing for Shoes

Singer Post Bed Machine
Singer work horse

So I am back and somewhat recovered from my gallop through London and Paris with a few side trips along the way. One of those trips-to Prescott & Mackay for a half day of practice sewing for shoes. When I was in Ashland  Oregon at Bonney & Wills, I fell in love with an old post bed sewing machine. I loved the freedom of movement and roller foot guide, however, it does take some practice to gain control and make really straight and evenly spaced lines of stitches.

I had some credit on tuition from Prescott & Mackay, so I decided a half day of sewing practice would be just right while I was in London. I was re-connected with founder and instructor, Melissa Needham who headed my sandal making workshop last year. She was also part of the Shoe Design workshop I took with Aki Chocolat. Together we planned a day that focused on needs to meet my personal goals.

sewing practice paper
“stay on the line”
sewing on paper 2 spirals
‘spirals need work’

Our day began with a nifty sewing exercise. I can’t believe I have never considered this method of learning in all my years of sewing! Melissa had me sew shapes on paper with a non-threaded needle – pure genius. I am really pretty good with straight lines and “S” curves, not so bad on the circles, but I still need some work on the spirals.

Our next phase put the sewing into action on a toe box seam and leather straps. This process is a bit time consuming as we went through cutting leathers and liners. The straps needed a stiffener and all needed to be glued. We reviewed “stretch” in hides, pattern layout based on imperfections in the skins as well as using the most hide and weight of the hide. We also talked about over-handling and over-working the skins. Interestingly, this lead to me thinking about using imperfect materials for my brand.

sewed seam
‘sewn seam inside”

I used lighter and more stretchy hide for the toe box on this practice than the leathers on my pumps. It required some finesse in placing the glued materials. This hide was delicate and I couldn’t afford to place the pieces and then have to pull them apart-that glue is strong!  I used a hammer to flatten the edge. It is important to let the glue completely dry before sewing. This was a bit of a challenge in our time frame. As you can see, the seam is not perfect, but it is nicely flat.

Melissa then showed me how to work with straps and a buckle. We used Tuftsta, a self adhesive backed material that acts as the reinforcement for the straps. The idea is to sew lines that are long and continuous without many stops. as you see below, I started in the wrong direction so what should have been one long continuous line of stitches became two. She also demonstrated a nifty trick for getting an exact flat leather strap interior which results in a dead flat seam that can be used on the interior to insure less foot irritation.

flat seam
flat seam
strap and buckle
‘strap and buckle”
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Vacation week one

Greetings from London! I’ve been on vacation for about five days now and it has been packed with fun. You can follow my daily journal on my travel site(link on the left). I’m off to see the Riviera exhibit at the Fashion & Textile Museum today and the shoe exhibit at the V&A tomorrow afternoon. I’ll be doing some one-on-one training in the morning where I’ll practice my sewing for shoemaking.


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Shoe Design – 2 day workshop

drawn shoe draped last
Drawing and Draping

In addition to the 1-day sandal making workshop I took last summer, I also took a 2-day shoe design workshop at Prescott & Mackay, lead by Aki Choklat. I wanted to learn the process and pick up some more drawing tools. I hate drawing and I’m not that great at it. I much prefer to work things through in collage or 3 dimensions. It was enlightening and in the end I didn’t do so badly. My shoe is much like my mission “badass & beautiful” with a unique heel detail.

Caged shoe drawing
Badass & Beautiful

I’ve been working hard to set up my new shoe making studio and I’m nearly there. I hope to devote 30 minutes a day to drawing and I am sure I will see a great deal of improvement with practice.

I am also sure I will mostly design on a last in 3-D (otherwise knows as draping) as you can see in this image. I was working out how many straps there would be, where they would fall on the foot, how wide the center strap would be and where elastic would need to go to get the foot in and out of the shoe.

Outside view draping
Inside view draping showing elastic placement
Top view draping








personal printing and milling fabricator
personal printing and milling fabricator

I’m waiting for a 3D printer/milling machine from Fabtotum. I hope to try and make this heel and toe cap when that arrives.

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My First Pair: 1-Day Sandal Workshop

ankle tie sandals
6 hour sandals!

Last August I was thrilled to take my first shoe-making workshop, a one-day sandal making class offered by Prescott & Mackay in London. I arrived bright and early to the shop and joined 3 other women for the workshop. In 6 hours, I’d have a pair of sandals!

We started with a bit of an overview of the day and the process. We were shown some completed sandals that all in all were a bit disappointing, but I was not going to let that stop me. If making a boring sandal was what I had to do, that is what I would do. After all, I was there to learn how to MAKE the sandal, not DESIGN the sandal.

All components
All the parts about to come together.

We were shown our shoe components and then headed downstairs to the workshop. There we saw some pre-made straps and cords we could use. The straps require some preparation, so that part was completed for us. It would have been too much to do in the 6 hour time frame. There were straps of various widths that could go over the foot, around the heel and up the back. Colors were right up my alley, red, pewter metallic and black.

covered wedges
Half all black and half pewter and black with a zig-zag join. The pewter and black is the surprise inside.

Our first task was to find materials to cover our wedges. There was a big bin of left over leathers and the 4 of us dug through. This was a very interesting part of the process. Three of us took a bit of time and gave each other feedback as we made our choices. I really enjoyed this back and forth as it added a design element to the experience.

Shocking, I know – I settled for a black leather with pewter print. Of course I didn’t need another pair of black sandals, but I knew I’d wear black and pewter sandals and not the brown and ivory that I had also selected. We worked through the process step by step, cutting leather with a scalpel, gluing components, pressing the shoes. There were more design decisions to make along the way.

tack mistake
OOPS – I left the tacks in! My instructor got them out and says I should use it for my lable.

It was a great day and while the shoes are a bit large and I did make a few mistakes. I left the tacks in one of my sandals before pressing them. Luckily Melissa, my instructor, was able to pull them out through the insole. She says I should use the 2 dots as part of my brand.

three sandals
3 Women, 3 Sandals

I am proud of what I made and I wear them. It was also wonderful to see the breadth of shoes from three of the four of us. Each has a different aesthetic and every pair would work in a high end retailer.