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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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Spring Fave – The ankle strap

The third shoe style I love for spring is the ankle strap. Technically this style is any shoe with an ankle strap, but I generally think of this as a closed toe with an ankle strap. Like the slingback, this style let’s you reveal your winter feet to the world in stages – heels first, then toes.

Colorful & sexy
Colorful & sexy

These are my favorite pair and they are perfect for spring. The blue and green leather screams Spring. The heel is a perfect height and sturdy for strolling. The shape is very ladylike. I especially like the wide ankle strap, substantial buckle and grommet holes that add just a bit of edge. The color in this photo is a bit off, but I am sure you get the idea.