Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Proper photos are important!

Finally, I have good photos of some of the finished projects lately!  I think that the importance of having good pictures of your work can't be overstated.  And I have to say - I'm just thrilled with how these came out. 
All photos, with the exception of the two with Julie Bonney's copyright on them, are by Austin Lang.  While I do well enough with product shots of my shoes, occasionally enlisting the assistance of a professional is warranted.  Julie Bonney is part of the Bonney and Wills Shoe School, and took these two photos at the end of boot school.  Austin Lang is a local (Olympia) photographer who also took the gorgeous cast photos for Tartuffe. 
When I do take my own photos of finished shoes, I usually try to go somewhere outside, in nature.  The background is nice, and the lighting is generally pretty safe.  For really good product shots, you simply *must* have proper lighting, and know a lot more than I do about photography.  Costumes are particularly hard to get good photo of yourself - the difference between a selfie or a snapshot in your living room, and a professionally done photo with a backdrop and good lighting is significant.  Austin sure knows how to make me look good!
And yeah, this post is basically just picspam.





Thursday, September 17, 2015

New lasts! And the modifying of lasts....

I really like this particular last.  It's about a 2" heel, with a very nice toe shape.  It was designed by the Dr. Scholl's company as a dance shoe, and when you wear it, it shows.  It's really well designed.  And I was able to purchase 18 pairs (in a range of sizes) for a very reasonable price, from Walrus Shoe & Leather  Larry is a nice guy, but his website is a little bit out of date.  I was hoping to get the entire run of these, but this is what he had left:
As a separate purchase, I got the same last, in a specific size, and fitted it up for the first pair of shoes I'm making for someone other than myself.  Here's a couple of shots of the process of adding layers of leather to the last, to match the client's measurements:

I'm a little concerned that this last just wasn't a large enough size to begin with, since it required so much additional material.  I'm hoping it's long enough.  I guess we'll see - the nice thing about fitting up with leather like this, is that it can all be scraped off if it's not the right last for that person - and then I'll have this last in this size just waiting for the right person to come along....

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Dwarvish Belt

My anniversary gift to my darling husband - 10 years!  It seems like yesterday.

This was a belt blank from Tandy Leather, which I tooled into a pattern based on the Dwarvish designs in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit films.

Design drawn on:

Edges of the design cut with an exacto knife (because I lost my swivel knife) and the background stamped in with a small teardrop camouflage tool.  Where the lines intersect, a shader helps give the impression of over/under:

Dyed black with Fiebings, treated with a finish.  Edges treated with gum traganth and an edge slicker.
Buckle and keeper also from Tandy.  They make it really easy to make a belt - it comes with snaps, so assembly is really just inserting the buckle, sliding the keeper on, and pressing the snaps closed.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Octopus Sandals

This was a quickie project to work on in the evenings during boot school.  There was a fun tutorial being shared all over the interwebs:

Because she goes into so much detail, I'm going to just show a couple of finished photos, and add a few notes.

Sandals can be worn with the straps up the leg, or around the ankle:

Close-up of the tooling & stitching:

So - some things I did differently from the tutorial:

1. I was concerned about the veg tan leather stretching.  I used 2-3oz, and remembering how much it stretched just from tooling, I'm a little cautious.  Especially if one was to wear these somewhere that they might get wet.  So, I bought some ripstop nylon, glued it to the back, and stitched around the edges.  The stitching will also help give it some dimensional stability.

2. I also didn't like the craft foam layers in the sole.  Partly because I was concerned about it's durability over time, and partly because it ripped right through when I was stitching it.  Instead, I used some squishy black leather I had laying around.  It was about 8oz thickness, and because it's not foam, the sandals really don't have any give - they're hard.  But - I remember wearing salt water sandals as a kid, and those were pretty much the same. 

3. Since I have a big sheet of black soling material, I used that for the soles.  Also used Duall 88, rather than Ecoweld to glue everything together.

4. After making the stacked heel and standing on it, it was clear that it would be a very uncomfortable sandal for me without some sort of arch support.  So I made some ovals of veg tan, and skived the edges down really thin, and just moved them around between the layers until it felt better under my foot.  You can't tell from the outside, and it makes them far nicer to walk around in all day.

Things I will do differently next time.  And there will be a next time - a friend desperately needs a pair of green squid sandals, and we'll be making those in the next month or two.

1. I would like for there to be more cushion.  Perhaps poron could be a layer, with some kind of edge to disguise it?  Or maybe I can find it in black.

2. Those long straps don't stay up very well.  There may be things that can be done - like painting some liquid latex on the back of the straps?

3. Those strap ends need a keeper.  That's pretty minor.

4. The strap across the front of the foot needs to be farther forward on the side where the little toe is.  It's not terrible where it is, but a little more coverage there would be good.

5. The tentacle at the back does nothing.  And it would be great if there was more structure there.  So next time, there will be a strap on each side, coming up just behind the ankle.  It'll wrap around the long strap, and be slightly less tentacle-like, but will provide some much-needed structure.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Boot School!

I'm back from a two week intensive boot making class, at Bonney and Wills School of Shoemaking.
Here's what the five of us in the class created in two weeks.  !!!  Pretty exciting, right?

But enough about everyone else.  Here's *my* boots:

Those photos were taken before the boots were really stretched in - the lace gap up the front is now narrower, and I'll have some proper photos taken once I have the matching purse to go with them.
It would be impossible to put everything from those two weeks into one blog post, so here are a few highlights:
Modifying lasts
The last I used was a boot last with a pretty horrible, long, square, up-curved toe.  We chopped it off, and turned it into the rounder toe I prefer.  Also, a little extra material was added onto the sides at the ball of the foot, because I have freaky wide feet.

Designing the boot

Making patterns for boots is pretty cool, and now I know how to do it.  But you still start the same way:  tape the last, design the foot part of the boot. Then that design is made into a 2-D pattern, and that pattern is continued up the shaft of the boot to the desired height.

Cutting and sewing the uppers and lining

My boot had a lot of piping, and the wingtip and heel cap were this really shiny, squishy faux alligator (sheep skin, of all things). The lining is an orthopedic calf in cream, very soft, and was stitched to the outer at this point.  I took my own sewing machine with me to class, because I'm familiar with it, and it's what I'll be using now that I'm back home, as well.  Unlike my first class, this time the sewing went really smoothly.  I'm very proud of my stitching this time. 

Brush-off design, eyelets, and hooks

I came to this class with very few pre-conceived notions about what I'd be making, other than that it would be a boot, and likely knee-high.  I had seen some boots our instructor had made, using a brush-off goatskin, and I was intrigued by the material.  Basically, the leather is dyed red (or brown), and then a dark coating is applied.  You "brush off" the coating to reveal the red underneath.  Generally, it's brushed off sort of all over, or all over after stitching, so that the places where the parts intersect get highlighted.  Sometimes, a cord or other object is placed underneath to make a pattern.  I wanted to do something more intricate.  So I designed a honeybee (based on a tattoo found on the internet, of course) and made a stencil from poster board.  The stencil was rubber cemented to the leather, and the design brushed off with a polishing brush on a grinder.

This is the point where I should have put in the eyelets and hooks, but it wasn't critical that it didn't happen until after I sewed together the shafts.

Then the outer was assembled.

The back seam was actually zig-zagged, then pounded flat.  Reinforcement tape was applied up the seam, on the outside, and then a decorative back strap placed up the seam, to cover the reinforcement tape.  The heel cap was attached at this point, too.

The tongue (which was, oh my god, very long) was attached to the vamp, and the vamp attached to the quarter. 

Of course, an insole had to be made.  And a platform.  Here's the back part of the insole:

And here's the platform going on.   The platform is made from Birko cork, which apparently can be purchased from shoe repair suppliers, like O. Baltor & Sons in San Francisco.  It's basically ground up cork, suspended in a rubber adhesive.  You cut it to size, warm it up, and stick it to the insole, where it'll form nicely until it cools down.  Then you can sand it to shape.


Next we laced up the vamp so it wouldn't stretch out, and lasted the boot.  Those tall sides meant there was a lot of leather flapping around.  Once lasted, I cleaned up the bottom, added filler, and glued on the sole.  Next, I completely forgot to stamp my logo into the sole,  (DAMN!) and attached the sole.  Then the boot could be un-lasted, and the heel attached properly.
All that remained was to clean the whole thing up, make and insert the sock liner, and polish the whole thing with a coat of neutral shoe polish.

Generally speaking, boot school was an amazing experience.  I really enjoyed the people I met in class, and we all made something different, so I got to learn about oxfords, zippered boots, and western construction, even without making any of those things myself.  One student had been there for an additional two weeks prior, and was also making a pair of welted high heel oxfords - I was very excited to see that process, and I think I have a pretty good handle on it now. 

We were a little ahead of schedule, and there was a lot of time spent waiting for glue to dry, so I made a pair of sandals (post to come) and another student made some leather flip-flops. She happens to live nearby, so now I have a shoe-making buddy locally - someone to share information and resources with - which is pretty fantastic.  Mostly, my two weeks in Ashland were tremendously exciting, and exhausting, and just jam-packed with great learning.  I can't wait to make another pair of shoes now.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Ashland Shoemaker Symposium

A couple of weeks ago, I was able to attend the first ever Shoemakers' Symposium in Ashland, Oregon.  It was a fantastic experience. 

I don't have a ton of photos, but I think the high point for me was the opportunity to socialize and geek out with other makers of shoes.  We're an odd bunch, but I found some kindred spirits there, learned a lot, and made some great connections with some of the vendors.  Shoe making equipment, tools, and supplies are hard to find - it's great to be able to actually *talk* to the people who can provide those things.  Many of them don't have websites or online ordering - you just have to know who has the thing you want, and call them up.  Like, on a telephone.  How last century!  Of course, we're making shoes by hand, here. 

I just had to purchase some leather, of course.  I got some frog skins, and lizard, and ostrich shins. (This is not my haul - this is the vendor's table.)

There was also a competition - these are some of my personal favorites of the submitted shoes:

These amazing boots were inspired by a sculpture.  You can't see it in this photo, unfortunately, but the stitching and overlay work is really amazing - almost every color you see is a separate piece of very thin leather, not paint.  (There's a little bit of shading done with dye, but mostly, it's separate pieces of material.)

I had seen photos of these before - Deborah's very cute star cutout pumps. Now I got to see them in person. 

Rose, who was in my class last year, and was a speaker at the symposium, made these, and won the People's Choice award for them.  Very sharp - and exactly what I would have expected from her!
Again, a really great weekend.  Lots of good food, and wine, and interesting people I want to stay in touch with.  I'll be heading back down to Ashland on Sunday to start a two week long class on fashion boots - so there will be more shoemaking stuff here shortly!