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.