As a "maker" and creative type, I think it's only natural to want to continuously expand and add more skills to my box of tools. At this point, I'm able to clothe myself in garments I've fashioned. I even have a few accessories I've made to mix-in with various outfits; however, there's a gap in my Me-Made arsenal. Shoes. And, I think it's pretty obvious why. For as many self-proclaimed shoe fanatics as I've come across, I've never met anyone who's taken their obsession to the next level and started making shoes. Why not? To start, shoe making requires a completely different set of skills and tools than knitting or sewing. And, I bet a lot of people don't know where to start. I sure didn't.
Fortunately for me, Sara, at Chicago School of Shoemaking turned her 40+ years of experience making shoes into a studio and classroom where she shares her experience working with leather and teaches aspiring shoe makers. Meg and I cut our teeth earlier this year. We took an intro to leather course and made ourselves clutches. Before we had finished that first lesson, we had our minds set on the sandal making course, and we convinced Liz to join us! (We're terrible influences on each other... terrible!)
We showed-up to our sandal making session armed with inspiration photos. We began the process by tracing the outline of our foot onto half a manila folder. We drew two lines. The first line correlated with the outermost portion of our feet. The second line showed where our feet made contact with the ground.
Next, we began to cut straight strips of leather in various widths. Using our outlines and strips, we created a pattern and design for our sandals. That right, each person created her own design! Pretty cool.
After we'd finished cutting strips, we made a mock-up of our design.
Sarah used our paper shoes to help tweak our designs and make modifications in order to guarantee a comfortable custom fit.
Then, things started to get really interesting! Using our templates, we traced and cut our sole materials. The soles are an undyed leather, and there's a lot of room for customization.
Each member of our class chose to use leather stamping tools to place our mark on the soles of our shoes. Additionally, we were able to dye our soles to coordinate with the leather we'd chosen for the upper portion of our sandals.
Once we finished dying, we got busy cutting our straps! One really wonderful thing about working with leather is that there is no finishing. At all. Once the straps are cut, they're totally ready to be attached.
In order to attach our straps. We traced our markings from our paper pattern onto our sole. Then, using a leather punch and a hammer, we carved opening to insert our straps.
The straps are first glued to the bottom of the sole using a leather glue. The portion of the strap attached to the underside of the shoe is thinned using a tool called a skiver. The skiver helps to eliminate bulk. After we made sure our straps were positioned the way we wanted them, we hammered little cobblers' tacks to doubly secure each of the straps from the underside.
After all straps were secure, we glued our heels to the bottom portion of the shoe sole and the under portion of the sole to the upper portion of our sole.
Those of us with fastening sandals attached our hardware to our ankle straps. Then, Sara helped us finish off our shoes by making one last fitting adjustment for each of us and cutting our shoes down to their final finished shape. I think we were all thrilled to have a pair of shoes custom fit to our individual needs. Liz, in particular, was very excited to have a pair of sandals to her teeny tiny feet!
At the end of the day, we walked away with incredibly individualized sandals and a hunger for more leather working skills! (Seriously, there's a bag making class in our future.) I very highly recommend sandal making to anyone interested in trying to make a pair of shoes! If you're in Chicago, go see Sara! Really. She is wonderful. And, she really knows her stuff. While we were in class, she estimated that she's made more than TEN THOUSAND pairs of shoes! Can you believe? WOW.
Not bad for a day's work! Would you make your own shoes? Have you? What other crafts do you wish you had in your bag of tricks?