Archive for June, 2009

Blue suede shoes (take 1)

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Since my bf has been invaluable to me throughout this whole process (my entire workshop resides in his basement as I live in a one bedroom condo in the city, he built me a Lasting jack and my beautiful workbench, he’s wiped away many tears of frustration, offered limitless support and encouragement, helped me assembly my newly acquired industrial tools as they do not come pre-assembled. . .I could go on and on), I wanted to thank him with his very own custom pair of shoes.

We met way back in high school and one of the things that I remember most about him was his blue suede Doc Martens (I always thought they were purple but he later corrected me). I researched them on the web and found these to copy my design pattern from.

Navy blue Doc Martens

As these were not for me, nor were they just a practice lesson, I was more careful in my approach.  The Lasts that I had originally purchased I learned (from my fit test) were a size too big. Thankfully, I found this great website where I could purchase used/antique Lasts. I was able to take his measurements and order two more pair of Lasts in two different styles.  One is called the “Freddie” and the other “Chamonoix”.  I chose the “Freddie” and made another ‘fit test’ model using this Last. Fit test #1 and #2From that ‘fit test’ I discovered I needed to build the Last up on the side to widen it slightly for a more comfortable fit but otherwise the new Lasts fit his foot perfectly.

built up Freddie Size 9 lasts

I did not want to have a repeat of some of my prior frustrations and waste expensive materials, so I chose to make his first pair out of some of the practice material I had purchased. Then if those fit well, I have the intention to recreate them with the cool blue leather and nicer materials I had purchased specifically for him. Before I could finish his inaugural pair of shoes, I decided that I wanted to make the shoes that I was going to wear to my father’s wedding so even though his pair started out as pair #4, they ended up actually being pair #5. I am super proud of these shoes though. No, they are nowhere near perfect but I’m a proud momma regardless. I thought it would be cool if he could say that he helped make them so I let him sand the soles and the heels.

Here’s what the shoes looked like *before* they were sanded.

Oxfords before sandingThe blue stuff that you see inside the soles was yet another lesson learned.  I wanted to try out taping the sole to the Last instead of nailing it (so that I would not have nail holes in the inner sole) and the result was not pretty.  It was so hard trying to get the shoe off the Last.  I had to use some of my tools to reach inside and break the tape – thereby ripping some of the leather in the process.

Below is the finished product. OxfordsThe toe caps got smooshed in while we were sanding the soles so they rub his toes a tiny bit but otherwise he says they are comfortable.  Now I get to start work on the real thing with my nicer materials.  Wish me luck!


Holy Crap, it’s Christian Louboutin!!!

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

On Thursday, October 23rd 2008 DailyCandy – Atlanta informed me that Christian Louboutin would be signing autographs at Jeffrey in Phipps Plaza the very next day.  No thesaurus ever written could describe my euphoria at the fact that I could actually meet THE Christian Louboutin in person.

The next day however, my giddiness soon turned into fear and apprehension.  I covet Christian Louboutin’s shoes for the craftmanship and quality they possess. . . .everyone else waiting in line seemed to be there for his celebrity status.  They bought/wore his shoes because it was the “in” thing to do and all of the who’s who of celebrities were seen in them.  Then I heard that he was only signing shoes. . . .new shoes that were purchased that day and never worn.  Shoe School was expensive, not to mention all of the materials and equipment that I now needed in order to keep progressing, so I was not prepared to shell out $500+ on a pair of shoes that day.  Besides, I wanted him to sign my book.  The book that holds all of my shoe-making notes/inspirations/sketches/lists/lessons learned/etc.  Despite my reservations, I remained in line. . . .for almost 2 hours.

When I was less than 5 women back from the front of the line, the husband of the lady behind me (who was in line for her daughter) joined his wife in line and started chatting with me about why I wanted to meet him so badly. . . .cue waterworks. . . .yes, I literally started crying in line before I even met the man.  Through the tears I managed to spit out all about Shoe School and that shoes were my passion and I eventually wanted to be Christian Louboutin.  The husband then shocked the hell out of me and asked me for a business card.  Of course I didn’t have any but it really touched me that he recognized that my passion was genuine and he was all about supporting that.

I finally get to the front of the line and hold my breath as the security guys asked Mr. Louboutin’s assistant if he would sign my book.  They reluctantly waved me through but warn me to be quick (for paying customers were still waiting).  I sat down next to Mr. Louboutin and had an amazing conversation with him.  I told him my story, he gave me some advise, and he signed my book:


Here are some more pictures of Christian Louboutin that day.  There are two adorable pictures of him playing with a baby, several of me sitting and talking with him, and one of the shoes he was wearing underneath the table.

Pictures from Shoe School – Sept08

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Everyone has been asking for more pictures of my shoes in progress but unfortunately the first couple of pairs that I made on my own I did not thoroughly document.  I did, however, take several pictures while I was at shoe school so here are some of the ones of my original oxfords in progress:

My starter shoe-making tool setThis was my workstation at shoe school.  All of the tools and notebooks shown were included in my tuition.  After shoe school, they boxed them up and FedExed them home for us.  The black material shown was the start of my “toolbelt” that we were instructed to make for our tools during any downtime we may have.

My oxfords in progressI was so excited to get started that I totally forgot to document the first steps.  This is a picture of my shoes after the liner has been barged to the inner sole and the heel counter barged onto the liner.

Heel counters and whip stitchingThis is a photo of the heel counters and the underside of the outer leather before I barged the two together.

Toe CapThe material at the edge of the shoe where the toes are called toe caps.  They are a type of material that is stretchy when heated and coated in barge.  The heat activates the barge, you stretch it and then form it over the toe area of the last as shown.  Once it cools it hardens and is what maintains the shape of the shoe at the toes.

Me bargingHere is a picture of me barging the liner leather where I will soon heat and shape the toe cap over this area.

Me lasting my first pair of shoes at shoe school.Here’s a picture of me lasting the outer leather of  my first pair of shoes.  The instructor made it look so easy.  It took forever for me to get the hang of it.  There are so many variables that you have to keep in mind at all times including pulling the leather taunt but keeping the material centered on the last, making sure the edges are smooth, etc.

Sanded bottom of shoeThis is what the bottom of the shoe looks like before the sole is attached.  Once you have lasted the outer leather to the bottom of the inner sole, you cut off the excess leather, trace the hole that is left behind, cut out a piece of cork from the trace, barge the cork onto the inner sole and sand the entire bottom smooth.

My shoes right before soles are attachedHere are my shoes after they have been lasted and sanded and right before the soles are attached.


Picture of my shoe on the lasting jack after I had barged the sole on.

taking-my-shoe-off-the-lastThis is me taking my shoe off the lasting jack.  They are almost complete!

me-wearing-my-shoesMe wearing my shoes that *I* made!

My completed shoes.My completed shoes!

Pair #3 – ballet flats

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Pair #3 were actual ballet flats; I remembered to use the correct Last!. . . .but I was cocky enough to think that I now knew enough to try my luck on the stretchy material again (I just couldn’t resist the super cute teal color). These turned out much better, but still have issues.



Pair #2 – my first attempt at ballet flats

Monday, June 15th, 2009

After I had acquired some new non-stretch lining material, in my second attempt I decided to make myself a pair of ballet flats. Why did I not attempt once again to recreate the oxford design that I learned at the workshop?. . . .pure stubbornness. I wanted a shoe that I would wear and oxfords are not my cup of tea.

Once again I made numerous mistakes. . . .which resulted in much appreciated valuable lessons learned. Without going into all of the details, these poor shoes ended up being too big (I did not do a fit test prior – mistake #1) and as you will notice they are not ballet flats but wedges; Mistake #2 was that I accidentally grabbed the wrong shoe Last when developing my pattern and this Last requires somewhat of a heel so I decided to build up a wedge. . . .which leads me to mistake #3 – wedges are very difficult to sand without damaging the outer leather after they have been affixed to the shoe (not to mention the painstaking process of cutting and barging each side of the leather together to build up the wedge. It literally took me two days to build these up and they are only 1¼ inches high). Mistake #4 was not marking where the pattern should rest on the Last, therefore the foot opening is quite lopsided. Truthfully, I learned even more lessons from this pair but you get the gist with just those listed above.

My first depressing attempt

Monday, June 15th, 2009

My first attempt at recreating what I learned at the workshop did not go very well. Lots & lots & lots of tears were shed over these shoes. I wanted to throw up my hands and give up on that first pair at times, but my boyfriend (and biggest supporter, encourager, and motivator – I love you baby) urged me to finish them – in fact he demanded that I throw them away if I wasn’t going to finish them.

Below is the final disappointing finished product (if you can indeed call them “finished”). How could I go from this:

My very first pair

to this?!?!?

My first depressing attempt on my own

From my first solo attempt I learned valuable lessons in material choices (stretchy materials are a no-no for beginners as they do not like to play nice when lasting), check, double check, and triple check before cutting/barging/lasting/anything, and that creating and perfecting a craft is frustratingly slow and painstakingly difficult – otherwise, we would all be brilliant artists.

Perhaps most importantly I learned that each and every step in making shoes is critical; there are no unimportant steps… if you forget or mess-up step ‘B’ then by the time you get to step ‘F’ it’s way too late to go back – you physical can’t.

The birth of Candi Cobbler

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

Hi! My name is Candi and I love shoes. . . .so much so that I decided I wanted to learn how to make them (for I rarely am able to find the “perfect” pair of shoes with all of the characteristics that I am looking for). I found an intense shoe-making workshop out near Seattle, WA and there started my journey in becoming a cobbler shoe-maker.

At that workshop, I learned how to make a pair of oxfords by hand. Seriously, all by hand. The only machine used in the process was a sander. We even did all of the stitching and cutting out of the materials by hand. Since then, I have been practicing and perfecting my craft. I have learned numerous valuable lessons from each pair of shoes that I have attempted to make. A good friend suggested I start a blog to document my progress, so here is where I would like to share my journey with whomever is interested. . . .

My progress has been slow, but I was prepared for that. Materials are hard to come by and the equipment is expensive. My objective is to eventually create a business and my own designer label from this but that will take time. Thanks to my amazingly talented uncle I do already have a logo though. This is my dream and I do not want to ruin it by jumping in too soon. Right now this is a hobby, a very expensive and time-consuming hobby. . .and I am loving every minute second of it.  :)

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