No, I’m not a very good shoemaker … yet

April 28th, 2011

I went to Budapest in March for an intensive shoemaking course with Marcell Mrsan, master shoemaker.  In that time I made two pairs of mens dress shoes.  The first one was a standard cemented construction and the second one I learned a new technique:  welt stitch construction.

Budapest was amazing; the course and the instructor were intense.  I bled, blistered, and bruised; I laughed, smiled, and yes, I also cried.  But most importantly, I took a giant leap forward in the pursuit of my dreams.

It takes me time to gain confidence and develop a comfort for new tools (especially really sharp knives and machinery of any sort), I rarely learn something well after only one or even a couple of examples – I learn best after I’ve made all the mistakes one could possibly make, I ask a lot of questions, and I’m really slow.  No, I’m not a very good shoemaker … yet.

*click on each of the pictures in the gallery for additional commentary

Yellow platforms

April 21st, 2011
Yellow platforms

Yellow platforms

This was my first attempt at building up my high heel last to incorporate a new toe shape and adding a platform for a higher heel.  My original intent was to have these shoes completed for New Year’s Eve.  That unfortunately did not happen.

Lessons Learned:

I skived the upper too thin, which is what I think caused the wrinkling in the lasting that I could not correct.  I must have re-lasted these shoes half a dozen times trying to solve the wrinkling problem.

The original design of the eyelets with the snakeskin showing through was supposed to be centered on the top of the vamp.  I did not calculate enough stretch into my design so when I lasted the upper, the design stretched more than I anticipated.  This also happened on the heel.  Next time I will use fiberglass tape to ensure the design does not stretch.

I currently only have one high heel last, which is a pointy toe shape. I wanted more of a round toe for these shoes, so I built up the last with veg-tan around the toe area.  I did not anticipate that with a more rounded toe, my foot would slide more forward therefore causing the shoe to be a half size too big.

I used my sewing machine for these uppers and just need to spend more time practicing on it.

When making dorsays, I need to figure out what method I want to use for blending the vamp and heel to the inner sole so that there is not a dip or a gap when I attach the finished sole.

I really struggle with the finishing touches, especially attaching the sole.  I have tried to pre-cut and finish the sole before cementing to the shoe and I have tried forming the sole to the shoe and cutting it down, then finishing the edges.  It’s just something that I know I need to work on.

*No, the mouse is not real.  :)

My very own Cinderella shoes

November 20th, 2010
My magical wedding shoes

My magical wedding shoes

No, they are not glass slippers but they certainly are magical.  :)

The story begins in a Llorraine Neithardt’s ShoeFineArt high heel workshop in NYC in mid-August.  My original vision for these shoes was more of an extension of my custom-made wedding dress.  The vamp was to be a key-hole design that mimicked the beadwork on my gown (which was inspired by the filigree on my engagement ring) and the heel counter was to be a bustled design that matched the skirt of my gown.  The class met first at Leather, Suede and Skins to pick out our outer and liner leathers.  At Shindo, a Japanese ribbon shop, I was drawn to a pleated white satin ribbon that was partially over-layed with a sheer champagne fabric.  At that point, I had no idea what I was going to do with it but I knew it belonged on these shoes in some fashion.  Then, at MJ Trimming, Lorraine helped me find the perfect pre-beaded trim for the vamp.  Back at the workshop, I changed my original vamp design to incorporate the beaded trim and we finished most of the original construction of the shoe.

Back home, I immediately started working on the trim-work design.  I still had visions of bustling the heel counter with the extra dress fabric that I had received from my dressmaker, but kept feeling drawn to figuring out how to incorporate more of the ribbon into my design.  I had also originally intended to only have the beadwork on the vamp and then decided to wrap the heel as well.  The heel that I had chosen was slightly too high for my last, so I made a 1/4 inch platform out of veg-tan, wrapped it with the mesh fabric from the beaded trim, and hand-beaded it.

The beadwork was finally completed but I was still struggling with my final decision on what to do for the d’orsay heels.  I wanted to layer the pleated ribbon but only had 1 yard of it and I also knew it was the last of the spool so I couldn’t order more.  I also did not want the bottom white layer to show as I felt it was too much of a stark contrast to the rest of the gold and champagne hues.  After working through several different designs, I decided to stretch the second and third layers over the first in order to diminish the bulkiness.

The end result far exceeded my expectations.  Part of me wants to preserve these shoes in a glass case . . . but another part wants to dance the soles off . . .

*Click on the pictures in the gallery to see additional commentary and double click to view a larger image.

The most adorable shoes ever

August 15th, 2010

Finished UGA Baby Booties

A really good co-worker friend of mine is having a baby … her first baby … and they have chosen not to learn the sex of the baby until it is born – because let’s face it, with modern technology there really are not many pleasant surprises in life anymore.  I wanted to surprise her with a pair of baby booties at her baby shower  (before the baby was born) so I was limited with what I could do not knowing the gender.

Thankfully, they are ridiculously loyal UGA fans, therefore I knew without a doubt that baby would be wearing red and black this football season.  (Real sacrifice too considering we are a Tech family – Go Jackets!)  ;)

Like every other endeavor I seem to take in my shoe-making journey, baby shoes were a first for me.  I went to Target and bought a pair of size 0-3 month  oxfords that I wanted to use as a pattern/measurement guide … then I destroyed them (all in the name of research so it’s justifiable).

Teeny Tiny Baby Shoe Pieces

Look at all of those teeny tiny pieces.  So adorable.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the entire construction of the shoes was sewn.  There were no harsh chemical glues used.  I was really worried about this for babies put EVERYTHING in their mouth, including their feet – no, especially their feet.

As with anything new I try there were several obstacles to overcome and unforeseen hiccups along the way, but regardless, I had so much fun making these.  All I request from the parents is one uber adorable picture of their bundle of joy in all it’s bulldog glory.

Click on the individual photos in the gallery to read more commentary on the entire process.

163 sq ft of endless possibilities

July 25th, 2010

I just recently invested in some more materials for a project that I am working on – 163 square feet of materials in 9 different colors/styles/finishes:

New materials

There was so much that it literally took up our entire kitchen table.

Kitchen table of leather

Included are:  Lemon Yellow, Charcoal Gray, Tobacco, Luggage Basket Weave, Metallic Silver, Metallic Bronze, Metallic Champagne, Black/Tan Snake print, & Gray Snake print

Endless possibilities

I have so many ideas with what to do with all of this new material that it is quite overwhelming just making the decision of what to start on first. . .

Skiver, Glorious Leather Skiver

July 12th, 2010

No, it’s not a Fortuna Leather Skiver but it still gets the job done just the same and is more within my budget!

Close-up of my new skiver

First tool delivered via freight

This was my first tool delivery via freight.  How awesome is that!  It took up my car’s spot in the garage for a couple of days until my fiance could get help moving it into my workshop.  Again, how awesome is that!

First peek through the looking glass

Ocean blue leather flip flops

May 31st, 2010

Ocean blue leather flip flops

I love flip flops!  I probably have more than a dozen pair in my closet right now.  If I’m not in heels, I’m either in flip flops or barefoot.  So it’s no surprise that as soon as I started dreaming of warm weather, I started the design concept for a custom pair of flip flops for myself.

I used the soles of my Havaianas for the sole pattern and toe thong placement as they fit my feet best.  I really like the look of a sole stitch on sandals, so since I do not have a post sewing machine as of yet I had to pound the holes and hand stitch these.  I also wanted to test out using a rough edge instead of lasting the leather to an inner sole.  I really like the look of the rough edge with this material.

Flip flop soles

The toe thong piece was trickier than I anticipated (imagine that).  For extra durability and longevity, I wanted the upper to be one solid piece instead of separate pieces sewn together.  I went through several different designs but this one worked and looked best.

One piece toe thong

I was a slacker this time and did not take any pictures of these sandals in progress, but as always you can click on the gallery photos for additional commentary.


May 15th, 2010

Modeling the sandals in the kitchen1

I technically started these shoes around the time that I finished the *beading* for the gladiator sandals that I posted about here.  At the time, my future sister-in-law was talking about creating an Etsy shop for her pottery and using EZM as her signature (funny story, but you’ll have to ask her about it), hence the ‘EZM’ detail on the beading.  Unfortunately, I didn’t want to spill the beans on the shoes before they were completed because let’s face it, there’s no telling how long it was going to take me to finish any pair at this stage in the game, and I was slack about being sneaky and stealing a pair of her shoes one night during family dinner night at her place to use for measurement.  It all worked out in the end though for I completed the pair of flats for her sister and posted them to my blog here and she saw my post and called me out on not making her a pair, therefore it was all out in the open and I could *ask* for a pair of shoes to use as a measurement guide for these.

I knew that I wanted to make wedges for her, but I went through several different patterns for the straps before I settled on the final design.  Then at the last minute, I decided to incorporate the varying layers into the wedge and to make more of a chunky wedge heel than a full-fledged wedge shoe.

Close-up of chunky wedge heel

In doing so, I made the wedge slightly smaller than it should have been.  One of these days I will learn to stop trying to add more and more complexity to every pair of shoes I make.

I presented them to her as an “Unbirthday” gift at family dinner night this past week.  We had a shoe modeling photo shoot in the kitchen afterwards. Modeling the sandals in the kitchen4

Modeling the sandals in the kitchen3

I like the strap design of these so much that I have decided to make myself a pair. . . .but obviously with a different beadwork design.  :)

As usual,  see below for more pictures in progress and click on each one for additional commentary.

The Dr. Martens you only wished you had

April 25th, 2010
Cherry 50th Anniversary 1461

Cherry 50th Anniversary 1461

April 1, 2010 marked the 50th Anniversary of the original Dr. Martens 8 eyelet boot.  Did you know that they named them 1460 after the day they rolled off the assembly line?  To celebrate, they are offering a limited run of both the 1460 8 eyelet boot and the 1461 3 eyelet oxford in either black or cherry.  Each pair is limited to either 1,460 and 1,461 pairs respectively and handcrafted in the original UK factory in Wollaston, Northamptonshire.  The leather is a special polished pebble leather and there are several gold accents such as gold eyelets, lace-ends, and even the footbed is gold. . .of course I had to order a pair for my man (my only fear is that they will now trump the blue shoes that I made him as his favorite pair).

These shoes truly are remarkable.  I just sat and stared in amazement when they first arrived.  They are beautiful.  I half-joked with my fiance about wanting to dissect them to learn all their tricks – I only half-joked as it is now my mission to find a decommissioned pair to do just that.

The special box

The special box

Certificate of Authenticity

Certificate of Authenticity

*(title courtesy of my fiance)

Exotic Kaleidoscope Heels

April 17th, 2010
Exotic Kaleidoscope Heels

Exotic Kaleidoscope Heels

Not sure that I can top the raising of the bar of these heels. . .not sure that I ever want to even try.

To say this design was a lofty and ambitious undertaking is the UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR!

. . . but so totally WORTH IT!

Santa stuffed my stocking last Christmas with two bags of exotic scraps.  The second I saw the brilliant pink/yellow/blue/etc. dyed exotic skins in those packages I knew that I wanted to make a pair of kaleidoscope heels (to match my kaleidoscope eyes – thanks RC).

The pattern alone was tricky to sketch.  Then I got the brilliant idea that I wanted the left and the right to be mirror images of one another so instead of cutting out two pieces of the same pattern on the same side, I had to remember to flip the pattern over for the opposite side.  I literally made my very own shoe pattern puzzle.

Shoe pattern puzzle

Shoe pattern puzzle

I did this for both the vamp (picture shown above) and the heel of the shoe.  From there I had to trace and cut out the patterns for each of the pieces from my selection of exotic scraps.  I ended up having to modify some of the placement of the pieces, as a few of my scraps were not large enough to accomodate the puzzle pieces that I had selected.

Once all of the pieces were cut, I barged each piece onto liner leather and hand-stitched each piece together and onto the liner leather.  Needless to say all that took me a while to complete.

Left vamp barged and prior to sewing

Left vamp barged and prior to sewing

I realize that these shoes are a bit out there for most but I think they’re pretty freakin’ cool.  I’ve never seen anything like them before and cannot wait to wear them to see the reactions that I get from strangers.  The complexity of the design and the act of piecing all of the different puzzle pieces together has given me many more ideas for designs yet to come.

*Click on the pictures for additional postings.