Day 5: Lasting

Today you’re going to begin attaching the midsole to the body of the shoe.
secure the assembled midsole sandwich to the last with a single nail. knock the nail so that it’s bent and flat against the sole.
put the leather over the last.
using small blue nails, a hammer, and a set of pliers, gently tug the leather of the lining over the midsole. you’ll probably want to start by securing the front and back quarter with a single nail, just to keep the alignment straight throughout the process. nail around the perimeter of the sole, increasing the frequency within curved areas; near the front or back, use a good number of nails and make sure to twist with the pliers to create folds; these folds will be later skived off. as you do this,make sure the nails are as close to the perimeter as possbile; you will later glue the leather to the midsole, so you want to have that seam allowance unobstructed by the nails
apply barge cement to the midsole perimeter and to the part of the lining you’ve just stretched over the midsole. let it dry for a while. then, pull it over and flatten it against the midsole. use a skiving knife to “flatten” this entire area, making it as smooth as possible... because this is the part that will later be glued to the actual sole leather
cut the sole leather using the sole pattern made earlier. give it a slight allowance on the outside to account for the fact that your leathers, being layered, will leave you with a slightly larger footprint. you’ll want to scuff up the areas of sole leather that will be in contact, when glued, with other parts (e.g. the back section that will attach to the heel, the the entire topside that will attach to the bottom of your midsole.) use a dremel or sanding machine
remember; the SMOOTH part of the sole leather will face down, to the street.
glue the sole leather to the heel and to the heel rubber. let them dry.
toe cap and back quarter thingy
using these plastic pieces, warm them with a heat gun and make sure they fit well over the toe and back quarter. skive away the bumps resulting from folding it over curvatures.
now the midsole glue and lining will be dry, so go ahead and do the same procedure for the outer leather, gently tugging it with the pliers over the edge and securing it with nails. repeat the gluing procedure and the skiving.
using a dremel or sander, smooth out the bottom of the shoe; make sure the surfaces are roughened to help the glue stick as strong as possible.
tacks. from the underside, hammer a few tacks into the back near the edge of the heel.
apply a generous portion of glue to the underside of the midsole and to the top of the sole. let them dry, then stick them together.
use a curved knife to shave the heel smooth. it’ll be a sandwich of sole leather, heel-sized piece of sole leather, and heel-sized piece of rubber.
the tacks you added earlier may have sharp ends sticking up; you’ll want to blunt them with a hammer.
finally, secure the heel with a couple of tacks from the inside. cover it with the insole. Done!

Day 4: More Sewing.

So today you’re gonna sew some more shit together. It’s gonna be awesome.

Using a little bit of glue, brush the edge of the tongue-piece and the front of the upper; the glue helps to secure the pieces as you attempt to sew them together. Mark (with a pen) the side seams and the center to guide your stitching.

I used a hand-stitching technique using two needles weaving into the leather in a figure eight. It looks pretty nice. I also used grey thread. Use whatever you want. Stitch the tongue+top to the main body of the shoe.

Repeat the same for the lining.

Next you’re gonna want to ttitch the tongues of the upper and lining together. Lay the upper on top of the lining. Use a silver pen and mark out a line about ¼ inch from the borders of the tongue. Use needles to hand-stitch just INSIDE the line you just drew. After stitching, tie off the loose ends and trim the border of the tongue.

Next you’ll secure the rest of the lining with the upper. For the rest of the body of the shoe, apply a bit of glue to the edges and attach the “binding”. Stitch the binding all around, thus permanently attaching the lining and uppers.

Day 3: Sewing Part 1.

If your last two days weren't a complete failure, today you’re going to start sewing the pieces together and creating the midsole.

The Midsole

Yesterday, you cut out the sections of fiberboard in the shape of the sole and hammered the shanks to the curvature of your last’s arch. The shanks will help provide structure to the foot’s arch. You’ll need to sandwich the shank between the two pieces of fiberboard.

Bust open (our verbs are getting very dynamic here) the can of barge cement (the red and yellow can).

It is advisable to open the window and turn on a fan lest you get high off the fumes. Using a brush, apply cement to the pieces of fiberboard and to the back (the part of the shank that will face UP) of the shank. Let it dry for a while, as the cement is a “contact glue” and needs to dry before it becomes adhesive. Once dry, place the shank onto the full-length fiberboard, and the back-section fiberboard, as a sandwich, and press down all around so that they’re firmly sandwiched.

Bevel the edges of the midsole with a dremel or sanding machine so that the leather can be tucked under it later.

Beginning to Sew

Here, you may choose to hand-stitch or machine-stitch various parts of your shoe.

First, prep the back quarter piece (the part that covers your heel) by stitching the “pinch”. Yesterday, you cut this piece out and left two marked lines; today you’ll stitch them together and snip off the excess. This lends a curvature to the heel. Just mark where the pinch ends (usually about halfway from the bottom) and fold it in half symmetrically. Stitch directly in a straight line from the marks to the end, creating a little triangular area. Cut carefully along this stitched line leaving a 1mm edge. When you’re done, the back quarter piece will have a naturally cupped shape. Using barge cement, cut a strip of reinforcement fabric to secure the edge.

Next you’ll combine this piece with the “upper” of your shoe, sewing the upper body (the biggest piece) with the back quarter piece. Overlay the two parts so that you overlap the seam allowances of ¼ inch. It’s helpful to use a white wax pen or just a regular ballpoint pen to mark out where the pieces need to overlap. One good trick to help stabilize the leather (preventing it from shifting while you are sewing) is to apply a very small amount of glue to the edge of the piece facing inwards which temporarily holds the pieces together before you actually sew them. Avoid applying glue to areas where you will be sewing as machines don’t agree with glue. Excess glue can be picked up with an adhesive eraser.

Sew right down the middle of the seam allowance. Cavalierly slice off any excess flappy parts that will be visible and cast them aside. Knot the ends of the threads and trim excess thread.

For the lining, repeat the same process (with the back quarter and the body) for the lining parts. Also snip off excess seam allowance that will be visible (on the inside of the shoe).

Next, you’ll need to craft the top of the shoe and the tongue. This part is pretty easy. Relatively easy. Just take the tongue and top, provide ¼” allowance, and stitch across them, combining them LIKE A BOSS.

Note on Hand Stitching: If you are stitching any parts by hand (using a thick waxed thread and an awl), the technique for doing a quickstitch is to start by pushing the awl through two pieces of leather, pulling the thread through completely, pulling the awl out, then poking a new hole, then looping the initial thread through. Repeat this process until you hit the end. Knot the loose thread.

Next class: Redo all the parts you fucked up today.

Day 2: Cutting Leather

Materials: your chosen "upper" and "lining" leather. I'd recommend at least 6 square feet of each. Use kidskin or calfskin. Midsole fiberboard (if you're a man, get two pairs). Shanks (they're two metal strips). 

Tools: leather scissors / sharp box cutter, pen, a dremmel or skiving machine.

Today, you’ll have to cut leather for the upper (outside) and lining (inside) of your shoe. The general idea here is to use the patterns made in the first day to mark the underside (the unfinished side) of your hides and prepare them for sewing. 

Lay the patterns out and trace them against the hide with a pen. Don't forget you'll be making two shoes! Once they're traced, cut them out with a knife or leather scissor.

Next you'll want to prep them for stitching. It’s helpful to have either a leather skiving machine or a dremel in order to thin the areas of the pieces where you will stitch the seams. Don’t worry about skiving the parts that will wrap under to the sole. The idea behind skiving is that it basically strips down the thickness of the leather on the edge. Doing this thins the 1/2" on the edge, which makes it easier to fold over the seam allowances for a more finished look.

Finally, you want to prep the midsole. Take the fiberboard and trace the sole of your shoe. Since your foot has a natural arch and slope to it, you'll want to double-down on the back part of the foot. Cut little notches near the ball of the foot of your pattern and mark them on the fiberboard. Slice out an extra portion for the back section of the foot. Take your shank (the little curved metal piece) and hammer it until it's roughly matching the arch of your "last". Sandwich the shank between the fiberboard pieces. You will glue this all together.

Day 1: Making a Pattern

Materials: Shoe lasts, manila folders, masking tape.

Tools: X-Acto Knife (or boxcutter), pencil, sharpie

  • Tape the sole of the shoe last with masking tape beginning with one vertical strip down the center lengthwise. Repeat with horizontal strips down the length of the sole, overlapping each piece halfway over the last. Repeat with vertical strips.
  • Using a pencil, feather the edge of the sole.
  • Remove masking tape shape from last and paste onto manila folder. Cut along the feathered edge. This is the sole pattern piece.
  • Tape the upper of the shoe last with masking tape beginning with vertical strips. Repeat with horizontals until the entire shoe last is covered. Tuck ends over the edge on the sole.
  • Use a pencil to mark the back height of the shoe - 58mm for women, 68mm for men.
  • Draw a line across the widest part of the sole. Using a measuring tape, continue the line across the upper of the shoe last. Mark the line in half, and into quarters.
  • Connect the quarter marks to the back height mark with a straight line.
  • Trace the design with a marker. Don’t forget to outline the sole as well.
  • Mark the shoe last down the center with a pencil. Use a cutter to split the masking tape shape into half.
  • Cut slits along the bottom edge of the masking tape shape to fan the design out. Paste the shapes onto the manila folder without wrinkles. Label the two halves to differentiate.
  • Cut along the edge of the shape. Cut perforations along the marker lines where there will be seams. Repeat for both halves.
  • Create a median forme from the two shapes. The idea here is to ultimately “average” the two and come up with a symmetrical pattern. Trace both halves onto the manila folder again, using the corner of the heel as an anchor point. Make sure that the heel areas overlap perfectly. Draw a dotted line between the two shapes where they differ, making an average line. Erase the initial tracing and complete the dotted line for the median border. Cut the shape out. This is the median forme.
  • Trace along perforations to transfer the pattern piece edges onto the median forme. Draw a dotted line between the two lines where they differ again, and use French curve template to perfect curves. Perforate again along curves.
  • Align the top of the median forme where the pattern was halved along the folded edge of a manila folder. The idea is to copy and then cut out a final pattern that folds open double but connected, much like the technique used crafting a paper snowflake.
  • Trace the individual pieces along the perforated edges, adding ⅝ inch seam allowance to the bottom edge (wherever the pieces meet the sole, to allow greater inseam allowance), and ¼ inch along all the other seams.

  • Draw design onto the masking tape.

Finally, cut these pieces out (including the extra seam margin).