Saturday, June 7, 2014

Shoes and Strawberries

The strawberries in Pennsylvania became ripe yesterday. I have always wanted to pick my own. There used to be an Amish farmer who held a farm stand every Saturday around the corner from me. Sadly, he has not been there since January. He used to bring the most wonderful strawberries and make me a deal. But this year, with no fresh yummy local berries in sight, I resolved to pick my own. I found a place out in Chester county that was reasonable and headed out. It was a gorgeous day. Warm, but not too hot. I was so excited I forgot to take pictures. I picked for an hour and came home with two giant baskets of berries. That's enough for two double batches of jam and then - Ice cream? Pie? or just plain eatin'? Not sure yet.  I already made one batch of jam but ran out of lemons. Tomorrow - tomorrow more jamming.

In order to follow my quest for oodles of strawberries I had to put my newest passion aside - the shoes had to wait. Thursday evening I had started the hard, and a little bit scary part; designing and making the shoes. I have two designs I am trying simultaneously. The first is a new clog. Let me back up though... I have been scouring the Internet for help on how to make shoes. Pinterest is my new fascination. People collect all these pictures on the same subject! You can find anything, Handmade Shoes Tutorials, for example.  It was on this board I found the true gold mine, this blog: It is written by a shoe maker in Georgia and he actually shows you - really shows you - how to do this stuff! I need to find time to sit down and start from the beginning and read it all the way through. As for now, I just poked around and found the things that apply directly to this project. But after reading what little I did, I have decided two things: 1. Making shoes is just as tricky, complicated, and a practiced craft as bookbinding, and 2. It is so similar to bookbinding - it's like a different dialect of craft of the same language. And of course - in both cases you are actually putting a binding onto something that has to move... anyway - I'm full of respect for shoemakers and completely understand why shoes cost what they do.
Now - back to the clog! 
My plan is to use a blue leather underneath this lime green leather with the holes:
In my head these look amazing! But now that we've started... I'm not so sure. They are very green. I keep looking at them and thinking I would have given my right eye-tooth for these when I was 20. I don't know if I can still pull off this kind of flamboyance.
From the fabulous blog I learned to make a paper template. I traced the original leather upper and left extra around it. You can always make things smaller, can't make them bigger.
The next step is to fit the last into the upper. 
I decided to use the plaster lasts because they are the right shape. I can't use the casts of my feet because I don't want the clogs to be feet-shaped. Ahem. That would be weird. I need to research on how to make my own lasts that fit from the casts, but that is a project for another weekend.
Once the upper is in place you have to secure it. Ordinarily you do this with leather nippers and nails. Since I can't nail into the plaster, I had to come up with plan B: sewing.   

 The holes are already there. And there has to be quite a bit of pressure on the leather to get it around the last. 

  The fabulous blog says that the leather has to sit for a while to adjust to the new shape. I don't know how long the while is, but I figure over night should be right. And in this case - it gets 2 overnights.

I don't know... what do you think so far? 
 Okay so that was shoe #1. 

The second shoe I want to replicate is this sandal I bought in on Tenerife (Canary Islands) which has seen better days.   
These are my absolute FAVORITE flip flops ever. They were gorgeous when I bought them.  Not only that but they are very comfortable.  I'd love to have another pair.  
The first thing to do is figure out how to make the woven top. I scanned the shoe and printed it out extremely large so i could draw on the strips to see which way they went. This is working semi-well. I've got the two thin straps figured out. They are a four part braid, something I used to do to my sister's hair all the time. No big deal
The detail:
 Using dividers, I "measured" the width of the strips of leather.
 I really want a blue pair of these, but in bookbinding you always have to make a mock up. Make your mistakes there - then you can do it right on the final piece. So the same must be true of shoes. 
I chose a piece of burgundy scrap leather I had left over and punched the holes so that I could cut even strips.
 Leather is also a big question. We use leather in bookbinding too - but is it the same kind of leather? I'm not sure, some types look similar, others don't. Clothing leather seams wrong as well, but as with the last-making, the leather investigation will have to wait. I'm using this book leather goat skin. We'll see how it goes. 
I pinned four strips to a board clamped to my studio table. I also decided to get the strips wet. We work with wet leather in bookbinding, but so far it doesn't look like that's true for shoes. In this case it was very necessary.
 Looks like a pretty good match. Okay - I've got some practicing to do to get it as even as the original, but so far, so good. 
 Hammering it lightly with a [book] backing hammer helped achieve the right look as well.
 Then onto the longer strap: This one went much more smoothly. 
 And now the real challenge, figuring out the rest of the weaving! That will have to be tomorrow - after another batch of strawberry jam.

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