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Shoes and Craft

A shoemaker's blog about shoemaking


Here we go again, continuing the derby shoes. To make sure that the adjustment is perfect, we need to use the paper pattern again, and mark the overlaps with a silver pen.

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First things first – let’s check if we have everything. Pattern pieces – even we clicked the leather, we still need them for marking the overlaps, folding, etc.

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This is a long and heated conversation between the industry professionals. The question sounds like this: what is “handmade”? Makers, like me (and many others, working with their hand and tools only), would answer this way:  “surely handmade is a product which is made by hand entirely”. Sounds logical, isn’t it? It is so funny that a machine, which makes the work way easier, can change that opinion rapidly. A sole stitcher, a line finisher tends to plant idea in people’s mind that their product is still handmade, as “everybody use those anyways”*. Once I have a conversation with an investor (not my investor – that is actually me, and only me) and he had a valuable opinion about it. He thought that there is no really handmade anyways. (let me put this here: there is. But really very rare). He thought that even the case of high end shoes the upper are machine stitched, skived, the sole is machine sanded, etc. So after all – he said – all the shoes are partially machine made. To be very correct, he used this philosophy to justify a welting and sole stitching machine in his “handmade’ process.

We must admit – handmade sounds good. Just like “natural”, “healthy” or “organic”. These are those words which can sell a product, even justify a higher price tag. Why wouldn’t we use it then, right? Let’s be realistic: there is no control. Companies, as long as they can, will use “handmade”. Customers – well, they have no idea. They believe those labels, printed on fancy recycled papers (and a company which that much environment conscious MUST be honest in the same time, right?).

Here is what WE can do. First of all: we have to be honest in a World which is not honest. Instead of coming up with new and vague terms, let’s be specific.


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Diamond cutter and polishers (diamantaire) is a rare and very highly appreciated craft, which needs a lot of training, special skills and equipment – for a good reason. They work with one of the most precious and hardest treasure of Earth, diamonds. When they find those stones, they are not beauty, pretty much look like a big piece of broken glass, but the beauty is somewhere in there. A professional can cut it to pieces, polish it and create a million dollar masterpiece.
This is my latest piece, which made me feel like one of those experts. I used a very precious leather – alligator, and not just any – a huge beast, approx.  4.5-5 meters long. It was wild caught, full with scars, healed injuries, marks of figthing. Alligators in this size are usually 30 years old, and can weight over a half ton.


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This shape is kind of rare. First of all: not the latest fashion, except western boots and women shoes. It doesn’t mean you can’t find this style in the bespoke fashion. Here is an example. I am not saying it is only possible by hand, but for a nice result – that s the way. It took me a shamefully long time to make it, but it was very a meditative, very satisfying process.

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I also made a slight change with the transition between the bevelled waist and the heel. I think I am going to do it this way from now.

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This is what we are going to see today – a shoe render with a simple way.

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There are rare occasions in the bespoke shoemakers life, when we have to make a whole eerie for the same style of last. Here are some advices.

1. Don’t bother with US sizes. Seriously. You need to make half sizes as the scale if pretty big, so you will end up 11 sizes – even if you do every half size, that is 6 patterns. (If you really want to work with US sizes, well… go ahead. I warned you.)

2. You can buy fancy grading machines on eBay – they do the same what Illustrator can, but you will have a problem with the size of the printing. And by the way – even if it seems logical, the proportion might be a bit different what sizes would suggest – this is why we don’t measure the length of the sole, but the length from the countertop to the toe. That gives a more accurate number.

3. You don’t need to scale everything.

4. Don’t be afraid to scale everything.

5. OK. I need to elaborate the last 2 points, so… not everything needs to be scaled – decorations, eyelets, buckles, rivets, dogtails… etc. This rule will be used if you use those fancy machines.  Theo there one – when you scale everything – after all the eyelets will not be one millimeter bigger, right? So, if it doesn’t cause an extra work – just throw that scale on the whole pattern. It won’t hurt.

6. Start from the middle sizes if you scale the patterns. Always.

7. Don’t bother with any of these rules, and follow this method:

use European sized lasts. Tape every second size. 39, 41, 43.. draw the main design lines and put them on a flat.


Now you have 3 sizes – make those modifications, start with the medium size. (I am not gonna list those, I assume you can’t make a pattern if thou want to learn grading, hmm?)

Then use the medium sized pattern as a ruler to adjust the style lines the same and voila, you are done with the master pattern, the rest is a piece of cake.



ps. I make these for my upcoming (June) courses. By the way: we have only 2 seats left.


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