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[Off Topic] Making shoes

Was “May I polish before soldering?”

I began making my own shoes years ago, when I was in junior high.
Only they’re referred to as “moccasins”. I’d make a pair in the
spring, and it would generally last me until labor day, if I was
careful to avoid walking on pavement.

I still make a pair or two a year, but mostly for camping now. I
prefer to use brain tanned elkskin for them, but that’s not always
available.Commercially tanned elkskin is the next best thing, as far
as feel, appearance and wearability. I’m working on my first beaded
pair in many years, and this one is for ME for a change - not a gift
for someone else.

As for making more conventional shoes, that never occurred to me,
altho I’ve often wished I could have a pair or three built
specifically for my ultra-wide and “horribly deformed” feet (my foot
surgeon’s words). I spent a month looking online for shoes that I
thought I could comfortably wear to my niece’s wedding. EE width, no
more than half an inch heel, no seamed vamp, no openings where the
1st and 5th metatarsals protrude. It’s rather tedious to have to
return a pair of shoes that were initially comfortable, but after an
hour or so have me “grade 3 lame”. If only I could wear my comfy
mocs to elegant social affairs!

Linda in central FL

Linda, surely the knockout beaded white mocassins would be good
enough to wear to any social gathering. But then what do I know - I
wear socks with sandals. Comfort above style any day.


When I say that I feel your pain, those aren’t empty words. I bought
(eBay) a pair of grey knee-length Korean girl socks (I’m old but I
love socks) and I couldn’t wear my usual thong sandals with them. So,
I dug in my shoe drawer and pulled out a gorgeous unworn pair of
black ballet flats. I then went to my building’s laundry room to do
my gym laundry.

It took only the few yards to the elevator for my toes to start
throbbing with pain. I tried to persevere but the pain was

I live in Southern California and wear open sandals every day. I
find the current stiletto-style shoes disturbing and aesthetically
repulsive. At 80, my feet are strong and functional if not a work of

So, my feeling is that you can wear whatever the hell pleases you to
meet the Queen of England or Mr. Obama. If the shoes are open, just
make sure to have an excellent pedicure.


I have been a member of the Honourable Cordwainers Company (it is in
VA and it is a non-profit). IN fact it was what I was studying and
learning pre-brain injury and I was interested in making shoes for
museum display. After the brain injury I was overwhelmed that I could
hold my tools and I didn;t remember what any of them were for and I
had to put it aside for emotional reasons. I was encouraged to not
give up by the learned cordwainers. I will at some point get back to
the work but I have been focused on learning jewelry making and
silversmithing and relearning to read and write. It is a relaxing
thing for me.

For further

As for making more conventional shoes, that never occurred to me,
It's rather tedious to have to return a pair of shoes that were
initially comfortable, but after an hour or so have me "grade 3
lame". If only I could wear my comfy mocs to elegant social

Then perhaps it’s time to make some more conventional shoes Linda?
Only you can get exactly what you’re looking for, without having to
pay a small fortune. Just a thought.


My feet have been huge since I was 12 and in the 60’s I could only
wear mens shoes, in the 70’s mens shoes, today mens shoes. the things
they sell as shoes make me ill to look at because there is rarely a
midsole. I wear moccasins. Day in day out. If you made a pair of
moccasins in darker finished leather with hand beading and went to a
formal occasion I think that the only thing that would matter is you
would have the most comfortable shoes and they would look gorgeous
and be envied.

Though I am going to buy a pair of boots one day good old cowgirl
boots because the members of the Cordwainers Society believe them the
most comfortable shoes in the world. Hand made fitted boots are in my

Teri whose feet always hurt every day every minute.

Walk to the beat of a different drummer because the one drumming now
is insane and wearing 8 inch stiletto heels to prove it to the

Very funny John! How hideous are they?! I had something a tad more
sophisticated in mind. I like mid level to expensive shoes and
would love to have a go at designing and making quality shoes,
made with quality leather. 

I appreciate that this has been marked as off topic. It’s still
about crafting things, to a point. I have never made shoes and never
thought of it. Well, in cub scouts one project was mocassins but I
never did it. I suspect that the biggest problem anyone is going to
have in making “real” shoes, as Helen says above, is going to be
tooling. There are lots of shoe styles that are easy enough to make,
starting with a piece of old tire with some straps sewn to it. And
yes, I’m sure some will pop up and say that they can hand stitch
leather with the best of them. Really, though, if you are looking to
be the next Feragamo you’re going to need to sew leather to a higher
standard. That’s, as always, the daunting thing: Do you want to
invest $2000 (or pounds) so you can make yourself hundred dollar
shoes? A link below, just to see what’s out there:

You might want to look at the shoes sold to us diabetics. My shoes
are from “Advanced Prosthetics.” This is a local shop that custom
manufactures devices for the “disabled.” My shoe shells are made by
Drew, the inserts are custom made for my feet.

I do not feel that wearing anything that is comfortable for you
should constrain you from attending any function. Medical conditions
require using adaptive devices, I don’t apologize for using a cane to
walk, so why should I for my shoes.

My father in law used the term cobbler for himself. His business
name was “Shoe Doctor.” He could make shoes from scratch, but that
*is now not a widespread trade.


Hi gang,

As has been noted, making ‘real’ shoes, with insoles, isn’t exactly
easy, but it’s not rocket science either.

Once upon a time, I used to do a lot with the Society for Creative
Anachronism. (Pretend to be shocked.) A then-friend of mine was
pretty seriously into shoe making. He did a couple of workshops on
how to make custom fit, lasted, insole shoes. It’s not simple, but
it can be done by hand, with pretty close to the normal tool mix a
jeweler would have on hand. (Figure $50 in leather tools, and about
$100 in leather. Which gives you enough leather to do several pair.)

You start off making plaster casts of your feet, beef those up with
bondo and wood, and then use those as lasts. If you dig around on, you may find some links to ‘how to’ articles. I’ve contacted
the last email I had for the person I knew who did them, I’ll let you
all know what comes of it, if anything.


Designer shoes are designer because they have a designers name on
them. That doesn’t make them real shoes or good shoes. I got an old
White machine that could handle leather and used it to sew and also
for piercing. cost 100 dollars.

The rest of my tools cost 100 dollars total. Tell me is it not real
jewelry if you do not have a 1 million dollar fabricating set up?

All Linda has to do is learn the basics of what makes a good shoe
then she has to understand a bit of anatomy and how to measure and
she can construct low heeled shoes for herself without too much
danger to her body. Those who make higher heeled shoes are not
concerned with the pain the wearer suffers. I have seen 500 dollar
shoes that have no midsole! No midsole. the nerve may as well go to
Payless and torture your feet for BOGO.

Needless to say Linda feel free to contact me off list with
questions because I believe you can not only learn to make shoes for
yourself, but with less trouble than the ignorant are proposing for
you. And lastly 100 dollars for real shoes um where do you live

You can also contact the Honourable Cordwainers to find someone to
make you shoes to fit your feet. It is an experience that most
people have never had and it is the best foot pain relief in the
world. Costs $650 on up from MASTER CORDWAINERS who know about foot
anatomy and construct a last for each of your feet and do an amazing



You don’t actually need expensive sewing machines to make a quality
pair of shoes. Sure it would make the job quicker and easier, but not
necessary. There are some very good videos on YouTube showing all the
processes in detail, of how to make shoes by hand. The correct thread
for stitching, the right glue, a pair of lasting pliers, and of
course the lasts themselves, but it’s not impossible. I’d love to
make my husband a lovely pair of quality handmade shoes.


I feel for you Teri, and agree that a beautiful pair of moccasins
would be fine for occasions.

I agree that women’s shoes are ridiculous, and I own a few pairs of
said ridiculous shoes, my favourites being a very sexy pair of
designer hot pink suede high heel platforms. I wore them to a
wedding recently and they were “comfortable” for most of the day
until the evening, when I changed into my reserve, lower heeled,
platform shoes. I wear them because they make me feel younger. I
know it’s ridiculous, as they don’t make me look younger. I
probablylook a fool, but I don’t mind that - I’m determined to grow
old disgracefully! It’s quite amusing getting shoe envy from my
twenty something nieces though. My girls know which shoes I want to
be buried in.

However, what I really fancy doing is making my husband a lovely
pair of handmade shoes. I’ve converted him to decent shoes, and buy
him a good pair of dress shoes every now and then, which he really
appreciates, and he enjoys wearing them. When I met him, he had some
awful shoes. He used to buy cheap shoes from Asda (Walmart)! I think
it would be lovely to make him a gorgeous pair of quality shoes and
I’ve started looking into it.


The biggest challenge for the home craftsman is making the lasts.
Carving the lasts is a craft in itself.

You can get by without a blind stitching machine if you use mocassin
construction or a Goodyear welt.

But without properly sized and carved lasts your shoes will never
achieve the shape of a quality made shoe.

Here’s a video from the 20s showing the construction of a
traditional brogued wingtip oxford.

Women’s shoes are usually not as well made.

If you dig around on

York turn shoes are fun and easy to make, once you master tunnel
stitching :wink: CIA

Hi Elliot,

The biggest challenge for the home craftsman is making the lasts.
Carving the lasts is a craft in itself. 

You can make shoes without a last. In my first job I was making
artificial limbs, and a boot maker was employed to make shoes for
deformed feet.

There are many tricks you can employ to make a quality comfortable

I’ll share one today.

To make a pattern for the leather upper.

Take a piece of tracing paper and wrap it around the clients foot,
and tape it in place.

Use a soft pencil to trace the outline of the foot and where you
want the leather to sit. Unwrap the tracing paper. You will have a
base pattern. Add stitching allowances and you’re ready to cut the

It takes a little practice to get the technique right, but it’s not
hard to master.

Regards Charles A.

I'd love to make my husband a lovely pair of quality handmade

If you’re interested in shoe making, this book is awesome, and dirt
cheap (obviously due to lack of interest). A leather worker will
really appreciate this book. When you read it you will understand why
some shoes cost a “lot” of money.

Kindest regards Charles A.

There are very good videos which use hand stitching to make quality
brogued Oxford style shoes. Every technique is covered in one way or
another, including pattern making off the last, dying the leather,
brogueing(sp?), making and stitching piping along the top edge,
hidden stitched sole, stacked heel, etc, etc. When I watch videos of
processes involved in such things, I can judge very well if it’s
something I could do. Getting the supplies in the UK seems to be a
problem though. Lasting pliers is not an issue, but the actual lasts
is the biggest hurdle, plus knowing which type of adhesive is the
correct one.


If you're interested in shoe making, this book is awesome, and dirt
cheap (obviously due to lack of interest). A leather worker will
really appreciate this book. When you read it you will understand
why some shoes cost a "lot" of money.
It’s already at the top of my list of books to buy. It is indeed very
labourintensive, but that has never put me off before.


Thanks for all the enlightening and encouraging on
shoemaking and/or wearing my mocs to formal affairs. I had no idea
so many folks were still working to maintain the art of fine shoe

Since I’m already quite adept at moccasin making, it seems it would
be easiest for me to make an elegant pair of mocs for those elegant
affairs. I’m envisioning a pair of black-dyed elkskin beaded with
swarovski crystals! Shall the pattern be traditional Eastern style
swirls and florals? or Northern Plains geometrics? I like the idea
of black-on-black, so perhaps the swirls/florals would be most

Linda in central FL

Charles, you describe the process of pattern making using the
client’s feet, so as to avoid using a last. It’s exactly the same as
the process I’ve seenexcept that the pattern was made on the last
itself. Using the client’s foot is all very well, but if you don’t
have a last, you have nothing on which to stretch the leather into
the perfect shape. I would imagine (without having yet read the
recommended book) that it’s the stretching of the leather to the
correct foot shape, which actually gives a fair amount of the
required support to the foot. Without the last, the leather is
merely wrapped around, into the foot shape and sewn in place. You
might as well wear carpet slippers.