Upsala: Part 1

Disclaimer: This post contains a very old attempt at shoemaking, during the very beginning of my journey. I really didn’t know what I was doing at this time, and the post is left online for archive purposes only. Please do not “learn” anything from it, as the post is certainly riddled with mistakes. It’s just a documentation on some of my thoughts as a beginner in this venture. For a more updated view of my shoemaking, please see my latest posts instead.

It was a while ago since I named a shoe after a castle town. Uppsala is my city. I haven’t always lived or worked in Uppsala, but it is still mine. (“Upsala” spelled with only one “p” is ye castle towne spelling of olde.)

The Uppsala castle is famously salmon pink with dark caps. To be fair, the caps are probably well dark brown – but in a cartoon world, the castle is pure pink and black. It is perhaps not the most intricate or aesthetically beautiful of all the royal castles of the world, but it sure is unique. And so, this shoe shall come to life, in pinkness as in darkness.

Only Upsala Castle.jpg

I made the pattern design on may 22d, using my good olde method of taping up the lasts in three intersecting layers of tape and having at it with pencil and pen.

01 Uppsala Pattern.jpg

I cut the tape out and placed it on cardboard. (In the image of the quarters below, I have yet to add 7 mm sewing allowances to the vamp.)

Upsala cardboard pattern.jpg

This cap toe oxford design is perhaps the simplest one I’ve done to date, consisting of only three parts: quarters, vamp and cap. (I have done a wholecut, but somehow this still felt more simple.) The quarters and vamp were cut out of 1.4 mm pink madras calf, and the caps were cut out of 1.4 mm black calf. All in the name of Uppsala Castle.

Uppsala leather.jpg

For the first time since I started this amateur shoemaking journey in the fall of 2017, I have now used a proper machine. I cannot overstate the gratitude I feel towards @argentumagneta for helping me get my Singer 29k sewing machine from 1910 in working order.

The Singer 29k is a beast of a machine. It’s made out of cast iron and hence meets the weight of an adolescent elephant. Despite it’s weight and size, it’s still cranky like a five year old. If you don’t treat it juuust right, it will throw a fit (most commonly by jumping stitches). I can at best adjust this machine ever so slightly. My friend Agneta made this 110 year old gargoyle sing again.

Uppsala Singer Sewing.jpg

As usual, I lasted the 2 oz veg tanned baby calf lining with warm water and left it to dry. Once dry, I pulled over the uppers and crudely lasted them on top with only a few nails. (Prior to that, I made and inserted beading around the top and some thin stiffener material at the face.)

05 Upsala Lined

Once sewn to the rest of the uppers, the lasted baby calf lining looked like so, dried and with the nails removed:

lining uppsala.jpg

For this shoe, I opted for individually lasted heel counters in 5 oz latigo tanned bovine leather. I find that 5 oz latigo tanned leather is at least as nice to work with as the same weight of pure veg tan. It was moistened well and then lasted with Hirschkleber undeneath. In the process, I used a “new” acquisition of an E.A. Berg needle nose pliers from the turn of the 20th century.

To be honest, I may have bought these pliers mostly for show, but they did turn out to be my favorite tool ever for this task.

lasted heel counter.jpg

Once the Hirschkleber craft paste and the moisture in the leather has dried out, the leather becomes stiff. Below is the same leather and heel (but showing the right shoe instead of the left), when the moist has settled and the excess has been trimmed.

I love carving excess stiffener when it feels like cutting porous wood.

trimmed heel counter.jpg

Once the stiffeners were trimmed, the shoe was ready for the final lasting. “Upsala” was lasted as usual, with additional Hirschkleber on the toe and heel stiffeners. Furthermore, skived 4 oz calf side stiffeners from premium parts were inserted before the final lasting, connecting the heel stiffeners to the toe stiffeners. Depicted below is the left heel, lasted with blackbird lasting nails (just before the nails were all pounded into the center).

Uppsala heel.jpg

And so, here they are – “Upsala” is taking shape:

Upsala Lasted shoes.jpg

Continue reading Part 2 »


  1. It was a pleasure to help you
    with your machine and the Upsala shoe is a beautiful, one of a kind shoe.

    Best Regards


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